On her first visit to Nicaragua, WFP Executive Director, Ertharin Cousin, met a group of women who managed to produce their own food, generate income and even open bank accounts for the first time in their lives. Cousin asked the women about their husbands’ feelings in regards to the women’s roles in a male-led community.
MANAGUA. The Russian-built Mi 171 helicopter landed softly in a field of the Apantillo community, some 200 kilometers north of Managua, in the mountains of Matagalpa, in the morning of 14 June.
WFP Executive Director, Ertharin Cousin stepped off the Nicaraguan Air Force aircraft accompanied by WFP Regional Director, Gemmo Lodesani, WFP Nicaragua Representative, Helmut W. Rauch, Nicaragua’s Presidential Advisor, Guillermo González, and a group of journalists who joined Cousin on her first visit to Nicaragua some 60 days after assuming the role of Executive Director.
The group’s first stop in Apantillo was El Encanto School where 145 school children receive a hot meal prepared with food provided by Brazil, Australia and Spain. Meanwhile the gray skies and persistent breeze suddenly turned into a bright sun and sweltering heat and viceversa.
We attempted to escape the rain –including the Executive Director who had caught the flu few days earlier—and the mud covered ground, but it turned impossible as we left the school while the children were snacking.
"Before my husband used to give me money..."
We continued on to partake in a meeting of rural women who participated in a cash-for-work project promoted by WFP, implemented by the local organization FUDEMAT and funded by the European Union.
One after the other, women in the community told us about their experiences: "Before my husband used to give me money but not enough to buy food and he also used to request the change," said one. "Now I can plant fruits and vegetables for my family and my children," said another. "For me it is a great benefit. In my yard I have onions, peppers, and cabbage for my children to eat," said Dinorah Garcia who is 46 years old.
Cousin listened to each of the stories and told them: "I hear women who are proud to make a difference in the lives of their families and what that does to their children, particularly your girls, is to demonstrate that they can be proud too."
But suddenly, as if a spark had pierced through her mind, Cousin asked, "I see many men standing here. How do your husbands feel about you? It is also important that we maintain strong families."
Woman, wife and a leading example
Vicente Castillo, who was sitting near her jumped up and said, "Yes, of course. I am thankful that my wife has been an example for me. I'm not a saint, certainly, but my father taught me to work, and now I work with my wife for our children," he said referring to Carmen Castillo and their five children.
Fabricio Fernando Rodriguez, 29, took the floor immediately. "I also help my wife. The benefits are for everyone and we all work together." Fabricio and his wife Elida have three children.
Everyone attending the meeting laughed and applauded the ingenuity of the visitor and the rapid response given by the men. "I am a mother and grandmother too. I understand how important it is to feed your children, and to send them to school. Nothing is more important than the hope we give to the future," said Cousin.
Moments after the meeting ended the women gave the Executive Director flowers from their gardens. Vicenta Ruiz gave her bananas, cassava, pumpkins, papayas, onions, pineapple, carrots, tomatoes, etc. These are some of the agriculture grown on their patios.
The 10 journalists who were covering the visit surrounded the scene. Video cameras began recording and cameras fired simultaneously. Finally we had the anticipated image. The next day this image was on newspapers, electronic media and television showing the Executive Director sharing the fruits of the orchards with the women of Apantillo.