Economic cooperation and development: Everyone can help to improve the situation!

19 May

After leaving my secondary school, I was wondering what to do with my future life. To get to know another life, culture and reality I decided to do a gap year in Nicaragua. When working in the social organization IMC (Instituto Mujer y Comunidad), I got to know a lot of people living in very poor conditions. One of them was Maria Francis Rodriguez Jose who told me about her life full of problems.

As Nicaragua is the second poorest country of Latin America, the economic situation is very shocking; the country has a lot of problems like unemployment, undernourishment and violence, but this is nothing unknown, that a third-world country has to cope with many challenging issues, however, the minority of us, is aware of what it means to live in poverty.

To improve the economic and educational situation in Nicaragua, I worked in the social organization named “Instituto Mujer y Comunidad”. We offered various workshops to women participating in our project. They learned not only about agriculture, but also about human rights and emancipation. They also had the possibility to take a micro-credit in order to start an own business.

But what kind of business can a poor, uneducated person start living in a small village without nearly any infrastructure and with only very few resources?

To make simple farmer women to business women with start-up businesses was our challenge. For better illustration, let me give you the example of Maria F. Rodriguez Jose.

She lived in a small hut made of wood and corrugated metal with five grandchildren, two nieces and a violent and alcohol addicted husband. The whole family suffered from vitamin deficiency because of undernourishment, but had not enough money to change the situation.

The average annual income of a Nicaraguan is 600 US$, 50% of the population lives below the poverty line and 30% are undernourished, this is the highest percentage in Central America. Because of the high unemployment, migration into cities and emigration, mainly illegal, are consequences of the poverty. Every 5th Nicaraguan lives in a foreign country, overall Costa Rica or the USA.

Back to Maria Rodriguez: What is necessary to transform her to a successful business woman?

Well, first of all the mentality of the people must be influences or partly changed. The believe is widely spread that women should stay in their traditional role of mother and housewife. Moreover in a lot of situations women are discriminated against and thought to be less worth than men. For these reasons, we had to increase the self-esteem and the self-assurance of the women by giving workshops on personality, traditional roles, emancipation and women´s rights; and we always emphasized the equality of men and women and the essential role of women, not only in the household, but also in the community and economy. It was so affecting to see the changes that the women went through, they discovered their strengths and realized their capacity to reach their aims and improve their situation.

After covering these socio-economic issues, we started to give the workshops on more technical issues. This support focused on the economic idea of starting a business. First and foremost the women were supposed to build up a garden growing fruits and vegetables, that they could use for their own consumption and also for selling on the local markets. The technical support had to take into account the little resources and the problematic of the climatic conditions. As the access to water was limited, the women got to know techniques to use water efficiently when irrigating their plants. Besides the sun and the heat were enormous in the area where the women lived, so it was necessary to teach them, how to protect the plants from sun and how to fertilize the crops properly. Fighting insects, avoiding crop-illnesses, seeding and reaping were also relevant topics.

In some situations, it was pretty hard for Maria Rodriguez and other women to understand the technical  theory, so we put it into practice with the women.

After acquiring this indispensable technical knowledge, the women could apply for micro credits, that were given by our organization. In this respect, credits were only given to women that showed responsibility and the willingness to start a business, a little shop or to cultivate land in order to sell the crops afterwards. Maria Rodriguez experiences a huge development and she felt able to realize her plans of growing vegetables and selling them in the local market. Therefore, we approved her demand for a credit and gave her further support in administrative questions and controlled her advances.

Maria was very successful participating in our project. She bought a piece of land to grow fruits and vegetables and sold a part of them on the local market, the other part was intended for self-consumption, consequently the family afforded a balanced nourishment. Finally, she got independent from her husband and feels emancipated and appreciated as a woman.

To sum up, the idea of giving women, who live in the poor, underdeveloped villages, the necessary self-esteem, technical knowledge and start-up capital to build up an own small business and improve their living conditions is a sustainable way of facilitating development and economic progress.

For me, the experiences that I gained through my work were very enriching. Furthermore I learned a lot about the local food market, agriculture and I got to know the problems and concerns of many interesting and brave women. To support further projects like that, one can buy fair trade products or shop in so-named third-world stores, which sell products from local producers and not from big companies.  So all in all, economic cooperation and development is something, which everyone can be part of and participate in the improvement of the situation of the developing countries.

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One Response to “Economic cooperation and development: Everyone can help to improve the situation!”

  1. angi2012 June 11, 2012 at 8:53 pm #

    Hi sabrinacz,

    I think it’s really great that you write about things you’ve experienced. I also like that you think about how to improve the situation, and not just forget about the people who are struggling for better life conditions.
    What I also like very much that you are using your own pictures. By the way the first one is wonderful!
    I wanted to look at the organization where you were, but there is no link to it ;( maybe you could add it. So readers like me can get more information about the organization.
    All in all great summary , super blog which leads people to think about others and to be more thankful for what they have!

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