Data

Location
Nicaragua
Scope of Influence
National
Links
https://unwrapped.oxfam.ca/our-work/where-we-work/americas/oxfam-nicaragua
Start Date
End Date
Ongoing
No
Staff
No
Volunteers
No

CASE

Advancing Women’s Rights in Nicaragua’s Farming Cooperatives

First Submitted By Institute of Development Studies

Most Recent Changes By Scott Fletcher, Participedia Team

Location
Nicaragua
Scope of Influence
National
Links
https://unwrapped.oxfam.ca/our-work/where-we-work/americas/oxfam-nicaragua
Start Date
End Date
Ongoing
No
Staff
No
Volunteers
No

A gender audit of the National Federation of Cooperatives found women in Nicaragua lacked access to land. Reforms of the association and the development of a Women’s Land Fund increased women’s representation and participation.

Problems and Purpose

The National Federation of Cooperatives (FENACOOP) has a mixed membership of men and women farmers. While some progress has been made to further women’s rights, women remain marginalized within the industry. In an attempt to promote women’s participation, FENACOOP partnered with Oxfam Canada to undertake a gender audit using participatory methodologies, undergo internal restructuring, and to help establish a Women’s Land Fund.[1]

Background History and Context

Land reform took place in Nicaragua after the Sandanista revolution, but it did not explicitly target women, despite being couched in language that emphasised benefits to the poor. Ninety per cent of land under reform went to the men, while about 65 percent of women farmers who till the land do not own any land. Farmers’ organizations are male dominated and women-only organisations were scarce. Women in leadership positions are also rare. In addition, cultural attitudes and traditions excluded women from being recognised as producers. Women also lack access to credit and seeds, and face violence and sexual harassment at work.[2]

The National Federation of Cooperatives (FENACOOP) was founded in 1990 with the aim of strengthening agricultural co-operatives. It provides farmers with support to improve production and marketing, offers training and credit, and lobbies government on policy issues related to rural development, trade, land and microfinance. There are approximately 41,000 farmer members in 620 cooperatives; 39 percent of the members are women.[3]

Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities

The National Federation of Cooperatives (FENACOOP) and Oxfam Canada. Oxfam initiated the structural changes within FENACOOP’s board and committees, then the cooperative led advocacy processes to influence policy makers.[4] 

Participant Recruitment and Selection 

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Methods and Tools Used

The audit of FENACOOP undertaken by Oxfam Canada was specifically designed to be participatory, including methods, tools, and techniques such as workshops, interviews, feedback and review sessions, and awareness-raising initiatives.[5]

What Went on: Process, Interaction, and Participation 

As part of its gender-mainstreaming process, FENACOOP and Oxfam Canada undertook a participatory gender audit of the association. This included an audit of projects, organizational structure and developing a gender action plan through workshops, interviews, feedback and review sessions, and awareness-raising initiatives. The process explored gender roles and responsibilities, reflected and engaged with key leaders, and analysed the role of women in FENACOOP and local farming cooperatives. The exercises included reflections by men and their role in perpetuating gendered power.[6] 

The audit found a large gap between male and female participation in FENACOOP’s assembly, available data on the number of women in grassroots and second level cooperatives, and an imbalance in FENACOOP’s staff composition.[7] 

A Gender Action Plan was designed during a three-day workshop with 35 stakeholders. Gender composition of the FENACOOP Board and the number of FENACOOP assembly delegates changed—increasing the number of women in decision-making positions. A Women’s Commission was created within FENANCOOP to raise the profile of gender issues.[8] Women members along with the help from external consultants also conducted audits of selected member cooperatives of FENACOOP using similar participatory methodologies to those employed during the FENACOOP audit. This process strengthened solidarity among women members and enabled them to raise their concerns at the group level. Grassroots women members were also encouraged to create alliances with other women’s groups and increase their involvement in national level advocacy, leading to the creation of a Women’s Land Fund.[9]

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

The internal revisions at FENACOOP and the creation of the Women’s Land Fund led to changes in making women’s roles in agriculture more visible, giving women more room to voice their demands and to developing collective action strategies for promoting their rights.[10]

Changes related to land policy happened through the following processes: a) women member’s land ownership promoted through joint titling with husbands; b) advocacy for land reform through creation of a Women’s Land Fund Bill—so women are able to buy land at a lower credit rate. FENACOOP women members joined the national advocacy effort and participated through signature collection process (30,000 signatures), also lobbying deputies in National Assembly.[11]

This is a case where the members themselves not only changed the organisation’s practices and structure but it also led to members’ mobilisation for wider changes at the policy level in one of the key areas of economic justice for women—access to land. FENACOOP now promotes gender equality and advocates for inclusion of women in economic advancement by: (a) strengthening political capacity among women to secure access to land and other natural resources; (b) influencing international, regional and national organizations in favour of measures which reflect needs and land rights of rural women; and (c) supporting access to and participation in land initiatives for rural women. As a result, women have become more actively involved in advocacy work around land rights. FENACOOP women cooperatives joined the initiative promoted by the Coordination of Rural Women and collected 30,000 signatures, support the Women’s Land Fund to be passed in 2010. The objective of this bill was to support women with access to credit to purchase land.[12] 

Analysis and Lessons Learned

The participatory nature of the audit - especially the use of workshops and reflection exercises - created safe spaces and enabled women to identify male allies, raised awareness about gender issues, and also created a sense of ownership of the change processes.[13]

This case can be categorized on the ‘involve’ end of the participatory spectrum, because women’s voice and rights are considered in decision-making processes. Women, being less likely to own land, had previously remained excluded from policy debates and did not participate in producers’ organisations.[14] 

See Also

Workshops

The National Land Rights Forum: Peasant-led Advocacy for Land Rights in Nepal

References

[1] Beatriz Gonzalez Manchón, Ixkic Duarte, Morna Macleod, Towards Gender Justice: Mainstreaming A Gender Perspective in Farmers’ Organisations (Online: Oxfam Canada, 2011), 14, https://www.oxfam.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/towards-gender-justice.pdf.

[2] Beatriz Gonzalez Manchón and Morna Macleod, "Challenging gender inequality in farmers' organisations in Nicaragua," Gender & Development 18, no. 3 (2010): 374-375. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13552074.2010.521984

[3] Manchón, Duarte, Macleod, Towards Gender Justice, 13.  

[4] Manchón, Duarte, Macleod, Towards Gender Justice, 14.

[5] Manchón, Duarte, Macleod, Towards Gender Justice, 15.

[6] Manchón, Duarte, Macleod, Towards Gender Justice, 15.

[7] Manchón, Duarte, Macleod, Towards Gender Justice, 15.

[8] Manchón, Duarte, Macleod, Towards Gender Justice, 15-16.

[9] Manchón and Macleod, "Challenging gender inequality in farmers' organisations in Nicaragua," 380.

[10] Manchón and Macleod, "Challenging gender inequality in farmers' organisations in Nicaragua," 380; 383.

[11] Manchón and Macleod, "Challenging gender inequality in farmers' organisations in Nicaragua," 380.

[12] Manchón and Macleod, "Challenging gender inequality in farmers' organisations in Nicaragua," 380-382.

[13] Manchón and Macleod, "Challenging gender inequality in farmers' organisations in Nicaragua," 377.

[14] Manchón and Macleod, "Challenging gender inequality in farmers' organisations in Nicaragua," 374-375.

External Links 

FENACOOP [Archived]: https://web.archive.org/web/20150327100629/http://www.fenacoop.org.ni/

Oxfam in Nicaragua: https://unwrapped.oxfam.ca/our-work/where-we-work/americas/oxfam-nicaragua

Notes

The first submission of this Participedia entry was adapted from a research project by the Institute of Development Studies, 'Linking Participation and Economic Advancement’ licensed and reproduced under Creative Commons (CC BY 3.0).
Original source: https://www.eldis.org/keyissues/mapping-participation-economic-advancement 

Lead image: Simon Rawles/Getty Images, http://bit.ly/2CZZ1tU