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

Maralexia is an entrepreneur and root vegetable producer from La Venada, a community situated 28 kilometers (17 miles) from San Carlos.

One day, a local community leader invited Maralexia to a Self-Help International micro-credit training. Maralexia was fascinated by the improved ovens that Self-Help was installing in the home of her farming neighbor.

Maralexia learned how the improved ovens operate, and was very impressed by how much time and firewood the ovens could save. Maralexia decided she wanted to install an improved oven in her home, too.

Self-Help worked with Maralexia to install the oven, and a week after its installation, Maralexia began increasing production of her baked goods and promoting them.

Prior to working with Self-Help, Maralexia wasn’t sure how much her business was earning. Self-Help’s training helped her analyze her business’ income and realize that she was not earning a profit. Maralexia had always wanted to incorporate crafting into her business, but she couldn’t because she lacked the financial resources. 

Maralexia received an initial $400 loan from Self-Help, but she wasn’t sure how to use it to increase her earnings. Thankfully, Self-Help’s training showed her how to do a cost analysis of her craft business, which includes the flower crowns she makes for Nicaragua’s holiday on Nov. 2 called Dia de los Fieles Difuntos (Day of the Faithful Dead). In analyzing the cost of materials and her own labor, Maralexia was able to appropriately price her flower crowns based on size, material, and labor costs. Now, Maralexia keeps track of her income and expenses, and she realizes that her business has become very successful within her community.

Maralexia thanks all the donors taking the time to help Nicaraguan women who want to start or strengthen their businesses. A lack of financial resources means that many Nicaraguan women cannot achieve their dreams.

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61-year-old María is married to José  who is 65. They are from the Nueva Jerusalem community, where Jose serves as a volunteer CAPS member (the local Committee of Potable Water and Sanitation). Maria and Jose work as both farmers and merchants.

María likes living in the countryside, and one of her favorite hobbies is rearing small farm animals, including chickens and pigs. She also enjoys agriculture, and works side by side with her husband on their farm. The first business Maria and Jose had together was fattening and selling pigs. But, the price of pig feed became too high for them to continue this venture, and they found they were not recuperating needed profits upon selling their pigs as feed prices rose.

So, Maria and Jose tried their hand at raising chickens. They purchased 100 three-day-old farm chicks, gave them dewormer and vitamins, and raised them with little existing experience and no technical assistance. Once the hens began laying eggs, Maria and Jose realized what they had learned from this first round of chickens, and so they made adaptations. They built a bigger chicken coop for the chickens and ensured that they had a cooler and more comfortable space to grow. 

Maria explains that when she started working with chickens, people asked her what she was doing and didn’t provide encouraging words, which hurt her feelings and demotivated her business. But, Jose was not deterred. For six months he walked two kilometers to the nearest town, New Jerusalem, carrying two buckets of eggs and offering 4.5 boxes of eggs for sale. He became known at the local market and after six months Jose decided to start over with new chickens. 

At this same time, Self-Help International’s Clean Water Program met Jose and invited him to a training at the training center. There, Jose learned of the Women’s Empowerment Program and was impressed by its training of women and the way Program Officer Yolanda provided individualized support for her clients’ businesses. Jose reached out to Yolanda to learn more, and Yolanda agreed to visit Jose and Maria to begin their training. 

One of the trainings Maria received was SHI’s Self-Esteem Training, which she says helped her business because she learned that she must love herself above all else and have self-confidence. She thanks SHI for providing these trainings which she believes are very beneficial to women, especially those whose self-confidence is low. She particularly enjoyed the training about savings, which taught her to prepare a savings plan and set goals to continue growing as a person and business. 

Today, Maria reports an improved chicken business. Now she has 313 chickens and is also expecting an additional 120 3-day-old chicks  of the ‘hy-line bron’ breed. They expanded the chicken coop and installed automatic water troughs. They sell lower-producing hens for 150 córdobas and sell 9.5 boxes of eggs daily across the Laurel Galán, Cruz Verde, Nueva Jerusalem, and La Culebra communities. 

The chickens also serve Maria and Jose by providing manure to fertilize their various fruit plants, including oranges, bananas, tangerines, mangoes, passion fruit, guabas, pitahaya, and guava. They are able to sell surplus fruit in the community.

Today, one of Maria’s goals is to expand to having a thousand laying hens, as well as a cart to distribute the eggs. She has established a market and good demand for her eggs; she wants to expand to supply the municipalities of San Miguelito, El Tule, El Castillo, and their surrounding communities. She knows this is a long-term dream, and she thanks Self-Help and the Women’s Empowerment Program  for giving her the opportunity to help her get ahead since they had never been benefited and trained by anyone.

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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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Self-Help International

Location: Waverly, IA - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @SelfHelpIntl
Project Leader:
Nora Tobin
Waverly, IA United States
$34,108 raised of $40,000 goal
311 donations
$5,892 to go
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