Public policies and their influence on rural women’s agency
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 sometimes comes to represent more than 50% of the workforce. In spite of massive participation of rural women in productive processes, access of rural women 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 FEM, Fundación entre Mujeres, a feminist civil society organization based in Estelí, Nicaragua; OCTUPAN, and FUMDEC) have made the strategic decision to work towards social and economic empowerment of rural women based on their ideological and political formation so that they can liberate policy incidence processes and improve the situation of control and access to productive resources by rural women.
However, to successfully carry out such political formation 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 and their organizations have conducted empirical research based on the analysis of cause and effect and the systematization of opinions and testimonies, seldom have they – or anyone else – carried out systematic policy research to elucidate the relations between current national policies with regard to empowerment or on 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 of Humidtropics (October 2013), many organizations working with rural women, expressed their alignment with Humidtropics’ IDO 5 – Empowered women and youth with better control over and benefit from integrated production systems. They also strongly identified with the idea expressed in the theory of change of Humidtropics 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 prioritiee. Improving understanding about 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 IDO 5, FEM in alliance with OCTUPAN, FUMDEC and CIAT formulated a research for development proposal titled Public policies and rural women’s agency for integral and equitable territorial development and obtained support from Humidtropics to implement the initiative over next three years within the framework of partnership projects.
During 2014-2016, researchers at FEM, OCTUPAN, and FUMDEC, with the help from CIAT research advisers and student interns from Paris Instiute of Political Science, France, Saint Olaf college, USA, and Thomas More University, Nicaragua 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 level (municipalities of Condega, Pueblo Nuevo, Pantasma, Rancho Grande and Waslala) 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 reading of 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, sexual and reproductive health.
Through a series of activities ranging from desk research and documentation, surveys, consultations, focal groups, and workshops, the groups will generate new insights about the influence of national policies on rural women’s agency for integral and equitable territorial development utilizing guiding questions. The newly constructed knowledge will then be used to provoke debates on critical issues embedded within this theme at local, municipal and national level. At a later stage, the project will share its findings with organizations in other action sites of Humidtropics located in border region of Haiti-Dominican Republic and border regions of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras located inTrifinio, with the aim of motivating them to carry out similar research and provoke similar debates.
Falguni Guharay, Scientist, Research for Development platforms, Humidtropics and PIM, CIAT, Managua, Nicaragua. email@example.com