Originally published at: http://humidtropics.cgiar.org/public-policies-and-their-influence-on-rural-womens-agency-in-nicaragua/
The phenomenon of single women and female heads of household is widespread in the Nicaraguan countryside. It is estimated that 34% of rural households are headed by women and this proportion increases in the poorest strata. The participation of women in productive agricultural activities also increases with the degree of poverty and can make up more than 50% of the workforce. In spite of the massive participation of rural women in productive processes, rural women’s access to productive assets such as land, credit, technical assistance, and inputs remains marginal in most of the regions of Nicaragua.
Hence, many partner organizations of CIAT in Nicaragua, including Fundación entre Mujeres (FEM), OCTUPAN, and Fundación Mujer y Desarrollo Económico Comunitario (FUMDEC), have made the strategic decision to work towards the social and economic empowerment of rural women based on their ideological and political training, so that they can liberate policy incidence processes and improve control and access to productive resources by rural women.
However, to successfully carry out the training of rural women and their organizations, it is necessary to understand the complex issues of public policies and their impact on resources and opportunities for rural women. Although many of the organizations working with rural women have conducted empirical research based on systematization of opinions and testimonies, there have been few systemic studies to elucidate relations between public policy and rural women's agency for integral and equitable territorial development.
During the convergence exercise carried out with members of the R4D Platform of the Nicanorte Action Site, many organizations working with rural women expressed their alignment with Humidtropics’ Intermediate Development Outcome on Gender aiming to empower women and youth with better control over and benefit from integrated production systems. They also strongly identified with the idea expressed in Humidtropics' Theory of Change that “Empowered women and youth is one of the enabling conditions to bring about desired changes in ecological intensification, improved market access, increase of farm household income and better public policies.”
During the recent territorial analysis and stakeholder mapping exercises conducted in three different territories of Nicanorte (July-September 2014), the issue was again proposed as one of the research priorities. Improving understanding about the impact of current national policies on rural women's agency for integrated and equitable territorial development was identified as an important theme for knowledge integration, in order to renew the debate on public policies and rural women's agency.
Considered as a “quick win” in terms of contribution to Humidtropics' Intermediate Development Outcome related to Gender, FEM, a feminist civil society organization based in Estelí, in alliance with OCTUPAN, FUMDEC and CIAT, formulated a research for development proposal entitled Public policies and rural women's agency for integral and equitable territorial development and obtained support from Humidtropics to implement the initiative over the next three years within the framework of partnership projects.
During 2014-2016, researchers at FEM, OCTUPAN, and FUMDEC, with help from CIAT research advisers and student interns from IEPP, will implement desk and field studies to analyze the current status of national policy implementation and their impact on rural women. The study will take place at both the national and territorial levels (municipalities of Condega, Pueblo Nuevo and Pantasma) where the organizations are actively involved with rural women's organizations.
The learning groups will focus their analysis on a few laws and national policies selected from the following list based on their score for relevance and importance: land tenure policy, water access policy, cooperative policy, credit and investment policy, market access policy, environmental policy, public investment policy, rural development policy, municipal development policy, food security and sovereignty policy, labor and child labor policy, and ecological production policy. Attention will also be focused on policies related to equity, prevention of violence, and sexual and reproductive health.
Through a series of activities ranging from desk research and documentation, to surveys, consultations, focus groups, and workshops, the groups will generate new insights about the influence of national policies on rural women's agency for integrated and equitable territorial development utilizing guiding questions. The newly constructed knowledge will then be used to encourage debates on critical issues embedded within this theme at local, municipal and national levels. At a later stage, the project will share its findings with organizations in other Action Sites of Humidtropics located in the border region of Haiti-Dominican Republic, and the border region of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras located in Trifinio, with the aim of motivating them to carry out similar research and encourage similar debates.
Blog and photo by Falguni Guharay, Scientist, R4D Platforms, Humidtropics and PIM, CIAT.