Wilton Castillo is a photojournalist from El Salvador. He tries to make a difference through his assignments every day. In a society that struggles with high rates of domestic abuse, giving girls new ideas about who they can be empowers them to break through the cycle of violence.

“Gender stereotypes are very present in Salvadoran media on a daily basis. You turn on the TV news and you’ll see that female presenters still reflect stereotypical beauty standards: they’re skinny and tall, for example. Men almost always play the most important role on TV. Yes, you might have an equal number of men and women in a news bulletin, but the main person is usually male. 

Within the news coverage you’ll see other kinds of stereotypes as well. Unfortunately violence against women is a big issue in El Salvador and other countries in the region. When a woman is murdered, it is often framed as being her fault, because she dressed in a certain way, or she was out by herself late at night. 

I try to make a difference through my assignments every day. For me as a photographer, working towards gender equality is a continuous effort. 

One way in which I did this is through a project called Ciudad Mujer (Woman City). I documented female entrepreneurs and women who are training for professions in which they are underrepresented. For example, women who are training to become auto mechanics or electricians. Here in El Salvador, it’s very rare to see women in those jobs. 

The goal of this project is to empower girls, to give them new ideas about their future. In part, it’s about economic empowerment as well. This can change the dynamic regarding gender-based violence in the country: a woman who is financially independent is not tied to anyone and can more easily leave an abusive situation.

A decade ago, there were only a few female photographers in El Salvador. This is changing. A lot of female photojournalists have made the profession theirs. Space for them has opened up, not because it was given to them, but because they claimed it. It’s not just up to women to break gender stereotypes and improve gender equality. Women and men both need to be included in trying to change the situation for our children and sisters.”