Visiting Nicaragua and Costa Rica

Sorry if you have not heard from us lately, we have been jumping from meeting to meeting on our trip to Nicaragua and Costa Rica without having the time to sit and write part of our experiences.

These past days have been a life changing experience for us, not just because we have been able get to know our grantees and their work more deeply, but also because we better understand the circumstances under which they are working. During this week, we have been very fortunate to meet with very diverse groups, from Caribbean indigenous groups in Bilwi, Nicaragua, to very sophisticated feminist groups in San Jose, Costa Rica.

On Monday and Tuesday, our grantees convened to share experiences at the Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Latin America and the Caribbean meeting. Twenty-eight women representing 11 countries attended. During the first day, we focused on exchanging and evaluating the impact of the work carried out by the organizations.

The morning of the second day, we focused the discussions on the issue of sustainability and financial resources for women. Our grantees analyzed the difficulties in getting funding to develop their activities and discussed strategies to ensure sustainability. In this session, we invited our sister, the Central American Women's Fund, as well as UNFPA and UNIFEM representatives in Nicaragua. We also had the opportunity to discuss recommendations to develop more strategic grantmaking in the issue of sexual and reproductive rights and health.

After the meeting, we traveled to Bilwi (Puerto Cabezas) at the north Atlantic region in Nicaragua, home of our board member Myrna Cunningham. Myrna organized a meeting with more than 45 women and men representing Indigenous and Afro-Nicaraguans women's groups, scholars, autonomous government's representatives, students, and researchers. The meeting focused on the issue of gender violence against women, as this is one of the most serious concerns in this region of the country.

On Thursday, we went back to Managua and visited more grantees and partners.

We arrived to Costa Rica last Friday, since then we have been meeting with grantees. On Saturday, we had a meeting with 17 women's groups and organizations. Costa Rica is also a very diverse country, with different indigenous, afro-descendant groups, immigrants -- mainly from Nicaragua and Colombia - and a very large European community. It's also a country of contrasts, with no army but with a deep social and economic polarization. Women's groups are working with very limited resources, trying to advance women's rights in a country where an unfair "Free Trade Agreement" is the government's priority.

We visited a grantee, Mujeres por la Salud y el Desarrollo, in San Ramon, approximately one and a half hours from the capital. The group is working to prevent violence against women, giving psychological, social and legal services to survivors of violence. The group also provides skill training to ensure women's economic independence. During the last year, the group participated in the social mobilization against the free trade agreement with the U.S. and the neo-liberal economic model imposed by the Arias' government. They understand the relation between violence against women and a lack of economic opportunity. They also know that this economic model is perpetuating women's subjugation. This group has been surviving with some income-generating activities, and has developed catering services and handcraft workshops.

That's all for now, I just wanted to share some of our experiences here before we return to San Francisco.

Erika Guevara Rosas is the program officer for the Americas.


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