Central America – Working on gender inclusiveness for development

by Estela Garcia, LWF Central America

Healing Workshop facilitated by Asociación de Desarrollo Comunitario Indígena (ADICI) "Association for Indigenous Community Development " in english, for women victims of civil war, 1960 - 1996.

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Department for World Service (DWS), Central America Program works for families and farming groups in the Guatemalan indigenous area “Half Moon Q’eqchi’” supporting aims to improve the abilities of this families to have access to resources that will allow them to improve their earnings, taking in consideration the approach of Sustainable Agriculture, Disaster Prevention and the inclusion of women in community development processes.

The Q’eqchi’ zone, that includes the departments of Alta Verapaz, Quiché, Petén and Izabal, is the poorest region of the country. The DWS program drew an imaginary half moon shape for this geographically area where the reality is challenging and complex, human needs are not being met, but resources are plentiful and the ancestral culture is rich in values.

Give us today our daily bread

For the LWF/DWS CA is essential that this communities rediscovered the value of their native seeds and that they have the right to decide what to eat and what to produce and for it to be their own production not something imposed from the outside.

The benefits for the people that have their own plots permit them ensure the food security for their families and get higher incomes. For example, at Santo Domingo, Petén, a group of women started a chicken breeding project which resulted in them being able to buy some heads of cattle, thanks to the sale of surplus.

Furthermore, in Tezulutlán 1, a community in Alta Verapaz, 59 families are being supported by the Nuevo Horizonte Women’s institution -LWF partner organization- which is promoting a project to grow pepper and cinnamon. The cultivation reflects the community’s vision of change and promises significant earning in the local market.

“Before we didn’t grow what we harvest know. In the same crop where we used to harvest corn and beans, now we plant yucca, pineapples and bananas. Thanks to sustainable agriculture our families consume these products now,” said Carolina Caal, peasant of Tezulutlán 1.

Nuevo Horizonte works in 5 communities training women to strengthen the local development; “so women can work by themselves in their own projects,” said Maria Chocoj, promoter of Nuevo Horizonte.

Marcelina Quib is a development actor of a turkey project in Tezulutlán 1.Families sell turkeys for 40 to 60 dollars each that permit to families can help their kids to study.“Each of these turkeys lay 10 to 15 eggs; many times we sell them to generate incomes for our families said Marcelina.”

The DWS works to integrate the whole family in the sustainable agriculture process to ensure it future.

Advocacy and gender relations

For the LWF/WS is essential for the peasant organizations to become stronger. This is why it is supporting the Women’s organizations helping them to have a greater impact on municipal and citizen participation.

“Now they have become leaders in the community committees and their voice can be heard,” said Azucena Aguilar, DWS Local Coordinator in Petén. When the LWF became the project in the area, from 20 persons were participating only two were women and they were not really active. Now, 40 percent of participants are women and their role is very dynamic.

To improve gender relations for development, ADICI, another LWF partner organization, facilitated masculinity workshops approximately to 60 leaders men of the Half Moon Q’qchi’.

Looking for the next three years of the “Sustainable Development and Advocacy Programme”, the DWS prioritizes the empowering of Q’eqchí families in political, environmental, agricultural and risk management issues.

The programme seeks to increase the organizational capacities of the women´s group, in Alliance with the local partners, starting from the food security needs and risk management against disasters.

Towards the end of the three year period, the women’s group and their families will have the technical, political, organizational and administrative capacities to carry on with an autonomous self-management process.

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