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EU Aid Volunteers: Women protagonists of the change in Nicaragua

Wednesday, 29 March 2017
Marie-Pierre Smets

Volunteers from the EU Aid Volunteers initiative witness firsthand the increasing participation of women in the communal management of drinking water and sanitation in the municipality of Chinandega, Nicaragua.

nicaragua agua

Since February 23, 2017, I began my voluntary assignment of the European aid volunteer initiative (EU Aid Volunteers) in the department of Chinandega, northwest Nicaragua. Chinandega is part of the "dry corridor" of Nicaragua and has been affected by a recurrent drought for several years due to climate change. It is in this context that Alianza por la Solidaridad, together with the local Nicaraguan NGO ADEES, supports rural communities to improve their access to water and thus contribute to the attainment of their most vital human right.

In this region, access, availability and quality of water and sanitation for families is reduced. In fact, according to a survey carried out by an NGO belonging to the Paragua Initiative - which groups together 10 Spanish and Nicaraguan NGOs, including Alianza por la Solidaridad, to guarantee the full exercise of the right to water and sanitation:

  • Only 45% of households have drinking water at home.
  • 1 in 5 families has a consumption of less than 20 liters per person per day.
  • About 30% of the population has no access to water to meet their personal and domestic needs.
  • 1 in 3 households in the country has access to water sources with a supply of less than 5 hours a day.
  • The water supply in the rural environment is 63%, compared to the urban, which reaches 90%.

Faced with this reality, people organize themselves and become protagonists of their own development. In rural areas, the State of Nicaragua has decentralized its competence and delegated the provision of drinking water to the communal Committees of Drinking Water and Sanitation. In rural communities, these committees are primarily responsible for the management of drinking water and sanitation.

In Nicaraguan communities, although women are the ones who are most in contact with water, decisions on this resource are made by men. There is thus a "gender gap" that has to do with the differences between men and women in access, use and control of water.

nicaragua agua 2

Men and women work together in creating trenches for water pipes. Zapote Community (Nicaragua)

Betting on the advancement in gender equity, Nicaraguan women are opening the door to change. As a volunteer, I visited the countryside and saw rural women working hand-in-hand with men in creating trenches that allow water pipes to be placed from the wells to their homes. The work is very hard in this climate under high temperatures about 35 to 40 degrees under tje strong sun. However, these women know all they can gain in quality of life by participating fully in this initiative: clean water and of better quality in their homes, without having to spend more than 30 minutes of their time to pump and transport the water with the strength of their arms to their homes. The water will be of better quality, thanks to a system of sanitation, which will avoid the consumption of contaminated water.

Women in charge of this work are trained, they learn and conquer these spaces of communal management. While cultural changes have their strengths and it is not always easy to change practices and mentalities, women are advancing and feel stronger now, making their voices to be heard so that their specific needs as women are taken into account.

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