Economic Empowerment for 150 Women in Nicaragua

by Self-Help International
Economic Empowerment for 150 Women in Nicaragua
Economic Empowerment for 150 Women in Nicaragua
Economic Empowerment for 150 Women in Nicaragua
Economic Empowerment for 150 Women in Nicaragua
Economic Empowerment for 150 Women in Nicaragua
Economic Empowerment for 150 Women in Nicaragua
Economic Empowerment for 150 Women in Nicaragua
Economic Empowerment for 150 Women in Nicaragua
Economic Empowerment for 150 Women in Nicaragua
Economic Empowerment for 150 Women in Nicaragua
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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Keyla in her yard growing crops!
Keyla in her yard growing crops!

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Keyla is a 32-year-old mother from Melchorita, Nicaragua is a 32-year-old and a member of the Women’s Empowerment Program (WEP). Keyla’s two children, an 8-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy, study at the local primary school, and she supports them by waking up at 4:30 a.m. every day to take care of their home and run her business. 

Prior to joining Self-Help’s WEP, Keyla sold chocolate covered bananas, ice cream, enchiladas, tacos, natural juices, and plantains with cheese. She walked around her community selling her products house-to-house and operated her own mini-store. One of the advantages of selling around the community was that people walking by or in buses noticed her food for its quality presentation, which Keyla displayed in cases. 

Keyla also frequently changed the food she served so that her customers weren’t bored with the same products every day, and her customers knew that her food was delicious. Despite Keyla’s continuous innovation, she wasn’t making enough income to pay for expenses around the house and her children’s school expenses. 

A year ago, Keyla’s neighbor met with her to discuss the WEP and its policies. Keyla was motivated by their conversation and asked for the phone number of the WEP’s Program Officer, Yolanda Fletes. Keyla called Yolanda and asked how she could be part of the program. 

Yolanda coordinated a visit at Keyla’s home to check the current state of her small business and to explain more details about the program. Yolanda told Keyla that program members must be motivated to learn and improve, and that they would be trained in topics like self-esteem, leadership, business management, entrepreneurship, and writing business plans.  She also explained that the program would teach members how to manage basic accounting by recording income and expenses, and that it would teach them how to invest in, optimize, and carry out an emergency savings plan.

After completing the WEP trainings, Keyla requested a $200 USD loan to invest in supplying her store. She needed to buy more products like bananas, pineapple, chicken, melon, toilet paper, soap, bleach, notebooks, pencils, rice, sugar, refill credit for her phone plan, oil, cream, and sodas. 

With the profits Keyla made from the first loan, she began diversifying the products she offered daily, making milk cakes, pizzas, rice pudding, flour tortilla, fruit ice creams, and pinolillos (sweet corn-based drink). On the weekends, she made chicken soup and grilled beef and chicken. 

After one training at Self-Help’s training center in Quinta Lidia, Keyla realized that her yard was big enough to diversify her existing crops. She added papaya, green bananas, passionfruit, coriander, and mints in order to supply her business. Keyla is now able to supply her own products to sell instead of buying the products to resell them.

At the same time, Keyla also purchased 10 hens with help from her father and bought an enclosure so they wouldn’t escape. The hens provide her four eggs every day which her children love eating for breakfast. Keyla began saving an additional 20 cordobas a day since she no longer had to buy eggs. 

Keyla exemplifies someone who manages a loan well - in fact, she multiplies its results. With her second loan she wants to improve a plastic shed in front of her house to protect her business from getting wet from the rain. Keyla's goal is to send her children to college when they grow up - something she didn’t have the opportunity to do - so that they can be professionals. As a mother, she wants the best for them.

 

This report was translated by Katie Seifert, Latin America Program Specialist.

One of Keyla's cakes.
One of Keyla's cakes.
Keyla with her products.
Keyla with her products.
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Genesis with her mangoes.
Genesis with her mangoes.

Adriana is a long-time beneficiary of Self-Help International, and she is famous in the Women’s Empowerment Program for being an excellent saver. She saves extra coins in a metal pail, and she is so dedicated that if she ever takes money out of her savings pail, she forces herself to charge herself interest. She must repay the pail in full, with 10% interest, in order to allow herself to use those savings. 

Adriana manages to run her business and raise her daughter as a single mother. Her daughter, Genesis, is 14 years old. Four years ago, Adriana encouraged Genesis to get involved in Self-Help’s youth-serving program in which children received broiler chicks and experimented feeding the chicks Quality Protein Maize (QPM). Ultimately, they concluded that the chicks fed QPM weighed more than those fed traditional maize and generated more profits.

Genesis says this experience was unforgettable and highly motivating. She remembers that when it came time to sell her QPM-fed chicken she made 190 cordobas (about $5.58 USD). She followed her mother’s lead in savings and set her money aside. One day, she asked her mom for a pair of sandals, which cost 300 cordobas ($8.81 USD), but Adriana told her daughter that the sandals were too expensive and that she couldn’t buy them. Inspired by her own mother’s entrepreneurship and what she’d learned from her broiler experiment with Self-Help, Genesis decided she would work to get the rest of the money to buy the sandals. 

Trucks commonly pass through rural communities in Nicaragua selling different types of food, and one day a truck selling vegetables passed by Genesis and Adriana’s house. Using her savings from the broiler chick project, Genesis bought 2 large watermelons at 80 cordobas ($2.35 USD) each to start her business. Witnessing her daughter’s budding entrepreneurship, Adriana helped Genesis cut each watermelon into 10 pieces. Genesis took the 20 pieces of watermelon with her to school, and sold each piece at 10 cordobas ($0.29 USD), garnering a net profit of 20 cordobas ($0.59 USD). 

This is how Genesis started her business, and by the time watermelon season was over, she had managed to save 300 cordobas - enough to buy the sandals she wanted. Once mango season started, Genesis went to her grandmother’s house where there is a mango tree in the yard. Her grandmother cuts down the mangos, and Adriana helps her peel them. Now in high school, Genesis brings 10 baggies of cut and peeled mango with her to school which she sells to her classmates at 10 cordobas per baggie. 

With her earnings, Genesis buys notebooks, pencils, and other school supplies. She tells us that she learned to save through Self-Help. Genesis is also very proud of her mother who, despite not having much and being a single mom, has always remained inspired to get ahead and provide her daughter the best life possible. 

Genesis' dream is to become a pediatric doctor or a systems engineer. Her current goal is to continue saving so that once she goes to university she’ll be able to help her mother financially. She hopes that once she’s completed university and entered a professional career, she’ll be able to give back to her mom - she wants to build Adriana a nice little house with chickens and a puppy.

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Zenaida and her son, Robin.
Zenaida and her son, Robin.

30-year-old Zenaida lives with her four young children in Laurel Galán, Nicaragua. She is a baker, and she uses a big pan on top of an open flame to bake bread, pastries, enchiladas, and tacos. In addition, she makes natural juice drinks and fruit salads. Zenaida wakes up at 4 a.m. every day to prepare her foods, which she sells at the nearby school. 

Zenaida’s older children - her 9-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son - help a lot with her business. When Zenaida’s younger children, ages 7 and 8, come home from school each day, they also help their mother with her business. Zenaida’s youngest son, Robin Jr., sells her products on the buses. Robin is already thinking of a better future for himself, and he dreams of growing up to become a doctor to help those in need.

Three months ago (Jan. 2020), Zenaida was walking around Laurel Galán with her tray of bread for sale when she noticed a group of women gathered around - it was a Self-Help International Women’s Empowerment training session. With her bread still in her hands, she joined the group of women at their table and asked what they were doing and how she could be a part of their program. Zenaida became frustrated when she saw the women writing, and she explained that the only thing she could write was her own name. The other women insisted that Zenaida join their group, and they all agreed on a date for their next meeting.

On the day of the meeting, Zenaida arrived with her son Robin, who helped her take notes during the training. She learned about topics such as: self-esteem and leadership; the power of the mind; poverty and its causes; business management and entrepreneurship; accounting; and preparing a business plan. Zenaida hoped that with Robin’s support, she could access a loan from Self-Help to strengthen her business and install an improved oven for her bakery. 

“I like to participate in the training provided by Self-Help’s Women’s Empowerment Program because I learn something new and put it into practice,” Zenaida said. “Since joining the program, I can feel a change in my mentality. 

“I am taking better control of my business because I’m now able to keep track of my costs with the help of my son. Before the training, I only knew that I had profits when I noticed I had extra money left over from what I had invested.

“Now, I’ve learned to keep track of monthly savings for emergencies and investments. I feel very motivated and I thank everyone who takes the time to support the program in Nicaragua,” Zenaida said. “We are low-income women, and with the support of Self Help and the Women’s Empowerment Program, we can now get ahead.

“My greatest wish is to see my four children go to school and become professionals. I have faith in God I can achieve this goal because of Self-Help’s support,” Zenaida said. “Self-Help gives us not only loans, but also training, consultancies, follow-ups, recommendations, and meetings - both in the communities and at the training center. 

“My children and I are very grateful and happy with the support Self-Help is giving us. My children are very happy that I am participating in the program, and they tell the other children at school that their mother is a businesswoman with Self-Help.”



The whole family.
The whole family.
Baking!
Baking!
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Self-Help International

Location: Waverly, IA - USA
Website:
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Twitter: @SelfHelpIntl
Project Leader:
Nora Tobin
Waverly, IA United States
$30,878 raised of $35,000 goal
 
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