Rural women have been struggling for access to land in Nicaragua for decades.
Last year, the National Assembly of Nicaragua finally approved a bill to create a special fund to provide credit to rural women for land purchase. Several Oxfam partners, including the Rural Women’s Coordination, the National Federation of Cooperatives and the Federation of Rural Women Producers were part of a two-and-a-half year struggle to get Bill 717 approved. According to María Teresa Fernández, president of the Rural Women’s Coordination, the bill, while not as comprehensive as they had hoped for, “is an important tool to benefit rural women in the country.”
She tells me that only 18% of rural women in Nicaragua own their own piece of land. The majority have to lease in order to grow corn, beans and other basic grains and vegetables, which ends up costing them half of what they earn with their productions. If women owned land, she explains, other resources and government programs for agricultural producers would become more accessible to them as well. Women would also be less vulnerable to violence and abuse in the home if their land ownership were secured.
The organizations have therefore worked extensively in recent months to demand sufficient budget from the government to resource the land fund to benefit 1,000 women in 2011. “Without a budget the law can’t be implemented, so what is the point then?” asks Maria Teresa. They have presented letters to members of the National Assembly, organized stunts and pushed their agenda in the media.
It’s an uphill battle that they are motivated to continue.
With Oxfam Canada’s support they are preparing communication materials to ramp up media and lobby activities around the International Day of Rural Women on October 15. Rural women from different parts of the country will meet in the capital, sell their produce in a fair to be held in front of the National Assembly to generate income and participate in different actions calling for an effective implementation of the bill. Oxfam made a contribution to a similar October 15 event last year that drew the participation of 900 women. This year they want to be more and better organized.
“We have to have big dreams, if we want change to happen,” says Maria Teresa.
Beatriz Gonzalez is Oxfam Canada’s programme development officer for the Americas. She is currently in Nicaragua.