Nicaragua - "What we Learn Improves our Lives"

For as long as I can remember, our village of La Pita and the entire district of Tipitapa have been poor. We have no electricity even though we live only an hour away from the capital, Managua. Our families work in agriculture, small trade and crafts. Many husbands work away from home, some even in Costa Rica. Their wives and children stay behind on their own. Most people in our village were born here. Our children and grandchildren will live here too.

We inherited land from my husband’s parents. I raise pigs for sale. And I make tamales and sell them. I do all I can to increase our income so that our five children, two sons and three daughters, can go to school. But sometimes the money is not enough. Sometimes the food is not enough either for the whole family. In agriculture you depend on the weather. The last few years have been too dry. The entire country is also still suffering from the effects of the civil war between Sandinistas and Contras, and of natural disasters like the appalling Hurricane Mitch.

A Woman’s Place is in the Home – and the Classroom!

Most husbands don’t want us women to organize. At best, we’re allowed to become involved in the church. Two years ago, the National Institute of Research and Popular Education, INIEP, came to visit us. First of all they did a survey about our living conditions. Then they invited us to a training course. Despite difficulties at home, we women met several times to discuss the idea, and eventually 30 women from my village and neighbouring villages accepted.

The meetings always take place on Saturdays. We have to walk five kilometres to get there, but it’s worth it. We have already learnt a lot: how to get organized, to assess risks, to keep accounts of our income and spending, and to invest our money at a profit, including in joint projects. We have discovered a lot of new things about agricultural techniques, and about health and family planning. INIEP has helped us to develop our own projects, for example a sewing project, and pig and chicken-rearing. We’ve even started a small bakery. Everything that we’ve learnt has substantially improved our lives and our families’ lives. The project has also changed my position in my family. Even my sons, who help to look after the pigs, no longer see me as “nothing but a housewife”. They respect me as a woman who has her own project and earns money. Our husbands, too, no longer make difficulties. They accept us and our work. We women have now been working together for almost a year. I now have the confidence to speak openly in front of others. I can talk about my feelings and my life. I see that as my greatest personal progress.