The traditional culture of Nicaragua, like other Latin American countries, is centered on the church and family and has been shaped by the experience of colonialism and European cultural and religious traditions. One inheritance of this are the social limitations placed on women that continue to impede their ability to succeed.
When ViviendasLeón began work in the rural community of Goyena we found the challenge was not lack of resources but lack of capacity, self-esteem and equality. As a result, we created a program, Human Capacity Training (HCT), that develops personal agency, leadership, and skills that are used to address the practical needs of food, water, health, education and local economic expansion.
Margarita Rivas is 40 years old and has lived with her family in the Aristides-Sanchez neighborhood of Goyena for 19 years. Because of her own parents lack of financial resources, Margarita was unable to finish her studies and only has a sixth-grade education. Nevertheless, she taught herself to read and write.
Nine years ago, Margarita joined the Aristides-Sanchez Community Board to become an active participant in her community. Margarita described the community board, dominated by men, as one that discriminated against women, barred them from opportunities, and whose work was not recognized or valued. Margarita said that even when women would participate in important community board meetings men would criticize them by saying they were engaging in “worthless pursuits.”
In 2009, Margarita worked with ViviendasLeón when we began building the Community Center in Goyena. She felt that supporting the construction process provided her with a sense of accomplishment and connection within her community. Soon after construction was completed, Margarita participated in HCT, where she participated in therapeutic workshops, learned new skills and was given leadership opportunities. She began to value herself as a person, and to face social obstacles head-on. Reflecting on her experience, Margarita said: “nowadays things have changed for the better. Our Community Board is made up of more women than men, we understand the great work that we do, and have the support of everyone which is very important.” Now women like Margarita who participate in the Aristides-Sanchez Community Board, are better equipped with the skills to be effective participants within their communities.
In 2017, Margarita and others from different rural community boards participated in an HCT Leadership training, where they learned skills regarding organization, teamwork, leadership, local development, and communication. As part of the training, participants developed a Community Board to oversee and plan programs for the Community Center, such as environmental trainings, after school education programs, and community wide events. As the training came to an end, program participants organized elections to select their leadership team and Margarita Rivas was elected as the Community Board’s President.
An ecstatic Margarita said, “I am a very happy woman, and proud because I feel that people value the work that I do which gives me the energy to keep going, to help my community get ahead.”
Today, Margarita is an active participant in the decisions that are made in her community and in the Community Center. Happy for her recent accomplishments, Margarita said that now “I [can] serve as an example for other women to join and acquire the skills needed for future women to be leaders supporting their family, community, and country.” Through the empowering process of HCT, rural community members like Margarita, can learn the skills necessary to confront societal barriers head on and accomplish a sense of agency that allows for self-sufficiency and successful development.
Below you can read Margarita’s translated testimonial:
"My name is Margarita Rivas, I am 40 years old and have lived in the community of Aristides-Sanchez, Goyena for 19 years. Due to my parents’ lack of financial resources, I couldn’t finish my studies and only finished the sixth grade, nevertheless, I can read and write perfectly. I am a single mother with three sons and have been blessed to have my house where I live with my youngest son while my other sons have their own families.
For the past nine years, I was an active member of the Aristides-Sanchez Community Board but the situation was much different back then than today. Now women are more equal compared to when women were discriminated for just being women and not given the same opportunities, nor was our work as women recognized. When women would participate in important community meetings, men would criticize us by saying we were engaging in “worthless pursuits.”
Nowadays things have changed for the better. Our Community Board is made up of more women than men, we have a great understanding of the work that we do, and have the support of everyone which is very important.
I began working with ViviendasLeón when they began to build the Nueva Vida Community Center in Goyena. I can say that by supporting the construction of the center, I feel like I am a part of it. The community center held Human Capacity Trainings (HCT) to help teach us about, increasing our self-esteem, to value ourselves as people, to face difficulties and social problems head on.
In 2017, I participated in HCT-Leaders where I and other members of different community committees got together and learned skills regarding organization, teamwork, leadership, local development, and other topics. I learned how to better communicate with people like my neighbors to create good relationships.
As part of training from HCT-Leaders, we worked to create a community board to oversee programing at the Nueva Vida Community Center in Goyena and I was elected the Board’s President. I am a very happy woman, and proud because I feel that people value that work that I do which gives me the energy to keep going, helping my community get ahead.
Today I am an active participant in the decisions made for my community and the Nueva Vida Community Center. I serve as an example for other women to join and acquire values needed in the future for women to be leaders supporting their family, community, and country."
“ViviendasLeon has supported us throughout our process. Without their help, we would not have been able to overcome the barriers of poverty. They continue to help families like our own, and I hope their impact benefits other people in rural communities who need it.”
Oralia Ramirez - mother, farmer, beekeeper