Self-Help International’s Women’s Empowerment Program (WEP) provides women and their families training so they can improve their lives. One of the training sessions focuses on self-esteem for rural women and their communities. In many rural Nicaraguan communities, women sometimes find themselves in a traditional lifestyle where men are in charge of household expenses while women stay at home with the children.
Self-Help’s training works with women to help them generate creative business ideas. These women have become businesswomen who receive loans from Self-Help to start or invest in their small businesses. With the profits from their businesses and increased family income, the women are able to improve their quality of life, help with their children’s education, and support their households.
Ramona is a partner with the Women’s Empowerment Program from the community of Laurel Galán, Nicaragua where she has lived for the past 20 years. She is married with three children. To support the family, Ramona’s husband sells fish to the nearby community of Los Chiles on Tuesdays and Fridays, maintaining his family’s long-standing tradition.
Ramona makes cuajadas (a type of milk curd), cheeses, and creams which her husband sells alongside his fish. Over the years, Ramona and her husband were able to use their profits to buy a small home where they live with their children.
In 2018, Ramona’s mother-in-law invited Ramona to participate in Self-Help’s WEP meetings. Ramona felt shy about attending because she didn’t know other participants, but she agreed to join the group. She was curious at the training sessions, asking many questions about the various training topics. She was most intrigued by a training on effective money saving strategies in which participants set savings goals for the year.
“That day I set a goal to save money because I wanted to buy a casserole dish to make nacatamales for my business and a wardrobe to store my clothes. Business wasn’t good at the time, so I thought it would help if I could sell nacatamales on the weekends,” Ramona said.
“I was happy with the achievements I was making in the training group, so I decided to request a loan to invest in the purchase of milk to make cuajada to sell. With my loan, I purchased 10 gallons of milk to make 20 cuajadas and 6 pounds of cream,” Ramona said.
“My husband was happy because I was able to help him expenses at home,” Ramona added. “Even if he was busy, he would give me rides to the training sessions at Self-Help’s office in Quinta Lidia so that I didn’t miss them.”
With Ramona’s second loan, she purchased 25 gallons of milk to produce more dairy products. Ramona has been able to set aside profits from those products for her daughter's education.
“When my daughter was a senior in high school, many expenses were approaching for her graduation and I hadn’t yet saved for my children's education,” Ramona said. “But, the sessions taught me how to save. In fact, I bought my children little plastic piggy banks to help them save for their higher education.”
“My daughter is now studying at university, and my goal is that my two other children also get university degrees,” Ramona said. “My family is happy to see me now as an empowered business woman, and I have goals to get ahead and expand my business.”
Ramona outside Self-Help's training center.
Ramona making food for her business.