With the new Global Goals being agreed in 10 days, Y Care International’s Helen Frost champions Gender Equality, after witnessing Nicaragua YMCA empower young women, and the change it brought to communities.
The Global Development Goals for the next 15 years are being decided this month, so it’s more crucial than ever that we know the true impact of current development projects to help shape the World’s future agenda in the best possible way. Sometimes the results can be surprising…
Back in 2012, I was supporting the YMCA of Nicaragua to set up their brand new project aiming to empower young people in agricultural skills, reduce their community’s vulnerability to disasters and improve access to clean safe water.
Visiting now, as the project moves into its fourth and final year, I am back to understand the changes that the project is creating in the lives of young people and their communities.
Talking with YMCA staff and beneficiaries highlighted many positive changes around the young people’s ability to increase production, increase food security and take actions to reduce the risk of natural disasters impacting their lives. However, when they asked to pick the most significant changes that were happening as a result of the project, the clear winner surprised me.
Women have gained increased influence and respect
Traditionally, only the male head of the household makes decisions about how the house is run, what crops they will grow and how they will tend these. This is changing. Now women are increasingly engaged in decision making process and are recognised by their families as having equal skills and knowledge to their husbands, fathers and brothers.
Sofia, the Programmes Director at YMCA Nicaragua explains: “The project has helped to shift gears for young women being able to have power within their homes and communities and being able to address their own needs. At the start of the training the only voices you heard in the workshops were the young men, but the young women now have confidence in themselves and their own abilities and this is being reflected in how they are treated by the men who now respect them; we have all seen a reduction in stigma faced by the young women.”
Sisters, Marisol and Christina, and their mother Thelma, have all been trained under the project and are applying their new farming skills on their family land. They told me that before the project their land provided just enough food for them to eat but not much else and they had little say on what was grown and where, this was the preserve of the men.
Through the project, they have improved their understanding of how their farm works and they can now help their husbands make decisions and the family work together more effectively. Their crop yields have increased dramatically and Marisol and Christina’s have increased their intake and variety of food.
The women are also playing an important role in their community. They are the holders of the community’s only medical kit, which was provided by the project and is used by the 80 local families. In such rural communities, these kits are a lifeline and reduce vulnerability to small illnesses and infections so the contents are in high demand.
Young women’s confidence and ability to influence and make a difference in their families and communities has increased significantly over the last three years and it’s clear that the crops yields are not the only thing that is growing through this project – gender equality is too.