Economic Empowerment for 200 Women in Nicaragua

by Self-Help International
Economic Empowerment for 200 Women in Nicaragua
Economic Empowerment for 200 Women in Nicaragua
Economic Empowerment for 200 Women in Nicaragua
Economic Empowerment for 200 Women in Nicaragua
Economic Empowerment for 200 Women in Nicaragua
Economic Empowerment for 200 Women in Nicaragua
Economic Empowerment for 200 Women in Nicaragua
Economic Empowerment for 200 Women in Nicaragua
Economic Empowerment for 200 Women in Nicaragua
Economic Empowerment for 200 Women in Nicaragua
Osneylin.
Osneylin.

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32-year-old Osneylin is originally from San Carlos, Rio San Juan. Today, she lives 45 minutes away from San Carlos, on a farm called Buenos Aires in the Ojo de Agua community. She is married to Gabriel who was raised in a farming family by his 61-year-old mother, Aura. Osneylin and Gabriel have a 10-year-old daughter named Anielka. Anielka travels one hour per day through the hills to get to school. Her parents want her to go live in the next town over with her grandmother so that she is closer to school, but they need to work to cover her expenses. 

Osneylin is an exemplary woman in the community. Everyone greatly admires and respects her because she wakes up every day at 4 a.m. to make tortillas and prepare breakfast. With sacrifice and commitment, Osneylin’s entire family dedicates itself day by day to taking care of their farm.

Osneylin feeds the chickens and pigs before going to work in the field where she helps her husband plant. Nothing stands in her way; she has planted one manzana of bananas, ½ manzana of yucca, quequisque, sugar cane, avocado, pears, Nancites, lemons, oranges, mango, fruta de pan, granadillas, passion fruit, and coconuts. She also plants maize. Like many families in her community, knowledge about traditional maize planting is passed down from generation to generation.

Recently, Self-Help International’s Women’s Empowerment Program visited Ojo de Agua to promote its programs and resources. Self-Help’s Agriculture Program already had experience working with farmers in Ojo de Agua, led by a community leader named  Juan. Juan coordinated a community-wide meeting for men and women farmers, and at the meeting his seven-person farming group shared about its two-year experience planting Nutrader Quality Protein Maize (QPM) using Self-Help’s double-row technique. 

After learning about this group’s experience with Self-Help, Osneylin decided to contact the Women’s Empowerment Program because she wanted to improve her farming practices. She wanted to join the program, so she, her husband and her daughter planted two manzanas of double-row maize. At first, Osneylin wanted to give up, but her daughter encouraged her to persist to improve their crop yields. Their family’s goal is to harvest 70 quintales (7,000 pounds) per manzana. With the profits they hope to gain, they will invest in their daughter’s education since she will be graduating 5th grade in 2022. 

Aura, Osneylin’s mother-in-law,  also decided to use the double-row planting method for her maize in 2021. She is excited and motivated by this sowing method and reports that it is the first time she is planting in this way. She says the training she received from Self-Help motivated her to get ahead by improving her maize planting.

 

Aura and Osneylin Inspire Other Women in the Community

Aura and Osneylin have neighboring farms and share crop experiences, and the two women serve as examples in their community. They have motivated more women to empower themselves by planting Nutrader Quality Protein Maize and vegetables. They say that they make a good team working together as a family, and they are satisfied that they are leaders in double-row planting who show other women they can do the same and benefit more families with increased production.

They are willing to train other women who wish to implement this technique.They want all women in their community to be able to earn their own money, whether in production or marketing. Many of these women are mothers of families who want to give the best to their children, and they think employing this agricultural practice will have very good results.

In 2022, Osneylin and Aura have set a goal of helping two more community women implement Self-Help’s planting techniques, and they will train the women by sharing their learning experiences from 2021. 

Osneylin and Aura want other women to be empowered due to their involvement in Self-Help’s agricultural program and women’s empowerment program. They attended Self-Help’s training sessions on Self-Esteem and Leadership; Business Management and Entrepreneurship; and Basic Accounting. For these training sessions, Anielka helped Osneylin and Aura prepare investment business plans because Osneylin and Auraare skilled farmers but cannot read or write well.

The women’s favorite training sessions were on Self-Esteem and How to Get Out of Poverty. After attending the training sessions, the women developed different ideas on women’s roles. For example, prior to the training, Osneylin and Aura believed that only men could own land and cattle while women could own hens and chickens; but they now see clearly  that there are equal rights. They no longer feel they should just wait for their husbands’ incomes because they now have their own sources of income after cultivating tubers, maize, and beans. Seeing their wives empowered has also motivated the husbands. 

At night, both Osneylin and Aura think about their crops. They are excited to see their production, and they are  applying for a microloan from Self-Help to plant two manzanas of land using the double-row technique. This  is the most debt they’ve ever taken on, but they have a lot of faith that the fruits of their labor will allow them to invest in education, health, and more.

Osneylin's family’s greatest wish is for Anielka to become an agronomist. All her hard work and effort goes toward providing her daughter the best education by cultivating the values and principles to be a good professional some day.

Osneylin on her land.
Osneylin on her land.
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Auxiliadora and Concepcion and the new oven.
Auxiliadora and Concepcion and the new oven.

66-year-old Auxiliadora is dedicated to working to support her family. She and her elderly husband, Concepción, live in the community of Argentina with their grandson Carlito. They live in front of the local bus stop, so Auxiliadora has a small business by the stop selling snacks, enchiladas, tacos, soda, water, and natural juices. Concepción helps her sell their goods, and together they are a pair of seniors who are still working hard to get ahead in life. 

Auxiliadora wanted to invest in her business but couldn’t receive formal loans from anywhere due to her age. In a recent program promotion visit by Self-Help International, Auxiliadora told Self-Help that one of her dreams was to obtain a new oven to make pastries, bread, and donuts. The oven she used to have had fallen into disrepair years ago and she didn’t have the capital to fix it. 

Self-Help’s Women's Empowerment Program Officer, Yolanda Fletes, explained to Auxiliadora how she could apply for a loan from Self-Help to get a new oven. When Auxiliadora heard the news, she was elated because having an oven would allow her to bake pastries and sell them in the community which would improve her income.

Auxiliadora spent two months collecting the materials for constructing the new oven. She collected soil from a farm, horse manure, guásimo slime (a local succulent filled with a sticky slime), ash, quicklime, and metal rods. When she had all the materials, she contacted Self-Help. Self-Help came to her home and trained Auxiliadora and her family how to build the oven. 

As of September 2021, Auxiliadora and her relatives and neighbors are delighted with the improved oven that Auxiliadora installed. Today, she bakes pastries three times a week. She mostly makes simple breads, sweet bread, and donuts. She and Concepción sell their hot baked goods with coffee to the passengers who are passing on the buses. 

Auxiliadora doesn’t only focus on making pastries in her oven. She can make all sorts of desserts, roast vegetables, bake various meats, and cook stuffed chicken and pork. 

Auxiliadora's husband is interested in planting Self-Help’s high-quality protein maize (QPM), locally called INTA-Nutrader corn, and implementing Self-Help’s double-row planting technique for higher maize yields. Auxiliadora will be able to roast Concepción’s maize when it is harvested.

Auxiliadora enjoys baking now more than ever before, especially since the new oven technology allows her to stay cool while she bakes instead of heating up her entire home. Her goal is to be able to give her grandson, Carlito, a good education since he depends wholly on her - no one else can help him get his education. She hopes Carlito will become an agronomist because he likes agriculture a lot, even though she and Concepción do not own land for planting. They rent land during the planting seasons to plant corn, beans, yucca, and quequisque, which is how Carlito learns about agriculture. 

Carlito helping to construct the new oven.
Carlito helping to construct the new oven.
Oven construction hard at work!
Oven construction hard at work!
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Yessenia with her sewing machine.
Yessenia with her sewing machine.

42-year-old Yessenia is a friendly and loving woman who enjoys supporting her community, Nueva Jerusalem, Nicaragua. She is a member of the Evangelical Church and oversees the children’s educational program. She lives with her husband and two children - her 12-year-old daughter and her 15-year-old son. Yessenia’s children are in high school, and her greatest wish is that her son becomes an agronomist and her daughter becomes a nurse. 

When Yessenia was growing up, she was unable to attend school. When she got married, she became an assistant to a neighboring seamstress.  Yessenia didn’t know how to read, but she was able to learn empirically using cord measurements. She used the experience to start making clothes for men, women, and girls, including suits, wedding dresses, uniforms, pants, skirts, and dresses. 

Yessenia’s neighbor invited her to participate in Self-Help’s Women’s Empowerment Program, and. Yessenia enjoyed the first meeting so much that she decided to continue attending the training sessions. At first, she was worried it would be difficult to participate because she did not know how to read or write, but she was so motivated that she continued attending. 

Yessenia decided to use her experience and turn a portion of her home into a space where she could teach women how to sew. She hoped to create a sewing workshop that would help many women work and support their families. 

She wrote a business plan in which she asked Self-Help for a loan to purchase materials and fabrics of different colors and styles. The loan motivated her to continue working to support her fellow community members and to continue providing a quality, affordable service for her clients. 

One of Yessenia’s hobbies is to plant vegetables in her small home garden, including cabbage, cilantro, mint, chillies, oranges, lemons, guava, melons, tomatoes, carrots, and bananas. She keeps her plants hanging on the wall or sitting on shelves so that her chickens can’t eat them. She only grows enough to consume at home with her family.

Yessenia’s desire to change her life makes her feel like a completely new woman. She’s no longer afraid to participate in training sessions. She reports that her business has improved since entering the program, especially with new and different fabrics which she now uses to make curtains, blankets, and skirts. 

Yessenia also learned about self-esteem from the training sessions, which has made her feel empowered. In addition, she meets women from various communities at the training sessions, which has helped her attract more clients. With her profits, she is investing in studies for her children to send them to university. Her children also support her in her sewing, which is helping support their future. Yessenia appreciates Self-Help for the support provided to women with limited resources.

Yessenia and her garden.
Yessenia and her garden.
Yessenia's plants.
Yessenia's plants.
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Ramona.
Ramona.

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 outside Self-Help's training center.
Ramona making food for her business.
Ramona making food for her business.
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Beatriz.
Beatriz.

34-year-old Beatriz lives in the small Nicaraguan community of Laurel Galán. She lives with her husband and their four children - two boys and two girls, who attend elementary and high school. 

Beatriz’s business used to involve selling homemade bread door-to-door with her children early each morning. She didn’t make much money in her business, and she used to complain desperately to her neighbor about wanting to make more money so that she could better support her household and her children’s education. The neighbor invited Beatriz to a training session with Self-Help International’s Women’s Empowerment Program. 

The first Self-Help training Beatriz attended was about self-esteem and leadership. These were completely new concepts to her. It was especially poignant to Beatriz to learn how she could build on her self-esteem because of her own personal life experiences. Self-Help staff told Beatriz that all people are valuable, which was a radical concept to Beatriz when she first joined the Women’s Empowerment Program.

Now, Beatriz and her husband live a life filled with respect for one another. They regularly attend church as a couple, and Beatriz credits Self-Help with helping her grow more confident. Today, Beatriz works as a counselor in her church, counseling couples on how to succeed and sharing her own life experience as an example. 

After her first training with Self-Help, Beatriz continued attending more training sessions by Program Officer Yolanda Fletes. She attended the Business Creativity Training, the Business Management and Entrepreneurship Training, and a training about writing business plans. 

Beatriz really wanted to learn from the training sessions so she could implement the lessons in her business. Even though she had to sell her bread in the morning, Beatriz made sure to be up extra early so that she could show up on time for training sessions. Also, because Beatriz had never had the opportunity to learn to read or write, she brought her daughter to each training so that her daughter could help Beatriz take notes.

Beatriz continues to like participating in the training sessions because she enjoys the diverse topics and always learning new things. She feels the training sessions have helped her change her life.

Beatriz also received a loan of $5,000 cordobas (approx. $143 USD) from Self-Help to invest in her business. As of Oct. 2020, her business sells vegetables, natural juices, and her homemade bread. Beatriz is happy that Self-Help’s training sessions have helped her take better financial control of her businesses. Before, she didn’t know if she was profiting or losing money in her day-to-day sales; now, with the support of her 14-year-old daughter, her business has better documentation of its costs and its income.

Beatriz thanks the good-hearted people that have made this program possible. She is especially thankful that she has empowered herself personally and in her business.

Beatriz and her family.
Beatriz and her family.
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Self-Help International

Location: Waverly, IA - USA
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Twitter: @SelfHelpIntl
Project Leader:
Nora Tobin
Waverly, IA United States
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