15.05.2024 - von Plan International Switzerland

Zuleyma’s Plan

Women and girls in El Salvador are fighting for change and learning how to better protect their environment from flooding through education.

Zuleyma’s community is especially susceptible to flooding, as it sits next to an estuary. This is her plan to keep her community strong and Beat The Clock:

1. Identify an environmental culprit in her community

2. Figure out how to stop it at the source

3. Mobilise others to join the fight


Recycling protects the community

Zuleyma, 18, lives in the coastal area of La Libertad in El Salvador. In a country where land elevation is typically less than 10 metres above sea level, Zuleyma’s community is especially susceptible to flooding, as it sits next to an estuary.

Beyond geography, Zuleyma points out, there’s a second culprit in the flooding that has nothing to do with Mother Nature: “When the mouth of the estuary fills up completely with water, the water overflows into the community,” she explains. “It does this because so much trash and leaves clog things up, giving the water no other way out.”

Together with several of her classmates, Zuleyma is leading a recycling initiative. Working with other community members, her tireless team has collected over three tons of plastic and cans from the river and sold them to recycling companies. In addition to helping prevent flooding, they also prevent rubbish from ending up in the sea. 

Calling herself “a leader and a collaborator,” Zuleyma takes her role seriously. When she’s not collecting waste, Zuleyma is encouraging her friends and neighbours to join her in protecting their community and environment. 

Our Flood Resilience Project in El Salvador

For several years, young people such as Zuleyma have been involved in the ‘Increasing Resilience to Floods in Central America’ programme facilitated by Plan International and theZurich Flood Resilience Alliance (ZFRA). Its goal is to support communities with technical and community organisation tools to strengthen their resilience to flood risk.

Some of the activities implemented by the programme are conducting outreach in schools, training young people in solid-waste management and implementing a collection system that runs solid waste through a recycling station.

Along with receiving instruction on identifying glass, caps, cans and other inorganic waste, participants receive training on gender equality, enabling girls like Zuleyma to adopt leadership roles that will help keep their communities strong. 

Estimates say it will take more than 130 years for the world to achieve gender equality

but girls and women like Zuleyma are promoting gender equality now, which will help to #BeatTheClock. 

  • Approximately 10% of El Salvador’s territory (about 2,000 square kilometres) is susceptible to flooding. 
  • 80% of that territory is located in the coastal zone of the country, where land elevations are less than 10 metres above sea level.
  • In 2020, tropical storms Amanda and Cristóbal caused losses and damages worth over US$28 million and affected more than 53,300 families nationwide.
  • Between 2018 and 2024, the Increasing Resilience to Floods in Central America programme impacted the lives of 7,090 people across La Libertad, Chalatenago and Cuscatlán.