A fresh start for the women of Nicaragua

Life in the urban slums just south of the Nicaraguan capital, Managua, is particularly grueling. Some of the communities hardest hit include el Recreo, Marta Quezada, Jonathan Gonzales and Bóer, home to roughly 90,000 impoverished Nicaraguans - about 60% of them are women between 15 and 40-years-old.

The statistics tell a bleak picture: 80% of the women work in the black economy, and, in some cases, these women have no choice but to turn to prostitution to survive and feed their children. The National Institute for Women recently noted these women are “the breadwinners” for their families as they bear the full responsibility for their children.

A number of these women knew they had to do something and they turned to the Good Shepherd Sisters of Nicaragua for help. The GSS already managed a series of programs, such as prevention centers for girls at risk, which offer education support, recreational/cultural activities and promotion of human rights, and in March 2011 two activities to improve the living conditions of these women were established.

The first was a skills-training and income-generating activity that would teach the women the craft of baking specialty pastries. The second was a series of seminars and workshops on women's rights and protection against domestic violence. Together these activities made a difference in the lives of 80 women and their families.

Today, thanks to international funding partner Misean Cara, the Pan de Vida Y Esperanza project will continue to address the social marginalization and individual vulnerabilty of women in Managua and will include the following:

  • Skills training in bakery and pastry - 120 women, divided in 6 groups, will participate in a 3-month training to produce high quality bakery products.  The participants will be tested to receive the INATEC (National Institute of Technology) certificate that enables them to start-up an individual Income Generating Activity (IGA), and/or to access qualified and stable jobs, offering full benefits. These skills increase food security levels for the women and their families.  
  • Access to microcredit - This activity will benefit 20 women, distributed in 2 groups, who have concluded the above training. During the training the women will be encouraged to prepare individual or group business plans. The 20 best business plans will be awarded a 200-euro microcredit. This process will be strengthened through sharing of best practices from the experience of the Good Shepherd Microfinance “NILS” program in Australia.
  • Promotion of savings - The beneficiaries will meet on a monthly basis for 6 months and during the meetings they will pay a monthly fee that will contribute to their personal savings. These individual savings will be available for contingencies and for future investments that each woman will plan to make to develop their businesses. The meetings will also serve to support the women from a socio-psychological point of view by reinforcing their self-esteem and empowering them to exercise their rights.
  • Income source - In order to offer an income source to all the women those who are not selected for the microcredit scheme will be offered the facilities of the training center for production and direct sales of bakery and pastry products.

This project, which adopts an inclusive/holistic approach, is so important because the women not only receive professional skills that allow them to generate an income, but also an education on their rights. This will encourage them to push for the enforcement of existing legislation that guarantees equal rights and opportunities for women in the Nicaraguan society.

To ensure this life changing project continues and that the goals are met more support is needed. You can donate directly here or to learn more about the GSS and their projects click here.