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Autonomous Women's Organizations and Class-Based Mass Organizations. A Case Study of FEMUPROCAN, Nicaragua

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0041838/00001

Material Information

Title: Autonomous Women's Organizations and Class-Based Mass Organizations. A Case Study of FEMUPROCAN, Nicaragua
Physical Description: 1 online resource (291 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Sintjago, Eleanor
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2010

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: autonomy, cooperative, feminism, femuprocan, movement, ngo, nicaragua, organization, rural, social, success, women
Latin American Studies -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Latin American Studies thesis, M.A.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: This thesis investigates the extent to which successful, autonomous women s organizations can emerge from class-based mass organizations, using the case study of FEMUPROCAN (Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives of Rural Women Producers of Nicaragua). I examine the nature of the organization, the extent of its success in achieving its objectives and the degree to which it has been accepted as a legitimate representative for rural women producers. I then discuss the concept of autonomy in terms of political, economic and organizational independence and explore the relationships between FEMUPROCAN and its international NGO partners in depth. I argue that whereas FEMUPROCAN has achieved some significant successes in a number of areas, there are certain areas in which the organization has not managed to make much progress towards its goals. Having achieved a high level of political autonomy, the biggest weakness of this type of women s organization appears to be financial. Complete dependence on funds from international development NGOs limits the organizational autonomy of these organizations and leaves them vulnerable to the whims of development organizations based in the Global North. Although FEMUPROCAN appears to be making the best of a situation that is far from ideal, they do not seem likely to decrease this dependence any time soon.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Eleanor Sintjago.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2010.
Local: Adviser: Deere, Carmen.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2010
System ID: UFE0041838:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0041838/00001

Material Information

Title: Autonomous Women's Organizations and Class-Based Mass Organizations. A Case Study of FEMUPROCAN, Nicaragua
Physical Description: 1 online resource (291 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Sintjago, Eleanor
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2010

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: autonomy, cooperative, feminism, femuprocan, movement, ngo, nicaragua, organization, rural, social, success, women
Latin American Studies -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Latin American Studies thesis, M.A.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: This thesis investigates the extent to which successful, autonomous women s organizations can emerge from class-based mass organizations, using the case study of FEMUPROCAN (Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives of Rural Women Producers of Nicaragua). I examine the nature of the organization, the extent of its success in achieving its objectives and the degree to which it has been accepted as a legitimate representative for rural women producers. I then discuss the concept of autonomy in terms of political, economic and organizational independence and explore the relationships between FEMUPROCAN and its international NGO partners in depth. I argue that whereas FEMUPROCAN has achieved some significant successes in a number of areas, there are certain areas in which the organization has not managed to make much progress towards its goals. Having achieved a high level of political autonomy, the biggest weakness of this type of women s organization appears to be financial. Complete dependence on funds from international development NGOs limits the organizational autonomy of these organizations and leaves them vulnerable to the whims of development organizations based in the Global North. Although FEMUPROCAN appears to be making the best of a situation that is far from ideal, they do not seem likely to decrease this dependence any time soon.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Eleanor Sintjago.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2010.
Local: Adviser: Deere, Carmen.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2010
System ID: UFE0041838:00001


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AUTONOMOUS WOMEN'S ORGANIZATIONS AND CLASS-BASED MASS
ORGANIZATIONS: A CASE STUDY OF FEMUPROCAN, NICARAGUA.




















By

ELEANOR JANE SINTJAGO


A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

2010

































2010 Eleanor Jane Sintjago


































To Alfonso









ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This research would not have been possible without the generous support of the

Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Florida, which provided me with a

summer field research grant to fund my fieldwork. I would also like to thank Dr. Carmen

Diana Deere, who helped me to formulate my research question and who was

instrumental in putting me in contact with the leadership of FEMUPROCAN. In addition,

I thank the other members of my committee, Dr. Florence Babb and Dr. Frederick

Royce for their time and insights. I am especially grateful to the women of

FEMUPROCAN for allowing me to conduct my research on their organization and for all

their assistance, patience, and generosity. Finally, I am thankful for all of the

suggestions and support provided by my family.









TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

A C KNOW LEDG M ENTS .......... ..................... ....... .. ......................................... 4

LIS T O F F IG U R E S .................................................................. 9

LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS AND ACRONYMS.................................... .................... 10

A BST RA C T ............... ... ..... ......................................................... ...... 12

CHAPTER

1 INTRODUCTION: LIVING IN PERMANENT DEMONSTRATION ....................... 14

T h e R e se a rch S ite s ............... ........................................................ 2 2
M a nag ua .................................................... ................. .. .. ... .. 22
Terrabona and San Juanillo .................................. ............................. ....... 24
N u e v a G u in e a ............... ......................................................... 2 5
M e th o d s .................................................................................. 2 5
P articipant O observation ....................................... .................... .. ............ 26
Semi-structured Individual Interviews ..................................... ............... 27
Group Interviews with W omen at the Grassroots ................. ............. ....... 28
G ro u n d e d T h e o ry ............... .............................................. ................ 2 9

2 THE WOMEN'S MOVEMENT IN NICARAGUA............................ ............... 31

Before the Revolution .......................................................................... 31
The FSLN Government 1979-1990.............. ........... ........... .................... 33
The ATC ................ ........... ... .................. ..........36
U NA G ............... .......... .......... ......................... ....... 41
Rural Women's Participation in Other Organizations ................... .......... 43
The Contra W ar.......................... ... ..... ...................... ... .......... 44
Neoliberal Governments 1990-2007 and Structural Adjustment........................... 45
The ATC ................ ........... ... .................. ..........48
UNAG ............... ....... ..... ......... ..................... 49
The Autonomous Women's Movement ...... .......... ................................... 50
The Women's Movements In Nicaragua Today ............................................ 56

3 NGO-IZATION AND NICARAGUAN WOMEN'S MOVEMENTS........................... 58

A Brief H history of N G O -zation ...... .................................................... ................. 58
Benefits to NGO-ization ......................... ....... ........ 62
Draw backs of NG O -ization .......................................... ........ ......................... 67
Feminist NGOs in Nicaragua Today: Agents of Yankee Imperialism?.................... 75
C including R em arks ................................. ....... ................ .............. 76









4 THE HISTORY OF FEMUPROCAN: A BASTION OF STRUGGLE FOR THE
UNITY AND DEVELOPMENT OF WOMEN PRODUCERS............................ 80

W ith in U N A G ............................................. ............................................8 0
Phase One: Disappointment and the Roots of Organization 1980-1983.......... 80
Phase Two: Coffee-Picking Collectives and the Beginning of the Struggle
for Independence: 1984 1986 ............................................... ................ 82
Phase Three: The Creation of the Women's Secretariat............... ............... 83
Phase Four: After the 1990 Electoral Defeat of the FSLN the Women's
Section Demands Greater Autonomy................................... .................... 87
Phase Five: The Break with UNAG: 1997-Present ........................................ 89
FEMUPROCAN Today ................................... ............................ ....... 94

5 NGOS, SOCIAL MOVEMENTS AND TRADE ASSOCIATIONS: WHERE DOES
FEM U PRO CA N FIT IN? .............................................................. .............. 96

D efining S social M ovem ents ..................................... .................... ............ ....... 97
Difference Between a Social Movement and a Social Movement Organization
(SM O ) ......... .. ......... ............. ......................................... 101
Defining Social Movement Organizations .............. ........ .. ... ...... ...... .... 102
Defining Trade A associations ........... .... ............ ............................ .. .... ........... 103
Defining NGOs........................... .. .. ..................................... 104
Difference between an NGO and a social movement or social movement
organization ........... .............. ...................................... .. ...... 108
FEMUPROCAN .............................. ..... ................... 111
FEMUPROCAN as Trade Association........................... ............... 111
FEMUPROCAN as Social Movement Organization .............. ................. 112
FEM UPROCAN as NGO ............................ ........... .. ........ .......... 113
Cooperative Organizations and FEMUPROCAN ............... ........... ................. 118
C conclusions ......... ... ................................................... .. ............. 122

6 ASSESSING FEMUPROCAN'S SUCCESS ........... ..................................... 124

What Constitutes Success and How Can It Be Measured? ............................... 124
Has FEMUPROCAN Been Able to Influence the Government and the General
Public in Nicaragua to Achieve their Objectives and Benefit their Members at
the Grassroots? ....................................................... ................. 131
A Strong Organization with Leadership Capacity? .............. .............. 132
Association and community leadership............................. 132
Formulation and management of projects............................................ 135
Growth and subscriptions ........................... ................. 137
Legality of the cooperatives ............................ .............. 139
Planning, monitoring and evaluation ........ ....... ..................... ............... 141
Training Capable, Empowered Women Leaders?.............. ......................... 145
A groecological techniques ....................................... ......... .... ............... 147
Formulation and management of projects............................................ 152
Gender and development (GAD) .................................... .. ...... ..... .... 152









Leadership and em powerment................................................. 157
Literacy and primary education .................................. ....................... 162
O organization and Cooperativism ................................... .................. ..... 169
Strengthening the Business and Entrepreneurial Skills of Women Producers 174
B business techniques ............... ..................................... ............. .. 174
Access to land and other property ....................................... ............... 177
Diversification and modernization of production.................................. 181
Financing of productive activities .............. ...................................... 187
Marketing and commercialization................... .. ... .. .......... .. 190
Influencing the Processes of Promotion and Formulation of Policies Related
to the Countryside and Women Producers? ............................................ 197
Dissemination of information and media strategy .............................. 197
Lobbying and advocacy .................................. ...................................... 200
Links w ith O their O organizations ................................. ............................. ....... 202
FEMUPROCAN and Women's Organizations ............................................ 203
FEMUPROCAN and Cooperative Organizations............... ............... 208
FEMUPROCAN and Peasant/Rural Organizations.................................... 210
FEMUPROCAN and Linkages with Other Organizations ............................. 212

7 A C C EPTA N C E ............................................ ...... ............... 215

C o n s u lta tio n ................................................... ..................................... 2 1 5
Negotiation .............................. ............... 216
R e c o g n itio n .................2 18.............................................
Inclusion.................... ...................... ............... 219
C o n c lu s io n s ................................................... ......................................... 2 2 3

8 THE LIMITS TO AUTONOMY: FROM SANDINISTA AFFILIATED MASS
MOVEMENT TO INDEPENDENT WOMEN'S ORGANIZATION .......................... 226

D defining A utonom y ............... ..................................................................... .... 228
Political Autonomy ................ ................ ............. ................... 234
Economic and Organizational Autonomy............... ..................... 241
Autonom y w within FEM UPRO CAN ................................................................... 248
A t a R eg iona l Leve l .................................................. 248
A t an Individual Level ................................. ........ ......... ....... ............... 252
The Autonomy of the NGO Partners ................ ........ .................... 254
Getting the Autonomy / Dependence Balance Right .............................. 256
Putting the Experience of FEMUPROCAN in Context ........................ 258
Conclusions ................ ......... .. ........... ................. ........... 261

9 CONCLUSIONS: TO WHAT EXTENT CAN SUCCESSFUL, AUTONOMOUS
WOMEN'S ORGANIZATIONS EMERGE FROM CLASS-BASED MASS
ORGANIZATIONS? ............................. .................. 264

R E F E R E N C E S ......................... .................................................................... 2 7 7









BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ........... ... .................. ......... ............... 291









LIST OF FIGURES


Figure page

1-1 Location of Research Sites, Nicaragua. ................... ............... 30

6-1 The problem of identifying social movement outcomes................ ............... 214









LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS AND ACRONYMS


AGEM


AMNLAE


ATC


COLACOT



CONACOOP


ENABAS


FEMUPROCAN


FSLN


INFOCOOP


INIM


INPYME


INTA


MAGFOR


MEC


Women's Economic Agenda (Agenda Econ6mica de Mujeres)

Luisa Amanda Espinoza Association of Nicaraguan Women
(Asociaci6n de Mujeres NicaragCenses Luisa Amanda Espinoza)

Rural Workers' Association (Asociaci6n de Trabajadores del
Campo)

Latin American Confederation of Cooperatives and Mutual
Societies (Confederaci6n Latinoamericana de Cooperativas y
Mutuales de Trabajadores)

National Council of Cooperatives (Consejo Nacional de
Cooperativas)

Nicaraguan Enterprise of Basic Foodstuffs (La Empresa
NicaragCense de Alimentos Basicos)

Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives of Rural Women Producers
of Nicaragua (Federaci6n Agropecuaria de Cooperativas de
Mujeres Productoras del Campo de Nicaragua)

Sandinista National Liberation Front (Frente Sandinista de
Liberaci6n Nacional)

Nicaraguan Institute for the Promotion of Cooperatives (Instituto
NicaragCense de Fomento Cooperativo)

Nicaraguan Women's Institute (Instituto NicaragCense de la Mujer)

Nicaraguan Institute for the Support of Small and Medium Sized
Businesses (Instituto NicaragCense de Apoyo a la Pequeia y
Mediana Empresa)

Nicaraguan Institute for Agricultural Technology (Instituto
NicaragCense de Tecnologia Agropecuaria)

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (Ministerio Agropecuario y
Forestal)

Maria Elena Cuadra Working and Unemployed Women's
Movement Movimiento de Mujeres Trabajadoras y Desempleadas
"Maria Elena Cuadra")









MIFAMILIA


MINSA

PECOSOL


PLC

UNAG


UNIFEM


Ministry of the Family, Youth and Childhood (Ministerio de la
Familia, Adolescencia y NiAez)

Ministry of Health (Ministerio de Salud)

Regional Program for Economic Solidarity in Central America
(Programa de Economia Solidaria en Centroamerica)

Constitutionalist Liberal Party (Partido Liberal Constitucionalista)

National Union of Farmers and Ranchers (Uni6n Nacional de
Agricultores y Ganaderos)

United Nations Development Fund for Women









Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master in Arts

AUTONOMOUS WOMEN'S ORGANIZATIONS AND CLASS-BASED MASS
ORGANIZATIONS: A CASE STUDY OF FEMUPROCAN, NICARAGUA.

By

Eleanor Jane Sintjago

August 2010

Chair: Carmen Diana Deere
Major: Latin American Studies

This thesis investigates the extent to which successful, autonomous women's

organizations can emerge from class-based mass organizations, using the case study

of FEMUPROCAN (Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives of Rural Women Producers

of Nicaragua). I examine the nature of the organization, the extent of its success in

achieving its objectives and the degree to which it has been accepted as a legitimate

representative for rural women producers. I then discuss the concept of autonomy in

terms of political, economic and organizational independence and explore the

relationships between FEMUPROCAN and its international NGO partners in depth. I

argue that whereas FEMUPROCAN has achieved some significant successes in a

number of areas, there are certain areas in which the organization has not managed to

make much progress towards its goals. Having achieved a high level of political

autonomy, the biggest weakness of this type of women's organization appears to be

financial. Complete dependence on funds from international development NGOs limits

the organizational autonomy of these organizations and leaves them vulnerable to the

whims of development organizations based in the Global North. Although









FEMUPROCAN appears to be making the best of a situation that is far from ideal, they

do not seem likely to decrease this dependence any time soon.









CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION: LIVING IN PERMANENT DEMONSTRATION

Women's movements in post-revolutionary Nicaragua have been widely praised

as some of the most successful and dynamic examples of women's organizing in the

whole of Latin America. During the Sandinista period (1979-1990) the revolutionary

government pledged its commitment to achieving gender equality in the country and

women made some important advances. The FSLN set up an official women's

organization, the Luisa Amanda Espinoza Association of Nicaraguan Women

(AMNLAE) and channeled significant quantities of money and resources to class-based

mass organizations affiliated with the party. These organizations provided the only

legitimate space for women's organizing and the Sandinista party exercised a significant

degree of control over the movement at this time, limiting the ability of women to define

their own objectives and priorities for action. Women within the mixed-sex organizations

continued to experience significant discrimination from their male counterparts and often

struggled to reach leadership positions. Furthermore, as the Contra war dragged on the

goals of defending the revolution took priority for the mass organizations, and women's

rights took a backseat. Because of this, women within the Sandinista unions began to

push for greater freedom, both from the FSLN and within their organizations.

The electoral defeat of the Sandinistas opened up new spaces for the creation of

an autonomous women's movement in the country. This movement would flourish into a

highly influential and visible part of Nicaraguan civil society and combine coordination

around common themes with a recognition of the diversity of women's experiences.

These developments did not go unnoticed by scholars and there is a significant body of

work on women's activism in post-Sandinista Nicaragua. The Sandinista-affiliated









class-based organizations experienced a period of disarray after 1990 as many of their

members became disillusioned after the FSLN's electoral defeat and these

organizations lost their position as privileged spaces for the discussion of women's

rights.

Many of the leaders formerly active in the Women's Secretariats of these

organizations had been pressing for independence for some time and seized this

opportunity to break away from the mixed-sex organizations and form their own

women's groups. These new organizations asserted their independence from the FSLN

and from their parent organizations. This was often possible because funding in this

period was available from some international NGOs who switched from channeling the

majority of their aid through the government to concentrate more on funding civil society

organizations. In her book From the Revolution to the Maquiladoras (2005) Jennifer

Bickham Mendez describes how the Maria Elena Cuadra Movement for Working and

Unemployed Women (MEC) emerged from the Sandinista affiliated workers union

(CST). She explores some of the challenges they faced in establishing the organization

and investigates its strengths and weaknesses. Although the MEC successfully

managed to distance itself from affiliation with a particular political party, the extent of

their autonomy and success was limited by a number of factors. Two of the most

important of these were a lack of economic sustainability and its dependence on

international funding.

This thesis presents a similar case study, but whereas Bickham Mendez focused

on an urban women's movement, I based my research on the largest women's

organization representing rural women producers active in Nicaragua today. Just as the









MEC emerged from the Sandinista CST, the Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives of

Rural Women Producers of Nicaragua, henceforth known by its acronym,

FEMUPROCAN, had its roots in the Women's Secretariat of the National Union of

Farmers and Ranchers (UNAG). This organization also had links to the FSLN, although

it was widely regarded as one of the most autonomous of the mass organizations. In the

chapters that follow I explore the extent to which FEMUPROCAN has managed to

establish itself as a successful, autonomous women's organization representing the

interests of smallholding rural women producers.

Although FEMUPROCAN and MEC appear to share the same basic trajectory and

face some similar obstacles and challenges to the achievement of their objectives, there

are also important differences between the organizations. For example, FEMUPROCAN

works with rural women, which presents additional obstacles to women's organizing in a

number of important ways. Firstly, their members are dispersed over a wider area and

live in more remote communities than the maquila workers who form MEC's base,

leading to greater challenges regarding maintaining sufficient contact with the

grassroots, organizing meetings and communicating information quickly and effectively.

Secondly, rural women are often some of the poorest and most disadvantaged groups

in Nicaraguan society (Lanuza 2005, 20).1 Typically they have some of the lowest rates

of literacy and education levels and least access to services.2 This presents further

difficulties in organizing the women, training them in new skills and techniques and

1 According to Lanuza, the Nicaraguan government produced a "Poverty Map" in 2001 in which 80.2 % of
the rural population were classified as poor and 52.6% as living in extreme poverty (compared to national
figures calculated by the United Nations in 2002 of 48% of the population as poor and 17% as living in
extreme poverty.)
2 For example, Lanuza (2005, 27) states that only 22% of the rural population of Nicaragua has access to
electricity









collecting membership dues. Third, rural communities are often characterized by more

"traditional" views of gender roles that restrict women's mobility and limit their self-

confidence. FEMUPROCAN's members face triple discrimination for being women, for

being rural and for being poor. Finally, the MEC decided to become an official NGO,

whereas FEMUPROCAN, although undergoing NGO-ization to a significant degree, has

not accepted the NGO label, preferring to assert its identity as a trade association. By

examining the experience of FEMUPROCAN, in the light of that written about

organizations such as MEC, I hope to draw some tentative conclusions about the extent

to which successful, independent women's organizations can emerge from class-based

mass organizations in post-revolutionary Nicaragua.

I begin with a general overview of the development of women's movements in the

country following the Sandinista revolution of 1979. Particular attention is given to the

role of the Women's Secretariat of the ATC during the Sandinista period, and the

emergence of autonomous women's movements after 1990 and how these

developments affected the position of rural women.

Chapter 3 explores the phenomenon of NGO-ization in greater detail. After a brief

explanation of the reasons behind the hyper-NGO-ization of Nicaraguan society in the

years following Hurricane Mitch (1998), I examine the advantages and drawbacks of the

process for the construction of successful, autonomous women's organizations. This is

essential to understanding the way in which FEMUPROCAN has developed, as well as

some of the pressures facing women's organizations today.

Chapter 4 provides an account of the history of FEMUPROCAN and explains the

reasons behind the decision to break away from UNAG and the difficulties faced by the









women in setting up and strengthening their own organization. Given that many of

FEMUPROCAN's founders were among the most prominent leaders of the Women's

Secretariat in UNAG, this chapter expands on the brief summary of the work of the

Secretariat provided in Chapter 2. Since FEMUPROCAN's founding in 1997 it is

possible to identify three main phases in the development of the organization: First they

focused on building self-esteem and personal development; next they concentrated on

strengthening the organization and developing new production techniques; and finally,

they are now devoting the majority of their attention to developing entrepreneurial

capacity among their members and improving the organization's advocacy work. The

last part of the chapter provides a brief snapshot of the organization today and some of

its main structures.

One of the questions raised by Bickham Mendez is where to draw the line

between a social movement and an NGO. She argues that the MEC is attempting to

incorporate elements of both, and break down the boundaries between the two terms.

FEMUPROCAN, I argue, could be seen to display a number of characteristics normally

associated with NGOs in combination with others usually attributed to social movement

organizations, and still others typical of trade or membership organizations. Chapter 5

examines the differences between these organizational forms and asks the question

"when does a social movement organization become an NGO?" I demonstrate that the

terms are not mutually exclusive and that organizations like FEMUPROCAN are blurring

the boundaries between traditional definitions.

The next part of my thesis analyzes in detail the extent to which FEMUPROCAN

could be considered an example of a successful organization. In order to do so it is first









necessary to define how success can be measured. I discuss some of the main

contributions on this subject from the literature and argue that the success of

FEMUPROCAN can be measured using two main components: Firstly the extent to

which the organization is capable of influencing government policy and public opinion in

order to achieve its goals and improve the lives of the members at the grassroots and

secondly, the degree to which FEMUPROCAN has been accepted as a legitimate

representative of rural women producers in Nicaragua. This acceptance is discussed

using Gamson's (1975) four indicators of consultation, negotiation, recognition and

inclusion.

FEMUPROCAN states that its overall objective is to achieve the greater

participation of rural women in the economic and social affairs of the country. They aim

to achieve this by increasing their leadership and lobbying capacity at both the local and

national level, in order to promote and participate in the formulation of economic policy

that benefits rural women producers and entrepreneurs in Nicaragua. These

overarching goals have been broken down into a series of institutional objectives: to be

a strong organization with leadership capacity; to facilitate the training of capable,

empowered women leaders; to strengthen the entrepreneurial capacity of women

producers; and to influence the processes of promotion and formulation of policies

related to the countryside and women producers. In turn, FEMUPROCAN has identified

a whole series of specific components necessary for the achievement of these four

objectives. I take each one of these components in turn and discuss the record of

FEMUPROCAN to date, highlighting those areas in need of improvement and those

where they appear to have enjoyed considerable success.









Vital to FEMUPROCAN's ability to successfully put pressure on the government

are the linkages they have built with other organizations and groups. In Chapter 6 I thus

devote significant time to exploring the alliances they have forged and spaces in which

they cooperate with other organizations. To date, FEMUPROCAN appears to have

focused more on coordinating their efforts with others in the cooperative movement than

constructing relationships with elements of the women's movements not specifically

concerned with improving the economic position of rural women. They have especially

refrained from coordinating with more radical feminist groups and women working on

such controversial issues as abortion and reproductive health. They have focused on

those currents within the wider movements with which they feel a particular sense of

identification and with those directly related to their previous organizing work within

UNAG.

Next, in Chapter 7, I consider the degree to which FEMUPROCAN has gained

acceptance as a legitimate representative of rural women. I argue that although they

appear to have made considerable progress in terms of acceptance by the Nicaraguan

government, particularly by those policy makers concerned with formulating policy

related to the cooperative sector, they have been less successful in gaining acceptance

among the general public.

The final chapter, Chapter 8, addresses the other main theme of the thesis,

autonomy. I examine the meaning of the term in some detail and identify four main

dimensions of autonomy relevant to an organization such as FEMUPROCAN. These

are political autonomy, economic autonomy, organizational autonomy and autonomy

within FEMUPROCAN. The autonomy of FEMUPROCAN is then analyzed in regard to









each of these interrelated dimensions. The federation appears to have achieved a high

degree of political autonomy at the national level and grants their individual members a

significant amount of individual autonomy. The organization's main weakness is in

regard to their economic autonomy. Completely dependent on funding from their NGO

partners, FEMUPROCAN does not look likely to achieve economic self-sufficiency any

time soon. I argue that this is a common dilemma for many women's organizations

operating in Nicaragua today and investigate what represents the best balance between

autonomy and dependence for such organizations. In many cases total autonomy does

not seem either the most feasible or the most desirable arrangement. In this chapter I

also discuss the autonomy of the NGO partners, and illustrate that they too are

dependent on governments and donations from civil society in the developed world.

This means that, indirectly, FEMUPROCAN is dependent on the continued good will of

these actors and the importance they attach to international aid to the region.

The remainder of this introduction is devoted to a consideration of the research

sites and methods used for the collection and analysis of data. However, before doing

so I feel it is necessary to briefly discuss my background as a student and motivations

for doing the research, in order to draw attention to any possible biases in my work.

There is, in my opinion, no such thing as an objective researcher, and I began this

project with a clear sympathy for the goals of the organization to improve the position of

rural women in Nicaraguan society. Given the long tradition of feminist scholar-activists,

I feel I am in good company here. Part of my aim in writing the thesis was to draw

attention to the important work being done by organizations such as FEMUPROCAN

and increase awareness of rural women's movements among those interested in the









study of Nicaraguan women's movements. Taking various courses on gender and

development, gender and cultural politics, and anthropology of development, reaffirmed

my belief in the importance of studying women's activism as an integral part of the

development of a society and my faith in the abilities of third world social movement

organizations to bring about real, meaningful changes in the countries in which they

work. Coursework focusing on the role of NGOs in the development process also

enabled me to begin my research with an awareness of the power imbalances inherent

in relationships between northern NGOs and their southern partners and to examine the

ways in which FEMUPROCAN negotiated these relationships. However, sympathy for

the cause of an organization does not preclude the identification of its weaknesses and

areas for improvement. Throughout my research I attempted to listen to all points of

view on a subject, including those I did not agree with. Whilst some elements of

subjectivity are unavoidable within any research project, I attempted to follow Strauss

and Corbin's (1990, 43) advice about the need to "'give voice' to respondents, be they

individuals or organizations." In practice this means "hearing what others have to say,

seeing what others do, and representing these as accurately as possible. It means

having an understanding, whilst recognizing that researchers' understandings often are

based on the values, culture, training, and experiences that they bring to the research

and that these might be quite different from those of their respondents."

The Research Sites

Managua

The vast majority of my field research was carried out at the national office of

FEMUPROCAN, located in the Bolonia district of Managua. The Nicaraguan capital is

home to approximately 1.8 million people, or roughly 30 % of the total population of the









country. It is a sprawling and chaotic city located on the southwestern shore of Lake

Managua, and rests on a fault line that has, periodically, resulted in a number of

devastating earthquakes. Hot all year round, the winter months see bursts of torrential

rain that often threaten to flood certain areas of the city and cause localized power cuts.

The Bolonia district was once considered one of the most prestigious residential areas

of Managua, although during my time there I was informed that it had gone downhill in

recent years. It is still the location of many foreign embassies and the headquarters of a

large number of nongovernmental organizations. FEMUPROCAN's head office is

located on the same street as the Canadian embassy and is a fairly unassuming

building from the street. Inside it opens up into a number of air conditioned offices, a

sparsely furnished room for workshops and meetings, a small kitchen and a shady

outside patio. When the promotoras or other members come to Managua to participate

in training workshops or programs they stay overnight in the office, sleeping on the floor.

FEMUPROCAN has a full-time staff of six working at the headquarters, although the

members of the national leadership also try and get out to the countryside and visit the

cooperatives as often as their schedule allows. During the time I was there, the

atmosphere in the office ranged from calm and relatively relaxed days with few visitors

to times when the building was full of people- members of the base level cooperatives,

children and babies of FEMUPROCAN members, relatives of members of the national

team and employees of partner NGOs. There were periods when everybody was

extremely busy, working past their scheduled hours in order to get everything done and

other times when the women were able to take a leisurely lunch break and relax a little









more. I arrived during the rainy season and power cuts were a frequent problem. Some

of these lasted just a few minutes whereas others went on for hours.

Terrabona and San Juanillo

Terrabona is a small community located in the department of Matagalpa. There is

a daily, direct bus connection to Managua (the journey lasts approximately three hours)

and various buses from the community to Matagalpa. The landscape is hilly, with

narrow valleys and rocky soils. Farming is made more difficult because of the scarcity of

rainfall. There is little employment in the area and significant outmigration of people

unable to make a living off the land. Most of these migrants are headed for Costa Rica,

although they may come back at certain times during the year to sow or harvest their

crops. When I visited in August 2009 the road leading into Terrabona was in the

process of being paved, but at the time of my visit the last part of the journey was a

bumpy, uncomfortable ride. There was a small general store, a shop selling vegetables

and an internet cafe located in the main square. The health clinic was undergoing

renovations and had been moved to a temporary location in one of the houses.

FEMUPROCAN has around 300 members in this area organized in agricultural

production cooperatives.

The community of San Juanillo is also in the department of Matagalpa. It is

reached by way of an unpaved track leading off from the Carretera Norte just before the

turning to Ciudad Dario. Here too drought and unreliable rainfall make farming difficult

and this community is on the verge of disintegration as a result of the high level of

outmigration. The women in both San Juanillo and Terrabona were mostly engaged in

the production of basic grains corn, beans and sorghum but had recently begun to

branch out into the cultivation of vegetables thanks to the installation of drip watering









systems by FEMUPROCAN. I stayed overnight in Terrabona, in the house of Maria

Elsa, the regional coordinator for FEMUPROCAN's cooperatives. She showed me

around the community and introduced me to some cooperative members. Whilst there I

conducted individual and group interviews with representatives from the grassroots

cooperatives. The following day I caught the bus with Maria Elsa to the roadside

market, where I met Ana Julia, the coordinator for Sebaco. Ana Julia took me to San

Juanillo, where I spent the morning conducting more interviews.

Nueva Guinea

Founded in the 1960s, Nueva Guinea is a rapidly expanding town located in the

Autonomous Region of the South Atlantic (RAAS). The climate here is tropical, with

ample rainfall throughout the year (averaging approximately 2,245mm annually

(FEMUPROCAN 2006)) and the vegetation lush. Soils range from low to medium fertility

and the area produces basic grains, yucca, taro as well as bananas and plantains.

Recent years have seen the introduction of a number of nontraditional crops such as

cinnamon, black pepper and cacao. FEMUPROCAN's members mostly live in small,

recently settled communities of agricultural colonists. They grow a variety of different

crops and many of them also raise cattle.

Methods

This thesis is primarily an ethnographic case study of a particular organization,

FEMUPROCAN. As such it is primarily descriptive. However, using a grounded theory

approach to data collection and analysis allowed me to identify patterns within my data

to tease out an answer to my question on the extent to which FEMUPROCAN had been

able to establish itself as a successful, autonomous women's organization.









My field research was carried out from late June to late August 2009. I spent a

total of eight weeks in Nicaragua, the vast majority of which time was spent in Managua.

However, I also accompanied members of the national team on visits to Sebaco, the

roadside market owned by FEMUPROCAN and located near the turnoff to Ciudad

Dario, and spent three days attending a workshop for young people organized by

FEMUPROCAN in Nueva Guinea. I carried out a series of interviews and stayed

overnight in the town of Terrabona before travelling to San Juanillo the following day for

more interviews.

Participant Observation

Participant observation formed one of the core components of my research. From

Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5pm, I helped out in the Managua headquarters of

FEMUPROCAN, where I shared an office with Martha Valle (FEMUPROCAN's

President) and Matilde Rocha (Vice President). This involved summarizing reports of

meetings, and performing a number of administrative tasks. I was able to participate in a

number of training sessions held by FEMUPROCAN on topics such as women's

economic and political rights, self-esteem and business networks. Through these

training sessions I was able to meet a large number of FEMUPROCAN's promotoras,

who ranged in age from teenagers to women over sixty. However, the bulk of my time

was spent with the six-person national team, allowing me to gain an understanding of

how the leadership of the organization worked and develop close personal relationships

with members of the team. These relationships and the conversations I had with both

leaders and promotoras over the course of my stay proved at least as useful and

revealing as many of my interviews. I made field notes to record my experiences, key









points of conversations, observations and feelings on issues that I thought might be

relevant to my research question.

Semi-structured Individual Interviews

I carried out a series of twenty-two individual semi-structured interviews which

lasted from just half an hour to approximately two hours. I interviewed members of

FEMUPROCAN's national team, two of their regional coordinators, six promotoras and

four of the members from the grassroots. I also identified representatives of the three

NGOs with whom FEMUPROCAN work most closely; Oxfam Canada, VECO MA and El

Centro Cooperativo Sueco and conducted interviews with their leadership.3 For each

interview I prepared a basic interview guide with the themes I was planning on

addressing during the interview. Semi-structured interviews provided the respondents

with enough freedom to expand on topics should they choose and allowed the interview

to proceed in a more natural manner, with the possibility of exploring certain unexpected

topics mentioned by the respondent in greater detail. However, the interview guide also

provided a structure for the interview and helped to keep both me, the researcher, and

the respondent from going too far off topic and ensured we covered all the necessary

areas. Respondents were identified in a number of different ways. For the national

leadership it was simple: given that there are only six members of the team I was easily

able to interview all of them. The promotoras were selected during workshops in which

they participated at the Managua office. I was able to make a short announcement

about who I was and what I was hoping to do. I asked the women when the best time


3 Oxfam Canada is based in Canada and focuses on grassroots development, VECO MA is the Central
American team of the Belgian NGO Vredeseilanden (VECO) which focuses on sustainable rural
development for small farmers and El Centro Cooperativo Sueco was created by the Swedish
Cooperative Movement in 1958 and works with cooperative organizations around the world.









would be to carry out the interviews and at the appointed time I explained that their

answers would be kept confidential and asked for volunteers, specifying that I wanted to

hear from people from different parts of the country. The women at the grassroots and

the regional coordinators I managed to interview during my visits to Terrabona, San

Juanillo and Nueva Guinea. The grassroots respondents were selected almost by

accident I had arranged for group interviews with cooperative members as described

below. However, more women than intended turned up and some arrived much earlier

or later than the others. Rather than making these women wait to participate in the

group interviews and take up more of their time I decided to interview them individually.

I recorded these interviews onto a digital recorder and transcribed them word-by-word

to use in my analysis. The names of the members of the grassroots cooperatives have

been changed to protect the anonymity of the women. Names of the leaders of

FEMUPROCAN have been retained with their permission.

Group Interviews with Women at the Grassroots

My original plan had been to conduct all of my interviews on an individual basis.

However, after some discussions with FEMUPROCAN's leadership I realized that this

might not be the best strategy. The women at the grassroots of the organization live

scattered across remote areas of the countryside, often having to walk for hours to

attend FEMUPROCAN meetings and workshops. It would be incredibly time consuming

and difficult for me to visit each one of these members in their homes and difficult to

coordinate all of the interviews at times that were convenient for the women. Therefore I

made the decision to organize a series of group interviews during my visits to Terrabona

and San Juanillo. These three interviews were arranged with the help of the regional

coordinators who called the women together and established the most appropriate time









and place for these to be held. Thus in Terrabona they took place in the house of the

coordinator, whereas at San Juanillo I held the interview outside, under the shade of a

tree in the center of the community. Given the difficulties in contacting many of the

members at the grassroots, I left it up to the regional coordinators to select the

respondents. I was aware that this might lead to a bias towards those members most

enthusiastic about the organization but felt that in the circumstances this was

unavoidable. The first interview comprised six women, the second four, and ten women

participated in the last session in San Juanillo. This was rather more than I would have

initially liked to have per group but the women made sure that everybody spoke their

piece about the topics under discussion.

Grounded Theory

I used grounded theory to analyze my data as it was being collected, and thus was

not primarily attempting to test a particular hypothesis, but rather allowing the theory to

emerge from the data I was gathering (Strauss and Corbin 1998). I felt that qualitative

methods would provide me with a more nuanced and complex understanding of the

concepts of success and autonomy than I would have been able to capture using

quantitative techniques. Thus I began to analyze and code my data as soon as I

collected it, trying to identify patterns and relationships in the data which would explain

why FEMUPROCAN had succeeded in certain areas but not in others and the extent of

FEMUPROCAN's freedom of action on a wide range of topics. I then grouped these

codes into concepts which helped to guide the direction of my research as it

progressed, identifying those areas in which I needed to gather more data as well as

those topics that appeared redundant or unimportant in answering my research

question. Following Strauss and Corbin (1998) as these concepts began to build up I









was able to start grouping them together into categories. Over time I developed ways in

which to organize these categories around the central concepts of autonomy and

success. Along the way, I periodically checked what I was finding with my respondents,

to see if they agreed with my analysis and if not, why not. By constantly comparing my

findings to those reached by Bickham Mendez in her study of MEC, and those reached

by FEMUPROCAN in the many documents to which they generously gave me access, I

was able to draw some conclusions about the ability of successful women's

organizations to emerge from class-based mass organizations.









STERRABONA
31-












Figure 1-Location of Research Sites, Nicaragua. Source:
http://mapsof.net/uploads/static-maps/nicaraguaolitica ap.jpg
MEANAGUA -M=

NUEVA GUINEA






Figure .-11ocation of Research Sites, Nicaragua. Source:
httpi-1 mapsof. net/uploads/static-maps/nicaragua_politi









CHAPTER 2
THE WOMEN'S MOVEMENT IN NICARAGUA

The participation of Nicaraguan women in the Sandinista revolution has been well

documented in the literature. The end of the brutal Somoza dictatorship and the triumph

of the FSLN ushered in a new era in Nicaraguan history. Women were granted new

rights and the revolutionary government pledged its commitment to achieving greater

gender equality in the country. The period of Sandinista government (1979-1990) saw

women make some important advances, but failed to put an end to women's

subordination. As the Contra war dragged on, defense of the revolution took

precedence over the struggle for women's rights and gender equality. After the

Sandinista electoral defeat in 1990, a strong and vibrant autonomous women's

movement developed in Nicaragua, gaining international recognition as one of the most

dynamic in all of Latin America (e.g. Aguilar, et al. 1997). Particularly after the

devastation of Hurricane Mitch (1998) the NGO sector in Nicaragua mushroomed and

many women's organizations underwent a process of NGO-ization. In recent years

observers have drawn attention to the increasing fragmentation and lack of coordination

of the women's movements (Disney 2008).The current Ortega administration's

conservative shift and alliance with the Catholic Church is also a serious problem for

women's organizing in Nicaragua today. This chapter provides an overview of the

development of the Nicaraguan women's movements from the Sandinista triumph of

1979 to the present day, with particular attention given to rural women's organizing.

Before the Revolution

The rise of large capitalist agribusinesses and the introduction and expansion of

first coffee (1870-1945), then cotton (1950-1960), then cattle (1970 onwards) industries









in Nicaragua in the century preceding the Sandinista revolution transformed the

countryside, pushing large numbers of peasants off their land in the Pacific region of

Nicaragua (Perez Aleman 1990). They either settled new lands on the agricultural

frontier (leading to increased deforestation and environmental degradation) or joined the

swelling ranks of landless agricultural workers. Increasing numbers of women were

forced to work as laborers as they could no longer rely on their subsistence plots alone

to feed their families. Collinson (1990, 39) observes that before 1979 up to 40% of

coffee pickers were women. However, their integration into the workforce was shaped

by their subordinate position relative to men. Perceived not to produce as much or work

as hard, they were paid half the amount their male counterparts received, and often

were only given temporary jobs around harvest time. The man, in his role of "provider,"

was given priority, and women were often not paid directly for their efforts, but rather the

money was given to the man as "head of household" (Chavez Metoyer 1999, 20).

Women's work was not valued, and women were expected to obey their husbands in all

matters. Furthermore, "Somocista society recognized only men as property owners,

therefore single women rarely held land titles or tenants' rights and could be evicted and

exploited at their landlords' whim" (Collinson 1990, 40).

The processes of expansion of large landholdings did not go uncontested, despite

the fierce repression of the Somoza regime. Rural men and women began to organize

to fight for land and against the dictatorship. Perez Aleman notes that although women's

participation in these struggles was significant, there is a lack of literature on the

subject, and thus a tendency to underestimate the political contribution of these women

(1990, 29). When the guerrilla war began, many of these same women actively









participated. Although not all were guerrilla fighters themselves, rural women often

played a vital role in the success of the revolution. However, their activities are often

described as "support" and not "political," so they frequently fail to feature in accounts of

peasant revolutions. As Kampwirth (2002) and Perez Aleman (1990) note, women and

men often participated in the revolution for similar reasons but women's participation

was limited by patriarchal ideologies and traditional gender roles.

In 1977 the FSLN created AMPRONAC (Association of Women Confronting the

National Problem) which was largely concerned with denouncing human rights abuses

and opposing the dictatorship. However, the creation of a women-only space was

important in mobilizing women and suggested recognition of the special interests and

problems shared by women as a group on the part of the FSLN. This organization

would subsequently be renamed AMNLAE (Luisa Amanda Espinoza Association of

Nicaraguan Women) after the revolutionary triumph in 1979.

The FSLN Government 1979-1990

Although the revolution was not able to end the drudgery of life in the countryside

for women it "at least tried to ensure that rural people are supported, valued and

treated as human beings, which was not the case before 1979" (Collinson 1990, 38).

One of the first priorities of the Sandinista government when it came to power was to

improve conditions in the countryside. Major social programs were enacted, and women

were the main beneficiaries of the new housing, health programs and infrastructure,

education and literacy campaigns and the provision of electricity and potable water in

rural areas. Women were allowed to receive their own pay packets, and the minimum

wage in the countryside was drastically increased (though this would be cancelled out









by spiraling inflation by the end of the 1980s) (Ibid. 40-41). In 1987, the new constitution

affirmed the equality of men and women in the eyes of the law.

Perhaps one of the most important advances for rural Nicaraguans in general, and

for rural women in particular, was the Sandinista Agrarian Reform. A significant share of

cultivable land was redistributed, privileging cooperative forms of production and,

initially, state farms. Very importantly for women, the 1981 Agrarian Reform "was the

first in Latin America to include the incorporation of women among its initial objectives.

The 1981 agrarian reform law stipulated that neither gender nor kinship status would

hinder someone from becoming a beneficiary of the reform. Moreover, the 1981

agricultural cooperative law established that a goal of the cooperatives should be to

encourage the active participation of women, stating that they should be incorporated

into the cooperatives under the same terms as men, with the same rights and duties"

(Deere and Le6n 2001, 95-96). However, despite this provision, the reforms did not

deliver the expected results in terms of female participation and the allocation of land

titles. A 1985 report by the ATC concluded that many rural women simply did not know

what their new rights were, and that when women were incorporated it was usually on

unequal terms. They were often assigned the most menial jobs, the worst land, and

suffered from discrimination and opposition from both their husbands and the male

cooperative members. In fact, Deere and Le6n note that the level of female

beneficiaries from the agrarian reform law in Nicaragua was not that much different to

those in neighboring countries, where there was no specific gender equitable language

in the legislation.









Much of the international aid to Nicaragua during this period came from groups

sympathetic to the Sandinista cause, in an attempt to show international solidarity with

the revolutionary government. This aid was largely administered by the FSLN

administration itself, or was directed to the Sandinista affiliated mass organizations.

Independent organizing was very much discouraged during this period, and loyalty to

the revolutionary cause was seen as of paramount importance. This affected women's

organizing as much as it did the other sectors, with the FSLN's women's organization,

AMNLAE, regarded as one of the only legitimate spaces for women to organize as

women (although as the eighties progressed the women's secretariats in other mass

organizations, especially that of the rural workers union, the ATC, became much more

vocal in attempting to voice the concerns of the female members of these

organizations). The Sandinistas were certainly more progressive than the previous

regime when it came to matters of gender equality, and provided opportunities for many

women to gain valuable leadership experience through their associations. However, the

focus was very much on unity (often at the cost of diversity), and everything, including

women's concerns, was seen as of secondary importance to ensuring the survival of the

revolution. The mass organizations, although they certainly carried out some important

functions, were characterized by a fairly rigid and hierarchical structure. In these

conditions, and partly due to prevailing machista attitudes from male colleagues, many

women became increasingly dissatisfied with the Sandinista unions, and began to look

for spaces of their own in which to organize (Bickham Mendez 2005). Nevertheless,

during the Sandinista period, it was the women's secretariats of the mass organizations

that formed the basis for much of the most successful women's organizing and









produced many of the most important policy changes for rural women. Of these, the

secretariats of the Rural Workers Union (ATC) and, later, the National Union of Farmers

and Ranchers (UNAG) are widely regarded as the most dynamic and influential,

certainly with regard to making changes relevant to the lives of rural women.

The ATC

Established by the FSLN in 1978, the ATC maintained strong links to the

government throughout the 1980s. The vast majority of its members tend to be

Sandinista supporters, limiting conflict with the government but not, according to

Collinson, precluding "Lively and open discussion, nor does it prevent the ATC from

lobbying state farm managements or MIDINRA on behalf of workers" (1990, 44). The

organization provided agricultural workers with a channel to get their demands heard by

the FSLN leadership and a space in which to discuss and elaborate new ideas and

strategies. As Collinson continues, "these functions have been particularly important in

promoting the specific interests of rural women" (Ibid, 44).

During the Contra war, and in the context of increasing female participation in the

paid agricultural labor force, and in skilled positions normally only open to men, women

flocked to join the ATC. By 1983 they made up 40% of the organization's membership,

a figure high enough to worry the male leadership (at that time, 99% of the ATC

leadership). As Collinson points out, their main priority during this period was increasing

production to aid the Sandinista war effort. The influx of women was seen as a potential

problem in that women were perceived to be less productive than men, and it was only

when leaders debated how best to raise productivity that they realized that they knew

almost nothing about rural women (Ibid, 44). To rectify this situation, the ATC leadership

organized the 1983 National Assembly of Women Workers, attended by 100









representatives from all the major areas of agricultural production. They then decided to

carry out an in depth investigation of the situation of rural women at the time.

The results of the study emphasized the need for a separate section of the

organization dedicated to fighting for women's rights (Murguialday 1990, 197). 1 The

idea was that "the women's secretariat would fight for women within the ATC, and the

ATC would fight for the rights of campesinas within the FSLN, an idea predicated on the

assumption that there is only one system in which they all operated and which had to

respond to the needs of women and peasant men" (Isbester 2001, 72). This form of

operating had the advantage that the ATC already had the support of the government

assured and could therefore get action taken quickly to address its demands. No other

organization for rural workers was permitted this level of access to government

channels.

The researchers initially focused on the concept of the "work norm." Collinson

argues that this was a strategic decision on the part of the authors designed to limit

opposition within the organization and with the hope that "discussions about work would

inevitably raise all other specific issues relating to women. This approach also helped to

establish the principle within the union that every labor issue should be considered from

a women's point of view" (Collinson 1990, 45). Workshops were held at regional and

local levels to allow grassroots members to express their opinions and relate their

experiences. A picture emerged of the multiple ways in which women experienced

discrimination, from rape and physical violence to macho attitudes from the men

(Murguialday 1990). Women were able to meet and talk about a wide range of issues of

1 ATC "Los Trabajadores del Campo y el Impacto de la Reforma Agraria sobre el Empleo Rural". March,
1984









special importance for them, including reproductive rights, lack of childcare facilities and

lack of local infrastructure, including corn mills and drinking water. These sessions laid

the groundwork for the formation of a gender identity by enabling women to compare

experiences and identify common barriers to their participation (Isbester 2001, 73).

In September 1986, the ATC convened a Second National Assembly of Rural

Women. This time, hundreds of delegates attended, and among the most important

decisions taken, they agreed to accept the same work norm as men. To enable them to

do this, however, the women explained that they would need childcare centers, paid

maternity leave, paid leave to care for children who were unwell, drinking water and

corn mills. These measures would reduce women's domestic burden and enable them

to raise their productivity. There was a recognition that men ought to help women with

household tasks, and a resolution was put forward for the union to encourage male

members to take some responsibility in this area. The delegates took the ideas from the

national assembly back home with them and began to raise the same issues at a local

and regional level.

As in most agricultural systems, the burden of work does not fall evenly throughout

the year in Nicaragua. Harvest time was by far the busiest time for rural women, and

Collinson (1990, 46) notes that visible results of the passage of the resolutions included

an increase in the provision of childcare facilities (from 30 farm creches in 1985 to 500

in 1986-7), public washing sinks on some state farms, and the provision of corn mills.

Productivity subsequently increased, convincing many male members and leaders of

the benefits of the women's resolutions (Isbester 2001). In the wake of the 1986

assembly space was set aside in the ATC newspaper for women's issues. The articles









were largely written by volunteer female agricultural workers who found the process to

be empowering, and a boost to their self confidence.

The growing recognition of and support for women within the ATC was reflected in

leadership statistics. In 1983 just 1% of the leadership positions were held by females.

By 1995 this had jumped to 30% (Aguilar, et al. 1997, 385). The levels of attendance at

union meetings and the resultant commitment to the ATC as an organization and their

cooperatives were high among women members. Women worked hard to show that

they deserved their new position within the organization and by 1988 90% of female

workers had managed to surpass established work norms (Murguialday 1990, 169).

These advances also helped to consolidate support for the Sandinista government

among the female beneficiaries (Isbester 2001, 75).

The women of the ATC began to formulate new understandings of their situation

based on these experiences and debates. They argued that men ought to respect

women's ways of doing things, and that the sexual division of labor should be

considered when analyzing any and all issues (Criquillon 1995, 217). This developing

gender consciousness expanded to include an acknowledgement of women's

subordination in society and that "women's issues needed to be understood within a

wider social context of inequality and structural discrimination and thus could not be

adequately examined separate from the broader political process" 2

The ATC Women's Secretariat was one of the most forward-thinking organizations

on women's issues at the time in Nicaragua. It played a vital role in opening up debates

among many other groups of women about the unequal power relations and systems of


2 Chuchryk cited in Isbester 2001, 74.









domination with which they lived. It was certainly more progressive than the FSLN itself,

and placed reproductive health, sexual abuse and working conditions firmly on the

agenda of women around the country, from different socioeconomic statuses.

When attempting to explain the reasons behind the success of the Women's

Secretariat of the ATC, Isbester (2001) points to the role played by male leaders, and

the political and economic opportunities of the period. It was the male leadership that

first identified the need to bring the women together. They then subsequently provided

significant resources to foster women's participation and place within the organization

(both material and organizational), and already had the ear of a sympathetic Sandinista

government to obtain these resources.

The political opportunity arose with the realization on the part of the FSLN

administration that fostering women's participation in the ATC in this way would most

likely be a win-win situation: "The government wanted to increase production; the

women wanted the equality of opportunity to do so. The government wanted political

support; the women wanted a different organization of labor. The government wanted a

political solution to its economic problem; the women wanted justice. The two

complemented each other. At least in the short term, the government and the women

both got what they wanted" (Isbester 2001, 75).

The fact that the interests of the government happened to coincide with that of the

women is crucial to understanding the women's success within the ATC. In this instance

we see an example of the benefits of close ties to the ruling power. However, there are

also drawbacks. To a large extent the FSLN determined the scope of what could be on

the agenda. Opposition by the government to a particular demand would lead to









opposition within the ATC, and a lack of progress towards achieving that goal (or even

the opportunity to discuss it in depth). The government was also able to cut off

resources at any time should it choose to. This had implications for the sort of gender

consciousness that emerged from the ATC. Overwhelmingly restricted to those issues

related to economic productivity and in accordance with Sandinista ideology, it failed to

explore fully the notion of patriarchy and the myriad ways in which unequal power

relations affect the daily lives of rural women in Nicaragua. Other Sandinista-affiliated

(or "semi-autonomous") organizations would encounter similar difficulties in their fight

for women's rights and greater social democracy.

Despite these (admittedly serious) limitations, the relationship between the ATC

and the FSLN was not always as cozy as is sometimes made out. They were able to

radicalizee and politicize issues long after the government had tried to shut the

discussions down. They forced the government into formal decision-making and

activated resolution mechanisms on issues that the government would have preferred

not to deal with" (Isbester 2001, 103). The achievements of the ATC would form a

model for others to follow and build on with varying degrees of success.

UNAG3

The importance of the ATC declined after UNAG emerged as an umbrella

organization representing the interests of a variety of rural people in 1981 (Luciak 1990,

59) with many small farmers and experienced cadres leaving the ATC to join the new

organization. Before 1984, capitalist producers were excluded from participating in

UNAG and it primarily addressed the needs of small producers and the cooperative


3 See also Chapter Four for a description of the leaders of FEMUPROCAN's experiences within UNAG









sector. After 1984 membership was extended to larger landowners, provided that they

affirmed their commitment to the goals of the revolution. Whilst representing an

important step in the construction of Sandinista "national unity," this development made

it difficult for UNAG to balance the demands of its constituents (who ranged from poor

peasant producers to wealthy landowners) and it has come under fire for privileging the

interests of its wealthier members, to the detriment of its poorer peasant constituents

(Luciak 1987, 44).

UNAG has been praised for its "bottom-up" approach to policy formation, based on

popular consultation with the grassroots of the movement and, though it shared the

ATC's commitment to Sandinista ideology, it seems to have been able to gain a greater

degree of autonomy from the FSLN and was more ready to oppose government policies

it perceived to be against the interests of its members (Luciak 1990, 66).4 It made some

important advances in the area of women's rights within the organization but

performance on this matter was uneven and women still experienced discrimination

from their male colleagues.

UNAG, the main organization representing the cooperative sector in Nicaragua,

failed to address the issue of women's low participation in agricultural cooperatives. The

1982 National Cooperative Census revealed that only 44% of cooperatives in Nicaragua

contained at least one female member, and women made up just 6% of total

cooperative membership (Valle 2009, 223) It was not until 1986 when members voted to

approve a measure that would require cooperatives to "promote the full integration of



4 Although the women at FEMUPROCAN questioned this assumption, as when they were in the UNAG
Women's Section they had fought a tough battle with the organization's leadership who resisted their
attempts to gain greater decision making power.









women in the productive tasks of the co-operative, incorporating them as members in

the same conditions as men" (Collinson 1990, 52). A women's secretariat was founded

this same year, and began by following the model of the ATC and conducting

investigations at the grassroots of the organization. Workshops on women's issues also

included the participation of male members to reinforce that these are matters relevant

to all members, and to limit the possibility of male opposition to the proposals of the

Women's Secretariat. UNAG also highlighted how women's increased participation

would bring benefits for the entire family thanks to increased productivity and higher

incomes. The women's secretariat would become one of the most dynamic sectors of

the Nicaraguan women's movement in the later years of the Sandinista government.

However, women within UNAG still faced considerable discrimination by their male

colleagues. This contributed to the leaders of FEMUPROCAN's decision to form their

own federation, comprised entirely of women. The history of the women's secretariat

and the tensions within UNAG are expanded upon in Chapter 4, which deals with the

history of FEMUPROCAN.

Rural Women's Participation in Other Organizations

There is not space here for an in-depth analysis of all of the other organizations in

which rural women participated in significant numbers after the 1979 Revolution but it

must be emphasized that rural women were not passive apolitical victims eking out a

miserable existence and suffering horrific abuses in silence.5 Rather they were active

subjects, capable of a wide range of political actions and methods of resistance to

unequal power structures. They were able to make strategic decisions in important


5 For a more detailed discussion see Perez Aleman 1990









areas of their own and their families' lives and acted to protect these interests when

they were threatened. Different rural women organized in different ways. Perez

Aleman, writing in 1990, identified four main modes of rural women's participation in

organizations:

* Women's integration within a masculine vision UNAG. The sphere of action is
limited to the public. Women were taken into account but it was male leaders who
determined the priorities for action and attempted to control the agenda of the
women's sections within the organization.

* Participation anchored in "traditional roles" of women Communal Organizations,
AMNLAE. This entails mobilizing women around the practical needs of their daily
lives, but can also provide spaces for women to share "private" experiences and
develop a sense of common problems and a shared identity as rural women. This
type of participation is unlikely to lead to a transformation in gender roles or bring
an end to women's subordination, although these organizations may fulfill a
"consciousness-raising" role.

* Participation with the possibility of empowerment Women's participation in
educational organizations. Through involvement in such organizations women
were able to acquire skills and knowledge that would, potentially, enable them to
contest their situation of subordination and take greater control over their own
lives. Reading and writing not only gives women self-esteem but allows them to
access a whole range of technical training programs and financial assistance,
without having to ask a (literate) man to accompany them.

* Conserving the old patriarchal framework in religious organizations, (excluding
some progressive wings of the church such as Liberation theology) Women
participated in great numbers in the local organizations affiliated with the church.
However, many of these organizations discouraged women from attempting to
transform the status quo and emphasized women's role as self-sacrificing mothers
and obedient, subservient wives. Having said that, church organizations did
provide many poor women with much needed material and spiritual assistance,
and helped to sponsor community activities.

The Contra War

The Contra war had both benefits and drawbacks for rural women in Nicaragua.

The economic crisis caused by the conflict made survival difficult for many rural women.

Those organized into cooperatives found that they were now the target for much Contra

aggression and were forced to defend their newly won lands. Social programs were









scaled back, and women's issues took a backseat to increasing production in the

countryside and national defense. With many men needed to fight in the war (including

those who participated on both sides of the conflict) women found themselves having to

"hold the fort" at home as the sole providers for their families. On the other hand, the

conflict opened up opportunities for female employment in areas previously considered

the exclusive domain of men, and increased women's self-confidence and desire to be

recognized and valued as producers in their own right: "The longer the war lasted, the

more opportunities women had" (Murguialday 1990, 218).

Sometimes the employers discovered that they actually preferred female workers.

Collinson (1990, 42) quotes a farmer in Boaco who explained to her in 1987 that: "In this

farm, we've got 75% women workers... Really women are almost 100% effective

because they're not like us men, who go out on the streets, to live it up, perhaps end up

with a hangover or get wiped out. The woman is a top achiever."

Having said this, the war took a huge psychological and emotional toll on many

rural women. They lived with the constant threat of aggression and violence, and had to

suffer the loss or injury of their loved ones. The image of the grieving mother was a

powerful one, and the FSLN realized the importance of this symbol of feminine identity

in the Asociaci6n de las Madres de los H6roes y Martires. It is not surprising that

support for the Sandinista government was among the lowest among rural women in the

1990 elections when the amount of emotional and material distress they suffered during

the conflict is taken into account.

Neoliberal Governments 1990-2007 and Structural Adjustment

The election of Violeta Chamorro to the Nicaraguan presidency in 1990 threatened

to destroy the progress made by women and by rural people under the Sandinista









government. Chamorro began to steer Nicaragua onto a neoliberal course and

implemented harsh structural adjustment measures. Characterized by a much more

conservative ideological stance towards women and the development of Nicaragua,

Dora Violeta's administration favored a return to more "traditional" roles of women

focused on images of motherhood and caring (Kampwirth 1996). Rural people no longer

enjoyed a privileged position in the ideology of the government either (as the figure of

the peasant had during the Sandinista period), and the neoliberal administrations

tended to neglect the rural areas in favor of the cities. With the opening of the economy

to international trade, large agribusiness was again promoted over the protection of the

interests of the small producers.

Structural adjustment and the neoliberal policies implemented by the subsequent

administrations in Nicaragua hit rural women hard and they struggled to survive. Aguilar

et al. (1997) note that households headed by women were more affected than those

with male household heads, and that rural households suffered more than urban ones.

In order to make ends meet, women across Nicaragua took on more work (adding to

their already arduous timetable) and devised a variety of coping strategies (Babb 2001).

In times of economic crisis women will often sacrifice their own interests, and even their

health, in order to ensure the well being of their family. The lack of a state safety net

and the emphasis on traditional gender roles threatened to undo some of the progress

made under the Sandinistas.

For rural women, of special concern was the question of land titles. The Sandinista

agrarian reform had distributed a significant proportion of available land but had been

slow and inefficient at awarding legal titles to the land. This generated conflict and









insecurity: "The fact that almost 70% of agricultural properties acquired during the

Sandinista period were not legalized with property titles has generated insecurity and

instability in the countryside... It is estimated that about 40% of families find themselves

in conflict about the tenancy of their property" (Aguilar, et al. 1997, 371).

Isbester (2001) writes that the 1990 election results took many in the women's

movements by surprise. They had not prepared a strategy or discussed a plan of action

for this outcome and the initial response of many activists was largely one of

disappointment and disillusionment. Despite the limitations of the Sandinista

administration's gender policy, many within the women's movement identified more with

the goals of the FSLN than those of Violeta Chamorro's UNO coalition, which proposed

a return to more traditional gender roles. According to Isbester, it took two years for

before the women's movement had recovered from the shock and restructured itself in

the light of the new political context. This was a difficult process and women's

organizers discussed the future of their relationship with the FSLN and whether to adopt

a decentralized network structure or create a central coordinating body. These

questions provoked fierce debate and disagreement between activists, and tensions

rose to the point that the movement fragmented and threatened to disintegrate entirely.

Consequently, the movement achieved very little in the period immediately following the

1990 elections: "During this period, the women's movement was sufficiently disarrayed

that it was as ineffectual and unproductive as a social movement can be" (Isbester

2001, 124).

Membership declined in many organizations, partly due to increased economic

hardship, and the activists were faced with a government much less sympathetic to its









demands. Not only that, but the Sandinista government had been the principal source of

funds and other resources for the organizations, which suddenly found themselves

scrambling to identify new financial backers after the FSLN's loss in the polls.

On the other hand, this period provided time for much needed reflection and

revaluation among the women's movement and marked an important turning point in the

growth of an autonomous women's movement in the country. The women's secretariats,

despite having been the main "catalyst for change" in the 1980s failed to adapt well to

the new political context and "in the 1990s the women's secretariats of unions and other

mixed organizations retreated into the background of the women's movement, ceding

the role of catalyst to autonomous women's groups" (Isbester 2001, 138).

The ATC

After the electoral defeat of the FSLN, the ATC also faced a crisis. Its membership

contracted sharply, falling from 15,000 to 8,000 women, largely due to increased

unemployment. Of the remaining members, 5,000 were employed only on a temporary

basis and "by 1992, nearly 80% of the female members who had been in the union in

1989 were unemployed" (Isbester 2001, 125). The pace of change from the FSLN to the

Chamorro government left women leaders struggling desperately to keep up. They

wasted valuable time and energy on disagreements over internal reorganization and

suffered from a profound sense of disorientation and disillusionment. Nevertheless,

despite their weakened position, the ATC retained its Women's Secretariat and

continued to provide opportunities for its female members to channel their demands to

the leadership of the organization.









UNAG

UNAG experienced a similar process of disorientation and disorganization after

the Sandinista electoral defeat in 1990, although given the organization's greater

degree of autonomy it was better able to weather the storm than the ATC. Women's

issues have remained firmly on UNAG's agenda, and in 1994 the size of the women's

secretariat was increased. In fact, Isbester argues that "in the 1990s, mixed

organizations in the rural areas organizing women to increase productivity continued to

be more successful than autonomous women's groups or AMNLAE" (Isbester 2001,

138)

Having said this, many of the problems identified throughout the history of the

organization have not yet been fully resolved within UNAG and although discrimination

has diminished, it still exists. A report presented at the Second National Meeting of

Women Producers held in 2004 identified the following difficulties:

* Weak communication, which limits the ability of women to keep themselves up to
date and participate better

* A lack of specific resources for the functioning of the Women's Sector

* Mistreatment and discrimination against women inside the organization, which
expresses itself through control, overloading with work and substitution of
municipal and departmental representatives

* Little or no participation by women in the decisions of the association

* Lack of cohesion between groups of women at different levels of the organization.

(Montenegro and Cuadra Lira 2006, 17)


Similar problems, and the desire for greater autonomy from the FSLN and from the

concerns and prejudices of male members would contribute to the decision made by an

important section of the leadership of the Women's Secretariat of UNAG to break away









from the main organization in 1997 to form a women only association called

FEMUPROCAN. This history is discussed in greater detail in Chapter 4.

The Autonomous Women's Movement

In fact, women's organizations took advantage of the decline of Sandinista

affiliated mass organizations and the space that this left to form autonomous women's

groups not linked to any political parties. There was a growing recognition of the

diversity of women's experiences and struggles and a proliferation of groups to reflect

the breadth of these experiences. Babb notes that this diversity is still one of the most

striking features of Nicaraguan feminism, and has proved to be a double-edged sword:

"it ranges from a small but influential intellectual current and a strong NGO presence to

a popular base in a variety of women's organizations. This diversity has been both a

strength and, at times, a cause for consternation as social class and other differences

have been pronounced" (Babb 2001, 207).

During this period there were some groups who maintained the hierarchical

organizational structures favored by Sandinista mass organizations, but many other

groups replaced these vertical, top down structures with more horizontal structures.

There was a growing tendency towards decentralization and the growth of the network

as an organizational form. This development can be seen as an important step towards

the internal democratization of the women's movement.

The Festival of the 52 Percent,6 a gathering of autonomous women's groups

organized to coincide with the official conference being organized by AMNLAE on

March 8, 1991, attracted over eight hundred women (Babb 2001, 38). This represented


6 The figure represents the percentage of women in the Nicaraguan population.









the first public declaration of the existence of an autonomous women's movement in

Nicaragua. It also saw the "coming out" of the Nicaraguan gay and lesbian movements,

who had been obliged to maintain a low profile during the Sandinista period:7

"While a few gay and lesbian rights organizations had existed as early as the mid-

eighties, they had occupied a precarious space during the revolution, having been

ordered by FSLN leaders to lie low and refrain from making waves. It wasn't until after

the Sandinista loss in 1990 that the groups became large and vocal" (Kampwirth 2004,

57).

The First National Feminist Conference was held the following year with the theme

"Diverse but United," a clear demonstration of the growing awareness of, and respect

for, the differences between women and the search for common goals. The opening

statement set the tone for the rest of the conference:

To recognize difference as a fundamental fact of our existence is to
incorporate politically the reality that we women live multiple dimensions of
subordination and exploitation through the mere fact of being women. We
are daughters, mothers, wives, or grandmothers, with a class, an ethnicity,
a culture, a political option, a religious belief or a sexual option. And all of
these have a concrete expression of discrimination.(Thayer 1994 quoted in
Isbester 2001, 141)

The conference settled the debate about coordination and structure of the

movement in favor of decentralization. Eight networks were formed on a range of issues

including economics, environmentalism and sexuality, of which only two, the network

against violence and the network for women's health, were still active by the late 1990s.

These two, however, have been widely applauded in the literature as examples of

successful social movements. Kampwirth writes that in the late nineties "both had formal


7 For more on this movement see Babb (2001; 2003), Randall (1994) and Kampwirth (2004).









office space from which they coordinated the work of a significant number of member

organizations: one hundred twenty to one hundred fifty in the case of the network

against violence, and ninety-six alternative clinics, collectives and women's houses in

the case of the network for women's health" (Kampwirth 2004, 64).

So, despite their differences, many women's groups were able to find shared

objectives around which to unite. After much debate and discussion the ethos of care,

embraced by the overwhelming majority of the women's organizations, emerged as the

unifying principle for the movements at the time, and questions relating to the body

formed the basis for action and organizing (Isbester 2001, 145). Thus, although the

period 1990-1992 was indeed characterized initially by disagreement and disarray, by

the end of the two years the foundations had been laid for what was soon to become

one of the most dynamic women's movements in all of Latin America: "as a result of this

fragmentation and alienation, the women's movement acquired the elements necessary

for a successful social movement: autonomous identity based on a Utopian ethos,

control over resources, and a locus of conflict on the body" (Isbester 2001, 153).

However, the identification of shared themes and struggles did not lead to unity at

the expense of diversity. By contrast, the women realized that they could celebrate both

their similarities and their differences. Their debates and discussions led many to re-

evaluate their opinions about the intersections of party, class and gender interests. As a

result, "some members of the emerging autonomous feminist movement made alliances

that would have been unimaginable in earlier decades" (Kampwirth 2004, 67).

Kampwirth cites the establishment of Women's and Children's Police Stations

(Comisaria de la Mujer y la Nifiez) and the National Women's Coalition (Coalici6n









Nacional de Mujeres) as some of the most prominent demonstrations of the willingness

of women to build these cross-party and cross-class alliances. Chavez Metoyer

identifies this as the key to the women's movements' success, allowing the different

organizations to recognize diversity but also identify common objectives:"The women's

movement has accomplished what no other social movement has done in the 1990s: It

developed a national women's network in which all women's groups, regardless of

different objectives, ethnicities, ideologies, and economic experiences have set aside

political loyalties to identify common objectives" (Chavez Metoyer 1999, 110).

However, a number of other factors also contributed to the movements' success.

The harsh structural adjustment policies and more traditional views on women's

reproductive rights espoused by the Chamorro administration gave the women's

movement a clear, common enemy against which to unite: "each time services for

women were cut further, women's activists were energized and united around a

common opponent: the Chamorro administration" (Kampwirth 2004, 52). In addition,

Kampwirth observes that many of the leaders of the autonomous women's movement

were, by this time, highly skilled political activists owing to their long history of

organizing within the Sandinista mass organizations.

These factors combined to give the women's movements many of the tools

necessary for success. Thus, despite the more conservative stance of the Chamorro

government, the women's movements managed to bring sufficient pressure to bear on

the administration that it was forced to "make at least rhetorical promises, to cooperate

with the women's movement internationally, and to pass some important pieces of

legislation concerning women" (Isbester 2001, 107-108). This success began to be









recognized not only within Nicaragua, but also by women's groups in neighboring

countries, who would look to the Nicaraguan movements for inspiration.

But, while these achievements cannot be denied, it should also be remembered

that the position of many women in Nicaragua worsened under the Chamorro

government, as a consequence of neoliberal economic policies and economic crisis, as

well as a revival of conservative values on women's role based around the functions of

wife and mother. Struggling to survive, many women did not have the time to organize

and still suffered from considerable discrimination and machismo in their homes, their

communities and in Nicaraguan society in general. In light of this Isbester (2001, 123)

argues that the Chamorro government, on balance, represented a "setback for women's

status and the women's movement."

The subsequent neoliberal administrations of Aleman (1997-2002) and Bolahos

(2002-2007) in many ways went even further than Chamorro. The women's movements'

found themselves facing increasingly hostile governments, which threatened to chip

away at their hard-won achievements. Aleman, for example, refused to acknowledge

that discrimination on the basis of gender was even a problem in Nicaragua and made it

very difficult for the women's groups to engage the administration in dialog, let alone

consider working together on initiatives designed to increase gender equality. Under

these conditions, the ability of women's organizations to influence policy and decision-

making processes was severely restricted. Furthermore, Aleman abolished the

Nicaraguan Women's Institute (INIM), which had been the source of much of the

legislation advancing women's rights, and replaced it with a kind of "super-ministry"

dealing with issues related to the family (MIFAMILIA). One of the duties assigned to this









new ministry was to "oversee and coordinate the actions of all governmental and

nongovernmental organizations that work with children, women, youth, the family,

elderly people, and disabled people" (Kampwirth 2004, 72), thereby increasing

government control over women's organizations and the resources they received,

including funding from international NGOs. However, Kampwirth argues that this was

used more as a threat, as a warning to the women's organizations not to go too far,

rather than actually being used to instigate a wholesale crackdown on the movements.

Despite the ever more hostile political context, this time around the women's

movements were better prepared. Sufficient work had been done to strengthen to

movements internally that the prospect of another unsympathetic government did not

provoke the same kind of disorder and soul-searching as did Chamorro's election. The

women's groups felt that they were capable of weathering yet another storm, and felt

confident in the ability of the movements to survive and to keep women's rights in the

public eye:

The women's movement, however, did have assets going in to Aleman's
period of governing. The women's movement was well organized internally,
knowledgeable about what it was facing, and experienced in dealing with an
uncaring government. It has kept the organizational structure it developed
in the early 1990s of identity-based groups at the local level intersecting
through nationwide networks to agitate in public spaces for a specific social
and political change. (Isbester 2001, 212)

It was during the period of neoliberal governments, especially after the devastation

wrought by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, that the women's movement underwent its next

important transformation. With the increasing influence of nongovernmental

organizations in Nicaragua, many women's groups faced pressure to professionalize

and adopt more formal organizational structures. In other words they began to bear

more resemblance to NGOs in a number of important ways. Chapter 3 deals with this









phenomenon of "NGO-ization" in more detail, examining the reasons for the NGO-

ization of Nicaraguan civil society, and drawing attention to some of the benefits and

drawbacks to this process for women's movement organizations.

The Women's Movements In Nicaragua Today

Recently, observers have worried that the Nicaraguan movements have diversified

to the point of fragmentation. Many of the networks established at the 1992 conference

no longer function and there has been a lack of coordination at the national level on

many issues. In 2005, only the Network of Women Against Violence was still functioning

(Disney 2008, 208). Pluralization has reached the point of atomization, with individual

women's organizations sometimes competing against one another for international

funds and a tendency for groups to pursue the specific interests of a small group of

women, rather than seeking to join forces with other organizations to achieve common

objectives.

Any hopes that the return of the FSLN to power would usher in new era of

cooperation between women's movements and the government were quickly dashed.

Daniel Ortega's alliance with the hierarchy of the conservative Catholic Church may

have helped him regain power, but it also meant that the new administration adopted a

much more traditional outlook on women's issues.

Ortega himself was the subject of a political scandal in 1998 when his adopted

stepdaughter, Zoilamerica Narvaez, published a 48 page report accusing him of

systematic sexual abuse, beginning in 1979, when Zoilamerica was 11 years old, and

continuing for twenty years. Ortega and his wife, Rosario Murillo, denied the allegations

and, as a sitting member of parliament, he was immune to prosecution in Nicaragua.

Narvaez then took her case to the Inter American Human Rights Commission, which









recommended an amicable settlement to the case. This was accepted by the

Nicaraguan government in 2002, but Narvaez has not withdrawn her allegations of

abuse, and Ortega continues to deny the charge.

In 2006 the women's movement suffered a major setback with the passage of a

bill banning therapeutic abortion in Nicaragua. This bill, supported by all major parties

(including the FSLN) made abortion illegal under any circumstances, even in cases of

rape or when the life of the mother is in danger. It has been widely condemned by

international institutions, human rights groups, and some foreign governments, but to

date the administration has refused to budge on this issue. Although some women's

groups in Nicaragua mounted public protests and campaigned against the passage of

the bill there was a lack of concerted, coordinated action by the women's movements.8

Many leaders of grassroots organizations failed to mobilize their members to protest the

bill, or hold meetings to discuss the implications of it for their members. This

fragmentation and polarization has also affected women's groups and contributed to a

general sense of confusion among many in the women's movements. Thus, at a time

when they needed to join together they failed to do so, and, in recent years, they have

lost much of their ability to make an impact on government policy.









8 Maria Rosa Renzi, regional director for UNIFEM (the United Nations Development Fund for Women),
pointed to the fact that abortion remains a very divisive issue in Nicaraguan society. Many poorer women
considered the debate on therapeutic abortion as an elite topic of discussion which had little relevance to
their daily lives She added that there is a currently a lack of dialogue between women's groups in the
country and argued that Nicaraguan civil society in general has become more fragmented and polarized
over recent years (Interview with Maria Rosa Renzi, Managua, July 15th, 2009).









CHAPTER 3
NGO-IZATION AND NICARAGUAN WOMEN'S MOVEMENTS

It wasn't until the closing years of the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua that

international NGOs began to expand their operations into Nicaragua. Today it is one of

the most "NGO-ized" countries in the world, with over 4,000 registered organizations

active in a country of 5 million people in 2004 (Briones 2004). The NGO sector

generates around one quarter of the country's GDP (O'Neill 2004, 40). After the

electoral defeat of the Sandinistas women's organizations had to find new sources of

funding and new ways of operating. They increasingly relied on international

development agencies and NGOs for the majority of their funding. Gaining access to

such funding, and the conditions attached to the assistance provided, translated into

increasing pressure to professionalize and construct formal organizational structures for

many Nicaraguan women's movements at this time. Thus, there was a tendency for

women's groups to undergo a significant degree of NGO-ization in their competition for

funding. This chapter will explore the phenomenon of NGO-ization in more detail,

highlighting some of the possible advantages and drawbacks of the process for

Nicaraguan women's movements. In subsequent chapters I will attempt to show how

FEMUPROCAN has also undergone a similar process and resembles an NGO in

several important ways.

A Brief History of NGO-Ization

Prior to the Managua earthquake of 1972 relatively few NGOs were active in

Nicaragua. The devastation caused by the earthquake, in which over 10,000 people lost

their lives, brought the small Central American country to the attention of the

international development community. However, when it became clear that much of the









assistance money was lining the pockets of the ruling Somoza clan (and those close to

them) rather than reaching the victims, foreign donors began to look for alternative

channels for the funds, which would be less susceptible to governmental corruption

(Fogarty 2009). The first nongovernmental organizations operating in the country thus

initially focused on immediate disaster relief, but later shifted to providing humanitarian

aid to people in poor rural and urban communities.

As discussed in Chapter 2 on the women's movements in Nicaragua, when the

Sandinistas came to power in 1979 international aid to the country was largely

channeled through the government and went to the FSLN-affiliated mass organizations.

Women made important gains in the period, but the movement was, to a large extent,

controlled by the government. The mass organizations linked to the party were the only

legitimate space open to women's activists to voice their concerns, and, as the Contra

war progressed, women's concerns were seen as secondary to the need to defend the

revolution.

The electoral defeat of the Sandinistas in 1990, and the inauguration of a more

conservative, neoliberal regime, helped to create the conditions for the NGO-ization of

Nicaraguan society. The Chamorro administration cut funds from the FSLN affiliated

organizations, and drastically slashed public spending on services. AMNLAE was no

longer affiliated with the state, and therefore lost its privileged position as the only

'legitimate' women's organization. Many of the women who had been active in these

associations were faced with the prospect of losing their jobs and responded by setting

up their own, independent, NGOs. But it was not only Sandinista women's leaders that

stood to lose out, as the introduction of user fees for health and education









disproportionally affected poor and rural women (Caivano and Hardwick 2008, 279)

.There was an urgent need for the provision of these services, which previously had

been free, and it was left to the private sector, or "civil society" to find a solution. Thus

NGOs, largely financed using international funds, appeared to provide a potential

solution to the different problems facing middle class and poor women in Nicaragua at

this time: "NGOs provided much needed services to poor women, while at the same

time creating jobs for educated, middle class women who previously had worked for the

state" (Caivano and Hardwick 2008, 279).

The experience these women had gained during the Sandinista years, and the

links they had forged with international organizations, helped to ensure that these NGOs

survived, and developed linkages both within Nicaragua and on an international scale.

The fact that it remained one of the poorest nations in Latin America (second only to

Haiti in terms of per capital income by 1988 according to IMF data), and the obvious

poverty experienced by many Nicaraguans on a daily basis played a part in keeping the

country in favor with international funders.

Sally O'Neill (2004) argues that the importance of the personal relationships

forged between solidarity activists from the Global North and the Nicaraguan people

continues to this day, and helps to explain why Nicaragua consistently received much

more in aid than its Central American neighbors.1 These people, many of whom came

to Nicaragua on solidarity trips organized through student associations or organizations

linked to European socialism, subsequently found jobs with bilateral development

agencies of NGOs in their home countries. She maintains that it is mainly these "affairs

1 Although much official development assistance, such as that from the European Union has now been
suspended following controversy over the lack of transparency at the latest round of municipal elections.









of the heart" that explains why so many NGOs were able to find donor agencies willing

to fund their Nicaraguan projects, even during periods of considerable governmental

corruption and attempts to control the operations of NGOs, as happened under the

Aleman administration (O'Neill 2004, 44).

The advent of another natural disaster, Hurricane Mitch, in 1998, and Aleman's

refusal to modify the harsh measures imposed by structural adjustment in the wake of

the crisis once again put Nicaragua high on the priority list of countries requiring urgent

humanitarian assistance, and further encouraged the hyper-NGO-ization of Nicaraguan

society, both in terms of international organizations with a presence in the country, and

smaller national NGOs run and staffed entirely by Nicaraguans. Women's organizations

were not immune to these processes.

However, in order to fully understand the reasons behind NGO-ization it is

necessary to look beyond Nicaragua and consider the global context which facilitated

this process. After all, many other Latin American countries experienced a similar

phenomenon during this period, and it is likely that pre-existing networks and

connections between groups played a role in spreading NGO-ization from place to

place:

The proliferation of NGOs must be understood in the context of wider global
phenomena the hegemony of the neoliberal development model, the
dismantling of the welfare state, and the debt crisis in the developing world.
Further, the web of connections among NGOs, social movements,
government agencies, and cross-national networks of grassroots
organizations involves transnational processes, as ideas, funding,
knowledge, and people move through various local, national and
international sites. (Bickham Mendez, 2005, 82)2


2 Alvarez (1998); Fisher (1997); Lebon (1996); Safa (1996); Appadurai (1991), cited in Bickham Mendez,
(2005, 82)









The change in focus of the international development community to models based

around governabilityy" and "strengthening civil society" as key measures for the

consolidation of democracy played an important part in shaping the way NGO-ization

developed in the Global South, conditioning which types of organizations were likely to

be favored, and which projects were seen as priorities. The commitment by the World

Bank to civil society, rather than state-led solutions to Third World problems served to

further legitimize NGOs as the developmental actors par excellence, and absolve

governments of the responsibility for the problems (caused in part by the very measures

designed by the International Financial Institutions). It also suggests a degree of disdain

for the ability of third world leaders to improve the lives of their citizens (even as the

richest countries in the world are looking to their governments, not civil society, for

economic bail outs).

Benefits to NGO-ization

NGOs' links with international funders and transnational advocacy networks have

provided vital spaces for the influx and exchange of new ideas, technologies and links

to similar organizations worldwide in order to share experiences and coordinate global

campaigns (and thus more successfully pressurize governments and international

organizations to acquiesce to their demands). Large organizations such as Oxfam or

World Vision, active in every region of the world, have the advantage that they can

share stories of best practices from different countries and devise innovative solutions

to problems that local organizations might not have been able to come up with by

themselves.

Christina Ewig, for example, describes how NGOs focused on women's healthcare

in Nicaragua were able to significantly improve on the models developed by the









government. She argues that "NGOs can serve as a base for innovation and a public-

private exchange of improved health care models" (Ewig 1999, 98). In this sector

feminist NGOs had taken a leading role in devising policies which were then

subsequently copied by the Nicaraguan state. Arguably NGOs, with no formal ties to

any particular administration, have a greater amount of freedom to experiment with new

ways of doing things than the governing politicians, who are constantly concerned with

how their actions will affect their future chances of reelection.

Given their tendency to be smaller in scale than either many popular social

movement organizations or government ministries, NGOs are often able to respond

more quickly and decisively than other actors. This can make them especially efficient

and valuable in times of crisis (such as in providing emergency disaster relief), and able

to modify programs that are not functioning as planned much more quickly. The majority

of NGOs are organized along strict internal lines of command, with everybody aware of

who makes which decisions and who answers to whom. Although this tendency to favor

vertical structures has come in for some criticism (see the next section), it can also be

an advantage in that it limits the potential for conflict and power struggles within the

organization that have paralyzed popular social movements at various points in

countries around the world. Within an NGO, it could be argued, there is less scope for

unnecessary duplication of work (as sometimes happens in over- bureaucratized states)

and more clarity about where responsibility lies at every stage.

Further contributing to their relative efficiency in comparison with popular social

movement organizations is the NGOs tendency to favor a few, full time, professional

staff members over a larger number of mainly volunteers from a variety of backgrounds









and levels of knowledge or education. The women employed in many of the NGOs

active in Nicaragua have relatively high levels of education, which allows them to

communicate better with their international funders and with government officials. They

are likely to be more aware of current trends in international funding (the vocabulary in

vogue at the time, existing international development targets and priorities, the types of

projects likely to attract most funding and so on) and able to frame their demands in the

most favorable way to secure the maximum amount of money. These women and men

are very conscious of the need to present their organization in the best light possible

and have become very effective media managers, both in Nicaragua and on an

international scale. Conversely, popular social movements and membership- based

women's movements are likely to spend less time and effort on their "image" and on

keeping the donor agencies pleased, to the possible cost of large quantities of money

and press coverage.

Politicians are much more likely to listen seriously to the proposals of a smartly

dressed, well spoken woman with a university degree in her field, than to the ideas put

forward by a group of poorer women unused to public speaking, with lower levels of

education and with no knowledge of the "correct" way to phrase suggestions. In many

countries both in Latin America and in Europe, governments have been so impressed

by the credentials of the professional women working for NGOs that they have actually

contracted them to develop policy on behalf of the state (Lang 2000, Ewig 1999, Alvarez

1998). NGOs are often seen as less confrontational and "political" than their social

movement counterparts (they rarely threaten to revolutionize society but rather to work

within existing structures and boundaries to foment social change), and thus are often









more appealing collaborators for government ministries: "While local government

officials have often reacted negatively or skeptically to social movement actors ...non-

governmental organizations, which can be seen as the professionalizedd" offspring of

new social movement initiatives, are better locally positioned to communicate and

negotiate with local authorities" (Lang 2000).

However, as Ewig rightly points out, the level of access to government officials and

policy making arenas enjoyed by an NGO very much depends upon their relationship to

the government in question, and to individual ministers within the administration. This is

likely to vary from NGO to NGO, with those primarily concerned with providing services

or humanitarian assistance much more likely to be asked to collaborate with the state

than those whose demands could potentially foster social unrest, or upset powerful

sectors of society (such as some of the feminist NGOs operating in Nicaragua).

Precisely because of their non-governmental nature, NGOs have no formal link to the

state (in contrast to the Sandinista-affiliated mass organsiations for example) and

therefore without the goodwill of the government NGOs are no more able to formulate

policy than any other type of organisation: "the movement's ability to shape state

institutions has depended greatly on particular elected and appointed officials within the

state. Without direct connections to the state or influence within its structure, the

movement is subject to the willingness of these individual state officials to cooperate"

(Ewig 1999, 98).

Another area in which the professional nature of NGOs serves as an advantage is

in their relationships to the media both in Nicaragua and abroad. Transnational NGOs

have the money and skills to mount high profile global campaigns and gather extensive









mainstream media attention to their causes. It would be extremely difficult for a small,

autonomous women's group in Nicaragua with no links to international funding agencies

to get their concerns into the pages of European or North American newspapers.

It is difficult for the social movements to do what they want such as mobilize
people, come into Managua for meetings, pay for educational materials and
have some core people dedicated 100% to the movement. They lack the
funds for these activities. The NGOs, on the other hand, have access to
funding and therefore can pay someone to work full time on an issue; they
can produce their own materials; they can pay travel expenses for
networking and attending meetings; they can pay for radio and TV spots.
So NGOs working on any issue that the social movements are working on
have huge advantages over the movements in the formation of public
opinion and in the ability to advocate. (Quandt 2005)

Thanks in part to their access to monetary resources, NGOs in Nicaragua have

proven themselves adept at publishing and distributing informative material, and opened

up discussion among populations on a wide range of important issues:

It is undeniable that without the NGOs' "professional" work it would have
been difficult for certain sectors of society to learn about the true
implications of issues such as the Central American Free Trade Agreement
(CAFTA) with the United States, the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas
and Plan Puebla-Panama. The same goes for such important issues as
therapeutic abortion, sexual and reproductive rights and even the defense
and promotion of human rights. (Grigsby 2005)

The monetary resources available to NGOs have been advantageous in improving

women's lives in Nicaragua in other ways as well. Particularly important for poor women

is the fact that NGOs do not collect dues from the people they claim to represent. Even

a small deduction from a salary can make a huge difference to someone living on less

than a dollar a day, and consequently some unions may not include women from the

poorest sectors of society. It is precisely these women that many NGOs are set up to

help.









Whatever the criticisms leveled at service-providing NGOs, the benefits of clean

water, adequate housing and access to education and health care are undeniable.

Whether using international funds or money from within Nicaragua, the vital role played

by some NGOs in helping to meet people's basic needs and improve their immediate

standard of living should not be forgotten. It is all very well to argue that these are things

that the state should provide for its citizens, but in cases where the state is either

unwilling or unable to do so it would seem inhumane to deny NGOs access to these

areas. Some remote villages in Nicaragua (particularly in the less developed Atlantic

Coast region) were simply not served by the government at all. For these people, the

presence of an NGO in the area can literally mean the difference between life and

death.

Lastly, the proliferation of NGOs in Nicaragua, each claiming to represent a certain

sector of society, has contributed to the pluralization of the women's movement within

the country and opened up space for the articulation of the specific concerns of different

groups of women within society. Nicaraguan women now have a wide range of

organizations keen to be seen to represent them, in marked contrast to the Sandinista

era when AMNLAE had a virtual monopoly on "women's issues."

Drawbacks of NGO-ization

The benefits mentioned above are certainly important, but there are many aspects

of the process of NGO-ization of a society that are much less beneficial to the ability of

women to organize in defense of their interests.

Various writers have raised concerns about who is actually represented by an

NGO, and how accountable these organizations are to the constituency they claim to be

representing. Very often it would appear that NGOs are far more accountable to their









funders than they are to their supposed "beneficiaries". This is the case both for

Nicaraguan and transnational NGOs, who both rely on international funds for their

survival. Thus, it could be argued, women's organizations have not become

"autonomous" but rather have simply substituted one type of dependence (on the

Sandinista state) for another (international funders), and distanced the women's

organization from formal political power:

Autonomy is not only a failed electoral strategy; it also diminishes the
arenas in which the movement's issues can be promoted. Women
effectively marginalized themselves and their issues from political power.
This led many women's groups to become dependent on support from
abroad... and thus, ironically, they put their autonomy at risk, once again.
(Barrig, cited in Caivano and Hardwick 2008, 286)

This reliance on outside funding affects the types of projects the NGOs are able to

implement, as they are restricted to those likely to be approved by their international

"partners." Thus in many cases, it is the organization in the Global North which sets the

agenda, rather than the Nicaraguan women participating in the project. The agenda

therefore reflects the interests of the funders, rather than those of the "beneficiaries."

Even "participatory" approaches to development, which claim to prioritize the demands

of local communities are often designed in such a way that local participation remains

largely for show, rather than an integral part of each phase of a particular project (from

design and planning right through to evaluation).

International funding cannot be relied upon in the long term, and if the donor

suddenly decides their money would be better spent elsewhere the Nicaraguan

organization often has no effective way of putting pressure on the donor not to pull out

or to fulfill any prior agreements. Due to complaints about the way in which the

December 2008 municipal elections were carried out, and concerns generally about the









line the current Ortega administration appears to be taking, various donor countries

withdrew all official development assistance from Nicaragua. Much of this assistance

was to be channeled through NGOs, many of whom had no connection to the

Nicaraguan government, but suffered nonetheless. Equally, if a project ends up having

a negative impact on a community it is very hard for the local people to hold the NGO

formally accountable, let alone receive any compensation.

Conversely, donors are keen to ensure that their money is being spent in the way

they had intended, and often attach innumerable strings to any funds given to Southern

partners, diverting precious time and money towards reassuring donors rather than

improving lives:

Accountability to external funders means systems of evaluation that redirect
important time and energy away from social justice pursuits and towards
satisfying agencies and donors that local organizations are sufficiently
accountable to their social bases (as judged by the donor or Northern
counterpart) and a range of other requirements imposed by 'global agents.'
(Mato 1998 cited in Bickham Mendez 2005, 216)

NGO-ization has thus shifted the nature of the activities undertaken by women's

movements in Nicaragua from broadly defined goals aimed at transforming attitudes

and practices to a more project focused approach, with an emphasis on easily

measurable results (Jaggar 2005). Organizations are under constant pressure to

provide quantifiable data on their successes. No matter how impressive such data may

appear the fact remains that some of the most important, long-term changes in societies

are often those most difficult to represent through a neat set of statistics or graph.

Figures cannot capture changing attitudes, as Silliman observes: "the impact of an NGO

trying to change power structures or dominant social values cannot easily be quantified









through standard evaluation procedures to fit neatly into a project report for a funding

agency or government" (1999, 138). Thus these initiatives have fallen out of favor.

There has been considerable debate about the potential role NGOs play in

politicizing or depoliticizing women. Evidence from Europe seems to suggest that NGOs

can foster greater levels of political awareness and action within communities (Lang

2000), whereas the majority of articles written about NGOs in Latin America have

claimed that they have served to reduce the organizational capacity of women. By

adopting much of the technocratic, supposedly "apolitical" language of the international

development institutions and downplaying any overtly "political" aspects, Bendaia

(2006) notes that NGOs often serve to depoliticize the people they claim to represent,

instead claiming to offer an "alternative to politics" and neutralizing potential activism.

Former activists are now often well salaried employees in NGOs, which coordinate with

the very institutions the social movements sought to transform. In many ways the

NGOs owe their survival to the maintenance of the status quo, and thus it is not in their

interest to rock the boat unnecessarily, limiting the range of options available to those

approved by the international funding community, which are not necessarily those that

promise the best results for the women they claim to serve. In some cases the women

best served by an NGO are not the "beneficiaries" or "target population" but rather the

women employed by the NGO themselves: "NGO-ization of politics threatens to turn

resistance into a well-mannered, reasonable, salaried, 9-to-5 job. With a few perks

thrown in. Real resistance has real consequences. And no salary" (Roy, 2004).

It is not surprising that many of the most talented and experienced women's

leaders have opted for the NGO sector, given the choice between a well paid position in









a comfortable office, with the opportunity to travel around the world to NGO

conferences, and the prestige that comes with this, or an unpaid (or low paid) position in

charge of a local social movement, with little in the way of recognition for successes

achieved, but the constant threat of repressive measures from the state hanging over

your head. However these coveted positions are frequently only open to a certain type

of woman. She is likely to be middle class, urban, well educated and able to speak

English to a high level, whereas poorer, rural or indigenous women find it harder and

harder to gain a foothold in this lucrative sector. Thus NGO-ization can sometimes

reproduce class and racial inequalities.3 The increasing professionalization of the

women's movements threatens to privilege the voices of middle class women and

encourages the growth of organizations for rural women while at the same time

contributing to the disappearance of organizations of rural women.

Pressure to secure funding has contributed to the increasing professionalization

and bureaucratization of women's organizations. Despite a steady rise in the amount of

money destined for the NGO sector in recent years, there is not an unlimited amount of

donor funding available, and yet there are more and more organizations applying for

support. This leads to competition among organizations, rather than cooperation, and

pits NGOs against one another in a battle for funds and for recognition as the

"authentic" representative of various different groups of women. The organizations that

tend to receive the lion's share of the donors' money are those with the most resources,

and most professional staff (Alvarez 1998)




3 Lebon (1996, 602) cited in Bickham Mendez (2005, 113)









However, it is doubtful whether the most professional organizations are those that

best serve the interests of women at the grassroots. It is difficult to gain an accurate

picture of the situation faced by rural women from day to day from an office in the

capital city. The leaders of large, well funded NGOs run the risk of losing touch with the

women they claim to represent, women who find it hard to make their voices heard at

the higher levels of the organization. New social movements, and women's movements

in particular, have been widely praised for their new ways of organizing, based around

the principle of "radical democracy" (Bickham Mendez 2005). They emphasized

horizontal structures in contrast to the vertical models favored by traditional social

movements and political parties, thus fostering participation from women at all levels in

the decision making processes. Most NGOs, on the other hand, appear to have

reverted to a more hierarchical organizational structure, with power concentrated in the

hands of the directors and the board. These leaders are rarely from the poorer sectors

of society. Ewig notes that it is often the smaller, less professionalized NGOs that foster

the greatest amount of participation from the women at the base, and are more

internally democratic (Ewig 1999, 97). However, it is precisely these organizations that

are losing out in the battle for funding.

But NGO-ization does not just involve unequal power relations between women,

but also between Northern funders and their Southern partners. This has led many to

question the notion that NGOs can contribute to the wider democratization of societies,

and instead simply reproduce global inequalities within a country:

NGOs are seen by many as embodying participatory democracy and
presenting a solution to the top-down development strategies of previous
decades. Yet NGOs do not escape the power dynamics of North-South
relations in the postcolonial context. Despite the flow of ideas and









resources across national borders, a great deal of power remains in the
hands of both state and non-state political actors in the North. (Bickham
Mendez 2005, 215)

Some critics, (e.g. Petras 1997, Toni Solo 2007) have gone so far as to classify

this as a new form of colonialism, and that far from representing an alternative to

paternalistic models of development, NGOs are in fact just another manifestation of it.

Deborah Mindry (2001, 1189) has shown how the discourse of many women's and

feminist NGOs operating in the third world is employed in a paternalistic manner by

many donor organizations, reproducing earlier patterns of colonial domination,

"constituting some women as benevolent providers and others as worthy or deserving

recipients of development and empowerment". She notes that "Poor, rural, black and

brown ("third world") women have been idealized and objectified as a worthy category of

intervention. Often portrayed as innocent victims of oppression, poverty and "ignorance"

(construed as something akin to political naivete) they are represented as helpless,

apolitical in their misery, and needy of representation" (Ibid., 1203).

In the eyes of some critical observers, NGOs represent a threat to the national

sovereignty of third world governments, and an attempt by the hegemonic powers to

increase their control over other countries via the back door. The recent Bush

administration did much to further this belief by claiming that NGO relief agencies

receiving funds from USAID were "an arm of the US government" and an integral part of

the war on terror.4

In particular, it is the service-providing NGOs that tend to come in for some of the

harshest criticisms. These organizations, despite their good intentions, are seen as


4 Burnet (2004) cited in Bendaia (2006, 2)









helping to let neoliberal states "off the hook" in filling the gaps in services that it ought to

be the state's duty to provide: "NGDOs [Nongovernmental Development Organizations]

frequently have good intentions 'to help the poor,' while the state exploits this to exit

stage right when nobody is looking. Sometimes the state never even makes it onto the

stage" (Grigsby 2005). In this respect, Grigsby argues, part of the blame lies in the

propaganda successes of the NGOs themselves. In constantly emphasizing their

achievements in their publicity material and in the wider media, they have often

successfully convinced large sectors of the international development community that

they are more efficient than national governments. Thus it is relatively easy for states to

hold up their hands, admit defeat and pass the responsibility on to the non-

governmental organizations.

So long as the NGOs are there to pick up the slack for the neoliberal state, the

likelihood or organizing mass demonstrations against this model of development is

severely limited. Sofia Montenegro, a prominent Nicaraguan feminist and intellectual,

has observed that in this sense states can use the NGO sector as a type of safety net or

buffer against social explosion. She makes a distinction between NGOs and social

movements, arguing that the former try and work within existing models of development,

and are vulnerable to cooptation (or are ignored by the government), whereas the latter

are attempting to change the model entirely, and mobilize large numbers of people in

support of their cause (Sofia Montenegro, quoted in Quandt 2005). This has contributed

to a reduction in the visibility of feminism and the women's movements as the focus has

been shifted from the streets to the board rooms and conferences of government

ministries and international funders. The small scale of many NGOs active in Nicaragua









limits their capacity to organize mass demonstrations, and has been seen as a sign of

the fragmentation of the women's movement in recent years.

Dependence on international funding has also caused problems for feminist NGOs

in Nicaragua. They have had to contend with the accusation that feminism is a foreign

import, and not something appropriate for the Nicaraguan context. Feminists have faced

an uphill battle to try to change the image of the word in Nicaraguan society, which still

has negative connotations for some women.5 The current administration has exploited

these currents of thought to justify its increasing crackdown on many of the more radical

Nicaraguan feminist NGOs and organizations.

Feminist NGOs in Nicaragua Today: Agents of Yankee Imperialism?

The current Ortega administration has capitalized on this negative cultural

stereotype of the feminist movement in its recent attacks on organizations in Nicaragua.

These NGOs have been denounced as an attempt by the United States to infiltrate

Nicaraguan society and even described by Rosario Murillo (the wife of Nicaraguan

President Daniel Ortega) as forming a new type of "low intensity warfare" (a phrase with

particularly strong connotations in Nicaraguan society, intended to evoke the memory of

the U.S. supported Contra war in the 1980s which cost so many lives). In an article

published by the Sandinista government magazine 19, Murillo accuses the feminist

organizations of "political prostitution" and moral bankruptcy:

We are faced with a political prostitution with the booming voice of a billy-
goat [macho cabrio] and Uncle Sam's hat. We are faced with a permanent
provocation, which, in addition, takes advantage of its role as political
practitioner of "rights" and uses the spaces opened for it by its rich relation
in order to try and change our set of cultural values, and impose strange,

5 Of the women I interviewed in Nicaragua, who were members of grassroots cooperatives, very few of
them said they understood what feminism was or how it was relevant to their lives.









foreign social norms upon us regarding our the way in which we live
together with our families and within our communities.

In this politico-cultural war, which they are carrying out in the name of
women, they seek to sell their stereotypes as postmodern politics,
promoting their foreign culture, alien to our way of doing things, which forms
part, moreover, of a failed cultural model, destroyer of the world, which has
dispossessed souls, and enthroning egoism, solitude and deep
emptiness/gaps. (Murillo 2008)

Dubbing the feminist NGOs "modern day Trojan horses" sent by the USA to

undermine the Sandinista government, the current Ortega administration is stepping up

the pressure on nongovernmental organizations which have questioned the gender

equality record of the FSLN and its increasingly hard-line stance on issues such as

therapeutic abortion. Far from appearing as "apolitical" the feminist NGOs appear to

have emerged as the government's favorite opponent in recent years.

Even the service-providing NGOs run the risk of being labeled as a form of

imperialism, although the Nicaraguan government is more than happy to accept

international investment and money when it suits them (Mannen, 2009). This reinforces

Christina Ewig's claim that the success of the NGO model for the Nicaraguan women's

movement depends very much on the goodwill of the state, and of particular individuals

working for the government. Faced with a hostile administration, a lack of official

channels through which to put pressure on the government, and the increasingly

fragmented nature of the women's movements in Nicaragua, no matter how well

organized and professional the NGOs may appear they are unlikely to succeed in

changing the policies pursued by the state.

Concluding Remarks

The process of NGO-ization of the women's movements in Nicaragua has been

accompanied by its increasing atomization and professionalization. Dependency on









external funding has fostered competition rather than collaboration, and privileged some

women's voices over others. The women's movements run the risk of becoming a

middle class pursuit, and of losing touch with the very women they claim to represent.

NGOs are characterized by hierarchical structures which threaten to destroy some of

the main achievements of the autonomous women's movement in Nicaragua in

fostering spaces for the participation of women of all classes and backgrounds. There

has been a tendency to switch from broader goals of changing gender relations in

society, and influencing attitudes regarding women, towards focusing on short-term

projects with easily measurable outcomes. In the vast majority of cases NGOs are much

more accountable to their funders in the global North than to the poor women they claim

to represent.

However, the examples provided by Ewig of the achievements of the women's

NGOs in the health sector prove that NGO-ization is not inherently negative, and indeed

can help to foster innovative solutions to urgent social problems. The ability of the NGO

sector to respond quickly in an emergency and to provide vital services to the most

disadvantaged in Nicaraguan society can mean the difference between life and death

for some poor rural women. Partnerships with organizations in the global North are

problematic to say the least, but have provided NGOs with links to other similar

organizations in different parts of the world, and to put certain issues on the

international development agenda, and fostered discussion of difficult topics in countries

all over the globe.

The process of NGO-ization appears to be largely irreversible today. However, this

is not to say that the type of NGO-ization will remain the same in the future. Women's









organizations in Nicaragua have proven themselves to be capable of a remarkable

degree of readjustment and adaptation to differing political contexts. Although NGO-

ization might thus far have contributed to the fragmentation of women's movements in

the country, there is no reason to suggest that activists will not develop new ways of

working and new forms of coordination. They may find ways in which to establish more

equitable partnerships with their funders and ensure that the voices of poor and

marginalized women are heard and respected. What we are currently witnessing may

be nothing more than a temporary reduction in the ability of Nicaraguan women's

movements to influence state policies, akin to the two years of disarray following the

election of Chamorro.

There are several reasons to be hopeful: some NGOs (mainly small scale, less

professional operations) which appear to have maintained a degree of internal

democracy as well as competing with other organizations in terms of efficiency, so it

would appear that the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. More could be done

to encourage coordination among NGOs and between NGOs and popular social

movements (although there are some initiatives, such as the Coordinadora Civil, in

place at the moment which attempt to do this), as there is no reason why the growth of

NGOs should necessitate the weakening of social movements (and in fact NGOs can

play a role in strengthening organized civil society campaigns, as happened in Europe.).

Not all international funding organizations are alike, and there is growing

recognition among many of the more progressive organizations, such as Oxfam

International, that it is often local women who best understand some of the problems

they face and how to go about solving them. These international organizations are









discussing ways of working with their Nicaraguan partners to build relationships based

on mutual respect and exchange of knowledge and experiences. In the case study of

FEMUPROCAN described in this thesis, the relationships they have built with Oxfam

Canada and, to some extent, El Centro Cooperativo Sueco, show that international

funders can work together with Nicaraguan women's organizations in ways that allow

the women to voice their opinions about priorities for action and develop their own

strategies. However, as I will demonstrate throughout this thesis, the relationship is still

marked by power imbalances between the two "partners."









CHAPTER 4
THE HISTORY OF FEMUPROCAN: A BASTION OF STRUGGLE FOR THE UNITY
AND DEVELOPMENT OF WOMEN PRODUCERS

We were the women's secretariat in UNAG. I am talking as if the child is an
embryo in the mother's stomach, you see? Afterwards we were Maria
Castil...we were constituted as Maria Castil, and this stomach continued to
grow. Then we were the Federation, and the baby was born when we put a
name to FEMUPROCAN.1


This chapter presents a brief outline of the history of FEMUPROCAN from its roots

in the Women's Secretariat of UNAG to the summer of 2009, when I carried out my field

research. I discuss why the women found it necessary to set up their own organization

and break away from UNAG and describe some of the main obstacles and dilemmas

they encountered along the way. In order to be able to assess the extent to which

FEMUPROCAN has become a successful, independent women's organization it is also

necessary to outline some of the main organizational structures of the federation today

and their functions.

Within UNAG

Phase One: Disappointment and the Roots of Organization 1980-1983

FEMUPROCAN traces its history back to 1984, when the first collectives of rural

women producers were created within UNAG- Matagalpa and women began to press

for a space of their own. It was another three years before the Women's Secretariat of

UNAG was founded at the national level, in 1987. However, the history of women's

organizing within UNAG goes back even further. The Sandinista rhetoric of equal rights

for men and women, and the new legal framework that followed the revolution's triumph

in 1979, inspired many of FEMUPROCAN's leaders to fight for the reduction of gender


1 Leticia, President of a FEMUPROCAN cooperative, Terrabona, July 21, 2009.









inequality in the countryside. The new laws on Agrarian Reform (1980) and the

cooperative sector (1981) formally established equal rights for men and women, an

important step forward, and the future leaders of FEMUPROCAN were filled with

optimism about the future. However, as discussed in Chapter 2, formal recognition was

one thing, but actually ending discrimination in practice proved much more difficult.

Machista attitudes could not be swept away overnight and after the National

Cooperative Census was carried out in 1982 women such as Martha Valle, already

active within the mixed sex organization, were shocked to discover that women

comprised only 6% of total cooperative membership (Valle 2009, 223). These women

realized that rural women producers were not getting the recognition they deserved or

being given the same opportunities to participate in organizations as their male

counterparts. Rural women encountered resistance on all sides, even within their own

families and including from those responsible for implementing the agrarian reform: "We

would work extremely hard but we had no importance, no value for the men. They saw

us as garbage, we were worth nothing. We worked in the countryside, raised cattle and

everything but in the men's eyes we did nothing, men did everything and women only

worked in the kitchen." 2

They thus began to discuss the idea of forming a women's section within UNAG.

However, when they proposed this to the male leadership "they stared at each other

and said something on the order of, 'Women are already represented in UNAG; there

are thousands of women who participate in our activities'" (Valle 2009, 223). Despite

this rejection the women who had raised the issue were not prepared to abandon the


2 Ana, member of a grassroots cooperative affiliated with FEMUPROCAN, Terrabona, July 21st, 2009









idea so hastily, and continued to press for the national organization to meet their

demands. The leaders of these women, many of whom had risen to positions of some

status and responsibility repeatedly demonstrated that women are producers and they

have a long history of working the land in Nicaragua. They began to denounce

machismo as the main obstacle preventing the integration and participation of women,

in conditions of equality, in the process of agrarian reform as established by law

(FEMUPROCAN 2006, 26-27):

We had the laws in our favor but they served little purpose due to the
machismo that reigned at all levels. Their own husbands were the main
obstacle preventing women from joining and participating in the
organization... the leadership were not clear on the obstacles to women's
participation... women were subordinated... in order to go to a meeting they
had to ask their husband's permission...they had no one to look after the
children... they had no time to do all of their household tasks... They [the
national leadership] did not understand this situation.3

Phase Two: Coffee-Picking Collectives and the Beginning of the Struggle for
Independence: 1984 1986

According to FEMUPROCAN, the formation of the coffee picking brigade Maria

Castil Blanco marked a turning point. They describe the experience of this brigade as

providing the "launch pad" which made the creation of the Women's Secretariat possible

(FEMUPROCAN 2006, 28). By this time, the ATC had already created a women's

secretariat, putting further pressure on the male leadership of UNAG to follow suit. Valle

described to me the difficulties that they had in forming the brigade in the first place. At

first the proposal was dismissed as unworkable, but gradually, through a great deal of

hard work and effort by the women organizers, enough of the male members of UNAG

came around to the idea and agreed to look after their partners' homes whilst they were


3
Benigna Mendiola, FEMUPROCAN member, in an interview carried out during the mid 1980s and
cited by FEMUPROCAN 2006, 27









busy picking coffee. Even so, many of the participants had no choice but to bring their

children with them, carrying the younger ones on their backs. The brigade served to

visibilize the presence of women within the organization and prove to the male

members that they were quite capable of organizing themselves efficiently and

assuming leadership positions. Its main objective was to "create a space for solidarity

among rural women" through the sharing of experiences and opinions (Ibid, 29). This

was especially important to the campesina participants who were sometimes quite

isolated on their cooperatives and wanted to inform themselves about other women's

lives and struggles (Collinson 1990, 54). In 1986, 45 women were mobilized for a period

of forty days in these brigades. One year later this number had increased to over five

hundred. The brigades did not go unnoticed by those outside the movement, receiving

significant media coverage and support from prominent feminist journalists and activists,

publicizing the existence of discrimination against rural women.

However, women still faced difficulties in reaching positions at the higher levels of

the organization and were not trusted with many positions of responsibility. Some posts

were reserved for women, but these were overwhelming those of secretaries and not

those that challenged pre-existing conceptions about the gender division of labor or the

unequal power relations between men and women.

Phase Three: The Creation of the Women's Secretariat

The success of the brigades resulted in the First National Meeting of Peasant

Women and played an important role in persuading the male leaders of UNAG to agree

to the formation of the Women's Secretariat in 1987. However, other factors also

contributed, as Martha Valle explained in 2009:









There were several factors that facilitated the creation of the Women's
Section at that time, among them the fact that the FSLN's leadership had
just adopted the position that women should be integrated in all aspects of
the revolution; that AMNLAE had begun encouraging the formation of
women's secretariats within the various unions and organizations; and that
the women's movement was pushing for "absolute equality between men
and women" in the discussions over the country's new constitution.
(FEMUPROCAN 2006, 7 cited in Valle 2009, 224)

The fact that UNAG's leadership had controlled the process of creation of the

Women's Section seriously limited its power within the organization. Just as in the case

of the CST described by Bickham Mendez (2005) it was the male leaders of UNAG who

determined the priorities and objectives of the women's section, named its leaders and

allocated them a budget. Thus, as Morena Diaz, (currently head of training and

advocacy in FEMUPROCAN but formerly active in UNAG) explained to me, within

UNAG women were only able to advance as far as the men wanted them to and no

further. The men were keen to keep control over the women and worried that the

creation of a women's section would lead to stronger linkages to the women's

movement and a desire to distance themselves from the main organization. They were

uncomfortable with many of the more radical demands being made by some women's

organizations at this time and felt that their positions of power and privilege might be

under attack:

We created the Women's Section with the objective that it would be the
body that worked to organize lines and actions directed towards peasant
women. We were very clear that the idea was not to create a separate
women's movement within the organization, because, as a trade
association, we are a union of men and women and we have to fight for the
interests of all producers and not for the interests of any particular group.4




4 Interview with the leadership of UNAG, carried out by Maria Angelica Faune and cited in
FEMUPROCAN 2006: 32.









Despite these limitations, the Women's Section continued to question the

subordination of women within the organization, resulting in an escalation of tensions

within UNAG and an increasing tendency to demonize talk of women's liberation as a

deviation from the correct role of the organization and a result of penetration by

dangerous "foreign feminist currents" (FEMUPROCAN 2006, 33). In order to dissipate

this tension somewhat the Women's Section found it necessary to subordinate the

specific demands of women to the priorities of the organization as a whole. However,

the women had by no means abandoned their fight.

The first National Assembly of UNAG Women was held in 1989 and highlighted

the range of problems women faced within their cooperatives. Despite legislation, there

were reports of women being paid less than men, and that women still faced

discrimination with regard to access to land. Instead of modifying many of the land titles

to officially include the name of the woman as well as the man, most were simply

"understood to be extended to the man's wife or partner," which was of little use to

many women should they wish to prove their ownership of the land. Furthermore, men

still received more of the better, more fertile land, whilst women were allocated smaller

plots. The Women's Section thus campaigned to increase the number of titles granted

to couples, rather than male household heads (FEMUPROCAN 2006). They also raised

more general, not "women-specific" concerns, reaffirming their ability and right to debate

the same issues as male members.

In the years leading up to the 1990 elections events such as the National Meeting

of Peasant Women Leaders, organized by leaders of the UNAG Women's Section, saw

women producers (both affiliated and not affiliated to UNAG) coming together to









formulate a common platform for struggle. A "Plataforma de Lucha" (Battle Platform)

was agreed upon, which set out the main demands of the women, including but not

limited to land titling in the couple's name, the integration of women into cooperatives,

the punishment of those who physically and /or sexually abuse women or children and

training for women at all levels of the organization (FEMUPROCAN 2006).

The Women's Section reoriented its objectives in the light of this meeting, adopting

the platform as the basis for all of its work. Given that there were still limits to women's

participation in cooperatives, the Women's Secretariat devised alternative modes of

organization for women, mostly financed by international cooperation, including

women's collectives, Women's Associations and mini- projects for women. These

alternative modes increased female participation in UNAG but were not linked to the

production plans of the cooperative and small farm sector which form the backbone of

the organization. This, and the ad hoc nature of many of the women's new forms of

organizing, contributed to the persistence of the idea that women could not produce at

the same level as their male counterparts and that their activities were marginal and of

little overall importance. They thus served to reinforce, rather than challenge, the biased

perceptions about female members held by many of their male counterparts, and did

little to persuade the men that women should be recognized as "producers" in their own

right.

Perhaps one of the toughest battles fought by the women of UNAG was over the

right to be called "productoras." Valle emphasized the symbolic importance this word

had for the female farmers and its contribution to the development of their identity.5 It


5 Interview with Martha Valle, President of FEMUPROCAN, Managua, July 17, 2009









represented the recognition of the value of women's agricultural work as producers in

their own right (rather than as assistants to the men, or inferior workers). It also

suggested that women could have control over their own land and their own production

without permission from the men.

Phase Four: After the 1990 Electoral Defeat of the FSLN the Women's Section
Demands Greater Autonomy

After the defeat of the Sandinistas, UNAG, like the other FSLN mass

organizations, was forced to revaluate its position and way of working. The women

found that although the organization suffered from the withdrawal of financial support,

they were able to find more space to define their own strategies and priorities for action.

During this period the scaling back of services formerly provided by the state and

neoliberal economic policies hit rural women hard. Many struggled to survive and keep

their families together in the context of increasing migration to Costa Rica and economic

crisis in Nicaragua. There were increased reports of domestic violence, and the

Chamorro government favored more traditional views on men's and women's "correct"

roles.

Nevertheless, the Women's Section was strengthened by a number of factors,

including the development of a strong autonomous women's movement in the country,

as discussed in Chapter 2, which helped to keep women's issues on the agenda; the

active role assumed by the Nicaraguan Women's Institute (INIM) in institutionalizing the

topic of gender in those government bodies responsible for the formulation of policy;

and the pressure from international development organizations for UNAG to develop

plans and projects with a gender focus.









The Women's Section succeeded in increasing its total membership in this period,

but in an uneven fashion. Membership actually fell in some regions, with others

experiencing growth rates between 30 and 50%. The largest numbers of members were

found in the departments of Matagalpa, Rivas, Jinotega and Esteli (FEMUPROCAN

2006, 44).

They also encouraged their members to organize themselves into collectives

based on the production of particular goods, cooperatives and second degree

cooperative organizations, which grouped together around 1,400 women, or 13% of the

total members, associations dedicated to specific products or groups of products and

savings clubs (Ibid, 47). Again, the extent to which these alternative organizational

forms were adopted by the women differed from area to area. Those regions with

experienced and dynamic leaders, such as Matagalpa and Rivas flourished, whereas

others made little in the way of real progress.6 Similarly uneven results were reported in

increasing women's access to credit through these new forms of organizing.7

Perhaps one of their greatest successes in this period was their participation in the

struggle to improve women's access to land and their influence in the formulation of

new governmental policies allowing property to be registered in the names of more than

one person, ideally, the couple. This represented an important breakthrough although it

6 Only four of the Department Offices managed to create second degree cooperative organizations: Le6n,
Rivas, Matagalpa and Jinotega. However 90% of the members in this type of organization were located in
Rivas and Matagalpa. Of the groups dedicated to the production of specific products eight were created,
but 48% of the members were concentrated in Matagalpa (FEMUPROCAN 2006, 48)
7 Only the Department Offices of Matagalpa and Jinotega managed to form their own rural savings and
loan associations and only Matagalpa formed a Trading Company (comercializadora). In the case of
Matagalpa, the savings association managed a total of almost US $200,000 and, according to
FEMUPROCAN, had an average repayment rate of 92%. Rivas was able to diversify its sources of
financing, increase the amount of funds available to their office and their capacity to manage these funds
themselves thanks to help from Swissaid and agreements with local NGOs that had credit programs
(FEMUPROCAN 2006, 55)









has not yet had the expected effects (see the section on women's access to land in

Chapter 6).

Despite these successes and evidence that progress was being made, the

Women's Section began to identify limitations in their abilities to achieve their

objectives. One of the most serious was that there had not been sufficient consideration

of the ways in which projects and policies were decided, formulated, implemented and

evaluated. The women realized that the tendency to employ top down methods was

perhaps not the most appropriate way of working, had only limited success and did not

fit in with the overall goals and philosophy that the leaders of the Women's Section were

trying to foster. They thus strove to implement more democratic forms of working, but

were still limited in their freedom to define their objectives and strategies by the

subordinated position of the women's section within UNAG.

Phase Five: The Break with UNAG: 1997-Present

The persistence of male resistance and opposition to the more radical demands of

the Women's Section and their subordination within UNAG gradually began to convince

the women's leaders that they would never be able to achieve their objectives if they

remained within the organization. The men, particularly those at the departmental level,

were especially opposed to the women's attempts to increase their access to and

participation in the leadership structures of UNAG.

The search for greater financial autonomy for the Section also touched a nerve

among the men. At this time, UNAG had experienced a sharp drop in the amount of

funds available to them, and some members felt that their positions were threatened by

the ascent of the women's sector. Tensions mounted to the extent that "women began

to be removed from leadership positions in the organization for one reason or another;









eventually, many of us within the Women's Section were replaced. Other women who

were willing to follow the male leadership of UNAG were given our posts" (Valle 2009,

225). This history has striking similarities with that described by Bickham Mendez on the

MEC's decision to break away from the CST. They too found that those women who

dared to challenge the male leadership were quickly replaced by women willing to tow

the line without complaint. For both groups of women, who had endured years of

discrimination and resistance from many male leaders, the loss of their positions proved

to be the last straw. Men's opposition, by this time, merely served to strengthen the

resolve of the future leaders of FEMUPROCAN to break away from UNAG and set up

their own organization, where they would enjoy real decision making power for the first

time: "Whilst we were the Women's Section in UNAG it is necessary to make it clear

that although we were organized, in reality we didn't have autonomy. We weren't able to

make any decisions...we understand that if you don't have autonomy it is difficult for

you to be able to be recognized as a woman... as a woman producer." 8

The women claimed that it was never their original intention to set up an

independent organization, but in the end, the men left them little alternative. The desire

for autonomy grew ever stronger until, in 1997, the women formed an Organizing

Committee to create a federation of women's cooperatives. Participating in this

committee were Martha Heriberta Valle, Maritza Lainez, Modesta Gonzalez, Matilde

Rocha L6pez and Maria Josefa Martinez. At this point they still believed that it might be

possible to continue their affiliation with UNAG. However, the men saw the formation of

the federation, a third-level organization, as confirming their worst fears about the


8
8Modesta Gonzalez, one of FEMUPROCAN's founders and current coordinator for Nueva Guinea; cited
in FEMUPROCAN 2006, 62









women's threat to existing power relations within UNAG. They stepped up the pressure

on the women to back down: "They took away our vehicles, they took away our salaries,

and there was also pressure from the other companferas [fellow female members of

UNAG]... basically they said to us 'either you go with the federation with nothing or you

stay within UNAG and have a salary and a vehicle."9 This type of ultimatum persuaded

some of the women to abandon the idea of the federation and remain within UNAG, but

many others were not swayed by the pressure and opted for the federation, abandoning

UNAG. 10 On the 20th of November 1997 they formally founded the Federation of Rural

Women Producers.

In the beginning the Federation had very few resources and few supporters. The

national team was comprised of three members, working out of a garage in Managua,

and Modesta Gonzalez described to me that the Nueva Guinea office was little more

than a corner of her house with a typewriter.11 Nevertheless, after having struggled so

long to achieve the freedom to make their own decisions, the women were not about to

give up. The national team now operates out of an air conditioned office in the Bolonia

area of Managua. They have various computers, laptops and audiovisual equipment

and a permanent, full time staff of six. In Nueva Guinea the women held raffles and

other events and, after a lot of effort and perseverance, they managed to buy the land

on which the office sits today. By the second anniversary of the Federation (1999) they


9 Interview with Matilde Rocha, Vice President of FEMUPROCAN, Managua, August 6th, 2009.
10 The women of FEMUPROCAN felt that since their split from UNAG, the Women's Section of this
organization had been marginalized even further. They described how it was confined to a tiny office,
hidden behind the kitchen in UNAG Headquarters and that women were hardly ever seen to be taking on
leadership roles or positions with a high public profile
11 Conversations with Modesta Gonzalez, Regional Coordinator for FEMUPROCAN Nueva Guinea,
Nueva Guinea, July 29th 2009.









had inaugurated the regional office. Half of the cost was covered by Fundaci6n

PRODESA (The Foundation for Promotion and Development) but the women, in

addition to raising money, provided many materials and their labor.

Gonzalez went on to say that in the beginning they didn't even know what to call

themselves as, at the time, Nicaraguan law prevented two federations from operating in

the same sector. With the help of some lawyers sympathetic to their cause, the women

embarked on the long struggle for legal recognition. The women realized that, although

they had broken away from UNAG, the government institutions and the way in which

they treated women remained the same. The federation was determined to change the

machista ways in which these bodies worked, as they realized that they could not just

sit there passively and hope that changes would take place. If this was their strategy,

they argued, they would be waiting forever. With this in mind the women decided that

they would have to actively work towards reducing women's discrimination by

government institutions and policies and engage policymakers and government officials

in debates at every opportunity to try and change their machista attitudes. On top of

this, they still faced opposition and harassment from some of the men in UNAG, who

attempted to divide the women and provoke fights among the members of the new

federation: "Often we went looking for our women and we held our meetings in the road

because we couldn't do it in the houses as the men, angry and upset interfered and

tried to persuade us to split up, but we continued..."12

When these kinds of tactics did not appear to be working the men declared that it

didn't really matter as the organization would not survive long: "First we were "idiots."



12 Clara, President of a FEMUPROCAN cooperative, Terrabona, July 21, 2009









Then we were "putas" [prostitutes]. Then we were "lesbians." Then, when finally they

realized we were serious they said it would never last."13 But FEMUPROCAN did

survive, and found support from several international development organizations, such

as Oxfam Canada and El Centro Cooperativo Sueco (CCS), which provided them with

vital financial and technical assistance to help them get the organization off the ground

and keep it running. One of the first dilemmas faced by the new federation was how to

decide on which issue to tackle first. Ending rural women's subordination and improving

their standard of living would not happen overnight and would require work on many

different aspects of the problem. After some discussions, and with the support of their

NGO partners, the leaders decided that their first priority needed to be raising the

women's self-esteem and confidence in their own abilities. This would be the

foundation, they argued, that would make everything else possible.

Diaz explained that the history of FEMUPROCAN since their independence from

UNAG could be roughly divided into three phases. The first, as mentioned above,

focused a lot on personal development, self-esteem and "empowerment". The leaders

received training on various administrative, methodological and leadership techniques

and activities focused on creating bonds of solidarity among the members. The second

concentrated more on production techniques and strengthening the organization, with

little real attention given to advocacy work. The third and current phase emphasizes the

development of entrepreneurial skills among the members. FEMUPROCAN is

attempting to turn the cooperatives into "cooperative enterprises". They are branching

out beyond production into processing and marketing and more attention is being given


13 Morena Diaz, Head of Training and Advocacy, FEMUPROCAN, Nueva Guinea, July 30, 2009









to advocacy work and lobbying. They are trying to create more linkages with other

organizations in Nicaragua and the region, in order to influence decisions made by

policy makers, and have begun a training program for advocacy promotoras at the local

and regional levels.

FEMUPROCAN Today

FEMUPROCAN today is comprised of 1,767 members belonging to sixty-eight

base level cooperatives. Of these cooperatives, 58 have full legal status, and the

remaining ten are all in the process of legalization. These base level cooperatives are

organized into nine unions of cooperatives and are located in six different departments

of the country; Managua, Granada, Matagalpa, Jinotega, Madriz and RAAS. The

organization's stronghold is in the North and interior of the country, particularly in the

areas of Matagalpa and Jinotega. Leaders are elected democratically and the

Federation is organized through the following structures:

* General Assembly: this is FEMUPROCAN's highest decision making body. Its
mandate is to determine the overarching policies of the organization and approve
its short and medium term plans, provided that these have been formulated in
accordance with FEMUPROCAN's internal regulations. It is comprised of 200
delegates elected via assemblies carried out by the Unions of Cooperatives.
Delegates from the base level cooperatives in all of the regions in which
FEMUPROCAN works participate in these assemblies. Nominally, a General
Assembly must be held every year, with the objective of examining what was
achieved during the past 12 months and approving the plans for the upcoming year
as well as approving the budget for that year and discussing the organization's
finances. This annual meeting is timed to coincide with FEMUPROCAN's
anniversary in November, but can also be convened at other points should the
need arise.

* The National Board of Directors: This is the executive body of FEMUPROCAN,
charged with its administration and management. It is comprised of a President, a
Vice President, a Treasurer and a Trustee who are elected every five years by the
General Assembly. Currently these positions are held by Martha Heriberta Valle
(President), Matilde Rocha L6pez (Vice President), Modesta Gonzalez Amador
(Treasurer) and Maria Elsa Soza Obando (Trustee). Its mandate allows it to









manage the socio-economic activity of the federation in accordance with the
criteria and directives set out by the General Assembly.

* Supervisory Council: this is the body responsible for the auditing and
supervision of FEMUPROCAN and, like the Board of Directors, is elected for five
year periods by the General Assembly. It is made up of members who occupy the
positions of Administrator, Secretary and Trustee. Those elected cannot belong to
any other administrative body (such as the Board of Directors).

* Unions of Cooperatives: At the time of my research many of FEMUPROCAN's
members were organized into one of the nine unions of cooperatives affiliated with
the organization. These were comprised of base level cooperatives, and
democratically elected their representatives in a similar fashion to that described
above for FEMUPROCAN.

* Grassroots or Base Level Cooperatives: individual rural women producers join
together to form cooperatives in order to either produce collectively, or gain
collective access to credit and services. Each cooperative periodically holds
elections for the positions of responsibility, (President, Vice President, etc.).

* Work Councils: are elected within base level cooperatives if deemed appropriate.
They are designed to increase the level of self-sufficiency and ability of the
cooperatives to manage their own affairs.









CHAPTER 5
NGOS, SOCIAL MOVEMENTS AND TRADE ASSOCIATIONS: WHERE DOES
FEMUPROCAN FIT IN?

When breaking away from UNAG the women in FEMUPROCAN had a number of

options regarding the type of organization they could become. This chapter will

investigate why they have chosen to define themselves as a women's trade association

instead of opting to become an NGO and examine the benefits and drawbacks of this

decision. Does FEMUPROCAN form part of a social movement in Nicaragua or have

they reduced the strength of their rhetoric about social transformation after breaking

away from the Sandinista party? Have they been reduced to an interest group seeking

to maximize benefits for their members or are they aiming for larger, more fundamental

changes?

During the 1990s, the NGO-ization of social movements, and women's

movements in particular, across Latin America became the focus of much concern and

scholarly research. For women's movements this phenomenon has been translated into

pressure to professionalize and develop good relationships with foreign NGOs and

donor agencies. This can lead to accusations that the leadership loses touch with the

grassroots and that the organization becomes more accountable to its foreign partners

than to its membership at the base level. Many scholars have pointed out that the lines

between social movement organizations and NGOs are becoming ever more blurred

(e.g. Bickham Mendez 2005). It is increasingly difficult to draw a line between the two,

and some scholars have argued that it is no longer appropriate to even attempt to do

so.

Although FEMUPROCAN does not portray itself as an NGO, it has faced some of

the same pressure to professionalize and engage with transnational discourses of









feminism and international development. Part of my research therefore aimed to

analyze the extent to which they have been affected by the processes of NGO-ization,

and the nature of the contact the leadership maintains with the women at the base level.

As with the case of the MEC, I expected that this process would have led to certain

disagreements within the organization, and had an effect on the strategies, discourses

and programs employed and carried out by FEMUPROCAN. However, just as the

women of the MEC placed strict boundaries on the degree to which they were prepared

to accommodate the desires of their foreign partners, FEMUPROCAN also has certain

beliefs and areas about which they refuse to compromise, and others in which there is

some room for negotiation and modification.

Firstly it is necessary to define some of the main terms to be used in this chapter,

to examine to what extent NGOs, social movements, trade unions and trade

organizations overlap, and in what fundamental ways they differ. It will then be possible

to examine the development of FEMUPROCAN in the light of these definitions and

explain why they have chosen the path that they have, and how this affects their ability

to achieve their aims.

Defining Social Movements

Many of these terms are still the subject of fierce debate amongst scholars, and

social movements are no exception. There appear to be almost as many definitions as

there are social movements, and there is not space here to go into the intricacies of all

of the arguments, but it is worth mentioning a few of the most prominent thinkers in this

field before arriving at the definition to be used in this thesis. Perhaps one of the most

widely cited early definitions of the term comes from Herbert Blumer (1939) who writes

that social movements are "collective enterprises seeking to establish a new order of









life. They... derive their motive power on one hand from dissatisfaction with the current

form of life and, on the other hand, from wishes and hopes for a new scheme or system

of living" (Blumer 1969, 99).

The concept was theorized in much greater detail by the French sociologist Alain

Touraine. He emphasized that social movements "represent conflicting efforts to control

cultural patterns (knowledge, investment, ethics) in a given societal type" (Touraine

1985, 776). Writers pointed to the fact that participants in social movements were

normally those individuals lacking access to and influence in formal decision making

spheres (Smith, Pagnucco and Chatfield 1997, 59). From these definitions it is clear that

the idea of "struggle" and transformation of the status quo is generally accepted as a

common characteristic of social movements. Related to this, Sidney Tarrow introduced

the concept of "contentious politics" as the key to differentiating social movements from

other types of collective action. He sees social movements as a modern phenomenon,

whose emergence is due to a change in political opportunities:

Contentious politics occurs when ordinary people, often in league with more
influential citizens, join forces in confrontations with elites, authorities, and
opponents. Such confrontations go back to the dawn of history. But
mounting, coordinating, and sustaining them against powerful opponents
are the unique contribution of the social movement, an invention of the
modern age and an accompaniment to the rise of the modern state. I
argue... that contentious politics is triggered when changing political
opportunities and constraints create opportunities for social actors who lack
resources on their own. They contend through known repertoires of
contention and expand them by creating innovations at their margins. When
backed by dense social networks and galvanized by culturally resonant,
action-oriented symbols, contentious politics leads to sustained interaction
with opponents. The result is the social movement. (Tarrow 1998, 2)

Charles Tilly, in addition to recognizing that contentious politics form a major

component of social movements, also pointed to the importance of attachment to a

particular set of beliefs or particular types of actions in the creation and maintenance of









these movements. He thus expanded the definition of what constitutes a social

movement to encompass more than merely the participants and their organizations and

identified a number of important dilemmas for students of social movements around the

world:

The notion of a 'movement' is more complicated than the ideas of groups
and events. By a social movement we often mean a group of people
identified by their attachment to some particular set of beliefs. In that case,
the population in question can change drastically, but so long as some
group of people is still working with the same beliefs, we consider the
movement to survive. Thus the Women's Movement survives major
changes in composition and internal organization. But the movement also
commonly means action. People writing histories of the women's movement
are quite likely to include past heroines who were quite different in beliefs
and personal characteristics from current activists, just so long as their
actions were similar or had similar effects. The fact that population, belief,
and action do not always change together causes serious problems for
students of social movements. When they diverge, should we follow the
beliefs, whatever populations and actions they become associated with?
Should we follow the population, whatever beliefs and actions it adopts?
Should we follow the action, regardless of who does it and with what ideas?
(Tilly 1978, 9-10)

According to Tilly, social movements are made up of a number of essential

elements. The first, campaigns, refers to an organized, public, sustained appeal to the

relevant authorities to hear the collective claims of the movement participants.

Repertoire describes the range of types of action from which social movements can

choose. These include a wide variety of techniques, from the formation of special-

purpose associations to public meetings, processions, demonstrations and media spots.

Finally, and an essential component of the repertoire of any social movement, is what

Tilly defined as WUNC displays. These are related to representations of the social

movement by the participants, which help to define its public image and take the form of

displays of worthiness, unity, numbers, and commitments.









Resource mobilization theorists, on the other hand, explained that social

movements were nothing more than "organizations that help rational actors participate

more effectively in the political system than in other kinds of organizations or in purely

individual capacities" (Finger 1994, 54). These scholars believed that the emergence

and success of these social movements was related to political opportunity structures at

the moment in question.

Scholars of New Social Movements emphasized the cultural in the struggles of

social movements. The idea that social movements were acting in order to transform

cultural symbols and practices was nothing new, but New Social Movement theorists

linked these cultural struggles to the processes of development, the spread of global

capitalism and neoliberal ideologies, and the expansion of the reach of the state.

Drawing on poststructuralist theories these scholars argued that "conflicts arise not only

over the distribution of goods and power, hence not only as conflicts of interest, but over

socially shared meanings as well, i.e., over the ways of defining and interpreting reality.

These conflicts arise in areas previously considered typical of the private sphere,

involving problems of self-definition and challenges to the dominant lifestyles" (Lebon

1996, 590-591). These conflicts of meaning are also evident in the differing definitions

of what constitutes a social movement. Different individuals construct their own

meanings for the term and who are we to judge which definitions are more valid than

others? After all, as Jelin observes, one must not forget that "it is the researcher who

proposes the reading of a set of practices as a social movement... Social movements

are objects constructed by the researcher, which do not necessarily coincide with the


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empirical form of collective action. Seen from the outside, they may present a certain

degree of unity, but internally they are always heterogeneous, diverse." 1

With this consideration in mind, for the purposes of this thesis I decided to adopt a

similar approach to that taken by Bickham Mendez in her ethnography of the MEC. She

recognizes the importance of finding out how the women in MEC view their actions, and

in taking their definitions of social movements and collective action into account when

analyzing the organization:

In my view the diverse theories on social movements demonstrate that
these movements cannot be reduced to their organizations, goals, and
practices. A structural yet culturally informed approach to social movements
reveals other cultural, subjective and identity-based dimensions. ..if,
however, we take an approach that legitimates the subjectivities and
perspectives of participants in social movements, then we cannot ignore
how these participants interpret their own actions... My analysis takes
seriously how the women of MEC see their collective actions. (Bickham
Mendez 2005, 65)

Thus, when I arrived in Managua I was keen to find out not only about the goals,

actions and practices of the organization, but also to discover how the women viewed

their own participation. I attempted to understand the nature of the struggles in which

they were involved and the ways in which they were "doing politics." I would incorporate

these insights into my definition of what constitutes a social movement.

Difference Between a Social Movement and a Social Movement Organization
(SMO)

Many scholars have questioned the idea that a social movement is no more, or

less, than the organizations which participate in it. For me, the term social movement

implies a shared identity, beliefs and practices related to how an excluded or

marginalized group aims to transform society. Any organization or individual who shares

1 Jelin (1986, 22) cited in Alvarez and Escobar (1992 ,6)


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these characteristics may be considered part of the social movement. Therefore, in my

opinion, FEMUPROCAN cannot be a rural women's social movement, but it can

participate in the rural women's social movement. These participating organizations can

be defined as social movement organizations. Lofland summarizes the difference

between the two concepts quite well:

SMOs [Social Movement Organizations] commonly but not always have an
office, phone, publication, list of members, and other accoutrements of
explicit association. Because of such features one can literally telephone
and physically visit SMOs... In contrast, as a broad bracketing of hundreds
or thousands of such movement organizations and other persons and
activities, SMs [Social Movements] cannot be located in any single place or
simply dialed. (Lofland 1996, 12)

However, I disagree with Lofland's contention that social movements consist of

hundreds or thousands of organizations. They may, or they may consist of a few

individuals and groups. For me it is not a question of numbers but rather a matter of the

difference between a set of ideas and the organizations formed to promote these ideas,

as Smith et al. observe: "Social movement organizations (SMOs) are those formal

groups explicitly designed to promote specific social changes. They are the principal

carriers of social movements insofar as they mobilize new human and material

resources, activating and coordinating strategic action throughout ebbs and flows of

movement energy" (Smith, Pagnucco and Chatfield 1997, 60).

Defining Social Movement Organizations

Thus, based on my interpretation of the existing literature on the subject and my

fieldwork in Nicaragua, I define some of the key characteristics for social movement

organizations as:

* Contentious politics and a desire to transform the status quo for the benefit of
the participants in the movement. This can take many forms, including struggles
over cultural norms (such as gender roles), but I was expecting to be able to


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clearly identify the goals of FEMUPROCAN in transforming some aspects of
Nicaraguan society as a whole. I was also looking for evidence of sustained
opposition to the power-holders by the social movement in their desire to achieve
their goals. For FEMUPROCAN I expected that the power-holders in question
would sometimes be the government, sometimes be men, sometimes perhaps be
big business and/or proponents of the free market. Moving up the scale, I was
interested to find out whether FEMUPROCAN had extended its contentious politics
to encompass international actors such as the World Trade Organization, the IMF
or the World Bank.

* The construction of a shared identity, a set of beliefs and/or practices on
which the movement is based. In the case of FEMUPROCAN I was interested to
find out whether they had successfully constructed the identity of rural women
producers among their members and whether this collective identity was also
recognized by those outside the movement.

* Collective actions and cooperation among the participants in the social
movement based on their shared identity and goals. The forms these actions take
may differ over time but they should reaffirm the members' commitment to the
overarching goals of the movement.

Defining Trade Associations

Organizaciones gremiales, translated from now on as trade associations, can be

defined as a formal association of people who have similar interests because they work

in a particular field. Besides carrying out lobbying and advocacy work on behalf of their

members, trade associations in the Third World often facilitate the acquisition of

technical skills and knowledge by their members. Requirements for membership may

vary but, at least in the First World, there is normally an annual membership fee and a

commitment to maintain a certain standard of work. Membership dues, certification

exams, publications and events provide sufficient funds for the effective functioning of

many of these organizations in the Global North. As can be seen by FEMUPROCAN,

however such organizations located in the South may not collect enough money from

subscriptions to sustain themselves without the assistance of international donor NGOs.


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Defining NGOs

The term Nongovernmental Organization (NGO) was coined by the United Nations

after the Second World War and has now slipped into popular usage (Tinker 1999, 89).

The problem seems to be that although many people profess to have at least a vague

understanding of what the term means, the definitions given by most international

bodies remain precisely that, vague. The matter was further complicated by the rise of

so-called INGOs (International Nongovernmental Organizations), BONGOS (Business-

Organized Nongovernmental Organizations), BINGOS (Business Interest NGOs) and

GONGOS (Government-Organized NGOs).2 Indeed the literature has become crowded

with endless acronyms poking fun at this very phenomenon (e.g. MONGOs, my own

NGOs and, perhaps best of all, FLAMINGOs, Flashy Minded NGOs for the rich (Gotz

2008)). However, despite these word games, many of the articles written fail to provide

a precise definition of exactly what the term NGO means today.

It seems logical to start one's research by going to the original source of the word,

the United Nations. According to the UN Economic and Social Committee an

international NGO was defined as "any organization that is not established by an

agreement among governments" (Iriye 2002, 2). Since then the UN has elaborated on

the first definition, in an attempt to clarify their understanding of the concept:

A non-governmental organization (NGO) is a not-for-profit, voluntary
citizens' group, which is organized on a local, national or international level
to address issues in support of the public good. Task-oriented and made up
of people with common interests, NGOs perform a variety of services and
humanitarian functions, bring citizens' concerns to governments, monitor
policy and programme implementation, and encourage participation of civil

2 This proliferation of NGOs of all shapes and sizes, reflecting a wide variety of interests, raised questions
about the motives behind their formation and was neatly satirized by Gino Lofredo in his essay "Help
Yourself by Helping The Poor" (1995).


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society stakeholders at the community level. They provide analysis and
expertise, serve as early warning mechanisms, and help monitor and
implement international agreements. Some are organized around specific
issues, such as human rights, the environment or health. (United Nations
n.d.)

However, despite the apparent thoroughness of this definition, when one analyzes

it carefully one realizes that it could be applied to a wide range of vastly different groups

(and indeed NGOs may differ greatly from one another), including some unexpected

types of organizations. Tinker observes that; "as a residual category, the term covers a

wide range of groups that are not commonly thought of today as nongovernmental

organizations: trade union federations, business councils, international unions of

scholars, lay religious councils, and professional associations" (Tinker 1999, 89).

The task of defining "NGOs" is further complicated by the differences in legal

regulations designed to govern these types of organizations in different countries

(European Commission 2000). Not only that but NGOs range from tiny organizations

staffed by a few volunteers or part time employees to huge, multinational organizations

with thousands of members and hundreds of salaried staff. So it is clear that size cannot

be a defining characteristic of an NGO.

If one turns to look at the ways in which NGOs work, their areas of focus, and their

objectives, one finds a similar problem. Willets identifies two main types of NGOs in

functional terms; operational and/or advocacy organizations: "Operational NGOs

contribute to the delivery of services (such as in the field of welfare), whereas the

primary aim of advocacy NGOs is to influence the policies of public authorities and

public opinion in general" (Willetts n.d.).


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Such complications have not, however, precluded attempts to identify common

characteristics shared by the vast majority of NGOs. These can be summarized as

follows:

* Voluntary most NGOs are organizations that were formed voluntarily, allow at
least some degree of voluntary participation by individuals, and are open to all
those who wish to join (Iriye 2002; Willetts n.d.; European Commission 2000)

* Non-state and non partisan independent of all governments, political parties or
groups attempting to take control of the state.

* Nonprofit NGOs are not designed to generate personal profits for their founders
or members: "Although they may have paid employees and engage in revenue-
generating activities they do not distribute profits or surpluses to members or
management" (European Commission 2000, 3).

* Nonreligious organizations affiliated with churches and other religious
institutions form another group of international development organizations,
normally termed faith-based organizations.

* Nonmilitary and nonviolent NGOs refrain from direct intervention using the
force of arms, although at times they may play an important role in mediating
peace negotiations and monitoring the activities of armed forces/paramilitary
groups to ensure that human rights are upheld, or in providing humanitarian
assistance to victims of armed struggles.

* Some formal organizational structures e.g. Statutes, Mission Statements,
Objectives (although NGOs may vary greatly in terms of their internal organization
and ways of working)

* Accountable to members and donors NGOs must provide reports on their
activities to their members and donors. However they have sometimes been
criticized for their lack of accountability to the "target populations" or participants in
their projects. (Pearce 1993, 223)

* Not linked to particular commercial organizations (European Commission 2000)

* Independent from criminal groups NGOs refrain from criminal activity and
normally abide by the regulations of the country in which they operate.

* Altruism NGOs' aim is "to act in the public arena at large, on concerns and
issues related to the well being of people, specific groups of people or society as a
whole. They are not pursuing the commercial or professional interests of their
members" (European Commission 2000, 4)


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DeMars argues that "NGOs are private actors pursuing public purposes... As

private actors, NGOs do not seek to control the levers of public power. Therefore they

neither organize for elections like political parties, nor use violence to seize power like

terrorists and insurgents. In contrast to firms, NGOs do not pursue the private profit of

their owners or shareholders. Instead, they articulate and claim to serve a broad, public

purpose based on universal (or species) rights and needs" (DeMars 2006, 41-42). He

then goes on to point out that one of the main sources of controversy when discussing

NGO theory and practice is the ways in which "private actor" and "public purpose" are

defined, by whom and on what basis. He rightfully points out that these are contested

concepts, whose meanings are not fixed, changing with time and from society to

society. Again, this highlights the importance of understanding how the women of

FEMUPROCAN define NGOs and considering their opinions in analyzing the extent of

FEMUPROCAN's NGO-ization. Given that boundaries between public and private can

sometimes be unclear and the source of disagreement within a society, it is not

surprising that one can find a whole range of self-styled "NGOs" with obvious links to a

particular political party, engaged in a wide range of commercial income generating

activities (e.g. producing publications or providing consultancy services to other

organizations) (Willetts n.d.). On the other hand there are certain activities and

organizational forms, such as government bureaucracies, political parties, companies,

criminal organizations or guerrilla groups, which are almost universally seen as

unacceptable for an NGO (Ibid.).

My analysis of FEMUPROCAN examines the extent to which they fit the model of

an NGO by using the ten criteria outlined above and incorporating the viewpoints of my


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informants, who tended to define NGOs as organizations staffed by professional, well

educated women and funded with international money. Internally NGOs were regarded

as undemocratic, with a tendency towards top-down leadership and little accountability

to the women involved in their projects. For these reasons it was hardly surprising that

the women of FEMUPROCAN were quick to reject any suggestions that their

organization had undergone any of the effects of NGO-ization.

Difference between an NGO and a social movement or social movement
organization

Now that definitions for both social movement organizations and NGOS have been

established, it is useful to highlight the differences between the two. There has been a

tendency in the literature to write off the actions of NGOs as inherently less political than

those of social movement organizations. NGOs are seen to focus on "quick fixes" to

immediate problems, whereas SMOs attempt to bring about long term changes. James

Petras, for example, argues that the main difference between NGOs and social

movements is that NGOs, although they adopt much of the same rhetoric used by social

movement participants, attempt to be non-confrontational, and thus often fail to address

the underlying reasons for structural inequalities in a society:

NGOs emphasize projects, not movements; they "mobilize" people to
produce at the margins but not to struggle to control the basic means of
production and wealth; they focus on technical financial assistance of
projects, not on structural conditions that shape the everyday lives of
people. The NGOs co-opt the language of the left: "popular power,"
"empowerment," "gender equality," "sustainable development," "bottom-up
leadership." The problem is that this language is linked to a framework of
collaboration with donors and government agencies that subordinate
practical activity to nonconfrontational politics. (Petras 1997, 11)

This approach seems rather narrow and overly simplistic. Petras focuses on only

one type of NGO, ignoring the fact that there are huge differences among NGOS. Some


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do seek primarily to address basic needs or provide services without much

consideration of why the people need the services in the first place, or how to stop

people from finding themselves in a similar situation in the future. On the other hand

advocacy NGOs seek to bring about policy changes, and challenge current government

practices or existing regulations. Many NGOs combine aspects of service provision and

advocacy, mixing short term projects with longer term objectives.

Much depends on what is defined as "political" or "contentious politics." Women's

organizations, for example, were often seen as inherently "apolitical," and thus women's

movements were not considered to be social movements in the same way as labor

movements (Bickham Mendez 2005, 66). The reality, as always, depends on the

meanings we give to certain words, and how these words are interpreted by others,

especially those in positions of power and responsibility.

Bickham Mendez (2005) cautions against the construction of a false dichotomy

between NGOs and social movement organizations, writing that "reducing social

movement organizations to an objective view of "contentious" politics and NGOs to their

"information politics" runs the risk of reifying the revolutionary versus reformist

dichotomy" (64). She illustrates that the boundaries between the two are blurred and

shift over time. Many organizations combine certain characteristics normally associated

with NGOs, with others generally attributed to social movements. As organizations

develop over time, they constantly adjust these combinations of characteristics,

meaning that a group such as the MEC may easily be considered a social movement

organization one day, and NGO the next, depending on the moments, and who is doing


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the asking. In the case of the MEC, Bickham Mendez views this as a deliberate

strategy on the part of the leaders:

As MEC leaders commit to "rompiendo esquemas," the breaking of
patterns, they are attempting to create an organization that merges the
commitment to populism practiced within the mass organizations of the
Sandinistas with the bureaucratization and professionalism that are
increasingly necessary for social justice organizations, and perhaps
democratic politics, in a context of the developing world under conditions of
globalization. (Bickham Mendez 2005, 122)

Peter Willets (n.d.) also disagrees with the tendency to contrast nongovernmental

organizations and social movements, but for different reasons. He points out that the

term "social movement" implies coordination and cooperation among a number of

different groups with shared objectives. Often some of these groups are in fact NGOs.

For Willets, NGOs form an essential component of social movements because:

If an idea is to catch the imagination of people, it has to be articulated by
leaders through speeches, pamphlets or visual images. If the idea is going
to reach large numbers of people, resources have to be mobilized and
allocated to communication processes. If demonstrations are to occur, they
have to be organized. If a movement is to achieve change, priorities have to
be selected and targets designated. If a protest lasts more than a few days
to become a movement, existing organizations or new organizations will
provide the skeleton that transforms an amorphous mass into a strong
body. (Willetts n.d.)

I therefore expected to find that although FEMUPROCAN may appear to fit the

definition of social movement organization, popular membership organization or NGO

described above, they were likely to have incorporated elements traditionally associated

with other organizational forms. Whether they emerged looking more like an NGO or an

SMO, they were likely to participate in the broader women's movements in Nicaragua.


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FEMUPROCAN

So where does FEMUPROCAN fit into all this? The leaders repeatedly reaffirmed

that the movement was not an NGO, but rather a trade association for women

producers.

FEMUPROCAN as Trade Association

On paper, certainly, the organization seems to fit the profile of a popular

membership organization better than that of most definitions of NGOs. Its membership

is comprised of women engaged in the same types of economic activity, namely

agriculture and raising livestock, and organized into cooperatives. Theoretically the

members of FEMUPROCAN pay monthly dues to belong to the organization, which is

primarily designed to further the interests of its members. Both the national and local

leadership are elected democratically by the membership. Many of these leaders were

once producers themselves, and come from relatively poor backgrounds. They

asserted that they too were "women from the grassroots" and that they maintained a

connection to the countryside and the base of the organization despite being based

largely in Managua. Having an office in the Nicaraguan capital allows the national

leadership to engage in lobbying and advocacy work to advance the interests of their

members. In this way, FEMUPROCAN could be seen as an interest group or popular

organization.

On the other hand, although FEMUPROCAN's membership is supposed to pay

monthly dues for the upkeep of the organization, the reality is that less than twenty per

cent of members actually contribute. In most membership-based organizations in the

developed world, failure to pay would lead to automatic dismissal from the organization.

In FEMUPROCAN, not paying subscriptions appears to lead to nothing more than


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exasperation from the national leadership and a reminder of the importance of

contributing to the organization. Many of the members may genuinely not be able to

afford even the small amounts required by FEMUPROCAN, but one can't help but

wonder how successful the leadership is going to be in encouraging more members to

pay if those who don't appear not to be penalized in any way. The money comes from

external sources, from FEMUPROCAN's international NGO partners.

FEMUPROCAN as Social Movement Organization

However, when one examines the goals of the organization, it becomes clear that

FEMUPROCAN is not just seeking to secure benefits for its members but it is also

fighting to transform Nicaraguan society in a number of ways. This involves working

towards gender equality and for recognition of the importance and value of rural women

producers to the country. The vision of FEMUPROCAN is stated as: "to achieve the

greater participation of rural women producers and entrepreneurs in the economic and

social affairs of the country" (FEMUPROCAN n.d.). These women currently face triple

discrimination due to their rurality, their gender, and their poverty. FEMUPROCAN has

fought hard to construct this shared identity among its members and for recognition of

this identity as rural women producers by the wider Nicaraguan population. They are

involved in contentious politics in that they are challenging the mainstream discourses

about gender roles and the position of rural people in modern Nicaraguan society.

FEMUPROCAN's workshops on women's rights and stated aim to train capable,

empowered women leaders is evidence that the organization shares certain beliefs and

practices with other organizations of women working in Nicaragua. In this way

FEMUPROCAN forms part of the wider women's movement in the country, and in

particular, is a major player in the rural women's movement. So is FEMUPROCAN


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actually more of a social movement organization? The answer is not that simple. In

fact, in a number of important ways FEMUPROCAN fits the profile of an NGO.

FEMUPROCAN as NGO

Like many other organizations in Nicaragua over the past two decades,

FEMUPROCAN has not been immune to the processes of NGO-ization sweeping

across the region. They have faced pressure to professionalize their organization,

expanding their Managua team of full-time paid employees and moving the

headquarters from its original location, in a garage, to an air-conditioned office in the

Bolonia area of Managua.3 This office is equipped with four desktop computers, all with

access to the internet, a phone line and fax numbers. FEMUPROCAN also owns two

laptop computers and various other items of audiovisual equipment, allowing them to

show PowerPoint presentations and videos during the workshops. Not only have the

Managua team learned how to use a number of different computer programs to produce

a wide range of printed materials, they have also trained in a number of different

methodologies required by their NGO partners. For example, the system of planning,

monitoring and evaluation being implemented at the moment uses logical frameworks to

identify goals and indicators at each stage of the process.

Each member of the national team has a clearly defined role and area of

expertise, (although they admitted that everybody helps one another out as much as

possible when the workload is heavy). Further evidence of increasing specialization of

FEMUPROCAN's leadership can be found by analyzing the ways in which the national



3 This area, fashionable and expensive a few years ago, and the location for many embassies and
consulates, has recently experienced a period of decline. Nevertheless it is still described in travel guides
as "Managua's finest residential neighborhood" (Arghiris & Leonardi, 2008)


113









team talk about their work. The women at the headquarters have all become fluent in

"developmentspeak," adapting their vocabulary to reflect fashionable trends in

international development discourse. These discourses have not only served to alter the

way in which the women talk about their work, but they also seem to have influenced

the whole structure of the organization and its stated goals. For example,

FEMUPROCAN talks about "mainstreaming gender" and identifies four "cross-cutting

themes": Gender and Development, Cooperativism, Women Entrepreneurs and the

Environment (noticeably absent from this list is any consideration of race). They claim

that they integrate these four topics into all of their actions.

Many social movements are identified by their active opposition to the status quo

in some form or other, and the engagement in a number of forms of contentious politics

(e.g. mass demonstrations, protest marches, petitions and, sometimes, acts of civil

disobedience). NGOs, by contrast, are normally seen to be less overtly confrontational.

FEMUPROCAN, although it has educated its members about their rights and

encouraged them to participate in politics, has, on the whole, shied away from

organizing and/or officially participating in many of these highly visible forms of protest

or vocal opposition to particular policies. Although they claim to be fighting to end rural

women's subordination in Nicaragua they have remained silent (as an organization) on

the more controversial aspects of women's rights (such as abortion and women's

reproductive rights) and focused instead on the less "risky" issues of rural women's

economic rights.

The projects implemented by FEMUPROCAN and its provision of credit and

training services to its members also appear to fit in better with the role normally


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assigned to nongovernmental organizations, rather than social movements. Their

primary aim appears to be to improve the material well-being of their beneficiaries, not

to pressure power-holders into changing policies or transforming systems. Could it be

that FEMUPROCAN, in its determination to distance itself from party politics, has

chosen to refrain from all political protest as an organization and focus on encouraging

their individual members to participate in actions organized by others on an individual

basis? This may well be the most prudent strategy, given the current Ortega

administration's crackdown on more radical women's groups protesting the ban on

therapeutic abortion. Nonetheless, this sort of reluctance to take a public position on

many issues is not what is normally associated with social movement organizations.

FEMUPROCAN, in this regard, could be seen to be concentrating on the provision of

services (a role usually carried out by NGOs) rather than the mobilization of its

members.

In keeping with the definition of NGOs outlined above, one could argue that the

goals of the organization are altruistic and that it is a private organization pursuing a

public purpose .They aim to improve the lives of some of the poorest people in

Nicaragua, both economically and with regard to their position in society.

FEMUPROCAN seeks not only to achieve change at the macro level, but also at the

level of the individual, through a process of personal development and leadership. At

the same time they are helping to ensure the basic needs of their members are met.

Few could argue that these are not examples of altruism.

Aside from the desire to generate enough money to pay for the administrative

costs of FEMUPROCAN (including the salaries of the leadership), the training programs


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and the projects formulated by the organization, FEMUPROCAN is not geared towards

the pursuit of profit. They seek to increase the profits made by their members, but the

overwhelming majority of this money would remain with the producers at the grassroots

(with a small percentage being reinvested in the individual cooperative to pay for future

initiatives and projects). The members of the national leadership do not earn high

salaries, and the promotoras are provided with a very minimal amount of money for the

amount of time and effort some of them put into their work. Thus, overall

FEMUPROCAN could be classified as a nonprofit organization.

They do not maintain any official ties to political parties (for more information on

this please refer to the section on autonomy), religious organizations, commercial

enterprises or groups engaged in illegal and/or violent activities. Although they

sometimes are consulted about policy decisions by institutions linked to the Nicaraguan

government, FEMUPROCAN is not employed by the state and is not dependent on the

state for funding. Many of the members were active participants in the Sandinista

revolution of 1979 but this has not translated into any form of military or armed action by

FEMUPROCAN.

Membership is entirely voluntary, and open to all who fulfill the criteria outlined by

the individual cooperatives at the grassroots. However, although members and

cooperatives may leave the organization at any time, it is up to the individual

cooperatives to determine the rules regarding re-entry into the cooperative. In this way

FEMUPROCAN differs from many NGOs who allow people to join, withdraw their

support and then subsequently rejoin as many times as they please.


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Perhaps some of the most important contrasts between NGOs as defined above

and FEMUPROCAN are related to the question of organizational structure and

accountability. Both in much of the literature and in many of my conversations with

members of FEMUPROCAN NGOs were characterized as top down, hierarchical

organizations led by unelected professionals with little accountability to the participants

in the projects implemented by the organization. Whilst FEMUPROCAN does indeed

have a clear chain of command, and various hierarchical tendencies remain, the

leadership (both the national and the local) are elected by the membership and can be

held accountable by the grassroots for the projects implemented and strategies chosen.

As explained in the section on autonomy, FEMUPROCAN is also accountable to its

donors, as are all NGOs, but it differs in that all of the grassroots women interviewed

responded that they felt that the FEMUPROCAN's national leadership was willing to

listen to the concerns of women at the base. These women form both the "target group"

and the membership of FEMUPROCAN, and they feel confident that any complaints or

problems they encountered with the projects would be addressed quickly and without

many objections from those responsible for its design, implementation, monitoring and

evaluation.

Like many NGOs, FEMUPROCAN has sought to formalize its organizational

structures and procedures. They produce a range of promotional literature in which the

mission statement and vision of the organization are clearly identified, and the principal

objectives are described. They have introduced standardized methods for the

formulation, monitoring and evaluation of the projects implemented by the various

cooperatives. Regular meetings are scheduled and clear job titles (and associated


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responsibilities) are defined. In this way FEMUPROCAN appears to more closely

resemble an NGO than the more informal relationships often found in studies of social

movement organizations.

However, once we remember that the women in FEMUPROCAN associated

NGOs with urban, well educated and professional women, it again becomes clear that

the organization should not necessarily be described as completely NGO-ized. Many of

the national leadership had been farmers themselves, or come from rural areas. Martha

Valle did not learn to read until the Sandinista literacy campaign in the 1980s, and

Blanca Torres still tried to return to her home in Matagalpa as often as she could at the

weekends. She had first become involved in FEMUPROCAN by joining her local

cooperative, and had risen through the organization to become a vital member of the

Managua team. Torres was now being paid to study Gender and Development at the

Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) in her time off and acted as FEMUPROCAN's

official representative at the meetings of the women's economic agenda organized by

UNIFEM. She was clear evidence of the pressures for professionalization and

specialization identified by Alvarez (1998) as key components of the NGO-ization of

women's organizations. However Blanca also supported FEMUPROCAN's assertion

that they were not an NGO and that their leadership maintained contact with the

grassroots of the organization, being grassroots women themselves.

Cooperative Organizations and FEMUPROCAN

In contrast to the MEC the members of FEMUPROCAN are organized into

cooperatives and unions of cooperatives affiliated to the national organization.

Cooperatives range from loose associations of people who come together to gain

access to a particular resource or service to groups in which all resources are pooled


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among members and every stage of production and marketing is organized collectively.

Some cooperatives require membership fees or enforce strict regulations about

conditions for entry and continued membership whereas others are more informal,

looser groups of people with members who come and go over time. There are

cooperatives that were formed by governments, social movement organizations and

NGOs, but there are also those founded by the members themselves on their own

initiative. The degree of internal democracy may also vary, but many cooperatives hold

periodic elections for the posts of President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Secretary and

other leadership positions. These people often represent the cooperative in its dealings

with other organizations and government institutions, coordinate meetings and manage

the day to day business of running the cooperative. Normally all members of the

cooperative are given a chance to express their opinions and participate in important

decision making processes. Cooperatives are likely to hold periodic general assemblies

to which all members are invited, organize work councils to focus on specific tasks or

activities and hold training sessions open to members (including the dissemination of

training and skills learned by cooperative representatives at regional or national

meetings of larger organizations).

In Nicaragua, the FSLN encouraged the formation of cooperatives after the 1979

revolution in both the urban and rural areas by a combination of economic pressure and

persuasion (Bugajski 1990, 54). The mass organizations affiliated to the Sandinista

party in the countryside, the ATC and, later, UNAG played a key role in mobilizing the

peasantry and forming cooperatives. The vast majority of land redistributed under the

FSLN agrarian reform was allocated to the cooperative sector and many peasants


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realized that their best chance of accessing land and credit was to organize as a

cooperative (Ibid.). For the FSLN, the objective of cooperative organizations should

have been to produce and manage resources collectively and, initially, private sector

initiatives in which members maintained an individual stake in profit sharing were

discouraged. The growth and development of cooperative farms was further

encouraged throughout the period of Sandinista government by the provision of

significant state subsidies and government resources to campesinos organized into

cooperatives, even if these cooperatives were not economically self-sustaining or

functioning properly. This tended to create a degree of dependency and expectation of

handouts among cooperative members.

There were two main kinds of cooperatives founded by the FSLN: Credit and

Service Cooperatives (CCS) and Sandinista Agricultural Cooperatives (CAS). In the

case of the CCS, credit and technical assets were held collectively but land remained in

the hands of the individual producers. Members were able to make their own decisions

about which crop varieties to cultivate, but were expected to sell their production

through the state marketing agency, the Nicaraguan Enterprise of Basic Foodstuffs

(ENABAS). Any government assistance or subsidies granted to the cooperative were

administered by the cooperative leadership and benefits shared among members.

The production cooperatives (CAS) represented the next level up in terms of

collectivism and were regarded as "more advanced forms of socialization" (Bugajski

1990, 56). Members shared all resources, land was held collectively and all income was

administered by the cooperative leadership, who determined how it was allocated.

These cooperatives initially attracted mainly poor peasants and rural workers but


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expanded to represent over a third of all agricultural cooperatives in Nicaragua by the

end of the 1980s.

Many women remained some of the poorest peasants in the country, which may

help to explain why the vast majority of FEMUPROCAN's cooperatives are organized as

production cooperatives (which tended to attract the poorer peasants) rather than credit

and services cooperatives (which often appealed most to the middle peasantry). All

cooperatives active in Nicaragua today are required to abide by the General Law of

Cooperatives passed in 2005 and amended in 2007. This law prohibits discrimination on

the grounds of gender, race, social class or political or religious views. It also

establishes a number of regulations and structures designed to ensure the cooperatives

function democratically and that all members are able to participate in decision making

processes and share in the benefits. Membership is voluntary and cooperatives are

required to maintain a degree of autonomy and independence from other organizations

and political parties. Having said that, they are encouraged to coordinate with other

cooperatives by forming second and third degree organizations. FEMUPROCAN can

therefore be classified as a third level cooperative organization (comprised primarily of

production cooperatives organized into unions of cooperatives). Each level of the

organization is required to follow the requirements set out in the General Law on

Cooperatives and function democratically. In addition, each level maintains a degree of

independence and is not totally subsumed into the larger organization. Interestingly,

although FEMUPROCAN declares itself to be an organization of rural women, given

that they are governed by the aforementioned General Law on Cooperatives, they are

actually unable to refuse to accept men into the cooperatives affiliated with the


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organization. Consequently, a very few men have been incorporated into

FEMUPROCAN's membership. Unlike NGOs, SMOs and Trade Associations, many of

which allow individual membership, cooperative organizations require all their members

to be organized into cooperatives, and it is the entire cooperative that is affiliated with

the higher level organization, rather than the individuals.

Conclusions

To summarize, it seems fair to say that FEMUPROCAN has undergone similar

processes to those experienced by the MEC as described by Bickham Mendez. Both of

these organizations could be seen to portray characteristics often associated with Trade

Associations, as well as many of those outlined in definitions of both NGOs and Social

Movement Organizations. This begs the question about whether it is necessary, or

even useful, to define them as one or the other. However, in the light of

FEMUPROCAN's opposition to the idea that they be considered similar to an NGO, I

have opted for the following statement: FEMUPROCAN can be best described as a

social movement organization participating in Nicaraguan women's movements and in

the rural cooperative movement. They are fighting to transform the position of rural

women producers in the country. They are also clearly a cooperative organization,

although I was to discover that this did not necessarily mean that all of the cooperatives

were functioning as they should and in accordance with the General Law on

Cooperatives. Whereas cooperativism certainly provides the organizational structure for

FEMUPROCAN and guidelines for the operation of the organization at all levels I

discovered that the base level cooperatives displayed an uneven commitment to the

practice of cooperativism. For example, despite the fact that many of the cooperatives

are production cooperatives, one of the most frequent complaints I heard from the


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women I interviewed was that the majority of the members still produced and marketed

their products individually.4

During their struggle to establish themselves as a strong, autonomous

organization they have undergone a process of partial NGO-ization, notably reflected in

an increasing professionalization and specialization of members of the national

leadership. However, this has not led the national leadership to completely lose touch

with the members at the grassroots, and FEMUPROCAN can be held accountable for

its actions to both the international donor agencies and, crucially, its members.
































4 Some of the problems encountered by FEMUPROCAN's cooperatives are discussed in greater detail in
the Chapter 6.


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CHAPTER 6
ASSESSING FEMUPROCAN'S SUCCESS

The second part of my main research question concerns whether successful

organizations can emerge from class-based mass organizations. In order to answer

this question it is first necessary to consider how to define the success of a social

movement, and how this success can be measured. This chapter analyses the extent to

which FEMUPROCAN could be described as successful, highlighting the areas in which

they appear to have secured considerable advances, as well as those where they have

not managed to make much progress.

What Constitutes Success and How Can It Be Measured?

The concept of success when analyzing social movements and social movement

organizations is still the source of some scholarly debate. Perhaps one of the most

important issues in this debate is that of subjectivity. Success means different things to

different people, and "the same action may be judged as successful by some

participants and as failed by others" (Giugni 1998, 383),which makes it difficult for the

researcher to justify why their version of success should be any more valid than

anybody else's. Thus, as Gamson observed in his influential study of social protest

(1975), success remains "an elusive idea" to this day:

What of the group whose leaders are honored or rewarded while their
supposed beneficiaries linger in the same cheerless state as before?... Is a
group a failure if it collapses with no legacy save inspiration to a generation
that will soon take up the same cause with more tangible results? And what
do we conclude about a group that accomplishes exactly what it set out to
achieve and then finds its victory empty of real meaning for its presumed
beneficiaries? (Gamson 1990 [1975], 28)

Thus is seems clear that one should not judge the success or failure of a

movement merely on whether they achieve their objectives, although this remains an


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important component of the definition of success. What Gamson is arguing for is that

we do not accept the achievement of stated objectives at face value, but that we

examine whether these achievements have translated into real improvements for the

people the SMO is supposed to represent. With regard to the dilemma he poses about

groups which collapse without having achieved any tangible results, but serve as

inspiration for later generations, it seems that there is no easy answer. These groups

would appear to have failed in their objectives, but are apparently successful in

sustaining ideas of the social movement and disseminating them to future generations

of activists. If the movement subsequently achieves the goals laid out by the original

organization, can they be described as successful?

The work of Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward (1979) can perhaps help to

shed some light on this matter. Responding to criticisms that the gains of the

movements they analyzed were insufficient they suggest that these critics had failed to

identify the most crucial questions with regard to the success of social movements: "The

more realistic question whether the gains made were intrinsically important, and thus

worth winning, is not addressed. Nor do the critics say why more was possible, how

larger gains might have been made" (Fox Piven and Cloward 1979, xiii). They highlight

the importance of judging the success or failure of social movements in terms of what

was possible. This necessitates a consideration of the wider political and social context

at the time of the social movement's existence. Social movements should be assessed

in the light of the analysis of the "institutional conditions which both create and limit the

opportunities for mass struggle" (Ibid, xv) to ascertain whether things could have been

done differently. Strategies that are successful in one context may be ineffectual in


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another. With this in mind, the success of FEMUPROCAN cannot be gauged without an

examination of Nicaraguan society in the period following the 1990 electoral defeat of

the FSLN and, in particular, from 1997, when FEMUPROCAN was founded, until today.

An analysis of this period can be found in Chapter 2 of this thesis.

One of the most commonly used measurements of the success of social

movements is that of government policy changes (Wong 2007). This is based on the

argument that government authorities and institutions form the primary target of social

movements, whose general goal is to affect some type of governmental policy change.

However, whilst this is indeed a key objective of many social movements at a national

level, Giugni points out that this is not a sufficient measure of success. Many social

movements active around the world today may be as, if not more, concerned with

changing the attitudes of the general population, or a key sector of that population in

order to provoke changes in government policy (Giugni 1998, 385). He cites Melucci

(1996), who cautioned readers about the "dangers of restricting our attention to the

political side of new social movements, as they have identity-related goals that do not

necessarily require a political target" (Ibid., 385). Therefore it seems clear that only

analyzing policy changes is not enough. What is less obvious is how to measure

success in terms of these identity related goals.

Tilly (1996) raises another question with regard to the analysis of the effects of

social movements. He observes that there are often both intended and unintended

consequences of social movements' actions. These unintended effects may even be

contradictory to the objectives of the movement. He queries the usefulness of the terms

"success" or "failure," given the complexity of the consequences of social movements:


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"This range of effects far surpasses the explicit demands made by activists in the

course of social movements, and sometimes negates them. By any standard, "success"

and "failure" hardly describe most of the effects." (Tilly 1998, 268)

Instead, he conceives the problem as a set of three, overlapping circles, namely:

1. All movement claims, 2. All effects of movements' actions, and 3. All effects of

outside events and actions. The ways in which these circles overlap produces different

analytical categories (see Figure 6-1).

To measure the success or failure of a social movement organization such as

FEMUPROCAN one would want to consider the area of overlap between the effects of

movement actions and the movement's claims (identified as area A on the diagram).

However, as Giugni observes this does not do away with the problems caused by

differing evaluations of what constitutes success. For some this success might entail

the achievement of the movement's goals, even if this was not a result of the

movement's actions (area C). Some outcomes are the result of both social movement

actions and those of outside influences bearing directly on movement claims (area B).

Thus, while this diagram provides us with a neat illustration of the complexity involved in

assessing social movement organizations in terms of "success" or "failure," it does not

provide us with any methods of distinguishing the causes of a particular effect. It may

not always be obvious what happens as a result of social movements' actions and what

is the result of external forces. This problem of correctly identifying causality has no

easy solution.

In my analysis of FEMUPROCAN I have attempted to investigate the reasons

behind the changes in policy that have benefitted rural women and changes in attitudes


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about rural women's position in society since FEMUPROCAN's foundation in 1997. I

therefore investigate how other groups, whether the government, other civil society

organizations and international organizations, may have also played a role in the

introduction of these changes, and attempt to identify whether these changes could be

seen to be a result of FEMUPROCAN's activism or not. To be labeled as a successful

organization, it is my contention that there must be convincing evidence to support the

argument that FEMUPROCAN has influenced and/or is influencing changes in policy or

societal attitudes towards achieving its objectives. If changes are the result of work

done by some other actors or external influences, rather than due to FEMUPROCAN's

initiatives then progress towards these goals should still be celebrated, but

FEMUPROCAN could not be described as a successful social movement organization.

FEMUPROCAN should thus be assessed on the basis of their specific contribution as

an organization in affecting changes and progressing towards their goals and this

contribution should be compared with that made by other actors. To illustrate my point,

if FEMUPROCAN states that one of its goals is to improve the education of its members

and reports that one year later 99% of its members have passed the equivalent of tenth

grade this should not necessarily be taken as evidence that FEMUPROCAN is a

successful organization. If we were to analyze the situation in more detail we might

discover that FEMUPROCAN created an educational training program that only covered

2% of its members, half of whom dropped out after a week, and managed to graduate

only 5% of its initial intake. This could hardly be described as making a significant

contribution to the increase in the educational level of its members. On the contrary, it

would provide evidence to suggest that FEMUPROCAN was not a particularly


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successful organization. The success would have to be attributed to other actors. On

the other hand, if, on closer inspection, it appears that FEMUPROCAN implemented a

highly effective educational training program for all of its members (which graduated all

of its students and retained the vast majority of its initial intake etc...) the organization

therefore would have played an important role in the overall improvement of the

education of its members and the initiative could be taken as a sign that

FEMUPROCAN is a successful organization.

So how do we attempt to attribute causality to these changes? Gamson's two

measures of success may be useful here. These are defined as the acceptance of

challengers as legitimate claimants and the obtaining of new advantages for

constituents (Gamson 1990 [1975]). For Gamson, acceptance "involves a change from

hostility or indifference to a more positive relationship" (Ibid., 31).He proposes that this

more positive relationship can be identified from four main indicators: consultation,

negotiation, formal recognition, and inclusion (Ibid., 32). Consultation must be instigated

by what Gamson terms "movement antagonists" (i.e. those who have the power to

make the changes demanded by the social movement and who form the movement's

main targets for their contentious politics) and must be carried out in a manner in which

the challenge group are treated as "a legitimate spokesman for a constituency."

Negotiations should be undertaken over a sustained period of time and provide

evidence that the antagonists are "dealing with the challenging group's negotiators as

representatives of a constituency." Formal recognition "is characterized by the

antagonist making explicit, typically in writing, that it recognizes the challenging group

as a legitimate spokesman for a designated constituency." The final indicator, inclusion,


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entails the "inclusion of challenging group leaders or members in positions of status or

authority in the antagonist's organizational structure" whilst retaining the members of the

social movement organization as members (Wong 2007, 63).

Gamson's other measure of success is "new advantages" that benefit the

organization's participants and/or desired beneficiaries. It is here that the problem of

subjectivity resurfaces :"what is perceived as a gain from the activists' perspective may

not be so for the alleged beneficiaries; and achievements considered to be a gain from

the activists' perspective may turn out to be less meaningful and even useless for the

movement group" (Wong 2007, 63).

To try and minimize this problem I interviewed both the leaders of FEMUPROCAN

and women from the grassroots to find out what they considered to be the greatest

successes of the organization, and its biggest weaknesses. I attempted to find out what

impact the "new advantages" gained by the leadership had had on their members at the

base of the organization.

For the purposes of this thesis I define success as having two main components;

firstly, the ability of FEMUPROCAN to influence the government and the general public,

in order to achieve their objectives and benefit their members at the grassroots, and

secondly, the extent to which FEMUPROCAN has been accepted as a legitimate

representative of rural women producers. I will use Gamson's indicators of consultation,

negotiation, recognition and inclusion to analyze whether FEMUPROCAN has

successfully gained acceptance by the government, by international organizations, and

by the general public.


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Has FEMUPROCAN Been Able to Influence the Government and the General
Public in Nicaragua to Achieve their Objectives and Benefit their Members at the
Grassroots?

FEMUPROCAN states that the mission of the organization is "to develop our

leadership and lobbying capacity at the national and local level, with the aim of

promoting and formulating economic policy that benefits all rural women producers and

entrepreneurs in the Nicaraguan countryside" (FEMUPROCAN n.d.). Their vision is

described as to "achieve the greater participation of rural women producers and

entrepreneurs in the economic and social affairs of the country" (Ibid.).

In order to work towards achieving these overall goals, FEMUPROCAN has

identified four principal institutional objectives. These are: 1. to be a strong organization

with leadership capacity; 2. to facilitate the training of capable, empowered women

leaders; 3. to strengthen the business and entrepreneurial skills of women producers;

and 4. to influence the processes of promotion and formulation of policies related to the

countryside and women producers. They also have pinpointed four cross-cutting

themes to be integrated into all their actions: gender and development, cooperativism,

women entrepreneurs, and environmental protection.

FEMUPROCAN has also developed strategic components linked to these

institutional objectives which explain the actions the organization will take in each of the

aforementioned areas. They have constructed lists of indicators and set targets for the

organization as a whole. Each cooperative is also expected to have formulated their

own targets (with assistance from the national team) and to report on their progress

periodically as part of FEMUPROCAN's System of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation

(SPME).


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A Strong Organization with Leadership Capacity?

The specific objectives relating to organization and leadership are found under the

headings association and community leadership, formulation and management of

projects, growth and subscriptions, legality of the cooperatives, and planning,

monitoring and evaluation. It includes assessment of the legality of land, internal

regulations, the payment of dues to the cooperatives and control and monitoring of the

growth in members. To monitor this FEMUPROCAN maintains a system of planning,

monitoring and evaluation, financed by the Centro Cooperativo Sueco, which identifies

the needs of each cooperative, formulates the Annual Operational Plan (POA) of each

cooperative, and tracks progress (UNIFEM Central America 2007).

Association and community leadership

FEMUPROCAN states that it is keen for its members to assume leadership

positions within the organization and their communities and it appears that although the

president and vice-president of FEMUPROCAN have remained the same since the

organization was founded (1997) this does not mean that there are no opportunities for

promotion for those at the grassroots. Torres, for example, began by participating in her

local cooperative in Matagalpa. Her talent was identified and she quickly rose through

the ranks to become a full-time member of the national team, in charge of the system of

planning, monitoring and evaluation.

In the years immediately after FEMUPROCAN's foundation, the national

organization was keen to focus on the development of their human resources and the

construction of a strong organization. They were supported in this goal by El Centro

Cooperative Sueco, which financed training workshops for the leaders of

FEMUPROCAN. It seems that this initial focus is reflected in the knowledge and use of


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a number of methodologies and analytical tools by the national team. Torres, in

particular, is keen to continue to develop her skills and sharing what she has learned

with the members of the organization:

In my own case, it has been one of my goals to always be training myself,
always be updating myself, always be studying because the more updated
knowledge we have the more we have to give to the organization, right?
This is a benefit- if you personally, satisfactorily, fill yourself up with
knowledge that contributes to your personal growth then you can share
what you have been taught with other members. Right now I am going to
university and I want to share this knowledge, to replicate what I have been
taught with the two thousand and something women members of
FEMUPROCAN through training programs.

FEMUPROCAN hopes that this sort of training will enable its members to feel

capable of assuming leadership positions within their communities, and improve their

leadership capacity within their cooperatives and FEMUPROCAN. According to

FEMUPROCAN's 2008 Annual Report 508 women had leadership posts or positions of

responsibility within their communities. These included Health Brigadistas, Environment

Brigadistas, Members of Councils of Citizen Power (CPCs), members of Municipal

Development Committees, members of regional committees, Health and Education

Coordinators and members of Sandinista committees. Many of the women I interviewed

were proud of their position within their communities and attributed part of their

recognition as community leaders to the work they do with FEMUPROCAN and the

training they had received. Denis Medina, from the Centro Cooperativo Sueco seems to

agree, noting that FEMUPROCAN "increased the ability of women to produce and to

exercise greater leadership, leadership at the level of the cooperatives as well as

leadership at the level of their municipality. The women leaders of FEMUPROCAN also


1 Interview with Blanca Lidia Torres, Managua, August 3rd, 2009


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have community leadership in the municipalities and are taken into account in the

municipal development plans."2

I was interested to find out whether this community involvement was seen as

adding even more responsibilities to the women's already overloaded schedules.

However, despite the extra work involved in carrying out these leadership roles, it

appeared that the women saw this as a worthwhile sacrifice. They enjoyed the status

that these roles gave them within the community and they relished the opportunity to

take part in decision making processes. They thus worked hard to fit these new

responsibilities into and around their other work and had been encouraged by the

progress they had made and the feeling that they were contributing to the development

of their communities:

I know that one day I will not exist but as long as I live as long as I have
strength to give to the community I will continue to help the community... as
part of the school governing board I negotiated the land for the construction
of a school and we achieved it. So, everything I have learned about
organizing has been of great use to me, not only to help my family or
myself, but also to help the community, to the children who are studying, of
course. To administer a project is something that is remembered in the
community, in the town so even when I die people who see the school are
going to say "Look, Dora Chepita did that, when she was on the board of
governors" and that makes me feel good.3

The women at the grassroots are thus not only receiving training in leadership, but

they are putting this training into action and winning recognition within their

communities. This has not gone unnoticed by local governments, who would call the

women in order to define some proposals, and even to discuss some budgeting

decisions. It thus seemed that FEMUPROCAN's national team, the grassroots members


2 Denis Medina, CCS, Managua, August 1st, 2009

3 Clara, President of a FEMUPROCAN cooperative, Terrabona, July 21, 2009


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and CCS all agreed that FEMUPROCAN's women had developed a strong local

leadership capacity. However, there were some problems also reported at the local

level due to political differences. Sometimes local governments only took those leaders

who supported the same political party into account. This had led to some frustration

among FEMUPROCAN's members.4

It could be argued that the women who participate in FEMUPROCAN are "natural

leaders" and that their leadership is the cause, not the effect of their membership.

However, I heard numerous cases where women explained that before they joined

FEMUPROCAN, they had been afraid to speak in front of anybody and thought that

people would laugh at them. As a result of their experiences with the organization,

however, they had become more confident in their dealings with other people and

developed their ability to present their opinions on a wide range of topics. It therefore

seems fair to say that FEMUPROCAN is making progress in achieving this objective,

and that this progress is, at least partially, a result of FEMUPROCAN's efforts.

Formulation and management of projects

As mentioned in Chapter 8, which analyzes the extent of the organization's

autonomy, FEMUPROCAN's members show uneven progress in their ability to

formulate and manage projects. Some regions, such as Nueva Guinea, appear to be

relatively successful in this regard, whereas other areas are still very dependent on the

national team. Women from the more successful areas praised the freedom granted to

the regional and local levels of the organization to design and manage their own




For more details on this problem, see the chapter on autonomy.


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projects whereas some members from less successful cooperatives lamented their lack

of "development" or that their "projects" were determined by the national leadership.

In order to address the uneven level of success and capabilities, FEMUPROCAN

has produced a number of printed materials and held workshops on how to do a

feasibility study and how to design a project. However, there has been a tendency for

the women to base their project ideas on the cases discussed in these workshops, with

the result that they all appear to want to do the same things (and have not fully

considered whether the case would work in their area or what the implications would be

if all of the cooperatives in a region suddenly began to produce the same thing). Raising

chickens for eggs appeared to be by far the most popular project, as the women

themselves commented "everybody wants chickens."

It was also unclear as to the success that the women had in getting their projects

funded. Often they lacked the technical writing skills necessary to secure money from

international development organizations, and still faced discrimination (because they

were women) when it came to getting an appointment with various other funding

institutions (both public and private). Even when their proposals were accepted the

women often felt that they were allocated less money than similar initiatives proposed

by mixed sex organizations. Maria Luisa, daughter of Modesta Gonzalez,

FEMUPROCAN's regional coordinator for Nueva Guinea, commented that

FEMUPROCAN Nueva Guinea had just applied for funding for a project and been

granted C$4,900. This was certainly an achievement, but the women felt aggrieved that

a similar project not targeted at women had recently received C$25,000 from the same

funding organization. She saw this as a clear demonstration of the gap that exists


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between men and women, even when dealing with international development

organizations.

It seems that although FEMUPROCAN is attempting to train its members in project

formulation and management, there is still much work to be done on this matter. For

example, in 2008, FEMUPROCAN reported that they had formulated and administered

just eight projects at the level of grassroots cooperatives, unions and the federation

(FEMUPROCAN 2008). Especially considering that most of these projects were

formulated at the national level, this does not suggest that FEMUPROCAN is

succeeding in their aim of enabling women to devise and manage their own projects.

Growth and subscriptions

FEMUPROCAN's objectives in this area are twofold; firstly they are attempting to

increase the number of members in the organization, to increase their national

presence; and secondly they aim to increase the percentage of members who pay their

dues, generating resources vital for FEMUPROCAN to function without the support of

donor organizations. However, progress on these two areas appears to be slow and

uneven. Their 2008 report states that they increased membership by 112 women, and

collected a grand total of C$11,352.00 in dues.5 According to their website

FEMUPROCAN's current membership stands at 4,200 members, of whom 1,767 are

attended to directly.6 Therefore, in 2008, less than 13% of the total members paid their

subscriptions, or approximately 30% of members attended to directly. This has been a

problem since the beginning of the organization and does not look likely to drastically

5 This equates to approximately $540 at March 2010 rates.
6 The number attended to directly refers to the number of women cooperative members who participate
in FEMUPROCAN. The other, larger number includes family members of FEMUPROCAN members who
benefit indirectly from the organization's programs.


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improve any time soon. Most of my informants put this down to the lack of a culturala de

cotizaci6n" (or dues-paying culture) in Nicaraguan cooperatives. This was, according to

Diaz, mainly due to the fact that the cooperatives were formed by groups to defend their

land in the Sandinista period, in the context of the fierce Contra War that plagued parts

of the countryside, rather than to work together. Others were formed because

Sandinista programs favored cooperatives when distributing grants or in formulating

new policies. This means that now, even when individual members of the cooperatives

are doing well economically (sometimes because of projects implemented by

FEMUPROCAN) they do not give any of this profit to the cooperative.7 Changing

mentalities about the need to begin contributing to the organization and to their

cooperative will not be easy, especially when there do not, at present, appear to be

sanctions for failure to pay.

Moreover, even if the number of members increased in 2008, overall membership

does not seem to have expanded much over the last five years. Measuring membership

in FEMUPROCAN is complicated, with some sources citing the total number of

members and others the lower figure of the number attended to directly. For example,

between 2006 and 2009 FEMUPROCAN appears to have lost 300 members. However,

they have increased the number attended to directly by 400. Does this represent a

success in increasing membership?

Nor has the process been uniform across the organization and whereas some

cooperatives did increase their membership, others experienced a decline in the

number of members: "Listen, we have experienced a huge decrease as a cooperative.


7 Interview with CCS, Managua, August 1st, 2009.


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When the cooperative was started there were 88 women involved... and now we have

just 18 members. So, it's a huge decrease."8

There also appears to be some disagreement about the importance of increasing

membership at this point (although all members of the national leadership agree about

the need to improve the collection of subscriptions). Whereas it is clearly outlined in the

Annual Operational Plan that increasing the number of members is one of

FEMUPROCAN'S goals (they state that by the end of 2009 FEMUPROCAN aimed to

have added 16 new cooperatives), Diaz told me that FEMUPROCAN believed that

bigger was not always better. She said that FEMUPROCAN had enough trouble trying

to attend to all of the cooperatives they have at the moment and are attempting to make

them more self-reliant before the national leadership can contemplate expanding the

organization any further.

Thus, overall, while the organization appears to have met with limited success in

this area in terms of maintaining a fairly steady number of members and the addition of

some new ones, the problem of convincing members to pay dues still plagues the

organization, and they have not managed to significantly increase their number of

members. So FEMUPROCAN cannot be described as particularly successful in this

regard.

Legality of the cooperatives

Whatever their lack of success in achieving their objectives with regard to

membership FEMUPROCAN can take some comfort from their resounding successes

in other areas. One of the most important of these for the strength of the organization,


8 Adela, President of a FEMUPROCAN Cooperative in Rio Blanco, Managua, July 15, 2009.


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and for the women at the grassroots, concerns the legality of the cooperatives.

FEMUPROCAN is, it seems, close to achieving its targets in this area, with all of its

cooperatives legalized or in the process of legalization.9

This is no mean feat, as legalization can be a long and complicated process

requiring a great deal of time and effort from the cooperative's leaders. Often the

women at the grassroots were reluctant at first to dedicate so many hours to something

they did not regard as particularly important for improving their own lives. For

FEMUPROCAN's national team, therefore, the first step was to educate the women

about why complying with all the regulations was important and then to guide them

through the process from start to finish. This dedication on the part of the national team

was acknowledged and praised by the women at the base, the vast majority of whom

now seemed to grasp why legalization was necessary.

However, it is not just the length of the process that discourages women. It is clear

that the complexity of the process means that the base level cooperatives really are

dependent on the expertise of the Managua office, consulting them in detail about every

step of the process. This, and legalization in general, requires resources, which

sometimes the women do not have. FEMUPROCAN, suffering from a reduction in funds

from its international partners (an effect of the economic crisis) can no longer support

the women throughout the entire process in the way that they used to:

Sometimes it's not how long the process lasts but rather that it incurs
mobilization costs. It is necessary to spend money and sometimes you
don't have the resources...the first ones cost us a lot, as we were calling
Matilde repeatedly and Blanca would go to the ministry...yes it cost a lot for
them to give you legal status. Now perhaps they give them more quickly,

9 As of 2008, 55 cooperatives were fully legalized in accordance with Law 499 and 16 were in the process
of obtaining their personeriajuridica, or legal status.


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but there are always paperwork expenses. You have to open bank
accounts and produce legal documents, and save so that they will grant you
legal status. It is a difficult process, which requires money to keep going.
And there is a crisis right now isn't there? So FEMU doesn't have money to
continue supporting people in obtaining their legal status right
now... perhaps in the future.10

The complicated, drawn out and expensive nature of the process makes the fact

that all of FEMUPROCAN's cooperatives are either legalized or working towards it even

more impressive. This achievement has not gone unrecognized by the National Institute

for the Promotion of Cooperatives (INFOCOOP) and other cooperative organizations.

Torres informed me that there is "a strong demand for FEMUPROCAN to provide this

service to cooperatives who are not affiliated with FEMUPROCAN, but who recognize

this experience that FEMUPROCAN has as an organization and as women's

cooperatives. So there is a demand, with people requesting these services and the

experience of FEMUPROCAN."11

To summarize, it appears that FEMUPROCAN has achieved an indisputable

success with regard to this objective and gained recognition from their membership,

government institutions and other organizations. This has been achieved only through

the dedication and determination of the national team, in conjunction with the

cooperatives themselves.

Planning, monitoring and evaluation

When FEMUPROCAN broke away from UNAG the leaders realized that they

needed to define their work strategy and devise specific objectives. So, one of the first


10 Tania, FEMUPROCAN Cooperative Member, San Juanillo, July 22, 2009.

11 Blanca Lidia Torres, Director of FEMUPROCAN's System of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation,
Managua, August 3, 2009.


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things that they did was to carry out a census of their members in order to know where

the members were located, how many members they had, what they did for a living, and

what level of education they had etc. The census was designed to allow the members of

FEMUPROCAN to get to know one another and in order to define what exactly it was

that FEMUPROCAN was going to do. The biggest obstacle to carrying it out was

money, as FEMUPROCAN lacked the resources necessary to hire professional census

takers. Undeterred the women decided they would do it themselves, as Rocha

explained:

Our census was homemade [de manera artesanal]. When I say homemade
it was because we didn't have the money to hire people. So all the women
and the coordinators from the cooperatives made a card with a question
guide and everybody took the cards to use in their cooperatives. It was
massive. Afterwards the boxes came here, filled with all of the information.

We were already half crazy from carrying out the survey, so we said well
we'll probably have to look for a sociologist to help us. And we looked, and
they said to us, OK I will give you a cheap price 1,500 dollars. We didn't
have that, but we told them to do it anyway.12

Luckily for FEMUPROCAN, they were in contact with the representative from

CCS. They explained the situation to him and he agreed to support them, providing the

money for the sociologist to carry out the work and produce a document containing the

findings. In this way FEMUPROCAN was able to find out how many of their members

were illiterate, how many had access to land and under what tenure system, how many

were single mothers and so on and so forth. However, there were still large blank

spaces in the information they had collected. In order to fill these in FEMUPROCAN

decided to do a socio-economic diagnostic with a gender focus. On the basis of the




12 Matilde Rocha, Vice President of FEMUPROCAN, Managua, August 4th, 2009


142









information from the census and the diagnostic FEMUPROCAN was able to establish

detailed baseline data and define their organizational strategy and objectives.

With the help of CCS FEMUPROCAN has implemented a detailed system of

planning, monitoring and evaluation (SPME), which Torres administers. This system is

used both at the level of the national organization and for each of the affiliated

cooperatives. The members are given training sessions and assistance on how to use

this system to develop their own, individual targets and monitor and evaluate their

performance. This is part of FEMUPROCAN's drive to make the cooperatives "self-

managing" whilst simultaneously improving data collection across the organization. At

the time I was carrying out my fieldwork only the planning and some monitoring reports

for the first part of that year (2009) had been completed, and these were collected in a

computer database in the national office.

However, FEMUPROCAN was having some difficulty in convincing the members

to complete the monitoring reports and hand in their paperwork outlining targets and

progress towards these. Of the reports that were returned, many were missing

important information or provided little detail. This is not just a problem confined to the

SPME reports, but rather something that affects data collection within the whole

organization. For example, I accompanied Valle to FEMUPROCAN's roadside market

near Dario. She needed to collect information about how the watering project was

going. However, it soon becomes apparent that some of the monitoring sheets had not

been filled in. FEMUPROCAN's coordinator at the roadside market explained that the

same women who never turn up for interviews are the ones who haven't handed in their

sheets. Later in the same visit Valle asked the coordinator to provide her with the


143









receipts she had collected from the women, detailing their expenses. Again, some of

these are missing and, according to the coordinator, this is because the women claim

not to have been given receipts or only have part of the receipts. Some of those that

have been turned in simply state the total amount, without describing what it was for.

This is not to say that there is no progress being made, and the information

collected, however incomplete or imprecise, will still help the national team to formulate

strategies to improve performance, and highlight areas of success and weakness. The

more information FEMUPROCAN has about their members the better they will be able

to design programs and lobby for policies that will benefit the grassroots. The 2008

report states that a total of 30 cooperatives, four unions of cooperatives, one business

network and the Credit Window at the roadside market complied with the SPME. That

year FEMUPROCAN did manage to devise, monitor and evaluate 57 production plans

for members involved in the watering systems project and eight unions (who

represented 67 cooperatives and an individual cooperative) presented their

Departmental and/or Local Advocacy Plan.

Not only does FEMUPROCAN expect its members to provide periodic updates on

their progress towards their goals but the national leadership also carries out interviews

with producers and diagnostics and appraisals that attempt to evaluate the work done

so far. In August and September of 2008, for example, they held evaluation meetings

with every single base cooperative affiliated with FEMUPROCAN to assess the

functioning and legality of the cooperatives as well as identify the main problems and

advances.


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Finally, FEMUPROCAN is also required to fulfill the various planning, monitoring

and evaluation requirements demanded by their international NGO partners. Each

organization has different requirements, using different methodologies. For example

CCS hires external consultants to periodically evaluate the success of initiatives funded

by the Center and carried out in conjunction with FEMUPROCAN. The results are then

discussed by the two organizations, providing FEMUPROCAN with the opportunity to

discover how the organization is assessed by independent analysts and what analytical

tools were used to produce the report. Thus it is definitely a learning exercise for

FEMUPROCAN, even if they do not always agree with all of the conclusions reached by

the consultant.

So, it appears that whereas FEMUPROCAN is attempting to construct a detailed

and up to date database on all of their cooperatives the reality is that although some

progress is being made, the most effective monitoring exercises and evaluations so far

have been those carried out either by the national team, or by external consultants

specifically hired for the task. Perhaps this mixed performance on reporting by the

grassroots women is linked to low literacy levels and a lack of understanding about why

this information is important. Furthermore, there does not appear to be any punishment

for those cooperatives that do not provide information, or any rewards for those that do.

Thus, with regard to planning, monitoring and evaluation FEMUPROCAN could be said

to be partially successful, although there is much room for improvement.

Training Capable, Empowered Women Leaders?

FEMUPROCAN also works on issues related to technical assistance and training.

The topics of the training sessions are varied, from personal growth and self-esteem to

more technical topics (formulation of projects, how to do diagnostics, marketing etc.).


145









They are also trained in how to do advocacy work. For each cooperative they identify

what the training needs are by asking the members which workshops they would like to

receive in the future, and to name the most convenient place and time for this to

happen. In fact, there are so many different topics to address that one woman joked that

they were "highly workshopped on everything" ("bien talleriadas de todo").

In 2008, FEMUPROCAN reported that they had trained 510 cooperative members,

leaders and grassroots promotoras in the following topics:

Strategic Planning of Organized Political Lobbying
The formulation of Annual Operational Plans
Functioning and Legality of Cooperatives
Methodology for the Formation of Business Networks with a Gender Focus
Agro-business and product quality in Dario, Nandaime and San Francisco Libre
Post-harvest in Nueva Guinea
Sanitary measures and Artisanal Processing of Foodstuffs in Dario
Large Livestock in San Francisco Libre and Nueva Guinea
A workshop with the Business Networks to formulate the Networks' Operational
Plan

The training process is directed to 508 promotoras from the unions of cooperatives

or base-level cooperatives. These promotoras attend workshops in Managua and are

then expected to pass on the knowledge they have learned to the members of their

cooperatives, so that every member of FEMUPROCAN can benefit from the knowledge

and skills taught in the workshops. However, FEMUPROCAN requires that not just one,

but two promotoras from each cooperative attend these sessions at the national office.

In this way, if one person is sick or leaves the cooperative there is still another person

there who has also attended the same workshops.

I now turn to examining some of the principal training topics tackled by

FEMUPROCAN.


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Agroecological techniques

It is here that the FEMUPROCAN's supposedly cross-cutting theme on the

environment is most evident. Not only is the leadership of FEMUPROCAN concerned

about ensuring their members can continue to farm their land for many years to come in

ways that do not destroy the environment, they also link environmental issues to health.

Reducing the use of industrial chemicals and educating their members about the health

risks involved is therefore a key component of FEMUPROCAN's commitment to

promoting organic farming. They have carried out workshops on the production of

organic fertilizer and the benefits of re-forestation, and the land owned by the roadside

market is all managed organically. Martha Valle appears to be genuinely concerned with

promoting environmental awareness among the members and implementing innovative

techniques designed to reduce environmental damage.

The roadside market (which appears to be very much Valle's responsibility)

provides her with an opportunity to showcase some of these new techniques and to

demonstrate to the members the results of organic farming and re-forestation. There is

even a small wind turbine providing power to some of the offices on the site.

Now, whereas a wind turbine is certainly beyond the reach of most of

FEMUPROCAN's members, some of the other environmental protection measures are

much more affordable and feasible. Some cooperatives are making much more

progress than others on this front. Others, unable to get the support of their entire

cooperatives for their project have formed business networks in order for the production

of organic fertilizer. Nueva Guinea, for instance, has (finally) been able to get its organic

fertilizer business up and running after a series of failed attempts and is now


147









investigating expanding into other areas. Pastora Amador, 59, explained the history of

the network:

At the beginning of the project to produce organic fertilizer, we did a survey
of producers in the municipality of Nueva Guinea and the results were
positive. In the survey we found support for our plan because in Nueva
Guinea there is nobody who produces and sells organic fertilizer, and there
is a need for the supply of this product.

Six of us began the project, we met in FEMUPROCAN and we agreed to
invest a total of C$2,500.00 initially for the construction of the shed. This
involved the purchase of: wire mesh, containers for the worms, fences,
nails, zinc, pillars etc.13

When we had already finished the shed we realized that we lacked the
worms, but we also lacked money to buy them. So we looked for a loan
from one of the families because we didn't have financing. At this point two
members abandoned the project and only four of us were left.

We managed to buy two kilos of worms, we brought them from Managua
and this first investment was a loss because the worms died. So we had to
look for worms again, but this time in Nueva Guinea. We bought another
two kilos and began again from zero. After a fortnight we began producing
organic fertilizer. But this time we were hit by a plague of African Bees and
we lost one kilo.

With what was left we continued fighting, we lagged behind in terms of
production but after another fortnight the worms reproduced and we
managed to increase production to six containers from the two we had
before.

In the course of all of this we lost another member of the network and so
only three of us remained, and we continue working together today. We
returned the money they had initially invested to those that withdrew,
according to our initial agreement.

Now we are producing 20 quintals of organic fertilizer a month, with a price
of C$250.00 per quintal.14 The network also maintains one manzana of
reforested land, using organic fertilizer.15 Right now we are only selling 6
quintals and the rest we are using ourselves...


13 Approximately $118.54 at March 2010 rates
14 A quintal is equal to 100 Ibs or 46kg.
15 A manzana is equal to 1.73 acres


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The network continues working, we have a shed for hens, and we already
have ten hens, one rooster and eighteen chickens. They produce 150 eggs
a month. Our objective is to form a farm to produce meat and eggs and the
worms from the fertilizer also serve as food for the chickens.

We decided to make this network because in the cooperative we didn't feel
that we were able to all work together and decide where to put our
resources, and for this reason we joined together in the network. Each one
of us has invested approximately C$12,000.00.16

For the future we are thinking of developing a rural tourism project, where
we would have a restaurant and a pool and so on. We have received visits
from tourists from Belgium and Germany and they also thought this was a
good idea.

All this has been possible due to the training that FEMUPROCAN has given
us. The training sessions have given us strengths, skills and capabilities to
develop our work, to move forward and to improve our standard of living.17

Despite many difficulties, these women were able to create a profitable and well-

functioning project, the success of which was recognized in an article in the monthly

magazine El Observador Econ6mico, published by the International Foundation for the

Global Economic Challenge (FIDEG). The network is now producing enough fertilizer to

satisfy the needs of its members and provide a surplus which they offer for sale. In fact,

their achievements have attracted considerable interest from other cooperative

members, who have been trained by the members of the network in the techniques

necessary to carry out a similar project.

However, most cooperatives affiliated with FEMUPROCAN use a mixture of

organic and non-organic methods, with the organic fertilizer sometimes being supplied

to the cooperatives by a representative of FEMUPROCAN, rather than the individual

cooperatives manufacturing it themselves:

16 Approximately $569 at March 2010 rates
17 Pastora Amadora, Trustee of the Cooperative Los Pinitos, interviewed by FEMUPROCAN in 2008 and
featured on the organization's website.


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We also use other chemicals, we buy those as well. It's because organic
fertilizer is mostly used when the plant is well established and so there is
where organic should be used at other times of its development it is better
to use urea mixed with a complex... listen, at least around here, a girl used
to come from Dario to leave us organic fertilizer for our cooperative. We've
still got quite a lot left. Yes, they brought it, on behalf of FEMUPROCAN.18

Some cooperatives, however, do not appear to have adopted any of the agro-

ecological techniques proposed by FEMUPROCAN. This happens for a number of

reasons. An important limitation on whether cooperatives are able to introduce these

techniques is related to the question of land ownership. Without access to their own

land, some cooperatives are simply not able to farm organically or pay for the start up

costs necessary to begin production of organic fertilizer.

I was interested to find out whether the women were learning these agro-

ecological techniques primarily from FEMUPROCAN, or if they were also receiving

similar training from other organizations. The women in many communities responded

that there were a number of government institutions and civil society groups offering

projects in these areas, providing plants for reforestation programs and encouraging the

women to take action to conserve the environment:

Now there are even programs from government institutions, including INTA
(Nicaraguan Institute of Farming Technology), MARENA (Ministry of the
Environment and Natural Resources), MAGFOR (Ministry of Agriculture and
Forestry) and several NGOs, one of which is called el Porvenir, all of which
are concerned with strengthening the environment through reforestation,
bringing plants, ensuring that the trees on the steep valley sides are not
being cut down. So they are working on this. And the orientation is all in this
same line of work... that the women should plant trees around the wells.

Everyone is involved. Here, last September they brought 60,000 plants and
distributed them among all the communities. Now there are nurseries, to
avoid transport costs... Here is a dry area, and people left without water are
making pools to store water and producing organic fertilizer... this is

18 Beatriz, FEMUPROCAN Cooperative member, Terrabona, July 21, 2009


150









facilitated by INTA and an NGO, in a program called CENADE (Center for
Action and Support for Rural Development).19

In fact, in some communities there were so many organizations working on these

themes that the women had sometimes been given workshops on the same topic by a

number of different groups (which hardly seems an efficient use of resources). Thus, the

fact that they are participating in government or NGO-run programs does not

necessarily mean that FEMUPROCAN has not already trained them in this. It is less

likely that FEMUPROCAN will repeat training already carried out by other

organizations due to the simple fact that FEMUPROCAN asks its grassroots

cooperatives to identify their individual training needs, rather than implementing the

same sequence of workshops everywhere. Nevertheless, in the case of Nueva Guinea

outlined above it seems clear that FEMUPROCAN was the main organization that

enabled the women to carry out this project.

To conclude, there are a number of organizations and institutions working on agro-

ecological techniques with women rural producers, and therefore not all of the changes

implemented by FEMUPROCAN's members can be wholly attributed to FEMUPROCAN

as opposed to these other actors. However, it does seem that for some cooperatives

FEMUPROCAN has successfully supported the introduction of these techniques, and

these initiatives should therefore be counted among the organization's successes. On

the other hand there are other areas and cooperatives that still have not managed to

introduce these projects, and the vast majority of the cooperatives still have not

converted to using all organic methods.



19 Tania, FEMUPROCAN cooperative member, San Juanillo, July 22, 2009.


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Formulation and management of projects

The national leadership of FEMUPROCAN have recognized the need to train the

base level cooperatives in methods that will allow them to become more autonomous

from the central organization, by formulating and managing their own projects. As such

they have carried out a number of workshops and assisted the women in the

development of their proposals. The results of this have been mixed, as discussed in

the section under Organization and Leadership above, with some cooperatives needing

much more assistance than others.

Gender and development (GAD)

Key to much of FEMUPROCAN's work is an understanding of Gender and

Development (GAD). To understand how successful they are in training their members

on this topic it is first necessary to define what GAD is. The gender mainstreaming team

at the British Department for International Development (DFID) provide the following

definition: "the GAD (or Gender and Development) approach to development policy and

practice focuses on the socially constructed basis of differences between men and

women and emphasises the need to challenge existing gender roles and relations"

(Reeves and Baden 2000, 33). In contrast to many development frameworks that had

come before, GAD argues that women cannot be seen in isolation from men, and that

gender equality is, fundamentally, a question of unequal power relations between men

and women. GAD practitioners normally try to address women's practical and strategic

gender needs by "challenging existing divisions of labour or power" (Ibid.).

According to my interviews with Oxfam Canada and the women from UNIFEM,

many women's organizations and development NGOs in Nicaragua, although they claim

to have adopted this GAD framework, in reality, still favor the "add women and stir"


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approach to development. This is not what "doing gender" means, and this type of one-

sided approach often leads to as many problems as it solves. I was interested to find

out whether FEMUPROCAN understood the differences between these approaches,

and how much they considered the women's relationships with men in their training

sessions. The overall impression I received was very encouraging. Everybody, from the

national leaders right down to the grassroots of the organization, seemed to have an

awareness of the need to work with men to achieve their objective of bringing about

more equal gender relations in Nicaragua (rather than excluding them or failing to

consider how initiatives challenging current inequalities might provoke male resistance

of hostility). FEMUPROCAN argued that challenging unequal power relations does not

necessarily mean that men should be seen as the enemy, but that machista attitudes

and practices need to be contested and men should reconsider many of their

preconceptions and prejudices regarding appropriate gender roles and relations. The

work that FEMUPROCAN does affects entire families, and this is acknowledged by the

leadership and the members in the design of their training programs and projects: "the

fact that we propose that women should be leaders is not that we are saying that men

are worthless, because the fight is for the integration of the family. In the watering

systems it is the couple who are taken into account." 20

In fact, FEMUPROCAN is active in promoting the participation of family members

in the projects it implements (both men and women) with a focus on building a

supportive family environment for its women members, whilst at the same time arguing

for a shift towards more equal gender relations: "And maybe all of us as women will


20 Cristina, FEMUPROCAN cooperative member, San Juanillo, July 22, 2009.
Cristina, FEMUPROCAN cooperative member, San Juanillo, July 22, 2009.


153









liberate ourselves. It is not about being against men but rather about strengthening our

work within the nucleus of the family, and changing lives in this way, because at times

you can have money, but if you don't have peace in a household it is not good."21

Part of the training on gender involves workshops on women's political and

economic rights under Nicaraguan law. These were conducted by a human rights

lawyer, and former Sandinista Member of Parliament, Angela Rosa Acevedo. Whereas

the workshops were certainly very thorough they largely consisted of the participants

breaking off into small groups to read the text of the laws. Although the women

appeared to genuinely appreciate studying these laws many struggled with the complex

legal language in which they were written. Difficult even for many highly educated

people to understand, it was certainly a challenge for many of FEMUPROCAN's

members who had fairly basic reading and writing skills. Having said that Acevedo

helped them to pick out the most important parts of the legislation and discuss its

implications.

Making women aware of their rights in this way seemed to be paying off in many

cases. Members reported that they had seen changes in the ways in which men saw

women and greater recognition of women's work and contribution as a result of these

gender and development workshops:

With so many training sessions on gender that took men into account, men
gradually began to understand that in reality we women were very, very
important and that we do a lot of things, you understand? They have now
realized that we are the last to go to bed and the first to get up in the
morning. Men are used to coming back from work and waiting calmly for




21 Cristina, FEMUPROCAN cooperative member, San Juanillo, July 22, 2009.


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their meal while we are working, and the men have begun to recognize
that.22

It seems clear that the leadership of FEMUPROCAN, unlike many in the women's

organizations and development industry understand the difference between a Women

In Development and a Gender And Development Approach and were seeking to

consider the implications of their initiatives on both men and women and their

relationships.23 Part of FEMUPROCAN's success in adopting a Gender and

Development framework likely comes from Torres and participation in the Women's

Economic Agenda (AGEM) organized by UNIFEM. As mentioned above, funding from

AGEM is paying for Torres to pursue a diploma in GAD at the Universidad

Centroamericana in Managua on Saturdays.

It is perhaps worth mentioning here that FEMUPROCAN has, in the vast majority

of cases, avoided stirring up large scale opposition by the men in the communities in

which they are active. This may be, in part, a result of the Gender and Development

approach taken by the organization and the benefits for the men of many of

FEMUPROCAN's projects. However, it may also be due, in part, to the fact that the vast

majority of FEMUPROCAN's initiatives are limited to relatively uncontroversial themes

related to economic development and education. The organization does not provide a

detailed analysis of problems relating to domestic violence or sexual matters (from





22 Tania, FEMUPROCAN Cooperative Member, San Juanillo, July 22, 2009
23 I asked Maria Rosa Renzi, regional director of UNIFEM, if she thought that FEMUPROCAN understood
the difference between Women in Development (WID) and Gender and Development (GAD). She replied
that although she couldn't comment on the base of the organization, it appeared that the leadership were
clear about the differences between the two frameworks, and that FEMUPROCAN tried to apply a gender
focus to their work (Interview with Maria Rosa Renzi, Managua, July 15, 2009)


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abuse to contraception to sexually transmitted diseases). These topics might well

provoke a more confrontational response from men.

Overall, it appears that FEMUPROCAN is successfully training its women in

gender and development but doing so by focusing on a relatively narrow set of issues

mainly related to women's economic position. They do so in a non-confrontational

manner, but one in which women are encouraged to learn about their economic,

political and social rights and to exercise those rights at home and within their

communities.24 Women's subordination to men is discussed, although it is framed

mainly in economic terms (such as lack of access to land and credit). Workshop

participants are encouraged to share stories of when they felt subjected to

discrimination on the basis of their gender and to re-examine some of the ways in which

men and women are expected to behave. However, FEMUPROCAN was also keen to

emphasize that men and women are different. Unlike much liberal western feminism,

FEMUPROCAN was not suggesting to its members that they should be treated the

same as men, but rather that women and men should be valued for their equal, but

different contributions to society. They maintained that there was something special

about being a woman (a lot of this appeared to be related to women's traditional,

"natural," role as caregiver and mother) and that in fact women could be seen as

superior to men in a number of ways (they don't drink, they look after everybody else

before taking care of themselves, they work the longest hours for the least amount of

pay, etc.). FEMUPROCAN is attempting to convince both their female members, and
24 It is possible that some of the more controversial themes of women's movements, such as those
related to reproductive health, are tackled in these workshops on social rights (there were none held
when I was there). However, I heard little mention of such topics during my fieldwork and they do not
feature in FEMUPROCAN's publications or reports. This suggests that they do not receive much attention
from FEMUPROCAN.


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their male partners to recognize the true value of women's work. So, FEMUPROCAN

focuses on some causes of women's subordination much more than others.

Leadership and empowerment

Linked to the GAD approach, FEMUPROCAN claims that it is training empowered

women leaders. As discussed above it does seem that FEMUPROCAN's women are

assuming leadership roles in their communities. In this section I want to explore whether

the women feel they have developed personally as a result of their participation in

FEMUPROCAN. Do they feel that it has been an empowering experience? How has

their self-confidence changed? The women replied that, thanks to the skills they were

obtaining in FEMUPROCAN, they did feel a sense of empowerment: "Myself, as a

woman, as a person I feel that I have advanced a lot because now I can make

decisions. Say what I like and what I don't like."25

This sense of empowerment was also fostered by the environment of moral

support and understanding that the organization provides. It provides women with the

chance to talk about their experiences, some for the first time in front of a group of

people, and to develop shared bonds of understanding and a feeling of solidarity among

the members. They drew strength from being organized in this way: "We are capable,

we are brave, we have the spirit of the organization, which is what keeps us going and

has filled us with empowerment, from the focuses of the initiatives and from the visions

of organized women."26





25 Clara, President of a FEMUPROCAN cooperative, Terrabona, July 21, 2009.

26Adela, President of a FEMUPROCAN Cooperative in Rio Blanco, Managua, July 15, 2009.


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For some of the members, particularly those from tiny settlements in remote areas,

FEMUPROCAN provided them with a chance to make new and meaningful friendships,

and a reason to leave their houses and travel to different parts of the country. This was

vital to the development of their self-confidence and fostered a sense of identification

and belonging:

Through the organization you get to know more people right, there is more
communication. Listen if you are not organized you don't belong to anything
and so you don't go out, you spend all your time shut up inside, but through
the organization and the cooperatives and all that you go out more and
have more communication, you make new relationships.27

Firstly I think that I have changed because the organization has taught us
how to leave behind our limitations as women. Well the organization has
taught me how to be organized as a woman. One of the principles was
learning how, as cooperative women, to leave behind our timidity because
growing up in the countryside is very different from the city. One of the
biggest things for me, and in which FEMUPROCAN has helped me is that
before I didn't used to talk in front of people because it made me nervous
and then, little by little, I began to present my ideas, and when I got up to
present I was afraid that it was going to come out all wrong. However,
through the work I was doing in the training, through our training with
FEMUPROCAN, I became more confident. For me, the organization has
taught me how to learn to understand other women and that we women can
get over our fears to get wherever we want to go in life. 28

Getting involved in FEMUPROCAN, and having leadership positions within their

own cooperatives made the women more confident about asserting themselves outside

the cooperative, and convinced them that they were capable and legitimate

representatives of the women with whom they worked: "every time we go and train

ourselves we are going to begin doing a better job. They are going to recognize us

more. And we all become empowered women, leaders who can administer our own


27 Daria, FEMUPROCAN cooperative member, San Juanillo, July 22, 2009.
28 Margarita, FEMUPROCAN promotora and president of a cooperative in Jintotega, interviewed in
Managua, July 16, 2009).


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things and negotiate on our own behalf. And they will listen to us, and we will not

depend on other people speaking for us."29

This self-belief was fostered by, and was instrumental in, increasing the

recognition FEMUPROCAN's leaders received from other organizations who wished to

work with rural women. Many of these organizations actively sought out the women in

FEMUPROCAN to act as representatives of the women in negotiations with their

organization. The women had begun to realize that they too had important knowledge to

share and that they deserved to be respected and valued for this knowledge:

One goes wherever they call you to because one has knowledge to share
with other organizations that need it as well. I was even called by a
program, one of those programs that gives credit for staple grains/pulses
and I feel that I have the ability to say to them "I have this many women
who are producers who need credit in order to work" and that the women
are capable of working and paying off this credit.30 So, in this way I liked
this initiative. I'm not just organized in FEMUPROCAN, but also in another
organization, where I was also given responsibilities, I participated in that as
well.31

FEMUPROCAN, and the fact of being organized, had affected these women's

lives in many different ways, not just in regard to their standing within the community.

Many of them mentioned that they now felt empowered at home as well: "When you are

organized you train yourself and so you learn to change even the way you live this

could be in the home, it could be how you relate to and interact with other people, it

could be considering how you are going to express your words, how you are going to

greet a person, many things..."32


29 Maria, FEMUPROCAN cooperative member, Terrabona, July 21, 2009.
30 Granos basicos or staple grains/pulses refers to beans, corn and rice in Nicaragua.
31 Adela, President of a FEMUPROCAN Cooperative in Rio Blanco, Managua, July 15, 2009.
32 Tania, FEMUPROCAN Cooperative Member, San Juanillo, July 22, 2009.


159









These changes, a consequence of being organized and taking part in training

workshops, had led many of the women to re-evaluate their lives and think about the

reasons why changing people's perception of appropriate gender roles in their

community was important and justified. For example, with regard to women's ability to

manage projects and have a say in the allocation of resources within a community one

woman argued that women were natural administrators because they had to manage

their households and their communities, knowing when there would be a shortage of

something and where to buy it, or how to economize. Thus, their role within the

household gave them economic skills, often equal to or better than those of the men.

FEMUPROCAN also wants to make it clear to the members that empowerment

means that not only do they not have to depend on men to speak for them and make

the decisions, but that they shouldn't rely on the national office to make these decisions

either. Empowerment, for FEMUPROCAN, involved increasing the members' abilities to

act to solve their own problems and to take a proactive approach to their lives and their

personal development. Diaz saw evidence of this in her dealings with the women, and

regarded it as one of the principal achievements of the organization: "The greater

independence of the women, who are not waiting for someone to solve their

problems...for me this is a huge success because it is the key to everything else. We

have worked hard on increasing the self-esteem of the women, and you can see the

change." 33

As Diaz explained to me, everything was connected the women were training in

skills that would allow them to make more money to support their families and increase


33 Morena Diaz, head of training and advocacy in FEMUPROCAN, Managua, August 6th 2009


160









their decision making power. This, along with the self-esteem workshops run by

FEMUPROCAN would help to increase rural women's self confidence. An increase in

self-confidence would enable them to lobby the local government more effectively and

take on more leadership posts within the community. Both economic help and training

and personal development were vital for the empowerment of women.

To summarize, it does seem that by participating in FEMUPROCAN's training

programs, in their projects designed to improve the members' economic situation, and

simply from being part of an organization in which everybody was taught to respect the

opinions of everybody else, the grassroots members of FEMUPROCAN had begun to

feel more empowered and capable of making decisions about their own lives. Some

were evidently more confident than others, as is to be expected with any group of

people, but all of the women I interviewed said that their self-esteem and confidence in

their own abilities had improved as a result of their participation in FEMUPROCAN. As

Adela concluded "Organized, we are somebody." This appears to be a clear indication

of the ability of FEMUPROCAN to aid in their aim of achieving greater participation of

rural women producers and entrepreneurs in the economic, social and political life of the

country, and thus can be considered to be a major success for FEMUPROCAN. In this

respect the organization seems to be a leader in its field. Angela Rosa Acevedo, a

lawyer and former Sandinista Member of Parliament who runs FEMUPROCAN's

workshops on women's rights, said that this was the first time in thirty years of work that

she has seen this level of detail and clarity from an organization on the subject of

women's rights.


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Literacy and primary education

Within the training and empowerment component there is also a line of action on

literacy. FEMUPROCAN maintains a literacy program for leaders and members of the

organization, but its impact has gone further than this and they have also incorporated

other family members, both men and women, into the program. The program began in

2000, and is now in the sixth process of literacy. Approximately 600 women have been

taught how to read and write in the areas of Nandaime, Matagalpa, Jinotega and New

Guinea. After the training program the women can continue their learning through the

contact the unions of cooperatives have with PAEBANIC (the Nicaraguan Adult Literacy

and Basic Education Program) (UNIFEM Central America 2007).

The need to teach their members how to read and write became apparent to

FEMUPROCAN from the results of their initial census carried out in 1999. Despite the

fact that the FSLN had claimed to have ended illiteracy in the country in the wake of

their celebrated Literacy Campaign, which did indeed make remarkable progress in

improving literacy and basic education rates in Nicaragua, FEMUPROCAN discovered

that 25.71% of their members who took part in the census had not had the possibilities

and/or opportunities to gain access to basic formal or informal education. This was, in

part, due to the decade of war that devastated the countryside, the policies of the

neoliberal administrations followed the Sandinista electoral defeat and the problems

women faced in attending literacy programs (for example due to ill health, pregnancy,

family or work responsibilities and the remote location of many of their homes) The

highest proportion of illiteracy was found to be in Nueva Guinea (26.9%) and Matagalpa

(20.7%). The leaders of FEMUPROCAN realized that literacy had to be one of their first

priorities as an organization because "this disconnect with basic levels of instruction has


162









limited the members in their growth and development in the areas of organization,

training, communication and information and, as a result, in their capacity to decide and

lobby on the local and national level" (FEMUPROCAN 2003).

They were keen to get started and put an end to illiteracy among their members as

soon as possible, but El Centro Cooperativo Sueco, which was funding the project,

suggested that they try a pilot project first, and iron out any difficulties before expanding

the program to other areas. Terrabona was selected for this initial phase, because of

the high levels of illiteracy reported there and because of its proximity to Matagalpa,

FEMUPROCAN's birthplace and stronghold. After success in Terrabona

FEMUPROCAN began the program in a new department each year.

In each area FEMUPROCAN consulted its members about the most suitable times

and places to conduct the sessions. In the case of Terrabona the 80 participants and 12

educators agreed to meet three times a week for two hours each time. However, even

before FEMUPROCAN had finished training these educators they encountered

difficulties. The National Coordinator for the program, Rita Larenas, fell ill and eventually

had to leave the country as a result of these health problems. The organization was

then forced to recruit her replacement from outside of FEMUPROCAN.

There were then further setbacks when some of the educators withdrew, leaving

the program running in only three out of the initial six communities. Despite these

difficulties FEMUPROCAN reported that the women were making process, with the

majority able to read a little by the end of the first term. Some were more advanced, and

others struggled to keep up, but morale remained high (FEMUPROCAN 2003). This

difference in learning pace and irregular attendance posed a challenge for the


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educators, who were forced to redesign their methodology to incorporate groups with

different learning speeds.

The educators themselves, some of whom had no prior experience in teaching or

professional qualifications, often lacked confidence in their own abilities and were afraid

of doing something wrong. This concern led some of them to alter their reports on the

advances being made by their students, a practice condemned for its "lack of

professional ethics in people who supposedly carry out leadership roles in their

communities" by FEMUPROCAN.

Nevertheless there were also encouraging reports that the project participants

were losing their timidity and improving their oral expression and vocabulary. The

literacy program had fostered the consolidation of study circles, and many of the women

were reported to have put in a great deal of time and effort in order to make progress.

The report notes that participants also developed their listening abilities and learned to

respect other people's opinions, even when they did not coincide with their own.

The educators also reported that they had become more self-confident and

creative in their teaching methods. One of them was subsequently hired by the

government literacy program (PAEBANIC) in recognition of her teaching abilities. Their

experience of leading classes had encouraged them to take on other leadership roles

within their communities: "I have improved my relationships with my students, with other

people in the community, and this has enabled me to improve my leadership as an

organized woman in the community. Through the training sessions I have developed

greater abilities and acquired more knowledge" (Ana, FEMUPROCAN educator in

FEMUPROCAN 2003).


164









The FEMUPROCAN literacy program also had a number of positive effects on

gender relations in the communities. The women described how, as a result of the

literacy process, there was an improvement in the way men and women valued one

another. Evidence of this could be found, it was argued, in the fact that "women of all

ages, with their partners and children, who, as well as all their obligations as

housewives and their commitments to the organization, have been able to defend their

own space as women, in order to be able to respond to one of their practical needs;

learning how to read and write. This, in turn, generates the satisfaction of a strategic

need, that is, their ability to be able to carry out positions and other functions in the

organization" (FEMUPROCAN 2003). An increase the participants' ability to express

themselves orally translated into better communication within families, with their

children, their partner, their neighbors and their friends.

Furthermore the process of literacy had helped the women of FEMUPROCAN to

grow closer to one another. Many of the educators were relatively young, and many of

the participants were relatively old (although people of all ages participated). This led to

a greater understanding between the different generations of women and helped to

strengthen the organization.

Reading and writing was seen by the women as much more than just another skill,

it was intimately linked to their sense of identity and personality. They were able to

identify themselves from a list of names and sign, rather than just putting an x or their

fingerprint. This was a source of pride and self-confidence for the women, who felt that it

would be much more difficult for somebody to manipulate them or trick them into

something now that they could read and write. They felt that they had greater control


165









over every aspect of their lives and greater status within their communities. For

example, they now had the ability to decide which name they were going to give their

children, giving them more power within their families. This self confidence and self-

respect had effects on all areas of the women's lives. The educators reported that it was

possible to see changes in the women's personal and family hygiene and a concern for

the cleanliness of their community. They linked this directly to the women's educational

experiences.

The national team was quick to point out to me that although the literacy program

was carried out in the women's respective communities, the project would not have

been successful had it not been for the administrative skills of the central organization.

Literacy programs such as this one, even when the educators are not professional

teachers, do not come cheap and require a great deal of organizational work and

planning. Given the initial insecurity of the educators, FEMUPROCAN's administrative

section emphasized topics such as identity, the value of the group and their importance

within the structures of the Federation in an effort to boost their self-esteem and sense

of belonging.

Despite the difficulties FEMUPROCAN faced along the way; the illness of the

national coordinator, the irregular attendance of some of the participants (due to severe

weather, obligations linked to their work as producers, illness, pregnancy and,

occasionally, the opposition of their husband or partner) and the different learning

speeds of the participants, overall the organization was more than satisfied with the

results. From an initial enrollment of 80 women, which increased to 92 and then fell to

91, 70 managed to complete the course. This represents a retention rate of 76.92%.


166









However, not all of those who finished managed to pass the final exams.

FEMUPROCAN attributed this to a number of different reasons, including difficulties in

their vision and learning difficulties.

Those who did pass were awarded their certificates on the 8th of March,

International Women's Day. Out of the 70 who finished, 61 managed to pass the exam.

According to FEMUPROCAN, this represented an excellent result in comparison to the

national statistics for literacy programs. This was even more of an achievement when

one takes into consideration the obstacles that these women had to overcome; they are

poor, rural, women, many of whom were already quite old at the beginning of the project

and have to deal with harsh climates and sometimes unpredictable weather.

However, the excellent results did not mean that there was not room for further

improvement. FEMUPROCAN's reports highlight the dependency of the educators on

the national and departmental teams for the day-to-day administration of the program.

The departmental teams also tended to rely heavily on the national administration,

despite the latter's insistence that their role should be largely confined to overall

coordination and facilitation. Some of the educators appeared to view their job primarily

in terms of making money, rather than as part of their activism within the cooperative.

Finally the evaluations completed at the end of each stage of the program suggested

that FEMUPROCAN try and coordinate with a health organization to negotiate for cheap

glasses for the participants. This would help to solve the problems caused by poor

vision, which had set many of the older women back in their learning.

FEMUPROCAN had wanted to establish a network of promotoras and literacy

teachers to keep the program going at a national level and continue their literacy


167









process. However they were unable to achieve this objective due to a lack of financial

resources and the remote and dispersed location of many of the women in need of

literacy training.

The topic of literacy continues to be considered as crucial for FEMUPROCAN's

development today, even though they have succeeded in teaching many of their women

basic reading and writing skills. The national leadership came to realize that literacy was

often not sufficient and now is focusing on making sure its members reach the third

level of basic education. By doing so they hope that the women will develop their

abilities further and retain a greater number of skills for a longer period after the

program has finished. Currently, there is a sense that many members still lack some of

the basic skills needed for them to make the maximum possible impact in their

organizational and lobbying activities. This was highlighted as one of the key

weaknesses of FEMUPROCAN by Angela Rosa Acevedo:

They have a low level of skills... this is a weakness because they are
women who have only recently learned to read and write, and some are still
illiterate. So, this requires greater effort in order to train them, in order to
invest in their development. This is a serious limitation, not just for
FEMUPROCAN but for the country as a whole.34

To conclude, it seems that the literacy program of FEMUPROCAN can be

considered a success and is helping to achieve many of the objectives of the

organization. The members receive a number of direct and indirect benefits from the

program and displayed higher levels of self-esteem. They were also more respected by

their communities, and felt more capable of assuming leadership positions and making

decisions about their own lives. Literacy thus addresses the women's strategic gender


34 Angela Rosa Acevedo, Lawyer specializing in human rights, Managua, July 24th, 2009


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needs, whilst at the same time aiding them in their ability to satisfy their practical gender

needs.35 Having said this, there remains much work to be done in this area, and the

women's level of education remains very low. This limits them in their ability to assume

a greater role in economic and social affairs of the country.

Organization and Cooperativism

Whereas most of the women seemed to understand the importance of being

organized and building an efficient organization, it was more difficult for FEMUPROCAN

to achieve its aim of changing their mentalities on the subject of cooperativism.

Whereas the cooperatives were supposed to work collectively to achieve their goals,

these ideas had never really fully taken hold in many of the "cooperatives" that make up

FEMUPROCAN. Officially the vast majority of the base level cooperatives are

agricultural production cooperatives, meaning that production is supposed to be

organized collectively at every stage of the process (from initial planning and

preparation of the land to the commercialization and marketing of the products) and

resources ought to be pooled among cooperative members. However, many of the

women explained that in actual fact their cooperatives functioned more like credit and

service cooperatives, in which land remained individually held and only technical assets

and credits are shared among members (Bugajski 1990, 55). It appeared that in some

cases the cooperatives were not even functioning at this level of collectivism and were

really cooperatives in name only. Individualism prevailed, (admittedly to varying degrees

across the organization) and it was difficult for the national leadership to convince their

members of the benefits of working more closely together. In fact, it was due to this sort

35 For a description of the differences between practical and strategic gender interests see Molyneux
(1985).


169









of problem within the cooperatives that FEMUPROCAN had found it necessary to set up

the business networks discussed in a later section of this paper. Did this mean that they

were fighting a losing battle with regard to cooperativism? If this was true it would

represent a serious weakness for FEMUPROCAN, given that cooperativism supposedly

forms one of the cross-cutting themes of the organization.

One thing is certainly clear the principles of cooperativism are certainly

emphasized in most of the training workshops that I attended. In fact there are

workshops entirely devoted to the topic and in learning about the General Law of

Cooperatives, and what it means in practice. These workshops were often requested by

the women, and members talked about their determination to keep their cooperatives

going. This suggests that there is at least some interest in understanding the topic

better and improving the functioning of the base-level cooperatives. Perhaps

enthusiasm for the idea of cooperativism is not surprising when the principles of

cooperativism are listed as follows: equality, solidarity, dignity, moral principles,

honesty, love, value, respect, responsibility and kindness. Who could be against these

things? The leaders of the training workshops explained that if the cooperatives take

love as their base, then you can see how if there is love there is understanding, if there

is understanding there is unity, and unity is achieved to the extent that each person gets

to know herself and the others, that accumulate and share knowledge i.e. everybody

is concerned about everybody else's education. If they have all of this then they will be

able to develop economically as a cooperative.

However, it is one thing to be enthusiastic about the idea of something, and yet

another to actually be enthusiastic about how the ideas translate into practice. During


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my fieldwork I heard numerous examples of cooperatives that were not functioning as

they should. Sometimes this was due to personal differences between members of the

group, sometimes due to a lack of engagement and involvement in the activities of the

cooperative (such as a reluctance to take on leadership positions, forcing the same

people to hold these posts for long periods of time and irregular attendance at

cooperative meetings) and sometimes as a result of the poverty of the members, which

obliged them to sell their products individually and as soon as they were harvested.

Despite the best intentions of the Sandinista party, the idea of producing

collectively in cooperatives was never really fully developed and failed to take hold

among rural people in many parts of Nicaragua. Many cooperatives were formed

primarily to defend their land during the turbulent years following the 1979 revolution.

Diaz explained that the majority of their members were still most accustomed to working

individually and using the cooperatives primarily as a means of gaining access to

services and projects. FEMUPROCAN is attempting to demonstrate to their members

that by working together they can often negotiate better prices for their products,

coordinate their productive activities to ensure that there is not an oversupply of a

particular product and have more of a voice in the spaces of local government. From my

fieldwork I noticed a contradiction between what FEMUPROCAN and the General Law

on Cooperatives described as the fundamental principles of cooperativism (described

above) and the growing emphasis on increasing profitability and competitiveness in the

marketplace as the primary motivation for producing collectively. However, Diaz

explained to me that the two need not be mutually exclusive and that the principles of

cooperativism ought to enable the cooperatives to generate greater profits for their


171









members and improve their standard of living. This is one of the reasons that they are

currently focusing on commercialization:

Maybe now with the mechanism of commercialization they will manage to
get the cooperatives to sell their products collectively rather than each
producer selling individually. These cooperatives would do what many
economically successful cooperatives have done, which is that they
manage everything related to commercialization, they stock-pile production
and it is the cooperative who takes it to market and exercises quality control
over the merchandise. The profit, instead of going to an intermediary, is
retained by the cooperative and the cooperative can then provide more
services to its members.36

FEMUPROCAN, in its attempt to instill its members with the spirit of cooperativism

emphasized that this meant that the cooperatives must seek to be self-sufficient as

much as possible, and decrease their day-to-day dependence on the national

organization of FEMUPROCAN. Diaz repeatedly asserted that it was up to the people in

a cooperative to make it work, that no-one was going to come and solve their problems

for them and that working together to solve these problems would be a long and difficult

process but worth it in the end.

The national leadership of FEMUPROCAN was attempting to increase the

members' sense of ownership over their cooperatives and educate people about the

need to share information and techniques with the whole group. The women mentioned

that sometimes only the president or promotoras attended the training sessions and

then they didn't communicate what they had learned to all the members of the

cooperative. Others responded that all of the blame should not be leveled at the

presidents or promotoras and it was sometimes the members' fault for not attending

meetings or paying attention to what was being said. There were complaints that


36 Denis Medina, El Centro Cooperativo Sueco, Managua, August 1, 2009.


172









sometimes it was difficult to get members to attend meetings, to arrive on time and with

the right attitude: "Often people come to meetings and attend training sessions as if they

were doing someone a favor rather than it being their responsibility." 37

This lack of engagement was, in turn, causing problems for FEMUPROCAN in its

relationship with its NGO partners. VECO M.A, who was sponsoring many of the

training sessions relating to commercialization, had expressed concern about the

irregular attendance of FEMUPROCAN members.

One way to increase this ownership would be if the cooperative members were

obliged to contribute some of their own money for the maintenance of the cooperative

on a regular basis. This would give them a direct stake in the outcome of the initiatives

proposed by the cooperative and encourage more active participation. Unfortunately

FEMUPROCAN has a very low collection rate for subscriptions (approximately 20%)

and there are no standardized punishments for failure to pay. This means that when

individual coordinators, such as Ana Julia (based in Sebaco), attempt to impose

restrictions on those who have not paid (such as banning them from claiming expenses

and transport costs from FEMUPROCAN to travel to workshops in Managua), the

women protested that this was unfair. In examples such as this the national team sided

with the coordinators, arguing that as long as you don't take measures against these

people the problems will persist. Morena went as far as to say that people who don't

pay shouldn't benefit from being in a cooperative. However it seems that

FEMUPROCAN cannot actually enforce these measures unless it is prepared to risk

losing up to 80% of their members. This would be a dangerous gamble, and fewer


37 Beatriz, FEMUPROCAN Cooperative member, Terrabona, July 21, 2009


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members would also weaken the organization's influence on policy-making and in

changing public opinion about rural producers.

So, it seems that while FEMUPROCAN is certainly committed to educating its

members about cooperativism, they are having only limited success in changing the

mentalities of their members. This is likely to be a slow and difficult process and

requires more of the coordinators to take a firm stance against those who will not pay.

Commitment to the ideals of cooperativism entails taking actions in support of those

ideals, and fostering a sense of ownership over the cooperatives by the members.

Ownership will probably only be achieved if the women are prepared to invest their own

money and resources in the cooperative. It is therefore imperative that FEMUPROCAN

increases the rate of collection of subscriptions in order for their focus on cooperativism

to become successful.

Strengthening the Business and Entrepreneurial Skills of Women Producers

Business techniques

When FEMUPROCAN began working with the women it became apparent that

many of their members lacked the business skills that would allow them to maximize

their profits. This would not only improve their individual material wealth but also make

them able to contribute to the financial stability of their cooperative, and to

FEMUPROCAN. This lack of knowledge about the market was not confined to women,

but rather was a problem for male and female smallholding farmers in Nicaragua:

Historically small producers have had the problem that they have not
managed to take ownership over and take control over the mechanisms of
commercialization because they don't know the market or they don't have
the knowledge and the experience to manage themselves in the market,


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and determine prices. This is a long, hard task which still requires more
time for its consolidation.38

Improving these business techniques forms the core of FEMUPROCAN's current

phase of its strategy. They have developed a number of teaching materials and

workshops on matters such as feasibility and profitability and are exploring ways in

which the members can increase their incomes and diversify their production. Some

members reported feeling more confident in making calculations and carrying out cost-

benefit analyses: "We have been trained in how to go about making a plan of work and

how to know how much you are going to spend from when you begin to plough or

prepare the land until the product goes to market".39 In the workshops they emphasize

that the members are perfectly capable of navigating the ins and outs of the market, and

that one of the benefits of being in a cooperative is that each member can concentrate

on the areas that they are best at, supporting the other members as need be.

It appears that FEMUPROCAN is shifting its focus to emphasizing market-based

solutions to the problems faced by its members. I was repeatedly told that the

cooperatives should be seen by their members, and by the general public, first and

foremost as economic enterprises oriented towards the generation of profits for their

members and for FEMUPROCAN. It was for this reason that they were setting up the

business networks in all of the departments where FEMUPROCAN is active. Rather

than trying to fix some of the problems in the cooperatives described above,

FEMUPROCAN saw the business networks as an opportunity to start afresh, and avoid

the emergence of these problems in the first place.


38 Denis Medina, El Centro Cooperativo Sueco, Managua, August 1, 2009

39 Tania, FEMUPROCAN Cooperative Member, San Juanillo, July 22, 2009


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However, it is not just FEMUPROCAN that is attempting to improve the business

skills of rural women producers. There are many organizations and NGOs working on

microfinance projects for women, many of which involve some training in business

techniques (Babb 2001). The Nicaraguan Institute for the Support of Small and Medium

Sized Businesses (INPYME) is the government body responsible for the promotion of

this type of enterprise. Among other things they organize exchanges of experiences

between groups from different areas of the country. FEMUPROCAN is one of the

organizations that benefit from these exchanges, providing their members with the

opportunity to learn from the success of other cooperatives outside of the organization

and generating new ideas. It is important to point out that although the fact of being

organized in FEMUPROCAN grants the women access to this type of exchange, the

initiative is coordinated by INPYME, not FEMUPROCAN. FEMUPROCAN cannot,

therefore, claim all the credit for the benefits of this program for their members.

There are also members of FEMUPROCAN who, on their own initiative, are

seeking out other ways of improving their business and administration skills. Several of

the younger promotoras with whom I spoke were currently enrolled, or hoping to enroll,

in university level programs in Business Administration. They are not being supported

by FEMUPROCAN in order to do this and it was unclear how much of what they were

learning they passed on to the other members of their cooperatives, or whether they

planned to remain part of FEMUPROCAN after graduation. It remains to be seen

whether FEMUPROCAN can develop sufficient incentives for these younger, skilled

members to remain within the organization in some function. To lose them would


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certainly limit FEMUPROCAN's ability to develop an entrepreneurial spirit among its

members.

So far, it seems that there is significant interest among the grassroots members in

developing their business skills. However, they are limited in their abilities to put some

of these skills to use, due to a number of interrelated factors. Many of these are related

to their position as rural people who have only recently learned to read and write, their

poverty and the lack of financial resources within their cooperatives, and in

FEMUPROCAN more generally, their gender, which limited their access to credit and

other forms of financial assistance, and their lack of confidence in their own abilities.

Many of the cooperatives still do not make a profit and the business networks are in

their infancy. Therefore FEMUPROCAN cannot, yet, be described as successful with

regard to teaching their members business techniques.

Access to land and other property

Perhaps one of the most important limitations the women of FEMUPROCAN had

to overcome was their lack of access to resources, and, in particular, to land and other

property. Angela Rosa Acevedo explained that even though the Sandinista agrarian

reform allowed for the land title to be put in the names of more than one person often

this meant that, rather than placing their partner on the title, men would register the

property in their name and that of their eldest son, effectively bypassing the women in

the family. Not only this but many of FEMUPROCAN's members received their land

under Law 278. This law states that property titles are understood to be automatically

extended in the name of the couple, but that this meant that, in practice, the man

retained control of the property, and only his name featured on the deeds. He could thus

do whatever he wanted with the property, without having to consult his wife/partner.


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For FEMUPROCAN, then, one of their priorities was that women legalize their

situation with regard to land tenancy. Torres explained that although FEMUPROCAN is

comprised of women producers this does not mean that the members own the land on

which they were producing. Many of them are sharecroppers and/or farm rented or

borrowed land. Often this land was borrowed from their husbands who could,

theoretically, take it back at any time. They thus had little real control over the land, and

few incentives to carry out improvements on the land. They also found it difficult to gain

access to technical assistance or training programs, and lacked the collateral usually

required in order to take out loans.40

In order to gather more information about the extent of the problem among their

members, the national leadership decided to undertake a rapid appraisal of the ways in

which the members gained access to the land they were working, and the legality of the

land parcels that the women declared as their own. This appraisal was carried out in

2008 and involved 343 members (338 women and five men), organized in 43

cooperatives located in nineteen municipalities from different regions of the country.

The results showed that 61% of the members interviewed responded that they had

access to their own land. The remaining 39% had access to land which was borrowed

(15.6%), rented (14.6%), sharecropped (8.5%) or given (but without handing over the

legal title to the land) (0.5%) (FEMUPROCAN 2008). Of the 61% that was owned by the



40 According to Maria Rosa Renzi, "One of the problems with the cooperative sector is that almost always
the women are in a cooperative because their husband has given them two or three parcels to work, but
the owner of the land is almost always the husband, the man, and this means that the women don't have
access to credit...they are very much in the shadow, well, subject to the will of their partner. If these
women were to genuinely have access to land, access to financing and access to technical training
programs this would represent a huge boost, a huge advance for them in economic terms" ( Interview
with Maria Rosa Renzi, UNIFEM, Managua, July 15th 2009).


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members, many women lacked some or all of the documentation necessary to prove

their legal ownership of the land.

To try and improve this situation, FEMUPROCAN participates in the Coordinator

for Rural Women. This organization focuses on the problem of women's access to land

and lobbies the Nicaraguan government to try and influence policy and mobilizes rural

women to struggle for equal access to land. They put forward proposals to the

government, one of which has already been accepted for debate by the legislative

assembly. This proposal seeks to get approval for a law on women's access to land,

which would include the creation of a land bank for women.

Many of the most economically successful of FEMUPROCAN's cooperatives were

those in which many of the members had managed to legalize their ownership rights

over the land, whereas many that were struggling were comprised of women without

access to their own land. Those that had land were the ones selected to participate in

the projects organized by FEMUPROCAN, such as the drip watering schemes piloted in

Terrabona and Dario.

However, legalizing the members' situation is not simple. It is a long, complicated

and time consuming process. Not only that but men have to be persuaded of the need

to grant property rights to women, in a way that minimizes conflicts within couples

and/or families. Consequently, FEMUPROCAN acknowledges that many of their

members still have problems regarding their access to land.

Even when the members were able to access credit and training programs and

were able to buy or rent their own plots of land they often faced problems explaining

their actions to their partners and families. When I attended a workshop in Nueva


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Guinea, one of the participants described how she and her husband had been working

land together for a long time. Although their house and various assets were in her name

she never received direct benefits from her work but was dependent on her husband,

who held the land title. The woman decided she wanted to work her own land in order to

be able to provide for herself without having to ask for everything. So, she sold a cow,

bought some land and decided to work this for herself. Her husband couldn't

understand why she would want to do this, and felt personally offended by her actions.

He went to live with his family and continued to work the land. The woman was

repeatedly insulted and harassed by her husband's family, who felt that she was

betraying her husband and damaging his reputation. Her husband accused her of

wanting to leave him and it was almost impossible for the woman to convince him

otherwise. Every time they came close to a reconciliation, her husband would ask if he

could work her land, she would refuse, and the whole argument would start all over

again.

To summarize it does seem that FEMUPROCAN is having some success in

influencing policy makers regarding women's access to land, via their participation in

the Coordinator for Rural Women. They are also providing support and assistance for

their members in their attempts to gain access to land and legalize their situation. In the

training sessions the importance of having access to land in their own name is

discussed and members find a space to share their experiences.

Having said that, many of FEMUPROCAN's members still lack access to and

control over their own lands, limiting their ability to make their own production decisions,

determine how income should be spent within the household and gain greater


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independence from their partners. It does not appear that FEMUPROCAN has

successfully managed to persuade these husbands of the importance of granting

women access to lands in their own names. The organization has not succeeded in

preventing conflicts from arising within households due to access to land and women's

desire for greater independence. Changing mentalities takes a long time and perhaps

the men will gradually come around to accepting the idea. However, at present it

remains an important obstacle to FEMUPROCAN's desire to grant rural women equality

of access to land.

Diversification and modernization of production

However, access to land is not enough if the amount of income generated by the

members from their production is insufficient to lift them and their families out of poverty.

To try and improve the standard of living of their members FEMUPROCAN is attempting

to facilitate the diversification and modernization of production, introducing new crops

and farming techniques.

According to their 2008 report, out of a total of 2083 manzanas (approximately

3600 acres) worked by the members, 90.9% was devoted to the production of basic

grains.41 Beans and corn comprised the vast majority of this figure. It appears,

therefore, that FEMUPROCAN has so far struggled to persuade many of the members

to diversify their production. One reason for this was simply that the inputs needed for

the production of basic grains are much cheaper than other, potentially more profitable,

crops such as tomatoes or onions. Valle explained that the cost of planting basic grains

in the region was on the order of C$5,000 per manzana, including all the seed and


41 1 manzana = 1.73 acres


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inputs. One bag of improved tomato seeds (containing 10,000 seeds), by contrast, costs

C$10,000 to C$10,500. For onions one can expect to spend from C$10,000 to

C$15,000, depending on the variety. Not only do both of these crops require a higher

initial investment, they also need a qualified workforce to work in the nursery and in the

transplanting process. As the above figures clearly demonstrate, it should not be argued

that people keep sowing corn and beans entirely for traditional reasons or because they

do not want to diversify. FEMUPROCAN's members are overwhelmingly smallholding

women producers who do not have the capital necessary to invest in expensive new

crops, especially when they have not grown them before and they require a high level of

care and attention. The fact that prices of inputs and the cost of living had risen sharply

in recent years in Nicaragua made it even more difficult for the members to diversify

their production.

Despite these difficulties, with the support of FEMUPROCAN some of the

cooperative members have managed to diversify their production, mainly moving into

the cultivation of vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers and sweet peppers on a

rotational system. These new crops had allowed some members to substantially

improve their economic situation and gain standing in their communities. Some had

even made enough money to finance the purchase of various luxury items and

household appliances. Others were not so lucky, and had found it difficult to care for the

vegetables properly. Some had lost their crops to pests and/or disease, whereas other

members mentioned that they had been forced to sell their products at a low price or

risk them spoiling. The women knew how to store basic grains, but lacked knowledge of

appropriate techniques for dealing with the more perishable vegetables.


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FEMUPROCAN, along with VECO M.A., are currently in the process of training the

women who grow vegetables how to process them and make new products. It is hoped

that these new items, such as tomato chutney, will have a both a longer shelf-life and

higher selling price than the unprocessed vegetables.

Essential to the production of these vegetables is a reliable supply of water.

However, many of FEMUPROCAN's cooperatives are located in dry regions near to

Ciudad Dario, Terrabona, San Francisco Libre and Nandaime. In these areas the

families depend on the winter rains in order to farm and support their families. They

were thus only able to cultivate crops for part of the year, leaving an epoca muerta or

dead season in the summer. Poverty and the rising costs of living, as well as the scaling

back of government support after 1990, have forced many people from these

communities to migrate to Costa Rica, or other parts of Nicaragua, in search of

seasonal employment. Often only one or two members of the family might migrate, and

the women in FEMUPROCAN were keen to find alternatives that would allow them to

keep their families together.

For these reasons, FEMUPROCAN devised a drip watering system that could be

used in these arid areas in the summer months. Martha Valle first tested it out on her

own farm and then, encouraged by the results, FEMUPROCAN formulated a proposal

with El Centro Cooperativo Sueco for the implementation of a pilot project. Four years

after its initiation, the project had been gradually expanded to benefit more members,

with a total of around forty watering systems installed. By 2008, this had increased to

63, covering a total of 252 manzanas, with an average of 4 manzanas per watering

system. This number, however, does not capture the number of people who have


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benefitted from these 63 systems. Mercedes, a FEMUPROCAN member from near

Terrabona, described how the motors from the watering systems were shared by the

entire community:"One person will have their turn at watering during the night, another

begins in the morning and we take it in turns like this. In our community there is only

one motor and we share it between about ten families."42

Such intensive use of the motors in these remote communities sometimes led to

mechanical failures. The women described how, in the case of breakdown, they were

still much better off being affiliated to FEMUPROCAN than they had been previously, as

the organization responded quickly and efficiently to their problems:

Listen, the main achievement of being organized has been, for me, to be
able to manage resources and find responses to the needs that I had. For
example, our motor broke down right when we had our nurseries all ready
[to transplant the crops]. So I rushed to a meeting and Martha Valle said to
me, "look, if you can find a guarantor, or a farmer to back you up the motor
can be taken away to be fixed tomorrow." So I went to my father-in-law's
house and he agreed to support me and gave me his signature. The very
next day they took the motor away for repairs. It was all very quick without
many obstacles. This is a benefit of being organized, because if I hadn't
been I wouldn't have been able to solve my production problem...also if I
had gone to a bank I would have waited two or three months, or who knows
how long but FEMUPROCAN resolved my problem practically overnight.43

Through this project, FEMUPROCAN provides the members with financing for

fertilizers, seeds and motors at lower interest rates than many microfinance

organizations. Thus the organization hopes to be able to recoup its initial investment,

plus some interest, to make the project financially self-sustainable and enable them to

keep expanding its scope. At the time of my visit, many of the beneficiaries were still in


42 Mercedes, FEMUPROCAN cooperative member, Terrabona, July 22, 2009

43Mirna Gonzales Mairena, Vice President of the Board of Directors of the Cooperative Rafaela Herrera,
Terrabona, from transcripts of interviews carried out by FEMUPROCAN in August of 2008 kept in the
Managua headquarters of FEMUPROCAN.


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debt but were confident of their ability to repay in the near future. Others have been

somewhat more successful:

I know members who didn't have anything. Now they even have Nintendos
in their houses, they have televisions. Some have telephones, others have
fixed up their houses. And this has been because with the watering systems
they have achieved all this. They sell well, although sometimes they lose
money, but only sometimes the majority earn money.44

A member sowed one manzana of mint and cilantro and it sold for
C$100,000.45 With that they paid off the credit and bought another little
farm for their children and constructed another watering system with the
money that was left. Today the family is involved in the commercialization of
these nontraditional products. (Agurto and Guido 2007)

Overall, it seems that while not all of the participants enjoyed this level of success,

the vast majority were benefitting from the watering systems, which enabled them to

sow all year round. They were able to demand higher prices for products like tomatoes

and onions, provide year-round employment for their families and thus help to halt the

disintegration of families due to migration. This project has managed to win a significant

amount of attention in Nicaragua, and in March of this year (2010) featured in a

television news report shown on the national Nicaraguan TV Channel Canal 2.

But cash crop production is not the only way FEMUPROCAN would like its

members to diversify. The organization has also encouraged the women to think about

planting more varieties of foods for household consumption, such as avocado and

lemon trees, thereby increasing their families' food security and reducing their

vulnerability in times of crisis. Planting more of these trees had also encouraged the

women to take better care of their homes and the surroundings and many of the

interviewees expressed pride in how beautiful their homes now looked. They were

44 Mercedes, FEMUPROCAN cooperative member, Terrabona, July 22, 2009.
45 Approximately $4,737 at March 2010 prices.


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learning how to cultivate new foods for their families, some of which, like the sweet

potato, were still relatively unknown in their communities. Thus, some of the women

were gaining a reputation as innovators, of which they were rightfully proud.

For many of the people I interviewed, this type of diversification for household

consumption was considered as, if not more, important than diversification for the

market. This demonstrates that, in many cases, the health and well-being of their

families remains FEMUPROCAN's members' first priority, over and above discussions

of profits and markets: "[diversification] is, above all, about diversifying a parcel in order

to produce food to sustain your family. For the people who are growing vegetables they

sell half, but they keep the rest for their children's consumption."46

It seems clear that FEMUPROCAN's attempts to diversify are bearing some fruit,

especially for the members benefiting from the watering systems project. These benefits

are helping to keep their families together, and improving their nutrition and overall

quality of life. Watering systems and diversification have reduced women's vulnerability

to bad weather and greater food self-sufficiency has diminished the impact of economic

crises on the members' abilities to feed their families. The cooperatives are

demonstrating to Nicaragua that women are capable of producing a wide variety of

traditional and non-traditional crops and incorporating new farming techniques.

On the other hand, FEMUPROCAN does not appear to have successfully

expanded the opportunities to participate in projects such as those mentioned above to

all of its members. The watering systems benefit only a small percentage of the

organization's total membership and FEMUPROCAN does not have the financial


46 Maria, FEMUPROCAN cooperative member, Terrabona, July 21, 2009


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resources to provide low interest credit to all of its members. The vast majority of the

women at the grassroots are too poor to afford the inputs required for them to

experiment with new crops. This helps to explain why, in 2008, 90% of

FEMUPROCAN's production was still devoted to the cultivation of basic grains. It seems

fair to say that those few members of FEMUPROCAN who had managed to diversify

their production had met with considerable success. However, for the vast majority

FEMUPROCAN is not succeeding in its objective to diversify and modernize production.

Financing of productive activities

As discussed above, FEMUPROCAN recognizes that having access to land,

training and information about new production techniques means little if the members

cannot get financing to put this knowledge and these skills into practice. As poor, rural

women, many of whom did not own their own land, FEMUPROCAN's members find it

difficult to get credit, especially from traditional banks: "The banks aren't giving us credit

perhaps because they are worried that we will not pay the money back."47

Many of the loans they were able to access had extremely high interest rates

which members might struggle to repay. Considering the fact that the majority of

FEMUPROCAN members' projects do not generate large profits, the benefits of taking

out a high interest loan seem even more questionable. One of FEMUPROCAN's

objectives is to increase their members' access to various sources of funding. They

have set up their own credit window and provide financing for the members selected to

participate in the watering systems project, as well as for other inputs, seed and




47 Adela, President of a FEMUPROCAN Cooperative in Rio Blanco, Managua, July 15, 2009.


187









agricultural equipment. In 2008, for example, 30 women from Rio Blanco were able to

benefit from the establishment of a credit fund in their area.

All of this does not mean that FEMUPROCAN seeks to encourage its members to

take out loans without careful consideration of the costs involved and prospects for

repayment. The training workshops on feasibility studies and creating business

networks aim to teach the women how to calculate whether a potential venture will likely

be profitable or not, and the national leadership urge caution before taking out

expensive microfinance loans, especially at the beginning of a venture. However, they

do not dismiss all microfinance organizations, and recognize that for many of their

members, microfinance may well be the only option open to them. FEMUPROCAN has

thus sought to train its members on how to manage credit, in coordination with a North

American faith-based organization called Red Arco Iris, or Rainbow Network.

Despite their efforts, many of FEMUPROCAN's members still cited a lack of

access to credit and financing as one of the most serious problems they faced, and as a

weakness of the organization as a whole. Many cooperatives had not managed to set

up their own credit funds within the cooperative and this meant that the members had to

waste considerable time going from institution to institution, bank to bank, looking for

credit. It also limited their freedom to define their own priorities for financing, as only

those initiatives with prior approval from the lending organization were able to proceed.

With a fund within the cooperative it would be the members themselves who

participated in the decisions about how to allocate credit, based on their knowledge of

one another and assessment of their most pressing needs at the time. I found little

evidence that FEMUPROCAN had been able to grant their members greater access to


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credit on a large scale, with some women even reporting that it was now more difficult to

find credit than it had been a few years ago.

This situation had been exacerbated by the international economic crisis, which

Martha Valle blamed for the tightening up and/or closing off of avenues of credit

previously available to the members:

We have a situation in which bank policy has focused almost entirely on
recuperation [of money owed] and the restriction of credit lines and policies,
principally in our sector...this area [of credit] is not open because with the
worldwide movement of the economic recession the banks immediately
closed these credit lines and began a new policy, which is the policy of
recuperating money owed to them. 48

It seems apparent that although FEMUPROCAN's credit program does provide

quick and much needed assistance to a very small number of their members, it is still

very much in its infancy, and the vast majority of women affiliated with the organization

have not been able to access financing in this way. Poor, rural women still face many

obstacles in accessing sources of credit, and the international economic crisis appears

to be making things worse. Some members had managed to take out loans, the vast

majority of which were with microfinance institutions. Many of these institutions charged

high interest rates and were relatively inflexible in their terms. However, this may be the

only viable option for many of FEMUPROCAN's members if they wish to implement

projects of their own, modernize and diversify their production, or set up processing

enterprises, which they are encouraged to do by FEMUPROCAN. To date

FEMUPROCAN has only achieved very limited success in their objective of increasing

their members' access to sources of financing for their projects.



48 Martha Valle, President of FEMUPROCAN, Managua, August 3rd, 2009.


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Marketing and commercialization

One of FEMUPROCAN's current priorities is to develop the ability of their

members to effectively market their products and train them how to add value or ensure

that they receive the best possible price. The national leadership is struggling to change

the mentalities of the women at the grassroots from that of producers towards that of

businesswomen. Rocha informed me that commercialization represented a bottleneck

in the organization at present because generally, in Nicaragua, "business" and the

large-scale sale of products was seen as a man's responsibility, or for women in other

sectors. The women in FEMUPROCAN have to learn how to sell their goods and

develop the skills to do so with confidence.

Despite the success of the watering systems described above in enabling

members to diversify their production and adopt specialized agricultural techniques,

participants had sometimes struggled to find a buyer for their produce and had been

forced to sell at a low price or risk spoiling their crops. In the light of this and other

similar experiences, FEMUPROCAN realized that, in order for the women to make real

profits and become less dependent on the national organization they would have to pay

more attention to marketing. El Centro Cooperativo Sueco agreed, and in 2006 they

shifted their support from the development of production systems to "support initiatives

for the commercialization of production, how to organize this and how to create

infrastructure for commercialization." They provided a mixture of training workshops and

technical assistance, including market studies, internal markets and the formulation of

commercialization networks. These networks were designed to eliminate intermediary

merchants and allow the women to sell their production directly, and thus obtain a larger


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profit. This initial phase of CCS's support was due to end in 2009, and the organization

was preparing for the next phase of their cooperation with FEMUPROCAN.

Thanks to assistance from CCS and several other organizations FEMUPROCAN

was able to build the basic structure for their roadside market, located near Ciudad

Dario. In addition to a small stall displaying a selection of soft drinks and products made

by FEMUPROCAN members the roadside market consists of a number of different

buildings set in grounds planted with flowers and trees by FEMUPROCAN's national

leadership. Many of the training workshops for the members in the Dario area are held

there and FEMUPROCAN employs a recent economics graduate, Mayli, to staff the

small office and carry out various monitoring activities with the women at the grassroots.

A small wind generator provides power and everything on the site is grown using

organic methods. Valle informed me that she wanted to demonstrate that it is possible

to produce good crops and healthy plants organically and also to educate the members

about the need to plant flowers, to make more of an effort to make their houses and

farms pleasant places to live. She wanted them to take pride in their houses and their

lands but explained that it was a long and difficult process to change people's

mentalities.

The primary function of the market is supposed to be to provide the women with a

place to sell their products. Little by little FEMUPROCAN is improving the buildings,

which remain very basic at present. Martha Valle also has visions that one day in the

future they will be able to construct a roadside restaurant and small cabins for visiting

delegations to stay in. In the more immediate future FEMUPROCAN is seeking to

transform two of the modules into a laboratory for processing and packaging goods.


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CCS has promised to continue their support, but, at the time of my visit, FEMUPROCAN

was struggling to find even half of the money they needed in order to equip the

laboratory properly. They were thus proceeding piece-meal as best they could.

When I visited in July and August 2009, however, one thing seemed clear the

members were not using the roadside market to sell their goods. There were a few

bottles of honey and wine produced by the women, but very little in the way of

vegetables or other fresh produce on offer. The one little stall selling these goods was

staffed by the caretaker of the site and his son, and business appeared to be very slow.

My interviews with the women confirmed these suspicions, as did representatives from

both Oxfam Canada and VECO MA. The vast majority of members still sell their goods

to intermediary merchants who arrive in trucks from nearby urban centers to buy from

the women at their farms. They explained that these merchants were able to buy all of

their production at once and pay for it immediately. The roadside market did not have

the resources to be able to pay the women for large quantities up front and lacked

adequate storage facilities to prevent the products from spoiling before they were sold.

Although the middlemen were able to provide the women with much needed

instant cash for their products, they also were able to make significant profits. Many

merchants took advantage of the women's remote locations, lack of transport, lack of

storage facilities, and lack of knowledge about commercialization and marketing to buy

the products for the lowest possible price before selling them at much higher prices in

the markets of Managua and Sebaco. What particularly angered FEMUPROCAN's

members was the tendency for some of these merchants to buy up large quantities of

produce when prices are cheap, sometimes to sell in neighboring countries for higher


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prices. Then, during times of scarcity in Nicaragua the merchants would return to sell

the same products at much higher prices. Thus, due to a lack of storage facilities and

knowledge of the market the women who produced the food in the first place would then

have to pay a lot more in order to buy enough food for them and their family to survive.

Especially with some of the vegetables grown by members with watering systems the

women had to find a buyer quickly, due to the perishable nature of the product and were

sometimes forced to sell at very low prices.

FEMUPROCAN aims to eliminate many of these intermediary merchants and train

their members in marketing techniques. The national leadership emphasized that, in

order to make a profit, the members had to change their mentalities. There was a

tendency for the women to concentrate entirely on production before considering where

they were going to sell it. FEMUPROCAN trains its members to have a client agree in

advance whenever possible and to carefully examine the small details of any

agreements they make. Through the planning system coordinated by the national

organization, but carried out in each cooperative, FEMUPROCAN is trying to create a

system in which "production is staggered to come on to the market at different times to

ensure that although there are always products on the market there is never an

overabundance of one thing, which enables us to manage and predict prices more

effectively." 49

The national organization is attempting to convince its members of the benefits of

selling collectively, via their cooperatives, instead of on an individual basis. They

pointed out that not only would this allow the cooperative to generate money for use on


49 Denis Medina, Centro Cooperativo Sueco, Managua, August 1, 2009.


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future projects or initiatives but also that many clients needed large quantities of a

product or a guaranteed supply over a specific period of time. It was much easier for a

cooperative to meet these requirements than an individual, especially considering the

small size of most of the members' plots.

The cooperatives could also carry out quality control and ensure that hygiene and

food safety standards required to sell products in supermarkets were upheld by the

members. FEMUPROCAN, with support from VECO MA and PECOSOL (The Regional

Program for Economic Solidarity in Central America), has recently begun to train its

members in these regulations and packaging processes.50 The business networks

currently being developed by FEMUPROCAN are designed to focus on the production

of just one particular type of product and often have fewer members than the

cooperatives. Certain of these networks have been selected as pilot schemes for the

production of a variety of fruit jellies and preserves, and members in San Francisco

Libre secured financing for a mill to produce pinolillo and other cereal products.51 As

with any new venture, there were initial teething problems the lids of some products

were not properly sealed, causing the food inside the containers to spoil, and it took

time before the women were familiar with all of the requirements but the women were

keen to learn and understood the importance of this type of controls. They were

beginning to express a greater sense of pride and satisfaction in the high quality of their

products, and this pride made them more rigorous in their selection and presentation of

goods for the market. These standards, processing and packaging techniques not only

50 PECOSOL is comprised of an alliance between organizations of small producers from Central America
and organizations dedicated to processing and commercialization.
51 Pinolillo is a typical Nicaraguan drink made from ground toasted corn, cinnamon and cacao. The
powder is normally sweetened with sugar and mixed with either water or milk.


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improved the quality of the products sold by the members but also added value,

ensuring that they were able to command higher prices for their goods. In this way,

FEMUPROCAN is preparing its members to sell their goods directly, not only to local

stores or markets, but to supermarkets and bigger clients, who were more demanding

and set higher standards.

The work appears to be paying off. During my time in Managua FEMUPROCAN,

assisted by VECO MA, submitted a proposal to Walmart. To their considerable surprise,

the supermarket chain (represented by Supermercados Pali and La Uni6n in Nicaragua)

agreed to meet with the women and requested a sample of FEMUPROCAN's produce.

After several rounds of negotiations FEMUPROCAN and Walmart appeared close to

agreeing on a pilot project. If everything went well then this pilot project would gradually

be expanded and FEMUPROCAN would become a regular supplier to the supermarket

chain. As exciting as this development was for the national team, they were determined

not to forget what they had learned about commercialization and marketing. They would

start small and set feasible goals rather than trying to do too much too quickly. Rocha

recognized that whilst this presented FEMUPROCAN with a fantastic opportunity, it also

represented a risk. The large supermarket chains had a reputation for failing to pay the

producers on time, something that represented a real concern for an organization like

FEMUPROCAN that had precious few economic resources to begin with.

This caution did not mean that FEMUPROCAN did not have big ambitions

concerning commercialization. The national team explained that they hoped that one

day they would have developed sufficient capacity within their membership to begin

exporting their products to neighboring countries and, perhaps, one day even to the


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United States: "We do not aspire to remain solely at the level of the local or intermediary

market, but rather we aspire that the women's products find a place at the national level,

at the level of the supermarkets and, why not, at the Central American level. At least we

want to be able to sell processed products in Central American and international

markets."52 However, at present, this international trade still seems some way off and

would require even stricter quality control and compliance with further hygiene and food

safety controls.

The members participating in the training course on business networks were

guided through each stage of the process by FEMUPROCAN. They were encouraged

not to rush through the steps, but to take time to build a solid base for the network and

allow the members to get to know and trust one another before attempting to set up an

enterprise together. Diaz informed me that many of the cooperatives had not spent

sufficient time on building their organization before they launched into various initiatives.

She saw this as a major reason for some of the problems they subsequently

encountered. This was a fairly new initiative for FEMUPROCAN, and they were still in

the process of training the first round of promotoras. Many of the networks were in the

very early stages of development, so it remains to be seen whether this represents a

more successful strategy for the commercialization and marketing of production.

To conclude, FEMUPROCAN, in my opinion, is taking the first steps towards a

new phase in its development that focuses on the ability of its members to sell, process,

and package their products. So far progress on this front has been insufficient and

commercialization represents an important weakness in the organization today. The

52 Blanca Lidia Torres, Director of FEMUPROCAN's System of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation,
Managua, August 3, 2009


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roadside market is clearly not yet functioning as it should, and most members still sell

their produce individually, via intermediary merchants. However, there are signs that

demonstrate that FEMUPROCAN's current focus on commercialization and marketing

may pay off in the future, such as the agreements with Walmart and the adoption of new

products and processing techniques. This emphasis on commercialization, encouraging

individual cooperatives to become less dependent on the national organization, and

greater integration into the market economy is likely a consequence of the shift to

neoliberal policies around the world and in Nicaragua since the 1990s and a reflection

of the dominance of market-oriented discourses and microfinance projects in much

mainstream development thinking at the moment.

Influencing the Processes of Promotion and Formulation of Policies Related to
the Countryside and Women Producers?

Dissemination of information and media strategy

FEMUPROCAN does not seem to have been very successful in obtaining media

coverage for their events or demands. This may be due to the fact that, as yet, they

have not developed a media strategy or paid a great deal of attention to this aspect of

the organization. They have identified this as an area requiring improvement in the

future and Oxfam Canada is currently providing them with assistance in formulating

their media strategy. Morena Diaz is the member of the national team responsible for

FEMUPROCAN's public relations, such as they are, and Ericka Sobalvarno maintains

the organization's web page. When I asked Morena about the reasons behind the lack

of newspaper coverage of FEMUPROCAN she replied that it was true that they had little

contact with the media. This was partly due to a lack of financial resources. Diaz

explained that the main problem was that they had found that organizations had to pay


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journalists to attend meetings if they wanted to get publicity for them, and that

FEMUPROCAN did not have sufficient funds to be able to do this. The journalists in

Nicaragua, she said, tend to write in favor of whoever was paying them.

FEMUPROCAN did not seem to be actively pursuing other avenues for raising

their media profile. They do have a webpage, created with the help of Oxfam Canada,

which appears to function well and gives a basic introduction to the organization.

However it is not updated very often (partly because Ericka is kept busy with her other

responsibilities as the person in control of FEMUPROCAN's finances) and could

perhaps benefit from being translated into English, (for the benefit of potential

international NGO partners in the future). At present, FEMUPROCAN has not explored

the possibilities of making contacts online, through social networking websites, for

example, which again would perhaps help to build their international profile (despite the

fact that some of the national team have individual Facebook profiles). A simple web

search for the organization brings up their website, a few articles from the Nicaraguan

press (mainly from El Nuevo Diario and El Observador Econ6mico), and a video diary

and report from a North American women's organization whose president visited

FEMUPROCAN to write an article on what it is like to live on less than a dollar a day.

Most of the pieces that have been published, however, concern the achievements

of FEMUPROCAN in providing their members with a way out of poverty and thus

provide valuable positive publicity for the organization. Some others focus on the

difficulties faced by FEMUPROCAN's members in their struggle for greater participation

in the economic and social affairs of the country. For example, in an article from 2006

that appeared in El Nuevo Diario William Briones explains how FEMUPROCAN and


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various other organizations had invited the presidential candidates to a meeting on

International Rural Women's Day to put forward a platform for action. However, none of

the candidates attended the event. Only two representatives, both women, from the

main two parties (the FSLN and PLC) actually showed up. The candidates for the

Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS), the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN) and

Alternative for Change not only failed to attend, but they didn't bother to send any

delegate in their place (Briones 2006). FEMUPROCAN may hope that this kind of article

will shame policy makers into taking action to meet their demands and convince them to

attend similar events in the future for fear of further bad publicity.

The organization has also published a series of reports to coincide with their

annual anniversary, and a detailed study of the organization carried out in 2006 under

the name "FEMUPROCAN: A Life of Stories, Struggles and Challenges." These

publications are primarily intended for internal use and not for public consumption. They

help to disseminate information to the members of the organization and to NGO

partners, but do little to raise FEMUPROCAN's public profile.

In addition to these self-published titles, FEMUPROCAN has been featured in a

few academic publications available in the United States, most notably in Deere and

Royce's 2009 volume on rural social movements in Latin America. This collection of

case studies came out of a conference held at the University of Florida in 2006 and

combines chapters written by scholars with those written by social movement leaders.

Martha Valle contributed a brief chapter summarizing the goals, history, and

achievements of FEMUPROCAN, potentially bringing the organization to the attention of

scholars of social movements throughout Latin America. Not only does this perhaps


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increase their chances of featuring in academic research projects in the future, but it

grants FEMUPROCAN a significant level of recognition and legitimacy as an important

social movement organization.

At present FEMUPROCAN is much more successful in disseminating information

internally than creating and maintaining the organization's public profile in Nicaragua.

None of the people I met in Managua who were not directly involved in working with

rural women had heard of the FEMUPROCAN, let alone knew anything about the goals

of the organization. It will be difficult for FEMUPROCAN to gain high levels of public

recognition and media coverage without spending significant amounts of money.

However, the formulation of a detailed media strategy, with Oxfam Canada's

assistance, may help them to identify less costly ways of publicizing the organization

and its objectives. Since my visit there have been some initial signs that this new media

strategy may well be bearing fruit as FEMUPROCAN's watering systems project

recently featured as the subject of a television news report by the Nicaraguan national

TV channel, Canal 2. FEMUPROCAN has informed me that, in addition, it is actively

seeking to improve its coverage in the local media and encouraging the members to

publicize their events and successes at the local and regional level.

Lobbying and advocacy

Lobbying and advocacy work, vital for FEMUPROCAN to be able to achieve their

aim of influencing policy makers and public opinion, has only relatively recently begun to

receive the attention it deserves within the organization. A UNIFEM report published in

2007 reported that this is the component on which they have done least work until last

year [2006] when they began a training program with the objective of forming a network

of lobbying promotoras" (UNIFEM Central America 2007). Nevertheless a lack of formal


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initiatives regarding advocacy work among their members does not mean that

FEMUPROCAN has not managed to lobby successfully on behalf of their members at

various times. Opinion seemed to be divided about the level and success of

FEMUPROCAN's advocacy, with some commentators fairly dismissive (as in the

UNIFEM report mentioned above) and others, such as Angela Rosa Acevedo, full of

praise for the organization:

For me, their greatest strength is the capacity they have had to push
forward proposals concerning rural women. As a consequence, many of
their initiatives are discussed by those bodies in charge of formulating
policy for rural women. It is a strength that they [FEMUPROCAN] exist
because they are authorized to present the demands of rural women and
small producers... they visibilize the needs of the women and put rural
women's needs on the public agenda... not all civil society organizations do
this, or rather, everybody raises issues but regarding women's needs they
don't do it with the same degree of clarity as FEMUPROCAN. 53

However, all commentators agreed that FEMUPROCAN has consistently worked

for the recognition of the identity of its members as rural women producers. It has taken

a lot of hard work for the members to recognize themselves as producers and proved

even harder for FEMUPROCAN to persuade the general public in Nicaragua that

women are producers and farmers in their own right:

In the beginning, for example, when there were debates and committees we
presented ourselves as housewives, not as women producers. First we had
to recognize this [that they were producers] ourselves and then we worked
in order that others recognized us. But in addition to recognition we were
striving for valuation, valuation of the work done by rural women producers
and for the support she provides to the household economy, to the
country's economy that is currently invisible. Some of the most basic
problems we face in our recognition of ourselves as women producers, and
in society's recognition of this identity are machismo and prejudices about
women's organizations. For belonging to a women's organization you can




5Angela Rosa Acevedo, Lawyer specializing in human rights, Managua, July 24th, 2009.


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be categorized as any number of things, a feminist, a lesbian, a
prostitute...54

Some members have been bolder than others in affirming their identity and

demanding recognition of their rightful place in society. These women have helped to

break down taboos surrounding traditionally male activities (UNIFEM 2007). Many of the

women are recognized as leaders in their communities and participate in the different

local decision making and coordinating spaces. However, UNIFEM questioned how

many of these women were given real decision making power.

These differences in opinion make it difficult to accurately assess

FEMUPROCAN's success in terms of lobbying and advocacy. A consideration of the

linkages forged by FEMUPROCAN with other organizations may help to shed some

light on the matter.

Links with Other Organizations

A vital component of social movement organizations is their coordination and

cooperation with other participants in the same social movement. The national

leadership of FEMUPROCAN has clearly recognized the importance of building

linkages for the success of the organization. As Valle remarked to me "we can't see

ourselves as islands"55. I was interested to find out about the type of bridges that

FEMUPROCAN had been building and with whom they had chosen to coordinate. This

section will investigate the types of linkages FEMUPROCAN has forged with women's

organizations, the cooperative movement and peasant organizations both in Nicaragua

and abroad.

54 Blanca Lidia Torres, Director of FEMUPROCAN's System of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation,
Managua, August 3, 2009.
55 Martha Valle. President of FEMUPROCAN. Managua, August 3rd, 2009.


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It is interesting to note that on FEMUPROCAN's website there is no mention of the

specific organizations with which they collaborate in any of these movements. By

contrast, the NGO partners who finance the organization are clearly identified. The

website of the MEC devotes an entire section to their regional links, with contact details

for each of the organizations listed. In this respect the MEC seems to have developed

much further than FEMUPROCAN.

FEMUPROCAN and Women's Organizations

Despite FEMUPROCAN's commitment to women's rights and improving the

position of rural women, they appear to have refrained from stating the organization's

official position on the more controversial topics tackled by the women's organizations in

Nicaragua. They do not define themselves as a feminist organization, even though

some of the national leaders considered themselves to be feminists, and have shown

little interest in cooperating with women's organizations not directly related to the

economic interests of FEMUPROCAN's members. This may be related to the

fragmentation of the women's movements in recent years in Nicaragua, in which

organizations, by focusing on the differences between women, have perhaps forgotten

some of those things which they have in common. They have been reluctant to

coordinate with one another in case the specific demands of their members are lost

among the other demands of the movement. For example, in a conversation with Diaz,

who is charge of FEMUPROCAN's lobbying and advocacy activities, a fellow researcher

studying poor women in Managua asked whether Diaz knew much about a couple of

women's organizations the researcher was interested in finding out more about. Diaz

replied that she hadn't heard of them and that really she knew nothing about the urban

women's movement.


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This is not to say that FEMUPROCAN does not have any ties to the women's

movements, or that they will not develop these linkages further in the future. For

example, during my time in Managua, the leadership received an invitation to meet with

a feminist group from Le6n to talk about possibilities for future collaboration.

Unfortunately, the group had to cancel this meeting just before it was scheduled to take

place and no alternative date was set. Nevertheless, this demonstrates that

FEMUPROCAN is open to dialogue and possible cooperation with a variety of different

types of women's groups, including those who explicitly identify themselves as

feminists. Whether this openness to dialogue will ever translate into agreements to

cooperate, or whether FEMUPROCAN will ever begin to actively seek out these

meetings instead of just receiving invitations, remains to be seen.

At present, FEMUPROCAN, represented by Blanca Lidia Torres, participates in

the Women's Economic Agenda (AGEM), organized by the United Nations

Development Program. This program brings together government institutions and civil

society organizations in order to facilitate dialogue and cooperation between the state

and women's organizations. AGEM trains the participants in gender analysis methods

and is primarily concerned with strengthening women's economic capacity. Their overall

objective is stated as "to contribute to the reduction of gender inequality through the

search for a development model based on people's and society's wellbeing, through the

integration of social and political actions that promote the economic autonomy of

women in the country" (PNUD Nicaragua). This space has allowed women from 14

different organizations, including FEMUPROCAN, MEC and the women's section of

UNAG, to share their experiences and learn from one another. The level of coordination


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is such that the participants recently agreed upon and published a document entitled

"The Coordinated Economic Agenda by Nicaraguan Women" ("La Agenda Econ6mica

Concertada desde las Mujeres NicaragCenses). This sets out their analysis of the

current situation of women in Nicaragua, and principal challenges that must be

overcome by those seeking to establish gender equality in the country, as well as

highlighting some of the initiatives already undertaken by the participating organizations.

This is clear evidence of the construction of a shared set of beliefs, a necessary

component of a social movement.

However, it was interesting to note that the head of UNDP's gender program in

Nicaragua, Maria Rosa Renzi, and the Coordinator for AGEM, Veronica Gutierrez, both

seemed to feel that FEMUPROCAN could increase its participation in the women's

movement. They pointed out that FEMUPROCAN had not got involved spaces for the

debate of issues such as abortion and reproductive health: "FEMUPROCAN have

always restricted themselves as an organization to those rights directly related to

women's agricultural production and not participated as an organization in other

campaigns associated with feminist movements" (Maria Rosa Renzi, Managua, July

15th, 2009).

The leadership of FEMUPROCAN freely admitted this, arguing that they

encouraged their members to participate in a variety of organizations promoting

women's rights but on an individual basis. They felt that, as an organization with a

relatively small national team, they had neither the time nor the resources to begin to

tackle the entire range of issues debated by women's movements in Nicaragua. Far

better to concentrate on the area that they knew well than to attempt to cover everything


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related to women's rights. For this reason they have focused their efforts on creating

alliances with other organizations representing rural women, the cooperative sector and

women's economic rights. They have not only sought out similar organizations and

spaces for dialogue in Nicaragua, but also at a regional level, creating linkages with

women's groups from all over Central America.

At the international level FEMUPROCAN participates in the Women's Forum for

Central American Integration and in the Regional Rural Dialogue. They were supposed

to send a representative to an intercontinental meeting of women's organizations held in

Quito, Ecuador. However, FEMUPROCAN was not able to finance the cost of the plane

ticket. One of their NGO partners had offered them 800 dollars towards the price, but

the women were shocked to discover that this would not even pay for 80% of the

airfare, let alone provide for the expenses incurred in the trip. Valle pointed out that this

was an illustration of why it was imperative that FEMUPROCAN become financially

sustainable as lack of funds served to limit the links FEMUPROCAN could build on an

international scale. Additionally, she explained that FEMUPROCAN had not yet

developed an international advocacy plan, and that such a plan was urgently needed to

prevent them from missing opportunities such as this in the future.

When I asked for the views of Oxfam Canada and Centro Cooperativo Sueco on

the extent of FEMUPROCAN's involvement in women's movements in the country I

received two very opposite answers. Oxfam Canada seemed to agree with the Maria

Rosa Renzi' s assessment that although FEMUPROCAN had successfully built

relationships with a number of organizations, they had not really engaged with many of

the issues of the broader women's movement in Nicaragua. Oxfam believed that such


206









participation would not only increase the visibility of the organization on a national scale,

but would also help to develop and strengthen the organization's views on gender and

feminism.

El Centro Cooperativo Sueco, by contrast, seemed overwhelmingly positive about

FEMUPROCAN's involvement in the women's movement:

FEMUPROCAN pays attention to all types of women's rights, their social,
economic and political rights. They have built a lot of external relationships
for this reason, to fight for women's demands in other spaces. They are, for
example, in a space called the Rural Women's Coordinating Committee and
the main focus of this committee is land, rural women's right to land. They
are fighting for this, they are proposing bills, they are organizing movements
of women to fight for land, and they proposed a bill, which has already been
taken up by the legislative assembly, arguing for the approval of a law
concerning women's access to land, with the proposal that the government
create a land bank for women.56

It is worth noting that, although Medina mentioned that he believed FEMUPROCAN was

active in campaigning for all aspects of women's rights, the example he gives is still

related to women's economic rights.

From my interviews, conversations and observations, it appeared that the level of

FEMUPROCAN's involvement in the women's movement conformed more to the views

expressed by Oxfam Canada and the women from AGEM. Although they have forged

important linkages and actively participated in those areas of the women's movement

specifically fighting for rural women's rights or for women's economic rights at both a

national and international level, they have, so far, not developed many relationships with

organizations working on other areas of women's rights. This reflects the fragmentation

and lack of coordination that has characterized the women's movement in Nicaragua in


56 Denis Medina, representative of CCS, Managua, August 1, 2009. The women's land bank proposal
was subsequently approved by the Nicaraguan Parliament in May 2010.


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recent years. FEMUPROCAN appears to be aware of this weakness to some extent,

and of the need to focus more attention on their advocacy and lobbying activities, both

within Nicaragua and internationally. Hopefully this will translate into a greater effort to

building sustained, meaningful relationships with groups from different branches of the

women's movements.

FEMUPROCAN and Cooperative Organizations

FEMUPROCAN has made perhaps most progress in building links with other

organizations in the cooperative sector. Their position as the only all-women federation

of agricultural cooperatives operating in Nicaragua has given them a high level of

recognition within the cooperative movement and allowed them to assume a leading

role in many coordinating bodies both nationally and regionally.

Martha Valle is currently the President of the National Council of Cooperatives

(CONACOOP) and a member of FEMUPROCAN's administrative council is on the

board of directors of the Institute for Cooperative Development (INFOCOOP). These are

the most important organizations in the cooperative sector in Nicaragua, and reflect the

level of recognition FEMUPROCAN has achieved in this area.

Furthermore, they are currently discussing the possibility of forming a

confederation of cooperative organizations to further increase their ability to lobby the

government on behalf of the rural cooperative sector:

This would be another strength, if we form a confederation with other
federations which allows us to put forward stronger proposals to
government and civil society institutions. I think they would be stronger
economically, socially and I would say politically as well. Why? Because
your proposal is not the same when you have four thousand members as if
you are talking about twenty thousand, forty thousand members then your
proposal would be more convincing. It is for this reason that we are


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attempting to form a confederation between similar federations, which
represent the farming sector.57

Should this go ahead it will be the first confederation of cooperatives at a national level

in Nicaragua. FEMUPROCAN's inclusion in this body is seen as evidence of

FEMUPROCAN's strength in terms of their organization, production and advocacy work.

Torres observed that, due to their status as the only all-women's federation of

cooperatives, they might well have been granted a place in the confederation anyway.

However, she believes that the other organizations forming the confederation have

recognized the achievements of FEMUPROCAN, and that this recognition will allow

them to play a leading role in the new organization. One of the organizations in talks

about forming the confederation is UNAG, FEMUPROCAN's parent organization. Given

the history of animosity between the two, I was interested to find out whether

FEMUPROCAN was wary about cooperating with UNAG in this confederation. Diaz

replied that the women of FEMUPROCAN felt that their work had achieved sufficient

recognition for them to enter into the confederation as equal partners with UNAG, and

that their relationship had now changed for the better:

Precisely because of our successes we have gained recognition, they
respect us. That is to say our relationship is not the same as it was when
we were within UNAG. Now we talk to one another as equals, I mean as
organizations FEMUPROCAN and UNAG are on the same level. We each
have our own proposals, our own work but now we can act together on
some points, whilst respecting one another. The relationship has changed a
great deal you understand because before they used to decide what they
were going to do, and up to what point we could advance but now they
don't, now the relationship is more "cara a cara", like face to face... no-one
is in a position of subordination you understand?58



57 Martha Valle, President of FEMUPROCAN, Managua, August 3rd, 2009.
58 Morena Diaz, head of training and advocacy in FEMUPROCAN, Managua, August 6th 2009


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On an international level as well FEMUPROCAN has been keen to participate in

regional cooperative forums, coordinating with women's cooperative organizations

primarily from Central America but also some from Latin America. They are members of

the Latin American Confederation of Cooperatives and Mutual Societies (COLACOT)

and participate in the Central American Cooperative Roundtable.

Perhaps it is not surprising that FEMUPROCAN has, overall, developed many

more linkages with the cooperative sector than with women's movements. After all,

cooperativism is listed as one of the key values of FEMUPROCAN, whereas the

organization has remained silent on many issues. Cooperativism is also less

controversial and has recently been less confrontational than some of the "riskier"

issues tackled by women's movements, such as abortion. Cooperativism still forms part

of the FSLN's ideology and the current administration looks much more kindly on the

cooperative movement than they do on the "feminist troublemakers" active within the

women's movements. Furthermore, Martha Valle, Matilde Rocha and Morena Diaz all

have long histories of organizing within the cooperative sector. This experience has

given them much needed contacts, and helped them to win an impressive level of

recognition within the sector. This recognition is perhaps not surprising when one

remembers that they are the only all-women federation of farming cooperatives in the

country. By contrast FEMUPROCAN is just one of many, many women's organizations

in the country, and it is consequently much harder to achieve this level of recognition

within the women's movements.

FEMUPROCAN and Peasant/Rural Organizations

However, these contacts and experiences within rural and peasant organizations

such as UNAG does not seem to have translated into FEMUPROCAN's involvement in


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international mixed-sex peasant organizations. They appear to have largely limited their

participation to spaces for rural women's movements. Perhaps this could be attributed

to a fear that women's interests would not be given sufficient attention in mixed sex

movements, but this does not seem to have affected their involvement in the

cooperative sector, as discussed above. I was curious to find out why FEMUPROCAN

had not joined Via Campesina or CLOC (The Latin American Coordinator of Rural

Organizations), the two largest peasant organizations operating in Latin America (and,

in the case of Via Campesina, one of the world's largest peasant organizations).

Valle responded by saying that she had helped to found Via Campesina in 1993

when she was still in the women's section of UNAG. She had participated in the

organization in its early years but when FEMUPROCAN separated from UNAG it had

taken them time to become consolidated as an organization, and strengthening the

organization formed their first priority. They were thus not ready to enter into Via

Campesina at that point. Since then FEMUPROCAN has been in regular contact with

Via Campesina and the two organizations have kept the channels of communication

open. However FEMUPROCAN still has not become a full member of the organization.

The members of the national leadership did not rule this out for the future, explaining

that one of their immediate priorities for the organization today was precisely the

development of an international advocacy strategy and the creation of linkages with

influential movements throughout the region. They had prioritized the cooperative sector

as this coincided most closely with the particular goals and beliefs of FEMUPROCAN

but they were not opposed to the idea of participating in organizations such as Via

Campesina who represent a wider range of rural people. Given their limited human


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and financial resources, they explained that it had not been possible for FEMUPROCAN

to explore all the possibilities for cooperation on an international level. However they

hoped to develop further relationships internationally in the upcoming years.

FEMUPROCAN and Linkages with Other Organizations

Many of the grassroots members of FEMUPROCAN collaborated with, or were

also members of, other organizations working in their communities. In the area of

health, in particular, Torres informed me that there was a high degree of cooperation

between FEMUPROCAN's members and the health promotoras within the community.

Some of these promotoras are employed by the Nicaraguan government, whereas

others are employed by NGOs. Individual cooperatives affiliated to FEMUPROCAN

have forged alliances with representatives of organizations such as IXCHEN, a

Nicaraguan NGO that deals with issues related to women's sexual and reproductive

health, and international NGOs implementing projects within their communities.

Although FEMUPROCAN is not a religious organization, many of the members at the

grassroots coordinate with their local church organizations on a range of different topics.

Perhaps these linkages with church-based groups may explain some of

FEMUPROCAN's reluctance to take a stand, as an organization, on thorny issues such

as abortion, for it is not clear where the women's loyalties would lie if these church

organizations and FEMUPROCAN disagreed about an important issue.

The key to understanding why FEMUPROCAN has chosen to participate in some

movements and spaces over others is that FEMUPROCAN considers that the selected

movements share some of the same beliefs or objectives as them, as Torres explained

to me: "FEMUPROCAN participates in the spaces with which we feel we can identify

and in which we feel that the elements and "puntos de agenda" concerning rural


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women are articulated and, above all, when we feel that there is an opening for the

priorities of women producers to be heard."59

Additionally, they have developed much stronger linkages to those movements

directly related to their previous organizing work in the Women's Section in UNAG,

probably due to their contacts, experience and recognition built up over their time within

the mixed sex organization.

This explains why FEMUPROCAN appears to have focused primarily on the

cooperative movement and rural women's movements (particularly those concerned

with rural women's economic rights) and have not forged as many strong alliances as

an organization with women's movements outside of their economic sector. This does

not seem to concern the national leadership too much at present, as they don't appear

to feel that the organization can identify with some of the more radical feminist groups in

Nicaragua. Nonetheless, there are signs that they are willing to listen to what some of

these women's organizations have to say, with a view to possible collaboration in the

future. It is my opinion that such collaboration could potentially prove very beneficial to

both sides and could help to make FEMUPROCAN a more successful organization

overall












59 Blanca Lidia Torres, Director of FEMUPROCAN's System of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation,
Managua, August 3, 2009


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Movement
Claims

A C

S Effects of
Effects of
Outside
Movement Dutside
SActions Events and
Actions Actions



Figure 6-1. The problem of identifying social movement outcomes
A = Effects of movement actions that bear directly on movement claims
B = Joint effects of movement actions and outside influences that bear directly on
movement claims
C= Effects of outside influences (but not of movement actions) that bear directly on
movement claims
D= Joint effects of movement actions and outside influences that don't bear directly on
movement claims
Source: Tilly (1998)


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CHAPTER 7
ACCEPTANCE

In this chapter I analyze the extent to which FEMUPROCAN has been accepted

as a legitimate representative of rural women producers in Nicaragua. Gamson's

measure of acceptance has four main elements: consultation, negotiation, recognition

and inclusion. I take each one of these components in turn to discuss the level of

FEMUPROCAN's acceptance by public policy makers, civil society organizations and

the general public in Nicaragua.

Consultation

This section examines the extent to which the "movement antagonists," in this

case government policy makers and mainstream public opinion in Nicaragua, instigate

consultations with FEMUPROCAN in a manner that treats the organization as a

legitimate spokesperson for rural women producers.

At the local level, Diaz argued that, partly as a result of their advocacy work,

FEMUPROCAN members were regularly consulted by municipal governments: "The

women have had a lot of recognition in different departments [of the country]... at a local

level they are lobbying a lot. The mayor's offices call them in order to define various

proposals, including those concerning budgeting."1 My interviews backed this up and

suggested that FEMUPROCAN's members were consulted on a wide variety of topics

by local governments and by other residents in their communities: "I am always doing

something, I am invited to meetings and many different events. I have a position of






1 Morena Diaz, head of training and advocacy in FEMUPROCAN, Managua, August 6th 2009


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responsibility within the community and am always invited to workshops and to share

my views and my knowledge." 2

Representatives of national government institutions working at the local level, such

as technicians and extension workers from INTA and MAGFOR have consulted

FEMUPROCAN's members and placed them in charge of allocating and distributing

seed in their communities:

They didn't want anyone else to distribute it but rather they came looking for
me so that I could do it. So I could distribute the seed among my
people... so we formed a team and with the support of INTA we distributed
the seed through the cooperative and the unions of cooperatives.3

INTA came to find me and we had a meeting. They are supporting the
cooperatives with training sessions and in setting up kitchen gardens... they
already distributed the seeds for the gardens to around twenty cooperative
members... but what I mean to say is that they look to us to coordinate
matters. We are allowed to select people [for programs or assistance]. They
recognize that women want to work and they meet with the presidents [of
the cooperatives] who are responsible for selecting the participants.4

As the only all women cooperative organization operating at a national level in

Nicaragua, FEMUPROCAN has also been consulted on numerous occasions by

national government institutions, an achievement recognized by Oxfam Canada.

Negotiation

The main questions to be answered here concern whether negotiations are

undertaken over a sustained period of time and demonstrate that the Nicaraguan

government and general public are dealing with FEMUPROCAN's negotiators as

representatives of rural women producers.


2 Mercedes, FEMUPROCAN cooperative member, Terrabona, July 22, 2009.

3 Leticia, President of a FEMUPROCAN cooperative, Terrabona, July 21, 2009.
4 Adela, President of a FEMUPROCAN Cooperative in Rio Blanco, Managua, July 15, 2009.


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As Angela Rosa Acevedo asserted, FEMUPROCAN's leaders, and many of the

members at the lower rungs of the organization, have been fighting for women's rights

for years. Some of them had begun their advocacy and lobbying activities before

FEMUPROCAN was even founded, when they were still within the women's secretariat

of UNAG. This long history of political action has given them and FEMUPROCAN

significant legitimacy as negotiators for the rights of rural women producers. They have

consistently engaged policy makers in debates over proposals affecting rural women,

with the result that some of their demands were included in laws discussed by the

national assembly.

Denis Medina, from CCS, was also keen to emphasize the sustained nature of

FEMUPROCAN'S lobbying activities as a particularly important strength of the

organization: "Another strength that seems important to me is that they carry out

political advocacy work, always looking for support to bring their membership benefits

from public policies, to obtain resources to support the production of their

members... they are always searching... lobbying or participating in institutional

negotiations."5

At a local level there was evidence that FEMUPROCAN's members were actively

negotiating with the authorities, pledging their support in return for formal recognition:

We will support our mayor, the teacher Daniela Martinez, and her plan
together with her councilors, but our support requires:

1- That we are seen as an organization, since we are a legally constituted
trade association with 12 cooperatives and two unions of cooperatives

2- That we are assigned a quota as an organization under the expansion of
the Bono Productivo

5 Denis Medina, representative of CCS, Managua, August 1, 2009


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3- That we are included in the programs and projects that come to the
municipality.6

With regard to negotiations with the other primary movement antagonist, that is,

mainstream public opinion, Torres asserted that in FEMUPROCAN "we always have to

keep demonstrating, you know, we live in permanent demonstration of the fact that yes

we can do things, yes, we are capable of doing things. That we deserve these rights

and this respect whereas men do not have to do this. We, the women, have to

continually do battle with society in this sense, for recognition."7 Thus each individual

member of FEMUPROCAN is involved in day-to-day negotiations with the rest of

society, in order for the contributions of rural women to Nicaragua's economic and

social life to gain the recognition and the acceptance they deserve.

Recognition

Formal recognition would be signified by an explicit recognition on the part of the

government and/or the public that FEMUPROCAN is a legitimate spokesperson for rural

women. In some respects, the government and the general public have little choice but

to recognize FEMUPROCAN, given that there are no other organizations comprised

entirely of rural women producers at the national level. There are, of course, other

organizations with large numbers of rural women members, such as UNAG. However,

as Oxfam Canada pointed out, it is not the same to say you are dealing with a mixed

sex organization as it is to work with an all-women organization.




6 From a speech given in the town of Terrabona on October 30th 2008. Signed by a number of
FEMUPROCAN Presidents and representatives from the Unions of Cooperatives.
7 Blanca Lidia Torres, Director of FEMUPROCAN's System of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation,
Managua, August 3, 2009.


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FEMUPROCAN enjoys high levels of formal recognition with respect to its legality

as an organization, and the fact that all of the base level cooperatives have documents

to show they have been legally recognized and registered by the government, or are in

the process of obtaining this.

With respect to the general public it seems that whereas FEMUPROCAN enjoys a

high level of recognition within the small communities in which they work, the vast

majority of the Nicaraguan public outside of these areas have not heard of the

organization, much less formally recognized it as a spokesperson for rural women. For

many not involved in the cooperative sector UNAG still enjoys much higher levels of

recognition and legitimacy to speak for rural women. Despite my attempts to interview

representatives from a number of other women's organizations that work with rural

women I was unable to meet with many members of other women's organizations and

so am unable to gauge the level of recognition FEMUPROCAN enjoys within the

women's movements. However, the women I did manage to engage in conversation

were all aware of the importance of the work done by rural women's secretariats during

the 1980s and appeared to have heard of FEMUPROCAN, suggesting that the

organization has achieved at least a minimum level of recognition among those in

women's movements working with rural women. Those who focused on urban women

appeared to have less knowledge of FEMUPROCAN, suggesting that the Federation

has a lower level of recognition among those organizations.

Inclusion

Finally, inclusion concerns the extent to which FEMUPROCAN's leaders or

members have been granted positions of status and responsibility within the


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organizational structure of the Nicaraguan government, whilst simultaneously remaining

active members of FEMUPROCAN.

The General Law of Cooperatives, Law 499, passed in 2005 and amended slightly

in 2007, established two institutions as the primary regulators of the cooperative sector

in Nicaragua: INFOCOOP (The National Institute for the Promotion of Cooperatives)

and CONACOOP (The National Council of Cooperatives). INFOCOOP is primarily

concerned with registration, regulation and oversight of cooperatives, whereas

CONACOOP focuses mainly on the promotion of the sector and its demands (Clarity:

The Cooperative Law and Regulation Initiative 2006). FEMUPROCAN has been

included in both of these organizations with one of their members sitting on the board of

directors of INFOCOOP, and Martha Valle currently serving as President of

CONACOOP. To be included in the two most important government bodies in the

cooperative sector is certainly a major achievement for FEMUPROCAN, and a strong

indicator of their level of success in gaining government acceptance as a legitimate

spokesperson for the interests of rural women. As yet, FEMUPROCAN has not been

included to the same extent in other government institutions that formulate policy

affecting rural women, such as MAGFOR, INTA or MIFAMILIA.

At both a local and national level UNIFEM (2007) raised doubts about the ways in

which FEMUPROCAN had been included by the government, suggesting that they were

not given much in the way of real power to determine policy priorities or participate in

their formulation. For the most part, UNIFEM argued, FEMUPROCAN members have

been included in spaces where pre-determined policy is debated, and perhaps modified,

but have not played a decisive role in constructing the policies in the first place. Oxfam


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Canada expressed similar concerns, discussed below. However, the overall picture that

emerges about the level of FEMUPROCAN's inclusion in the formal organizational

structures of government suggests that the organization has succeeding in gaining a

considerable degree of acceptance.

Inclusion by mainstream public opinion is rather more difficult to measure. What

would constitute the relevant positions of status and responsibility in which

organizational structures? For me, this concerns the level of FEMUPROCAN's

involvement as a representative of rural women in various organizations and groups in

leadership positions elected by the community. This would suggest that public opinion in

these towns accepted FEMUPROCAN as a legitimate spokesperson for rural women.

Evidence of this inclusion can be found in the 508 members of FEMUPROCAN

currently carrying out positions of responsibility as Health and Ecological Brigadistas,

members of the Councils of Citizen Power (CPCs), the Municipal Development

Committees, the Regional Committees, Health and Education Coordinators and

members of Sandinista councils (FEMUPROCAN 2008). However, members also

reported that they continued to face discrimination because they were women, and were

sometimes elected to less important positions or sidelined by the men, who paid less

attention to the women's opinions. Women tended to be included more in those bodies

and organizations dealing with issues that coincided better with ideas about the

traditional role of women as caregivers and mothers.

So has FEMUPROCAN been successful in gaining acceptance as a legitimate

spokesperson for rural women? It appears that the organization has, on balance,

achieved a high level of acceptance among government policy makers and officials in


221









Nicaragua. It would be interesting to see whether this level of acceptance would

continue under future administrations, especially those not controlled by the FSLN. With

regard to public opinion FEMUPROCAN has achieved only limited and uneven success,

achieving significant acceptance in some areas and among some sectors of society,

and much less in others. Changing mentalities takes time and determination, and

raising the public profile of the organization would likely require substantial amounts of

funds and the development of a coherent media and public relations strategy. It may

then be some time before FEMUPROCAN is truly accepted by the mainstream

Nicaraguan public as a legitimate spokesperson for rural women.

However, even if we accept that FEMUPROCAN has successfully been accepted

as a legitimate spokesperson for rural women producers by the Nicaraguan

government, acceptance alone is not sufficient to guarantee success if the organization

is not capable of influencing those in power to change their policies or satisfy the

demands of the movement. In this respect, Oxfam Canada feels that FEMUPROCAN's

advocacy activities leave much room for improvement, suggesting that:

They were not making the most of their opportunities and lobbying on the
public stage... they did participate in various spaces but they didn't
demonstrate results in terms of [affecting national] statistics... sometimes
they participated from an individual perspective or at a local level. For
example three women members of the cooperative would be part of the
development council or community council but there was not a collective
position as a federation, they didn't lobby as a federation.8

On a larger scale, FEMUPROCAN has yet to develop an international advocacy

plan, which limits their abilities to participate in international events and movements.




8 Interview with representatives from Oxfam Canada, Managua, July 31, 2009.


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These limitations are probably partly related to the cost of implementing

comprehensive advocacy training programs for the members. Bringing women from

their communities to participate in national decision making spaces requires a

substantial financial outlay not only does FEMUPROCAN have to fund the members'

transport expenses, but they also have to provide them with food and accommodation.

It can also prove expensive for the women, especially in terms of time that they could be

using to work on production to provide for their families. In order to attend all of the

meetings and spaces to which they are invited would require FEMUPROCAN to hire

another member of staff. Given their difficulties in finding enough money to pay the

current administrative costs of the organization this does not seem likely any time soon.

Nevertheless, FEMUPROCAN does actually carry out numerous advocacy related

activities. However, they lack the funds necessary to publicize these activities outside of

the organization.

Conclusions

So, how successful is FEMUPROCAN as an organization? To summarize, it

appears that FEMUPROCAN has been successful in gaining acceptance by the

Nicaraguan government and by many civil society organizations as a legitimate

spokesperson for rural women. At a local level members have won substantial

recognition and assumed a number of different leadership roles and positions of

responsibility. This acceptance has allowed them to participate in decision making

processes and put their demands on the public agenda. However, the government has

allowed them to participate only up to a certain point, and no further and it is unclear

whether FEMUPROCAN enjoys any real decision-making power. Often the

representatives are still not able to participate in these spaces on equal terms with men


223









and powerful elites. Nevertheless, their achievements in this area mark FEMUPROCAN

out as one of the most successful organizations representing rural women in Nicaragua

at present.

Internally they have made considerable progress towards strengthening the

organization and training the members in a wide range of topics. Many women reported

that they had experienced significant personal development and a sense of

empowerment through their participation in the organization. This had enabled them to

participate more in the social and economic affairs of their communities, representing

important progress towards FEMUPROCAN's overarching goals. Some members,

particularly those who had benefited from FEMUPROCAN's projects on watering

systems, organic fertilizer and processing, had also been able to significantly improve

their standard of living and their ability to provide for their families. The organization has

created a strong sense of unity and shared identity among its members and this identity

is slowing gaining widespread acceptance in Nicaraguan society.

However, FEMUPROCAN has failed to generate enough money for the

maintenance and functioning of the organization, and looks unlikely to do so in the near

future. This represents a serious organizational weakness. They have struggled to

change the mentalities of their members (and of the general public) and persuade them

of the benefits of working collectively rather than individually. They have met with only

limited success in developing the principles of cooperativism and admit that many

cooperatives are still not functioning as they should. Despite some successful initiatives

aimed at diversification and modernization of production many of FEMUPROCAN's

projects remain very limited in scope and benefit only a fraction of their membership.


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There is also still much room for improvement in terms of developing the

commercialization and marketing skills amongst their members (although, to be fair to

FEMUPROCAN, they have only just begun to focus on this aspect). Related to this, the

organization has found it difficult to foster an entrepreneurial mentality amongst the

women at the grassroots, with many of the cooperatives dependent on the national

organization for assistance and direction.

FEMUPROCAN's success is also limited by persisting constraints on rural

women's participation in the economic and social affairs of the country. As well as

machismo, the members faced obstacles in terms of their lack of access to and control

over resources, particularly land and sources of financing. Although FEMUPROCAN is

attempting to help the women overcome these hurdles and push for policy that would

increase women's access to land, at present they still represent serious problems for

rural women in Nicaragua.


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CHAPTER 8
THE LIMITS TO AUTONOMY: FROM SANDINISTA AFFILIATED MASS MOVEMENT
TO INDEPENDENT WOMEN'S ORGANIZATION

This chapter analyzes the extent to which FEMUPROCAN has successfully

established itself as an autonomous organization representing rural women producers,

or whether they have simply exchanged one form of dependence (on the FSLN) for

another (foreign donor NGOs).

When FEMUPROCAN emerged in 1997 from the FSLN-affiliated rural mass

organization, UNAG, FEMUPROCAN's founders felt that women were not taken

seriously within the mixed-sex organization, and that the time had come to cut all links

with a particular political party. Affiliation to the FSLN had provided mass organizations

with important financial and political support, but had also placed limits on the freedom

of the organizations to push for change. The FSLN controlled what was allowed on the

agenda, and defending the revolution always took priority over the interests and

demands of the mass movements (Bickham Mendez 2005).

Autonomy meant that FEMUPROCAN, like other important women's

organizations in Nicaragua, had to seek alternative means of supporting themselves.

The vast majority of this support came from (and continues to come from) foreign NGOs

and social movements, normally based in the developed world. Thus, although

FEMUPROCAN may have been able to distance itself from the FSLN, they remained

dependent on outside sources of funding for their survival and development. Such aid

does not come without strings attached, and donors all have requirements that must be

fulfilled before they will consent to provide money to an organization. This money must

then be spent in the ways agreed upon in pre-approved plans and detailed budgets.

FEMUPROCAN has to submit periodic reports demonstrating that they are not deviating


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from these plans and budgets. This raises questions about the extent of 'autonomy' that

the organization really has (Ewig 1999). Some scholars have argued that other

women's organizations that have undergone a similar process are still unable to define

their own agenda and lack the freedom to act without consulting these NGO "partners."

They have thus swapped one form of dependence for another (O'Neill 2004). Despite

the rhetoric of partnerships and cooperation favored by these NGOs it is extremely

difficult to construct a relationship of equality between two organizations if one of the

partners controls the purse strings.

However, not all NGOs operate in the same way, and some are much better at

granting their partner organizations in the Global South some degree of freedom to

determine funding priorities, to participate in the design and evaluation of projects, and

discuss ultimate goals and objectives. Other NGOs are much more inflexible when it

comes to priorities for funding and attempt to implement their own projects without a

great deal of participation from their partners at the design or evaluation stages.

Although it may be unrealistic to assume that they will grant total freedom to their

partners, there are clearly cases of donors that aspire to more equitable relationships

with their Southern counterparts, and those that exercise a high degree of control over

all aspects of their dealings with these "partners" and place them firmly in a subordinate

position.

This is not to say that working with Northern NGOs does not have other

advantages (besides merely financial) that may offset the loss of some autonomy for the

organization in the South. Powerful international organizations can help to put the

demands of groups such as FEMUPROCAN on the global agenda, pressure


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governments in both the developed and developing worlds to take action to meet these

demands, as well as provide links to similar movements elsewhere and valuable moral

and technical support.

This chapter will investigate the degree to which FEMUPROCAN has managed to

establish itself as an "autonomous" women's organization, paying particular attention to

the relationships between the organization and political parties in Nicaragua, as well as

the ways in which their "partnerships" with NGO funders function. I then turn to a

discussion about whether complete autonomy is desirable, or even possible, for an

organization such as FEMUPROCAN. By comparing the experiences of

FEMUPROCAN with those of other women's organizations from around the world, I

intend to draw some tentative conclusions about the ability of women's movements and

organizations to achieve genuine autonomy and what this means in practice.

Defining Autonomy

Before assessing the extent to which FEMUPROCAN has successfully achieved

autonomy it is essential to explore exactly what autonomy means and which criteria

should be used to gauge the extent of the autonomy achieved by an organization. This

has been a source of considerable disagreement between scholars and among

activists. Karen Kampwirth (2004, 63) writes that at the first National Feminist

Conference organized at the Olof Palme Center in January 1992, entitled "Diverse but

United," "the major conflict that divided the newly autonomous activists was autonomy

itself. What exactly did it mean to be autonomous?" Did this entail breaking all linkages

with other organizations or institutions or was perhaps some sort of coordinating body

desirable?


228









Most organizations agreed that autonomy need not mean complete isolation, and

Kampwirth argues that it was precisely the amount of coordination between different

groups that made the Nicaraguan women's movements so successful and enabled

them to gain such a high profile on the international stage. Chinchilla agrees that for

Latin American groups autonomy has meant the creation of new spaces for coordination

and debate, where women's demands can be put on the agenda. It involves, she states,

"the right to carve out a political space within which they can choose their own leaders,

criteria for membership, and political agenda. In the case of women's organizations,

Gonzalez, Loria and Lozano (1988, 22) cite Chinchilla (1992, 47), suggesting that it also

means:

The creation of a correlation of forces favorable to the raising of women's
demands, one which does not imply their subordination. At the same time it
means the existence of safe spaces where women can discover their
identities, give mutual support, build trust, explore previously forbidden
topics... and invent new forms of political struggle or definitions of what it
means to "do politics." In Latin America, these safe spaces are usually
linked to political activity in such a way that autonomy, for the majority of
groups, is not simply a defensive concept and does not signify isolation or
ghettoization in a "world of women."

However, both of these meanings of autonomy are rather vague and give little idea

of what the concept means for the operations of women's organizations on a day to day

basis. At a more micro-level of analysis some of the definitions of autonomy used by

scholars of management and business practices may prove useful. Brock (2003, 58),

writing about autonomy within organizations, defines it as "the degree to which one may

make significant decisions without the consent of others." This amounts to a "day-to-day

freedom to manage" (Datta et al. 1991) that allows individuals, or in this case, an

organization, to take actions without getting prior approval from another organization. To

these definitions I would add that autonomy entails the freedom of an organization to set


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its own goals and priorities for action, and to maintain or alter these objectives as they

see fit.

When discussing autonomy, or independence, it is useful to emphasize that to be

completely autonomous an organization must be legally, financially and politically

independent from other organizations. In much of the literature scholars have made

reference to the emergence of an autonomous women's movement in Nicaragua in the

years following the 1990 election defeat of the Sandinistas. However it seems that the

definition of "autonomy" in this case is limited to independence from a particular political

party (the FSLN) or the independence of women as individuals:

As women enter into struggles to dismantle the structures of domination,
they become acutely aware of their own discrimination as women within
their communities and families. Their drive for autonomy often takes the
form of gaining control over their bodies in reproductive issues, sexuality
and obtaining mobility and representation in public spheres...women are
seeking autonomy not only in their community and region, but also in the
home, where they seek relief from patriarchal oppression. (Nash 2005, 7)

These definitions are problematic as they may serve to obscure other relationships

of dependence that these supposedly autonomous organizations may have, in particular

with the international development organizations that finance many of their programs.

Therefore, in order to ascertain the degree to which FEMUPROCAN has become an

autonomous organization it is essential to understand the nature of the relationship

between the organization and political parties in Nicaragua and also with their NGO

"partners."

To operationalize the concept of autonomy it is necessary to consider its various

dimensions, and to analyze FEMUPROCAN's level of each type of independence.

Disney identifies two main types of autonomy: "autonomy of thought and autonomy of

action, that is, the ideological space to think critically and propose alternative policy


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recommendations and the decision-making structures to implement such proposals"

(Disney 2008, 47). She labels these ideological and organizational autonomy.

Ideological autonomy is concerned with the degree to which members of the

organization are able to "theorize, understand, and analyze the oppression of women

from a gendered or feminist perspective and, as a result, to shape and conceptualize

women's emancipation accordingly of, for, and by women." Organizational autonomy

she defines as the extent to which the women in the organizations "act, make

decisions, elect leaders, issue statements, and shape policies on behalf of women given

their analyses of the causes of women's oppression and thus the solutions for women's

emancipation" (Disney 2008, 48).

Chinchilla expands the concept of autonomy further, arguing that it "entails a

recognition of the diversity of social interests, the refusal of class reductionism, and,

above all, of economism" (Chinchilla 1992, 47). This acknowledges that autonomy is far

more than the extent of an organization's affiliation with a political party, but it is still a

definition constructed by those on the outside.

Bickham Mendez, on the other hand, whilst she does see the relevance of these

definitions and their utility in constructing the concept of autonomy, also points to the

need to analyze how the participants in women's movements understand the term, and

how these might differ from organization to organization and between different

individuals within the same organization:

It is important not to gloss the complexity involved in the construction of
collective definitions of autonomy within the organizations that make up this
movement. Shared understandings of the meaning of autonomy do not
exist a priori, but rather emerge from the articulations of members' identities
as political actors with the specific political and social conditions.
Contemporary meanings of autonomy draw from particular interactions


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between global and local processes and social movement participants'
understandings of them. (Bickham Mendez 2005, 90)

Aguilar et al (1997) also acknowledge the multi-dimensional nature of autonomy,

and the fact that it can be applied to both individuals and a collective. For them personal

autonomy relates to one's ability to exercise self-determination in order to generate the

conditions to create the possibility of living freely, according to the interests, beliefs,

feelings and values of each person (Aguilar, et al., 30). From their interviews with

participants in women's movements across Central America they construct the concept

of collective autonomy around the following points (Ibid., 67):

* The capacity to act and decide in an autonomous manner

* The self-sufficiency of the movement

* Autonomy is equal to organizational and financial independence from any
institution

* There is more recognition of organizational autonomy and very little regarding the
construction of specific identities of organizations

* It is relative and depends on the situation and the objectives of the group or
organization

* Is vital for the construction of the women's movement and for civil society in
general

* It is a process constructed by way of negotiation

With these considerations in mind it was possible to formulate a series of research

questions that would allow me to explore the different dimensions of the "autonomy" of

FEMUPROCAN and how these were understood by the leadership and grassroots of

the organization, as well as by the NGOs with which FEMUPROCAN works. These

questions included finding out where the money to fund the organization comes from

and what type of conditions were attached to it, as well as whether FEMUPROCAN


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would be able to survive without financial support from its NGO partners (economic or

financial autonomy).

The degree of political autonomy refers to whether there were any formal or non-

formal linkages remaining with any political party or tendency do they make any

reference to support/opposition for a political party within the printed materials they

produce? Are there any regulations or laws linking them to a party? How is the

organization seen by the members? Do they associate it with a particular political

tendency? Do other people in their community associate FEMUPROCAN with a

particular party? Are the members also active participants in political parties? Has this

led to any tensions or disagreements? What about the leadership, have they retained

connections with people in government from their days in UNAG? I also examined the

criteria for membership and leadership to find out if anybody was excluded or

discriminated against and why.

With regard to the organizational autonomy of FEMUPROCAN today, and its

relationship with the NGOs, I was interested to find out how much input FEMUPROCAN

had into each stage of the project process. Who designs the projects? Who implements

them? How are participants in a project selected? What kind of monitoring mechanisms

do the NGOs require? Who evaluates the projects and according to which criteria?

Given that autonomy involves the ability of an organization to set and alter their own

objectives and priorities for action I was interested to find out whether NGOs had tried to

change the goals of FEMUPROCAN or whether the women had been allowed to

construct and maintain these goals independently. Related to this, I inquired as to what

mechanisms FEMUPROCAN had for maintaining their autonomy.


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Finally, during the course of my research it became clear that I had to analyze

another component of autonomy; that of the NGOs themselves. Who provided them

with their funds and who were they accountable to? Did this affect their relationship with

FEMUPROCAN and if so, how?

Political Autonomy

In her ethnography of the Movimiento de Mujeres Trabajadoras y Desempleadas

"Maria Elena Cuadra" (MEC ), Bickham Mendez (2005) mentions the problems caused

by double militancia, when members of the MEC were also committed party activists. As

the movement sought to distance itself from the Sandinista party and develop their own

set of objectives, tensions arose when those whose principal loyalty remained the FSLN

accused the women seeking autonomy of betraying the revolution. This issue was not

confined to the Nicaraguan women's movement but was rather a concern shared by

groups throughout the region. Indeed it formed one of the principle themes of the first

Regional Feminist Meeting in 1981 in Bogota, Colombia and generated much

disagreement amongst conference attendees (Craske 1999).

Several of the national leaders of FEMUPROCAN held high profile positions linked

to the FSLN or served as Sandinista representatives in the National Assembly. Many of

the older women at the grassroots had participated in the revolutionary struggles in

1979, and carried out a variety of functions in Sandinista institutions at the local or

regional level. The organization was born out of the Women's Secretariat of UNAG, the

Sandinista affiliated farmer's organization. Additionally, cooperativism formed a key

component of the FSLN's reforms once they had come to power, and many of the

cooperatives that comprise FEMUPROCAN were founded in the period of Sandinista

government. All of these factors seemed to suggest that, whereas officially


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FEMUPROCAN may not be associated with one particular political party, in practice

there was likely to be some sort of connection and sympathy, at the very least, for the

political goals of the FSLN.

However, the picture that emerged during the course of the research was more

complicated than I had expected. Almost without exception the people interviewed

asserted that FEMUPROCAN was not associated with any particular party. During my

time in Nicaragua I met members who were clearly and proudly Sandinista, but also

women who were outspoken in their support for their largest opponent, the

Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC). There were members who had taken an active role

in supporting the Sandinista revolution in the late seventies and also those who had

supported the Contra fighters in the 1980s. All seemed to agree that FEMUPROCAN

was not the place to initiate conflicts along political lines and that all political viewpoints

were welcome in the organization. There were clear commonalities with Sandinista

ideology, particularly the focus on cooperativism and working collectively. However, it

was also possible to denote a shift within the organization in recent years towards

developing the entrepreneurial capacities of the members, and a belief in the market as

the solution (provided of course that the women were given the skills and opportunity to

compete on a more equal footing than in the past). These aspects appeared to coincide

more with the Liberal standpoint, and also reflect current trends in international

development for the promotion of small businesses, micro-finance and the idea that

people can work themselves out of poverty without too much help from the state.

Additionally, given the organizational structure of FEMUPROCAN, it became clear

that some individual cooperatives were more associated with a particular party at the


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local level, because the membership of that particular cooperative consisted almost

entirely of supporters of the FSLN or the PLC. Their political sympathies were thus

sometimes well known at the local level but this never went as far as the formal

affiliation of the cooperative with that political party and the political views of the

grassroots members did not translate into the formulation of a political standpoint for the

organization at the national level. Having said that the polarization of Nicaraguan

society along party lines had obviously affected some of these members at the

grassroots and they talked about the problems that partisan politics had caused them

within their communities. If their cooperative was primarily comprised of women from a

different political party than that of the mayor then they sometimes found themselves

excluded from participation in projects or in organs of local government: "Listen, here

because the local government is not ours we don't have much of a relationship with

them. They only call their people when there is going to be a meeting, they only invite

their people. Look, I have never had a meeting with those people. We, because we are

Sandinistas, are not taken into account."1

These political affiliations at the local or regional level can sometimes have

consequences for the members of FEMUPROCAN's base-level cooperatives. It also

seems that, occasionally, women will forget that they are not supposed to talk party

politics when representing FEMUPROCAN, such as in the following announcement

made by one regional coordinator upon the Sandinista electoral victory in 2006: "These

sixteen years of neoliberal governments have denied us the right to financing in order to

produce and develop ourselves economically. Today, now that our party is in power we


1 Marina, president of a FEMUPROCAN cooperative, San Juanillo, July 22, 2009.


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demand that they support us, giving us our rights that were denied to us." (emphasis

mine)2

This may well be a legacy of years of work with Sandinista organizations such as

UNAG, which trained women to make announcements in certain ways and use a certain

type of language. Habits such as these can be difficult to break and take time and effort.

It is likely that as time goes by and fewer members of FEMUPROCAN had this sort of

training that the old ways of talking will slowly be phased out. However, given the age of

many of the members of FEMUPROCAN today, some of the old style rhetoric persists

within the organization.

Having said this, the fact that the organization has its roots in UNAG does not

necessarily lead to a political affiliation on the part of FEMUPROCAN. It must be

remembered that the women who formed FEMUPROCAN left the organization as they

were dissatisfied with its functioning but that the Women's Secretariat did not disappear

when they left. Some women preferred to stay with the mixed sex union, and, given that

one of the reasons FEMUPROCAN separated was to have more political freedom, it

may be that many of the women most ideologically committed to the FSLN remained in

UNAG.3

This high degree of political autonomy may well have been fostered by the

General Law of Cooperatives which sets out the principles of cooperativism. According


2 From a speech given in the town of Terrabona on October 30th 2008. Signed by a number of
FEMUPROCAN Presidents and representatives from the Unions of Cooperatives.
3
According to Maria Rosa Renzi Regional Director of UNIFEM and Director of the Women's Economic
Agenda in Nicaragua (AGEM): "UNAG is a trade association but it is has a stronger association with party
politics and those that opted to separate wanted a little more freedom or flexibility with regard to several
issues fundamental to the question of gender. And so, even if at the grassroots they may have Sandinista
supporters, they are not an organization that is completely linked to the party." (Interview, Managua, July
15, 2009).


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to these principles it is illegal to discriminate against somebody on the basis of their

political affiliation when forming a cooperative. It is therefore not surprising that in many

of FEMUPROCAN's cooperatives there is a mixture of Sandinistas and Liberals.

However, all of the credit for FEMUPROCAN's political autonomy should not go to

the Nicaraguan government or the legal framework for cooperativism. Perhaps even

more important, has been the determined effort of the leadership of FEMUPROCAN to

convince their members to work together, whichever party they support. The national

leadership has repeatedly stated that FEMUPROCAN is not the place for party politics,

and have encouraged the leaders at the local level to follow suit:

Look, in our organization as a cooperative there are women who are
Sandinistas and women who are Liberals, but in my role as president of the
cooperative I don't like to link myself to one or the other...we are a
cooperative, we don't see ourselves in terms of political parties, not at all.
Everyone has the right to decide for themselves about their political party. I
respect their opinion if they are Liberal and I also respect their opinion if
they are Sandinista because we all have the legal right to decide which
party we want to vote for.4

The importance of respect and of harmony between the members was a recurring

theme in the interviews I conducted with members of FEMUPROCAN. This was

something that many members had struggled with at the beginning, given the political

polarization of the country and the memories of the armed struggles of the revolution in

1979 and the subsequent Contra War which festered on throughout the eighties.

However, it was a lesson that Martha Valle, the President of FEMUPROCAN, was

determined to get across to the women, right from the beginning of the organization,

and she was prepared to spend significant resources on getting her point across:



4 Adela, President of a FEMUPROCAN Cooperative in Rio Blanco, Managua, July 15, 2009.


238









I say that it is better not to get involved [in party politics within a
cooperative] because one of the lessons that we received from
FEMUPROCAN was that we are women, we are trade associations and we
are not linked to political parties. We are a trade association and we see
everyone in the same way because this was one of the first lessons that
Martha Valle taught us... it cost her a lot to teach it to us because there
were women who wanted to listen and those who didn't... 5

However, Martha Valle herself does not only refrain from identification with a

political party herself but appears to be distrustful and disenchanted with the whole

system of party politics. In this sense, she shares the defining characteristic of new

social movements identified by Hellman (1992, 53): "It is clear that new social

movements in both Latin America and Western Europe do share at least one defining

characteristic. That is their fundamental distrust of the traditional parties and formations

of the Left. Movement participants often see parties and unions as interested in the

success of the new social movements only insofar as they can manipulate these

movements for their own partisan ends."

Although she was involved in the FSLN since before the fall of Somoza (1979)

Martha Valle claims that she never shared some of the ideological fervor of other

combatants. This did not prevent her from serving as a FSLN congressional

representative when still a member of UNAG, though she asserted that she was

motivated more by a genuine desire to improve the position of rural people, and women

in particular, than by any particular ideological commitment to a particular party or

desire for power or self enrichment. She was offered the vice-presidency of MAGFOR

(the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of the Nicaraguan government) and various

important mayoral positions but she turned them down and told me that she quickly


5 Leticia, President of a FEMUPROCAN cooperative, Terrabona, July 21, 2009.


239









became disillusioned by the back-stabbing and corruption she witnessed throughout her

political career. Her whole experience in politics appears to have left her with a very

negative image of the whole system and a deep seated distrust of all politicians.

According to Valle, corruption among politicians was rife and almost everybody was in it

for personal gain, regularly abusing their positions to enrich themselves. These sorts of

practices disgusted her and she was determined not to let FEMUPROCAN get co-opted

by a political party. Such strong leadership from the top of the organization appears to

have paid off in terms of the national organization.

However, it is important to note that, despite Martha's aversion to partisan politics

this does not mean that FEMUPROCAN is apolitical or that they tell their members not

to engage in political action. On the contrary, they urge their members to exercise their

political rights and participate in local decision-making spheres as much as possible.

They hold training sessions on lobbying and advocacy and to inform their members

about these political rights. They recognize the benefits this can bring to the individual

women, and to the organization as a whole, in terms of recognition, policy change and

material benefits.

So, to summarize, it would seem that FEMUPROCAN has achieved a high

degree of political autonomy at the national level, although the picture at the local level

appears more uneven. Many of the goals of the organization coincide better with those

of the Sandinistas than the Liberals (cooperativism, redistribution etc) but this has not

translated into affiliation with the FSLN. Perhaps it is better to talk of political autonomy

combined with a degree of sympathy for some of the ideals of Sandinismo.


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Economic and Organizational Autonomy

The issue of economic autonomy hangs like a black cloud over the organization,

and threatens to diminish the importance of the gains made by FEMUPROCAN in

achieving a high degree of political independence. Both the representatives from the

NGO partner organization and some of the national leadership of FEMUPROCAN

admitted that the organization owes its survival to the continued financial support

provided by their international partners. At worst, this lack of economic autonomy could

result in FEMUPROCAN being nothing more than a puppet organization, a cheap way

of implementing projects designed by the NGOs according to their own agendas, while

simultaneously cashing in on the current fashion for local participation in international

development circles.

Should this be the case one would have to ask whether this form of dependence

represented a step forward at all from the Sandinista era. The parent might have

changed (FSLN to NGO) but the child (FEMUPROCAN) remains a child, subject to the

whims and wishes of the adult and unable to survive on its own. However, this is not

necessarily the case, and as FEMUPROCAN shows, it is possible for third world

organizations to find NGOs who are prepared to form more respectful and less unequal

relationships. In this way the proliferation of NGOs with funds to spend in countries such

as Nicaragua represents a real opportunity for organizations based in the global south

to formulate their own objectives and maintain their own vision and strategy. More

NGOs mean more diversity among funders, and this gives FEMUPROCAN the ability to

control what type of organization they work with.

Firstly, in order to understand the position of FEMUPROCAN today it is necessary

to summarize the development of state-sponsored mass organizations under the


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Sandinistas and their subsequent evolution into so-called "autonomous" organization

after the elections of 1990. Although mass organizations linked to the Sandinista party

had seen their particular objectives take second place to the overriding goal of

defending the revolution during the war, their loyalty was rewarded in the form of funds,

influence with the government on some policy issues and a privileged status in law

which allowed for the existence of only one mass organization per sector. During the

1990s the growth of many women's organizations was made possible by both a change

in the law and the financial support of foreign NGOs. When FEMUPROCAN split from

UNAG in 1997, one of their most pressing tasks was the search for NGO "partners" who

would provide economic assistance. Without this assistance FEMUPROCAN might well

have fallen at the first hurdle, and certainly would not have been able to implement

many of its projects or facilitate the training of its members in a wide range of issues.

However, such assistance always comes with strings attached which restrict, to varying

degrees, the ability of FEMUPROCAN to act as it wishes. Thus, the concepts of

economic and organizational autonomy are intertwined. Without economic autonomy it

is impossible to have total organizational freedom.

However, the number of conditions placed on such aid varies wildly from one NGO

to the next. If we accept that FEMUPROCAN, due to its lack of financial sustainability,

depends on the assistance of the NGOs, the question is not whether they have total

organizational independence (they can't have) but rather if they have successfully found

ways to limit the amount of influence the NGO partners have in the day to day

functioning of the organization. Furthermore, if organizational autonomy really is their


242









goal then it is necessary to examine how FEMUPROCAN is seeking to address the

issue of their financial dependence, and what the prospects are for the future.

A key component of organizational autonomy is the ability to set one's own goals

and priorities and all of the interviewees agreed that FEMUPROCAN has managed to

maintain their themes of struggle, their rallying slogans and symbols. This is certainly an

achievement, and an indication that they have retained a constant vision and mission

throughout, perhaps one of the most important components of organizational autonomy.

They have maintained true to their overall guiding strategy, although they have modified

this strategy slightly along the way to reflect the development of the organization.

It appears that FEMUPROCAN has worked hard to carefully select the

organizations with which it works, recognizing that more partners is not always an

improvement if those partners are not willing to respect FEMUPROCAN's objectives

and ways of working. Therefore, the fact that they only have three main organizations

with which they work has both advantages (more careful selection of partners, more

meaningful relationships with partners) and disadvantages (it means they are more

vulnerable economically should they lose one of these partners and fewer resources for

FEMUPROCAN).

One of the major problems with working with NGOs is that they tend to favor short

term projects with easily measurable goals. The benefits provided by these projects

may not last very long but they provide good publicity for the NGO back home and gives

them the sense that they are "doing something." However, this may leave the underlying

causes of the poverty of the target group untouched, and provide only a short term

solution. Longer term commitments, or projects with less tangible results, but that may


243









be of greater long term benefit to the participants (such as self-esteem workshops) are

likely to slip further down the agenda. However, although FEMUPROCAN's partners

still talk about funding particular projects, both Oxfam Canada and El Centro

Cooperative Sueco (CCS) have provided more or less continual support to

FEMUPROCAN since its beginning. Even when funds for international cooperation were

reduced recently, these two NGOs continued their commitment to FEMUPROCAN and

have built up meaningful relationships between the organizations:

For us, our relationship with the organization [FEMUPROCAN] is
stable...we base it on a partnership for development [sociedad para el
desarrollo]. This means that it is not a relationship of cooperante to the
receptor of cooperation/aid but rather a relationship between members in
which we share the strategy, we share values, principles, work philosophies
and we also share resources, because the organizations with which we
work provide resources in cash and in kind, which complement the project.6

Of the three main partners of FEMUPROCAN (Oxfam Canada, VECO M.A. and El

Centro Cooperativo Sueco) it was the relationship with Oxfam Canada that seemed to

be viewed in the most positive light by the national leadership of FEMUPROCAN. Not

only was this one of the first organizations to offer support for FEMUPROCAN but they

also appear to have maintained a high level of respect for the Nicaraguan organization

throughout the relationship, something that was much appreciated by FEMUPROCAN's

leadership:

Oxfam Canada has been one of the organizations that have supported us
from the beginning, when we were founding the federation, in the area of
training. We have had a very respectful relationship...this is extremely
important and let me tell you, if someone were to ask me I would say
Oxfam has been a very respectful relationship with regard to what it was we
agreed on, and in complying with international conventions which describe
the role of the NGO and the role of the organization.7


6Denis Medina, El Centro Cooperativo Sueco, Managua, August 1,2009
7 Marta Valle, President of FEMUPROCAN, Managua, August 3rd, 2009.


244









We like that they have respected our process and have believed in us,
despite the fact that we used to have nothing. There are organizations that
will only support you once they see you with an office and not before. But
Oxfam believed in us long before that, like the Swedes [CCS], we started
out in a garage with no resources. However, they believed in our project
and they supported us.8

For FEMUPROCAN, conditions placed on money such as the need to provide

monitoring reports and proof that the money was spent in the manner agreed upon

beforehand do not pose a particular problem. Rather, such conditions are to be

expected. What they are not prepared to tolerate is any attempt to modify the goals of

the organization:

We are very clear about what we want and the way in which we want to
work with the organizations. If there is an organization that wants to impose
its own criteria or work focuses upon us then it is better that we say no. If
we work with an organization it is because we share the same vision of the
work and what development work should consist of. So, on many occasions
we have actually had to say no to some organizations, because they were
trying to divert us from our strategy... It is not that we work with
organizations because they chose us, we, too, choose with whom we wish
to work 9

It is worth highlighting here that Oxfam Canada has not always agreed with the

decisions taken by FEMUPROCAN but this has not led them to interfere in the

organization. They emphasized the fact that they respect the individual processes of

each actor and that, in their opinion, everybody follows their own, unique path. This

does not mean that they give their counterparts a free rein to do whatever they feel like,

and they still require the organizations to produce well formulated projects and

implement them efficiently. However, the fact that both Oxfam and the CCS expect

FEMUPROCAN to present their own ideas and designs for projects demonstrates that


8 Matilde Rocha, Vice President of FEMUPROCAN, Managua, August 4th, 2009.

9 Matilde Rocha, Vice President of FEMUPROCAN, Managua, August 4th, 2009.


245









these NGOs are willing to listen to what their partner wants to do, rather than simply

implementing projects designed by the NGO according to what they think would be best

for the women. This gives FEMUPROCAN more operational autonomy than they would

have enjoyed had they selected some other NGOs:

The first condition is that they present a well formulated project where they
clearly define what exactly they want to do and the strategy they are going
to use for what they want to do. What we ask is that the formulation of the
project is a participatory exercise of analyzing problems with the regional
leaders. So, the project must come out of this analysis of the problem and
assessment of the situation, from this they define the objective of the
project, the results they are seeking and the activities they will implement.10

Although FEMUPROCAN participates in each stage of the project process, from

the formulation to the implementation, monitoring and evaluation, it must be noted that

they have to get approval from their funders before they can implement a project,

severely restricting their organizational autonomy. The projects that get funded are thus

likely to be those that coincide best with the funders' current priorities. For instance, in

the above example the Centro Cooperativo Sueco insists that everything be formulated

using a participatory process, and he goes on to say that CCS provides methodological

assistance and guides for constructing logical frameworks. Thus we see that they are

able to impose their ways of working on FEMUPROCAN. Although both sides claimed

that the projects were approved and details negotiated through dialogue between

FEMUPROCAN and the NGO, it is clear that these negotiations are shaped by unequal

power relations, with the NGO retaining the right to have the final say on the matter. For

example, at the beginning of the organization's life they had managed to secure funding

for a series of workshops on self-esteem, the results of which had impressed the

leadership of FEMUPROCAN. Last year, with a new generation of women entering the

1Denis Medina, Centro Cooperativo Sueco, Managua, August 1,2009.


246









organization, the leadership wanted to repeat the process but was told that there were

no longer any funds available for such activities.

The leaders of FEMUPROCAN sometimes expressed frustration at the lack of

flexibility in the funds they were given, which could only be used on exactly what had

been agreed upon in advance, although they also understood the NGOs need to

account for how the money was being spent. Related to this was the problem of

administrative funds for the maintenance of the head office and the salaries of the

leaders of the organization. Because most of the funds are designated for specific

projects, there is little left over to pay the running costs of the organization. The

leadership has to piece this together from all the projects they manage to get approved,

but this is barely sufficient at the best of times.

The fact that up to this point they have enjoyed long-term support from

organizations like Oxfam Canada and CCS does not mean that the lack of financial

autonomy is not a problem. On the contrary, their international counterparts could pull

out at any point, leaving FEMUPROCAN struggling to survive. To try and increase their

economic independence, Oxfam believes that FEMUPROCAN needs to mobilize their

resources and better develop the entrepreneurial capacity of their members. Currently,

they estimate only about 20% of the members of FEMUPROCAN pay their dues to the

organization. Unless they can increase this number dramatically financial autonomy

looks to be a long way off. In addition, although some of the beneficiaries of projects

such as the watering systems are supposed to pay back the cost of the investment with

interest, the limited scope of the project and the time it takes for the women to generate

enough profit to begin paying FEMUPROCAN back means that the amount of money


247









they currently receive from these initiatives is not sufficient to make a real impact on the

economic sustainability of the organization as a whole.

To summarize, economic dependence does not necessarily mean the complete

loss of ideological autonomy. However, it does place significant conditions on

FEMUPROCAN's ability to make major decisions without consulting others, whatever

the NGOs rhetoric about equality and respect in their partnerships. Given that all such

partnerships, however equitable they claim to be, involve power relations, and that

normally it is the one holding the purse strings who enjoys the superior position, the

goal of the leadership of FEMUPROCAN has always been financial independence. This

would finally give them the flexibility to use funds as they wished and to implement

projects that may not necessarily be in fashion with development agencies but that the

members need and want. Financial stability holds the key to genuine autonomy, to the

extent that such a thing is possible in today's interconnected world.

Autonomy within FEMUPROCAN

Many scholars writing on the question of autonomy have argued that it is equally

important to look inside an organization as it is to consider its external relations.

FEMUPROCAN consists of base level cooperatives, organized by region, and

sometimes by the union of cooperatives to which they belong, and coordinated by a

national leadership based in Managua. It is therefore necessary to consider the

autonomy of the local branches of the organization with respect to the national team,

and also to investigate the level of autonomy enjoyed by individual members.

At a Regional Level

Just as in the MEC described by Bickham Mendez, the leadership of

FEMUPROCAN has sought to develop greater autonomy at a regional level. The


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Sandinista affiliated mass organizations from which both these women's organizations

emerged were characterized by a highly centralized and hierarchical structure. After

breaking away from UNAG, FEMUPROCAN claims to have adopted a radically different

approach, which grants the regional levels of the organization much more autonomy to

act as they think best. The national organization coordinates the overall strategy of the

organization and facilitates the training of promotoras from all over the country.

However, the regional organizations are expected to formulate their own projects and

design their own proposals. The national team can provide them with methodological

tools and technical assistance to facilitate this, but the goal is that women identify their

own priorities for action and formulate proposals accordingly, rather than waiting for

handouts from Managua:

In this respect FEMUPROCAN has been very clear with us that the only
thing they facilitate is organization, and the purpose of organizing ourselves
is to take actions ourselves, to worry about ourselves, to empower
ourselves on the basis of our understanding of all the training sessions they
have given us.11

I am not against saying that FEMUPROCAN does not give us projects
because FEMUPROCAN has been very clear with us that it is up to us to
keep ourselves going. We are organized in order to come together to
manage, to implement and to initiate actions according to our own
perspectives.

This appears to be working better in some cases than in others. Some regions

seem to have been quite active and successful in designing their own plans of action

and in securing some funding from NGOs for their projects. The case of Nueva Guinea

springs to mind. This rapidly expanding town, seven hours by bus from Managua, is

home to one of the most dynamic branches of FEMUPROCAN. They have managed to

11 Adela, President of a FEMUPROCAN Cooperative in Rio Blanco, Managua, July 15, 2009.
12 Ana, Secretary of a FEMUPROCAN Cooperative in Nandaime, Managua, July 15, 2009.


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construct their own regional office, implement their own projects and gain a relatively

high profile in the community. For this reason they were the area selected by

FEMUPROCAN's national leadership for a pilot training program aimed at young

people. Much of their success can be attributed to the leadership of Modesta Gonzalez,

the regional coordinator. With years of experience in women's organizing (she too was

active in the women's secretariat of UNAG before helping to found FEMUPROCAN)

Modesta brought invaluable knowledge, contacts and determination to the role. In fact,

her contribution to the advancement of gender equality was recognized last year when

the Danish embassy entrusted her with a torch representing gender equality and

empowerment. FEMUPROCAN Nueva Guinea thus enjoys a relatively high level of

autonomy with respect to the national organization, and the leaders of FEMUPROCAN

have a lot of respect for the opinions of women like Gonzalez.

In other areas local leadership capacity has not been developed to the same

extent. Many of these women lack both the experience and contacts with international

organizations that leaders such as Modesta can draw on. Even if they do manage to

formulate a project they may lack the skills to present it in the format required by

international NGOs, or simply lack access to the NGOs at all. They rely much more on

the national organization for support, and to bring projects to them: "well, then Martha

came and said that there was a project."13

This led an Oxfam representative to remark that many of the women at the base

of FEMUPROCAN are currently nothing more than "groups of demanding women."

Unfortunately, as Bickham Mendez (2005) points out it is often on the basis of


13 Maria, FEMUPROCAN cooperative member, Terrabona, July 21, 2009


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established personal relationships that projects get approved by NGOs. The idea that

this is someone who can be trusted is often crucial to an NGO's decision to provide

financial aid to a project. However, in the vast majority of cases, the only people with the

required contacts and skills are those in the national leadership. Women further down

are thus unlikely to get funding unless their projects have been approved and actively

supported by the Managua office, limiting the autonomy of the women at the local level.

Unfortunately Sandinista attempts to channel aid to the grassroots of their

organizations sometimes ended up creating dependency among the members. It is

extremely difficult to change these mentalities, but FEMUPROCAN stresses the need

for the local branches to develop their own capacities and formulate their own proposals

throughout their training sessions.

Just as it is difficult to convince the women to stop expecting handouts, vestiges of

the old style of top down management remain within the organization. Diaz explained

that this was simply for the sake of efficiency an organization must retain some sort of

hierarchical structure in order to get anything done. However, Denis Medina from the

CCS believed there was more to it than this. According to Medina, the national

leadership was sometimes reluctant to hand over leadership to the regional and local

levels of the organization and wanted to retain control over many of the projects (e.g.

the drip watering program piloted in Terrabona). This was not fostering local autonomy,

and it is also preventing the national leadership from being able to focus on areas such

as political advocacy and lobbying the institutions of the Nicaraguan government. So,

for Medina some of these hierarchical tendencies were actually making the organization

less, rather than more, efficient.


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Overall it seems that whereas FEMUPROCAN would like to present itself as a

decentralized organization with high levels of regional and local autonomy the reality is

that some areas have developed this capacity much more fully than others. Much

progress has been made in disintegrating some of the top-down structures that

characterized Sandinista mass organizations. However, much remains to be done. The

national leadership needs to facilitate more meaningful linkages between local branches

and NGOs, but these local branches also need to be more proactive and creative in

their search for sources of funding and in designing their own initiatives. The Managua

office needs to consider whether they need to be involved in so many projects to such a

level or whether these projects can be handled further down the organization. If they

cannot, then perhaps the question is why not? According to their own publications, one

of FEMUPROCAN's main objectives is the training of capable women leaders. If they do

not trust their own women to manage the projects at a local or regional level then they

appear to be failing in this aim.

At an Individual Level

At the level of individuals, autonomy can be operationalized as one's ability to

make decisions regarding their lives on a day to day basis without consulting others.

This poses the question about the extent to which FEMUPROCAN interferes in the lives

of its members. Do the women at the grassroots feel that FEMUPROCAN allows them

to make their own decisions, or do the national team, or local leaders dictate what will

be done?

The grassroots cooperatives are organized democratically, with elections held to

decide all leadership positions at all levels in the organization. In this way the women

are free to select the leaders of their choosing, and the national organization respects


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these decisions. Indeed the national organization attempts not to interfere in the running

of the individual cooperatives.

Provided they abide by the principles of cooperativism outlined in the General Law

of Cooperatives, the women are able to choose whether to join a cooperative in the first

place, what that cooperative will produce, how the work will be divided, and for how long

they will remain in the cooperative (as long as they continue to comply with the rules

governing membership elaborated by each cooperative). As discussed above they are

free to identify with any political party, whilst recognizing that FEMUPROCAN has no

political affiliation. The national leadership has refrained from defining the position of the

organization with regard to many things normally considered under the umbrella of

"women's rights". This includes issues to do with reproduction such as abortion and

contraception, domestic violence and women's control over their bodies. These subjects

may be touched on during the training sessions on women's rights but there has been

no official stance towards these topics agreed upon by the organization. This has been

the source of some criticism from their NGO partners (particularly Oxfam Canada) and

by some in the Nicaraguan women's movement. However, it could be argued that by

not defining an organizational position, FEMUPROCAN grants its members

considerable individual autonomy to make their own decisions about these issues.

This individual autonomy is obviously still limited in a number of ways including

adherence to the overall goals of the organization and the principles of cooperativism

and adherence to the rules set out in individual cooperatives. Equally importantly, is the

fact that the autonomy of individuals (i.e. their ability to make decisions without


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consulting others) is severely limited by the continued subordination of women to men in

Nicaragua, and the material poverty of the members.

Nevertheless, when assessing the amount of personal independence enjoyed by

members of FEMUPROCAN it seems that the organization has, overall, provided them

with a considerable degree of freedom to express their own opinions and make their

own decisions. Moreover, it is impossible to grant members total individual autonomy

and maintain a cohesive and efficient organization. So, on this front FEMUPROCAN

generally appears to have been successful in granting neither too much nor too little

individual autonomy. As Morena Diaz commented during a workshop held for young

people, "you always need other people but this does not mean you cannot decide things

for yourself."14

The Autonomy of the NGO Partners

As Martha Valle points out the question of autonomy is further complicated when

one considers to whom the NGO partners are accountable, and on whose support they

rely:

Look, the NGOs have their own politics and furthermore, they only send
representatives to our countries, the policies are designed in European and
other Latin American countries but they don't design them
here... sometimes the international cooperation policies of the NGOs
themselves are based on world politics and sometimes NGOs have to make
an effort to adapt to the characteristics of each country.15

Many times the bulk of the funding for these organizations comes from

governments in the Global North. For example, in the case of FEMUPROCAN's Belgian

based partner VECO MA, 70% of the funds come from the Belgian government.


14 Morena Diaz, Head of Training and Advocacy, FEMUPROCAN, Nueva Guinea, July 30, 2009.

15 Martha Valle, President of FEMUPROCAN, Managua, August 3rd, 2009


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According to the representative of VECO MA in Nicaragua, the Belgian government is

very demanding and requires periodic reports about how VECO MA is allocating their

funds, as well as testimonial evidence from the beneficiaries of their programs.

El Centro Cooperativo Sueco also receives a significant proportion of its money

from the Swedish government. The representative of CCS with whom I spoke explained

that this meant they have the obligation to make sure that the funds are being put to

good use. They have to carry out a variety of monitoring tasks and report back to the

Swedish government about how funds were allocated and how the projects are

progressing (based on a series of indicators). He added that in 2009 one of the biggest

problems they encountered was the devaluation of the Swedish currency as a result of

the current global economic crisis. At the same time the cost of living in Nicaragua has

increased, making everything more expensive. This meant that for the next few years

they were likely to have fewer funds available to carry out activities. They envisage

scaling back their work and focusing on those projects they really consider priorities.

Thus, the NGOs themselves do not enjoy complete organizational autonomy, and

their priorities for action reflect (admittedly to varying degrees) the priorities of

governments in the North. The global economic crisis also makes its presence felt, by

reducing the foreign aid budgets of governments in the North, the devaluation of

currencies and a focus on domestic, rather than international policy. As prices have

risen in Nicaragua the purchasing power of the money provided to FEMUPROCAN is

likely to decrease dramatically in the upcoming months/years. In this way we see how

FEMUPROCAN is, indirectly, linked to, and dependent on, the fashions of development


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policy in the North, in terms of how much money is available for which type of activity,

and in which regions.

Getting the Autonomy / Dependence Balance Right

For many academics writing about women's movements, autonomy has been

seen as unqualified good (Ray and Korteweg 1999; Gonzalez and Kampwirth 2001a,

17-21; Chinchilla 1994, 191; Bickham Mendez 2005, 71). For Alvarez, (1990, 23)

autonomy is so important that she claims it is one of the defining characteristics of a

women's movement. This omits "state-linked mass organizations for women, women's

branches of political parties, trade unions and other organizations of civil society that

are not primarily organized to advance women's gender specific concerns." To accept

this definition would run the risk of over-simplifying the diverse nature of women's

movements around the world. With regard to FEMUPROCAN, although they do

advance women's gender specific concerns, they are, as we have seen, to some extent

controlled by a social group International NGOs. Would Alvarez deny them a place in

the women's movement in Nicaragua because of this? It seems that her definition is too

narrow, and as Molyneux points out, "these criteria... denote a particular kind of

women's movement, and, while such movements have been significant in the

development of feminism, they have not been the only kind, or even sometimes the

most important kind (Molyneux 1998, 224, emphasis in original).

In order to properly assess FEMUPROCAN's performance as a successful

organization we have to ask whether aiming for complete autonomy is desirable, or

even possible. Perhaps it is unrealistic to expect an organization comprised of small

women producers in a poor country such as Nicaragua to be economically self-

sufficient. If the members can hardly afford to pay for the needs and up keep of their


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families, how can they be expected to generate sufficient funds for the functioning of an

association like FEMUPROCAN? Even if the organization were to manage to scrape

together enough money from dues to prevent the collapse of FEMUPROCAN, there

might be little left over to pay for training sessions or the implementation of projects.

Thus, it does not seem that total autonomy should be seen as necessarily the best

option for an organization such as FEMUPROCAN. If they were to refuse to cooperate

with NGOs they would be, in fact, turning away money and knowledge much needed by

their members and failing in their goal to bring about material improvements to their

lives. Not only would this most likely alienate many of their members at the grassroots,

but it would bring the whole raison d'etre of the organization into question. Scholars

have thus suggested that it might be more appropriate to talk about relative rather than

total autonomy. Rather than seeking total autonomy perhaps it is more useful to

examine how much autonomy ought to be sacrificed to best serve the members of

FEMUPROCAN and to make progress towards achieving some of the overarching

objectives of the organization. The same holds true for political autonomy. The attempt

to distance oneself from affiliation with a particular political party should not be confused

with a complete withdrawal from participation in politics. This has been a mistake of

some "autonomous" women's organizations in a number of different countries, as

Craske explains:

In systems which have relied on clientelism and co-optation to maintain
political stability and generate support, the desire for independence from
the institutional political arena is strong. It is equally clear, however, that a
strict adherence to the principle of autonomy can result in permanent
exclusion. Continued apathy on the part of women, particularly some
feminist organizations and 'apolitical' motherist groups, towards the
institutional political arena tends to lead to disempowerment. The antipathy


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towards politics is explained, in part, by the culture of autonomy among
opposition organizations. (Craske 1999, 199-200)

Barrig (1989, 142) agrees, suggesting that although women's organizations do

need a space of their own in which to organize free from the constraints imposed by the

ideologies and priorities of political parties, successful autonomy should not mean

severing all links to other organizations. She talks of a "current of feedback" of mutual

support between women's groups and other organizations at a local level, which can

help to ensure that the women participate in local decision making spaces and are not

marginalized from local politics and development plans.

To summarize, it seems that Hellman's warning about the fetishization of

autonomy holds true (Hellman 1992). It should not be held up to be "the answer" to

constructing successful women's movements but should rather be seen as a process

which may enable organizations to make progress towards achieving their objectives

and successfully representing their members. On the other hand, it should not be

pursued at all costs, but the benefits and costs of sacrificing or maintaining some

degree of independence should constantly be weighed and the position of the

organization re-negotiated accordingly.

Putting the Experience of FEMUPROCAN in Context

One should not perhaps be so harsh on FEMUPROCAN for lacking financial

independence when many of the most prominent women's organizations in the country,

including the MEC, find themselves in exactly the same position: "If you look at Maria

Elena Cuadra you find the same situation, they depend a lot on international

cooperation, UNAG also depends on international cooperation" (Maria Rosa Renzi,

Managua, July 15, 2009). Renzi attributed this to the lack of a culturala de cotizaci6n" or


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dues-paying culture in the country and explained that "this happens to the majority of

organizations, not only those of/for women but other organizations as well, there are

very few trade unions that maintain themselves with their own funds for the same

reason" (Ibid).The difficulty in creating this cultural de cotizaci6n among members of

cooperatives formed in the Sandinista years primarily to defend the land came up

frequently as one of the most serious problems facing the organization at present in my

interviews with the leadership of FEMUPROCAN, the promotoras and the NGO

partners.

This supports Maxine Molyneux's contention that the character of women's

movements depends on the context in which they develop: "prevailing cultural

configurations, family forms, political formations, the forms and degree of female

solidarity, and more generally on the character of civil society in the regional and

national context" (Molyneux 1998, 221). Thus, we should not be too quick to judge the

performance of FEMUPROCAN by the standards of other regions and we should pay

close attention to how the wider context opens up possibilities for more or less

autonomy at different historical moments.

It appears that it has been extremely difficult for "autonomous" women's

organizations in Nicaragua to achieve financial independence (and this therefore limits

their organizational autonomy). In the case of the MEC mentioned above Bickham

Mendez finds that the organization has faced similar problems to those encountered by

FEMUPROCAN: "Autonomy from a male-dominated movement has not guaranteed that

MEC organizers can define their own interests. Autonomy from the labor movement has

meant that MEC must seek its own funding from international donors, and... reliance on


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northern NGOs brings with it a whole new set of issues, compromising to some degree

MEC's ability to establish independently its own agenda." (Bickham Mendez 2005, 72)

This is not to say that economic autonomy is impossible. In 1997 Aguilar et al

reported that according to their investigations 64.3% of women's organizations said that

they received funds from other governments, 64.3% from private cooperation agencies

and 57.1% from solidarity groups. Although these numbers suggest that over half the

women's organizations in Nicaragua were not economically sustainable, the authors

found that 42.9% reported that their financing was a result of self-management and

28.9% responded that they generated income by selling their services (Aguilar et al

1997, 410). Thus, although it may be difficult, and should indeed be seen as a process,

economic autonomy is not an impossible dream for women's organizations in

Nicaragua. From their study of movements throughout the Central American region it

seems that it is women's organizations in Nicaragua that had developed the most

complex, nuanced understanding of what autonomy means and formulating strategies

to achieve it. In countries such as Guatemala there has been little attention paid to the

nature of the international NGO and local women's organizations relationship, with the

result that the NGOS enjoy considerably more freedom to dictate the rules of the game.

We see, therefore, that a recognition of the importance of the specific context in

shaping the character of women's movements in Nicaragua does not mean that there

are no lessons to be learned from autonomous women's movements elsewhere. During

the wave of democratization in Latin America, autonomous women's organizations

sprang up across the continent, sharing an aversion to involvement in partisan politics.

As early as 1989 Maruja Barrig, writing about Peru, was warning about the dangers of


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being dependent on external sources for funding, especially international development

agencies and foundations. For Barrig, women's centers funded externally are

problematic not only because of the possible interference or influence of the funders on

the program of the women's organization but also because "it is difficult to determine

whether the centers are operating on the basis of militancy, that is as groups of people

committed to a set of beliefs and to voluntary action, or on the basis of employment,

because the centers provide paid professional work" (Barrig 1989, 127).

Conclusions

FEMUPROCAN appears to have achieved a high degree of political autonomy at

the national level, with more uneven progress at the local level. However, there is a

general agreement within the organization, and within the organizations that work with

them that FEMUPROCAN is not associated with any political party. There are

sympathies and certain members are fiercely political (both Sandinista and Liberal) but

the effort to leave those partisan politics at the door seems to have largely been

successful.

They have also allowed their members considerable individual autonomy, for

example, to choose who to vote for and to decide which crops to produce. Many

members asserted that they felt they were also gaining more autonomy within their

households and taking more decisions on their own, without feeling that they had to ask

permission from their husbands or partners, as a result of their membership in

FEMUPROCAN. However, moving up the scale, the results have been less uniform at

the local and regional level. Some areas are clearly much more autonomous than

others, and in many cases there is still a tendency for women to look to the national

organization for the ideas and financing for projects, and for the national leadership to


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attempt to control every stage of these projects. FEMUPROCAN is currently trying to

recreate the success of areas like Nueva Guinea across the entire organization, but this

is a process that will most likely take considerable time, effort and the identification and

promotion of key women leaders at the regional level, who can serve as an inspiration

to others.

The organization's main weakness is financial autonomy, and their dependence on

external funding does not look likely to be solved in the near future. This severely limits

their organizational autonomy in certain important ways. However, FEMUPROCAN has

been careful to select partners that respect the overall goal and mission of the

organization, and so have managed to stay within their own strategies for the

development of the organization. They have selected organizations which share some

of their beliefs about priorities for action and ways of working. However, these

relationships with NGOs are marked by unequal power relations and FEMUPROCAN

remains dependent on the continued goodwill of the NGOS. These NGOs are in turn

dependent on the continued support of governments in the North. Therefore, the best

strategy for FEMUPROCAN to achieve genuine autonomy would be to develop their

own economic sustainability. In this respect they still have a long way to go.

The experiences of FEMUPROCAN in their struggle for autonomy, and the

evidence from the literature on autonomous women's movements throughout the region

(and indeed the world), suggests that this economic independence is difficult, but not

impossible to achieve. Political autonomy, at least in the Nicaraguan case, has proved

more feasible. Within FEMUPROCAN there is some mention of disagreements due to

this decision to abandon partisan politics at the beginning of the organization, and it


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took time for some of the women at the grassroots to learn how to get along with

members who supported different political parties. However, these problems do not

seem to have destabilized the movement to the same extent as those described by

Bickham Mendez in her study of the MEC. Indeed it seems that today there is an

overwhelming acceptance of the idea that FEMUPROCAN is no place for party politics.

It is unlikely, and probably unwise, that a women's organization can ever achieve

total autonomy in all the dimensions of the concept. There will always be a need to

coordinate in some manner with external organizations and institutions. These actions

will always be shaped by power relations, which tend to limit the true autonomy of the

subordinate organization. Perhaps Aguilar et al (1997) summed it up best when they

pointed out that autonomy should be seen as a process rather than a static concept,

and is constantly being renegotiated and re-conceptualized by women's movements

across the world, each according to their particular set of historical, economic and social

circumstances.


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CHAPTER 9
CONCLUSIONS: TO WHAT EXTENT CAN SUCCESSFUL, AUTONOMOUS
WOMEN'S ORGANIZATIONS EMERGE FROM CLASS-BASED MASS
ORGANIZATIONS?

So, what does the case study of FEMUPROCAN tells us about the possibility of

building successful, autonomous women's organizations out of class-based mass

organizations? In Nicaragua, I argue, far from being a hindrance to the construction of

successful, autonomous women's movements' roots in Sandinista mass organizations

actually contributed to their success. The leaders of both FEMUPROCAN and the MEC

were able to bring a number of significant resources with them from their parent

organizations including self-confidence, organizing skills and contacts with international

funders and transnational social movement activists (Kampwirth 2004). These contacts

were vital for the survival of the organizations, as they are totally dependent on funding

from international NGOs for their success. Additionally, long histories of organizing in

prominent positions within the UNAG women's secretariat gave the leaders of

FEMUPROCAN increased legitimacy and acceptance among Nicaraguan policy

makers.

Both the MEC and FEMUPROCAN seem to have been successful in establishing

a high degree of political autonomy and are not associated with any particular political

party. Bickham Mendez goes into significant detail about the tensions caused by double

militancy, being active in the party and in the women's organization for the MEC,

especially in the beginning. Although FEMUPROCAN members mentioned that at first it

had been difficult to learn how to get along with supporters of different political parties,

the problems of double militancy do not seem to have been as severe or reached as far

up the organization as they did in the MEC. Perhaps this is partly due to the fact that


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FEMUPROCAN emerged three years later (1997) than the MEC (1994) and also due to

the particular mass movement from which they emerged. UNAG, FEMUPROCAN's

"parent," is widely regarded as having been the most autonomous of the Sandinista

mass organizations (Luciak 1987, 1990). It is likely that by the time FEMUPROCAN was

founded, the successes of autonomous women's movements had been firmly

established and that there was a better understanding of what the concept of autonomy

actually entailed. Nevertheless, by the time I conducted my research (2009) both

organizations seem to have successfully distanced themselves from the FSLN, or any

other political party.

So, why was this possible in the Nicaraguan case but more difficult in places such

as Mozambique, where autonomous women's movements did not emerge until much

later? In her comparative analysis of Nicaragua and Mozambique, Jennifer Leigh

Disney (2008) suggests that it is related to two factors: the duration of autonomy

struggles in a country, which provides the foundation for autonomous women's

organizations and developments in electoral politics. She argues that the organizations

such as FEMUPROCAN and MEC were able to break away from and resist affiliation

with any particular political party precisely because the FSLN lost the elections in 1990,

1996 and 2001. By the time the FSLN regained power in 2007 the autonomous

women's movements had developed to such an extent that it would have made it

extremely difficult for the party to try and regain control over them. In contrast, in

Mozambique, the revolutionary party, Frelimo was re-elected. Disney illustrates that in

many ways it is much harder to break away from party affiliation when the state is a

"friend" to the women's movements (at least rhetorically, whatever the practical


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limitations), as was the case in Mozambique. In Nicaragua on the other hand the

situation changed to that of "state as enemy" after 1990, making the fight for autonomy

from party politics much easier. This situation has not changed with the reelection of

Daniel Ortega, given his administration's attempts to suppress the women's movement.

Equally, the main weakness of FEMUPROCAN its total dependence on

external funding from NGOs for the survival and maintenance of the organization -

seems to be a problem shared by many similar organizations, including the MEC.

FEMUPROCAN does not seem likely to be able to significantly increase its rate of

subscriptions any time soon and is hoping that developing the business networks and

emphasizing commercialization and marketing will allow the cooperatives and networks

to begin generating profits and become self-sustaining. In its five year plan (2006-2010)

the MEC also sets out its objective to develop projects to increase the economic

sustainability of their organization. However, it is far from certain how long it would take

for the organizations to develop this self-sufficiency, or if they ever will. I am not aware

of any major women's organization comprised of poor women that emerged from a

mass organization in the developing world that is completely self-sustaining financially.

The members of both the MEC and FEMUPROCAN are, for the most part, very poor

and may not be able to spare the money to contribute to their organizations or allow the

cooperative to retain some of the money from the business ventures. It is not clear how

exactly the MEC is attempting to become self-sustaining, but in the case of

FEMUPROCAN it is clear that they still have a long way to go in developing the

business and marketing skills of their members and expanding the scope of projects

that might help them to generate real profits. They are struggling to convince their


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members that they cannot sit around and wait for development to happen to them but

rather they themselves can be active agents of development. Part of the difficulty in

achieving this stems from years of handouts to cooperative members from the

Sandinista party and from development NGOs, which created a culture of dependency

among some members. So, is economic autonomy possible? I argue that in Nicaragua,

the answer unfortunately has to be, not right now but perhaps, hopefully, one day in the

future. For FEMUPROCAN to have the best chance of achieving it would require:

favorable economic, political and social contexts; the pursuit and development of larger

scale initiatives with big companies such as that being negotiated with Walmart (and a

government willing to introduce legislation to protect small producers in their

negotiations and require prompt payment by the supermarket); the development of a

greater number of processed or packaged products that add value; higher standards of

quality control exercised by the members and continuing innovation and a search for

new, profitable initiatives by FEMUPROCAN's leaders and members at the grassroots.

There is no reason why the NGOs upon which FEMUPROCAN is dependent

cannot use their international linkages to develop, with the participation of

FEMUPROCAN, profitable new product lines or ventures such as volunteer or

community tourism.

This dependency on external sources of funding limits the organizational

autonomy of FEMUPROCAN and the MEC. However, organizations can attempt to limit

the amount of control exercised by the NGO partners in the development process in a

number of ways. In the case of FEMUPROCAN they have preferred to carefully

consider the organizations with which they work and build up long-lasting meaningful


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relationships with a few organizations. As a result, their relationships with their partners

are characterized by mutual respect and shared beliefs about some of the priorities for

action and ways of working. This strategy appears to be paying off but perhaps

FEMUPROCAN would benefit from gradually increasing the number of these partners.

This would, if done carefully, allow the organization to expand the scope of its projects

and proposals and to tackle a wider range of issues as well as reduce its vulnerability

should one of these partners suddenly withdraw its support. As such, FEMUPROCAN

does not appear to have developed a coherent strategy to do this. Moreover, even the

most "hands-off" NGOs attach conditions to their funding, and negotiations between

partners, however respectful or friendly, are always shaped by unequal power relations,

particularly when one partner controls the purse strings.

In both MEC and FEMUPROCAN there is a tendency for the members and

regional offices to rely heavily on the national office to formulate and find funding for

initiatives. This leads to heavy workloads for the national teams and a lack of dynamism

and leadership at the lower levels of the organizations. Both MEC and FEMUPROCAN

have been keen to decentralize much decision making and encourage regional offices

to take a larger role in their own development. Bickham Mendez describes how some of

the offices were much more capable and successful than others in this respect. She

describes how the women in regional offices were sometimes resentful if the national

team told them they needed to develop their own capacities and begin acting more

independently. She also described this was made more difficult because it was the

members of the national office who had the technical skills and the contacts to develop

projects and meet the requirements of international funders. They were therefore much


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more successful in getting funding. The same can be said, to some degree, about

FEMUPROCAN. Aside from a few examples of successful projects formulated and

implemented by regional offices such as Nueva Guinea, the vast majority of

FEMUPROCAN's members lacked the skills and the contacts to formulate and gain

approval for their projects, and relied on the national leadership. However, there did not

seem to be resentment towards the national team but rather a sense of resignation by

the women at the grassroots who were unable to find funding. They agreed that the

national team had clearly stated their role as coordinator and facilitator of training

programs, not as the provider of handouts. So, it seems that for many organizations,

decentralization or the autonomy of regional offices was limited primarily by a lack of

professional project formulation skills and difficulty in making independent contacts with

NGOs. Whereas the top of the organizations may have undergone a significant degree

of "NGO-ization" the regional leaderships have not as yet, which puts them at a

disadvantage in their competition for funding. Greater regional autonomy is possible,

providing the leadership of FEMUPROCAN and similar organizations is prepared to

invest in the training and professionalization of its regional coordinators and assist them

in making NGO contacts.

To summarize, women's organizations emerging from class-based mass

organizations do seem to be able to gain a high level of political autonomy and

successfully distance themselves from party politics. Their main stumbling block

concerns economic autonomy, which in turn places limits on their organizational

autonomy. There are ways in which the women's organizations can negotiate the extent

of these limits and it does appear possible for the organizations to define their own


269









strategies and stick to them, compromising only on smaller details but not on their

overall mission and objectives. Total autonomy is not only almost impossible to achieve

but would also be unwise and result in the isolation and marginalization of the

organizations. After all, the partner NGOs provide many more benefits besides money,

including exchange of information and ideas in which both sides benefit in important

ways from the relationship. FEMUPROCAN and MEC are thus attempting a delicate

balancing act between autonomy, collaboration and dependency in which they are

constantly seeking to renegotiate and redefine the meaning of autonomy.

Some of FEMUPROCAN's successes are undeniable the literacy program and

self esteem workshops have resulted in a sense of empowerment among the members,

and significant numbers of them are exercising their leadership skills in their local

communities. Training in technical skills and personal development workshops have

combined to give the women a sense that they do have something important to say and

ought to be listened to. Moreover, belonging to an organization, in addition to providing

the women with a space in which to share their experiences and find moral support, has

also contributed to a feeling that they are "somebody." They are gaining recognition for

their achievements and abilities among local government officials and within their

communities.

The organization has also been very successful in legalizing the situation of the

cooperatives. They have made much more limited progress on the issue of women's

access to land and credit, with the majority of FEMUPROCAN's members still working

land that is not their own. Nevertheless, the organization has proved that it can still find

a receptive audience among policy makers on some issues, participating in the


270









Coordinator for Rural Women, the body responsible for the formulation of a bill

proposing the establishment of a land bank for women. Should this bill be approved it

would mark a major step forward for the organization on this topic.

Having said that, the success of FEMUPROCAN and other women's

organizations, such as MEC, is hampered by the increasing division and polarization of

Nicaraguan society. This has a number of effects including a refusal by local

government officials to work with people supporting different parties and the increasing

fragmentation of the women's movements in the country. Lacking sufficient

coordination, the women's movements appear to have lost their way in recent years and

have thus seen their ability to successfully pressure policy makers seriously reduced.

The poverty and lack of education of many members of women's organizations

representing rural and urban women also limits the success of these organizations. As

discussed above most women do not have the skills or training to formulate their own

projects. With only basic levels of literacy members find it more difficult to defend their

rights and mount sophisticated challenges to those in power. Although FEMUPROCAN

and MEC are educating their members about their rights and what they are entitled to

under Nicaraguan law, many women still have only a limited knowledge and

understanding of the implications of existing legislation. Organizations such as

FEMUPROCAN find it more difficult to collect detailed monitoring data from their

membership or convince them of the need to keep written records of income, expenses,

meetings, etc. than those comprised of professional, more highly educated women.

In terms of the development of a gender consciousness among their members,

FEMUPROCAN has won praise for its detailed, complex treatment of gender and


271









development in its training sessions and in its publications. However, the organization

has focused almost entirely on women's economic and political rights and has shied

away from campaigning or holding workshops on more controversial issues such as

sexual and reproductive health. But this does not mean that women's organizations

cannot tackle these issues and still be successful. In contrast to FEMUPROCAN, the

MEC actively campaigned against the ban on therapeutic abortion and argues that such

issues are an integral part of its work. It is unclear why FEMUPROCAN has not taken

more action or developed more extensive training programs on such issues. It may be

that they fear alienating their membership, it may be that they see therapeutic abortion

as mainly an elite issue and not of great importance to their membership or, and in my

opinion, most likely they do not want to lose the position of acceptance they have

gained with the government as a legitimate representative of rural women. This might

lead them to stay away from controversial topics that have resulted in increasing

suppression and condemnation of the women's movements by the Ortega

administration. By not ruffling too many feathers they may hope to find a more

sympathetic ear to their particular demands and retain their positions of influence within

government bodies related to the cooperative sector. Whatever their reasons for doing

so I argue that FEMUPROCAN's decision to focus only on a limited range of issues

neglects a significant part of rural women's lives and the ways in which topics such as

reproductive health affect rural women's abilities to produce and provide for their

families. They will only ever meet with partial success in their mission to increase rural

women producers and entrepreneurs' participation in the economic and social affairs of

the country if they continue to focus on this, fairly narrow, set of issues.


272









Whereas the MEC has developed a series of linkages and spaces in which it

coordinates with a number of different currents in the women's movements in

Nicaragua, FEMUPROCAN has mainly, thus far, concentrated on building alliances with

the cooperative sector. Though this has helped them to establish themselves as the

accepted leader of the women's cooperative movement in Nicaragua (despite the fact

that with only 1,767 direct members FEMUPROCAN remains small relative to the

numbers of rural women in mixed sex organizations such as UNAG) building bridges

with the women's movement would increase their ability to lobby the government on a

wider range of issues. Perhaps FEMUPROCAN needs to take a more proactive

approach in this regard, identifying women's groups and bodies with which to work and

initiating contact.

FEMUPROCAN has met with only limited, gradual success in changing the

mentalities of its members from individualism to cooperativism and from producers to

businesswomen. The vast majority of their members still produce and sell their goods

on an individual basis, not through the cooperative. Many of these cooperatives thus do

not generate any profit, (a large percentage of which is kept by the intermediary

merchants who come to the communities) and the members normally do not have a

buyer agreed in advance, often forcing them to sell at low prices. Perhaps the business

networks offer a way out of this problem especially if they are funded from the beginning

out of the pockets of the members, and clear, detailed regulations for membership are

devised and enforced. However, it is too early to tell at present and many of the

networks were still in the planning phase when I visited.


273









Both FEMUPROCAN and MEC have ambitious goals for ending women's

subordination in Nicaragua. Despite advances in certain areas, some members of both

organizations still faced conflicts with their husbands or other male family members, and

all suffered from the machismo and discrimination still present in Nicaraguan society.

However, changing such entrenched beliefs is a long, time consuming and delicate

process and we should not expect gender equality to be achieved overnight.

Nevertheless FEMUPROCAN, with its focus on the family and non-confrontational

approach to many gender issues, appears to have limited the opposition of many men

to women's participation in the organization and, indeed, many have actually begun to

support and approve of their partners' membership in the organization. What would

happen to these men's support if the organizational was to begin to tackle more

controversial subjects is not certain, but it may be that FEMUPROCAN has steered

clear of addressing such subjects as an organization in an attempt to minimize intra-

household conflict.

In terms of lobbying and advocacy, it appears that FEMUPROCAN has not yet

developed the same level of public relations expertise and lobbying activities as the

MEC. The latter have identified and elaborated a series of well articulated campaigns on

topics such as "Work and Health" and "Safety and Work". Whereas FEMUPROCAN has

been involved in a number of initiatives it has not yet managed to publicize and promote

them to the same degree. They are currently hoping to develop their media coverage at

the local level and there are some signs of growing national recognition such as the

report on watering systems which aired on national television in March 2010. MEC

shows that it is possible for women's organizations emerging from the old Sandinista


274









organizations to gain a national presence and high public profile. In this respect,

FEMUPROCAN has some serious catching up to do if it wants to be recognized by the

general public in Nicaragua as a leading representative of the rural women's

movements. They claim to be focusing on developing lobbying strategies at all levels of

the organization at present but it remains to be seen how successful they will be in this

regard, particularly because lobbying and advocacy work can often be expensive, and

money is one thing that FEMUPROCAN definitely does not have a surplus of.

Having said that, the fact that FEMUPROCAN is the only all women organization

of rural cooperatives in Nicaragua and their inclusion in the two most important

government bodies dealing with the cooperative sector suggests that even if

FEMUPROCAN still needs to gain acceptance among some sectors of the general

public they have managed to convince those in government that they are a legitimate

representative of rural women. This is certainly a mark of a successful organization.

To conclude, both FEMUPROCAN and the MEC are recognized as some of the

leading organizations in their respective currents of the women's movements in

Nicaragua. Both have achieved significant levels of recognition and acceptance by

policy makers and have been able to make some real changes to the lives of their

members. So, in this regard the answer to the question of whether successful,

autonomous women's organizations can emerge from class-based mass organizations

would appear to be yes. However, their success is limited in a number of important

ways. Perhaps their biggest weakness is a lack of economic self-sustainability and their

consequent dependence on international NGOs for funding. Secondly, their success

depends on the existence of a favorable political, economic and social climate which


275









affects the extent to which the organizations are able to make progress towards

achieving their objectives. Consequently both the current global economic crisis and the

hostility of the Ortega administration towards women's organizations campaigning on

more controversial topics limits the ability of FEMUPROCAN and similar organizations

to achieve their goals. To be truly successful these organizations would likely need to

coordinate with strong and vibrant women's movements which would enable them to

effectively pressure the government to agree to some of their demands. In addition such

movements play a crucial role in turning the tide of public opinion in a country. Lastly,

they attract the attention and support of a wide range of international actors, from social

movement activists, international NGOs to academics and students of social

movements. However, the Nicaraguan women's movements appear to be experiencing

a period of fragmentation and disarray at present and have lost much of their former

dynamism. It remains to be seen whether this will be only a temporary phase or if we

are witnessing the beginning of a long-term decline in the strength of Nicaraguan

women's movements. I, for one, hope that women's organizations such as

FEMUPROCAN make the best of this situation by engaging in much needed re-

evaluation and regrouping in order to develop new strategies for action and new forms

of coordination that would usher in a revival of women's activism in the country.

Otherwise it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for women's movements to

make real progress towards achieving their goals.


276









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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Eleanor Jane Sintjago (nee Lewis) was born in 1984 in Worcestershire, UK and

grew up in the town of Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. After finishing high school she

moved to Leeds, Yorkshire in 2003 and attended the University of Leeds, graduating

with a BA in Spanish Language and Literature. During her third year of studies at the

University of Leeds, she lived a year in Barcelona, Spain and attended the Universitat

Pompeu Fabra where she practiced her Spanish and studied Catalan.

After completing her bachelor's degree she spent six months travelling to South

America, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Laos and China. She has also travelled

extensively through Europe and Mexico. She plans to work at a non-profit or

governmental organization where she can apply her knowledge of Spanish and Latin

American Studies.


291





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1 AND CLASS BASED MASS ORGANIZATIONS: A CASE STUDY OF FEMUPROCAN, NICARAGUA. B y ELEANOR JANE SINTJAGO A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFIL LMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 20 10

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2 2010 Eleanor Jane Sintjago

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3 To Alfonso

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4 AC K NOWLEDGMENTS This research would not have been possible without the generous support of th e Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Florida, which provided me with a summer field research grant to fund my fieldwork. I would also like to thank Dr. Carmen Diana Deere, who helped me to formulate my research question and who was inst rumental in putting me in contact with the leadership of FEMUPROCAN. In addition, I thank the other members of my committee, Dr. Florence Babb and Dr. Frederick Royce for their time and insights. I am especially grateful to the women of FEMUPROCAN for allo wing me to conduct my research on their organization and for all their assistance, patience, and generosity. Finally, I am thankful for all of the suggestions and support provided by my family.

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5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 4 LIST OF FIGURES ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 9 LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS AND ACRONYMS ................................ ............................. 10 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 12 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION: LIVING IN PERMANENT DEMONSTRATION .......................... 14 The R esearch Sites ................................ ................................ ................................ 22 Managua ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 22 Terrabona and San Juanillo ................................ ................................ ............. 24 Nueva Guinea ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 25 Methods ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 25 Participant Observation ................................ ................................ .................... 26 Semi structured Individual Interviews ................................ ............................... 27 Group Interviews with Women at the Grassroots ................................ ............. 28 Grounde d Theory ................................ ................................ ............................. 29 2 ................................ ...................... 31 Before the Revolution ................................ ................................ ............................. 31 The FSLN Government 1979 1990 ................................ ................................ ......... 33 The ATC ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 36 UNAG ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 4 1 ................................ ....... 43 The Contra War ................................ ................................ ................................ 44 Neoliberal Governments 1990 2007 and Structural Adjustment ............................. 45 The ATC ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 48 UNAG ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 49 ................................ ............................ 50 ................................ ...................... 56 3 NGO IZATION A ............................. 58 A Brief History of NGO Ization ................................ ................................ ................ 58 Benefits to NGO ization ................................ ................................ .......................... 62 Drawbacks of NGO ization ................................ ................................ ..................... 67 Feminist NGOs in Nicaragua Today: Agents of Yankee Imperialism? .................... 75 Concluding Remarks ................................ ................................ ............................... 76

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6 4 THE HISTORY OF FEMUPROCAN: A BASTION OF STRUG GLE FOR THE UNITY AND DEVELOPMENT OF WOMEN PRODUCERS ................................ .... 80 Within UNAG ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 80 Phase One: Disappointment and the Roots of Organization 1980 1983 .......... 80 Phase Two: Coffee Picking Collectives and the Beginning of the Struggle for Independence: 1984 1986 ................................ ................................ .... 82 Phase Three ................................ .. 83 Phase Four: After the 1990 Electoral Defeat of the FSLN Section Demands Greater Autonomy ................................ ............................ 87 Phase Five: The Break with UNAG: 1997 Present ................................ ........... 89 FEMUPRO CAN Today ................................ ................................ ........................... 94 5 NGOS, SOCIAL MOVEMENTS AND TRADE ASSOCIATIONS: WHERE DOES FEMUPROCAN FIT IN? ................................ ................................ ......................... 96 Defining Social Movements ................................ ................................ .................... 97 Difference Between a Social Movement and a Social Movement Organization (SMO) ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 101 Defining Social Movement Organizations ................................ ............................. 102 Defining Trade Associations ................................ ................................ ................. 103 Defining NGOs ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 104 Difference between an NGO and a social movement or social movement organization ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 108 FEMUPROCAN ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 111 FEMUPROCAN as Trade Association ................................ ............................ 111 FEMUPROCAN as Social Movement Organization ................................ ....... 112 FEMUPROCAN as NGO ................................ ................................ ................ 113 Cooperative Organizations and FEMUPROCAN ................................ .................. 118 Conclusions ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 122 6 ................................ ......................... 124 What Constitutes Success and How Can It Be Measured? ................................ .. 124 Has FEMUPROCAN Been Able to Influence the Government and the General Public in Nicaragua to Achieve their Objectives and Benefit their Members at the Grassroots? ................................ ................................ ................................ 131 A Strong Organization with Leadership Capacity? ................................ ......... 132 Association and community leadership ................................ .................... 132 Formulation and management of projects ................................ ................ 135 Growth and subscriptions ................................ ................................ ........ 137 Legality of the cooperatives ................................ ................................ ..... 139 Planning, monitoring and evaluation ................................ ........................ 141 Training Capable, Empowered Women Leaders? ................................ .......... 145 Agroecological techniques ................................ ................................ ....... 147 Formulation and management of projects ................................ ................ 152 Gender and deve lopment (GAD) ................................ ............................. 152

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7 Leadership and empowerment ................................ ................................ 157 Literacy and primary education ................................ ................................ 162 Organization and Cooperativism ................................ .............................. 169 Strengthening the Business and Entrepreneurial Skills of Women Producers 174 Business techniques ................................ ................................ ................ 174 Access to land and other property ................................ ........................... 177 Diversification and modernization of production ................................ ....... 181 Financing of productive activities ................................ ............................. 187 Marketing and comme rcialization ................................ ............................. 190 Influencing the Processes of Promotion and Formulation of Policies Related to the Countryside and Women Producers ? ................................ ................ 197 Dissemination of information and media strategy ................................ .... 197 Lobbying and advocacy ................................ ................................ ........... 200 Links with Other Organizations ................................ ................................ ............. 202 ................................ ................ 203 FEMUPROCAN and Cooperative Organizations ................................ ............ 208 FEMUPROCAN and Peasant/Rural Organizations ................................ ........ 210 FEMUPROCAN and Linkages with Other Organizations ............................... 212 7 ACCEPTANCE ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 215 Consultation ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 215 Negotiation ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 216 Recognition ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 218 Inclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 219 Conclusions ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 223 8 THE LIMITS TO A UTONOMY: FROM SANDINISTA AFFILIATED MASS .......................... 226 Defining Autonomy ................................ ................................ ............................... 228 Political Autonomy ................................ ................................ ................................ 234 Economic and Organizational Autonomy ................................ .............................. 241 Autonomy within FEMUPROCAN ................................ ................................ ......... 248 At a Regional Level ................................ ................................ ........................ 248 At an Individual Level ................................ ................................ ..................... 252 The Autonomy of the NGO Partner s ................................ ................................ ..... 254 Getting the Autonomy / Dependence Balance Right ................................ ...... 256 Putting the Experience of FEMUPROCAN in Context ................................ .... 258 Conclusions ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 261 9 CONCLUSIONS: TO WHAT EXTENT CAN SUCCESSFU L, AUTONOMOUS BASED MASS ORGANIZATIONS? ................................ ................................ .............................. 264 REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 277

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8 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ .......................... 291

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9 LIST OF FI GURES Figure page 1 1 Location of Research Sites, Nicaragua. ................................ ............................. 30 6 1 The problem of identifying social movement outcomes ................................ .... 214

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10 LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS AND ACRONYMS AGEM AMNLAE Luisa Amanda Espinoza Association of Nicaraguan Women (Asociaci n de Mujeres Nicaragenses Luisa Amanda Espinoza ) ATC Ru n de Trabajadores del Campo ) COLACOT Latin American Confederation of Cooperatives and Mutual Societies (Confederaci n Latinoamericana de Cooperativas y Mutuales de Trabajadores ) CONACOOP National Council of Cooperatives ( Consejo Nacional de Cooperativas) ENABAS Nicaraguan Enterprise of Basic Foodstuffs (La Empresa Nicaragense de Alimentos Bsicos ) FEMUPROCAN Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives of Rural Women Producers of Nicaragua (Federaci n Agropecuaria de Cooperati vas de Mujeres Productoras del Campo de Nicaragua ) FSLN Sandinista National Liberation Front (Frente Sandinista de Liberaci n Nacional ) INFOCOOP Nicaraguan Institute for the Promotion of Cooperatives (Instituto Nicaragense de Fomento Cooperativo) INIM Nic INPYME Nicaraguan Institute for the Support of Small and Medium Sized Businesses (I nstituto Nicaragense de Apoyo a la Pequea y Mediana Empresa ) INTA Nicaraguan Institute for Agricultural Tech nology ( Instituto Nicaragense de Tecnologa Agropecuaria ) MAGFOR Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (Ministerio Agropecuario y Forestal) MEC Movement M ovimiento de Mujeres Trabajadoras y Desempleadas "Ma ra Elena Cuadra )

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11 MIFAMILIA Ministry of the Family, Youth and Childhood ( Ministerio de la Familia, Adolescencia y Niez ) MINSA Ministry of Health (Ministerio de Salud) PECOSOL Regional Program for Economic Solidarity in Central America (Programa de Econo ma Solidaria en Centroamrica ) PLC Constitutionalist Liberal Party (Partido Liberal Constitucionalista) UNAG National Union of Farmers and Ranchers (Unin Nacional de Agricultores y Ganaderos) UNIFEM U nited Nations Development Fund for Women

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12 Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master in Arts AND CLASS BASED MASS ORGANIZATIONS : A CASE STUDY OF FEMUPROC AN, NICARAGUA. By Eleanor Jane Sintjago August 2010 Chair: Carmen Diana Deere Major: Latin American Studies organizations can emerge from class based mass organizations, using the case study of FEMUPROCAN (Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives of Rural Women Producers of Nicaragua). I examine the nature of the organization, the extent of its success in achieving its objectives and the degree to which it has been accepted as a legitimate representative for rural women producers. I then discuss the concept of autonomy in terms of political, economic and organizational independence and explore the relationships between FEMUPROCAN and its international NGO partners in depth. I argu e that whereas FEMUPROCAN has achieved some significant successes in a number of areas, there are certain areas in which the organization has not managed to make much progress towards its goals. Having achieved a high level of political autonomy, the bigge financial. Complete dependence on funds from international development NGOs limits the organizational autonomy of these organization s and leaves them vulnerable to the whims of development orga nizations based in the Global North. Although

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13 FEMUPROCAN appears to be making the best o f a situation that is far from ideal they do not seem likely to decrease this dependence any time soon

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14 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION: LIVING IN PERMANENT DEMONSTRATION Wome revolutionary Nicaragua have been widely praised whole of Latin America. During the Sandinista period (1979 1990) the revolutionary government pledged it s commitment to achieving gender equality in the country and organization, the Luisa Amanda Espinoza Association of Nicaraguan Women (AMNLAE) and channeled significant quantities of mo ney and resources to class based mass organizations affiliated with the party. These organizations provided the only degree of control over the movement at this time, limiting the ability of women to define their own objectives and priorities for action. Women within the mixed sex organizations continued to experience significant discrimination from their male counterparts and often struggled to reach leadership positio ns. Furthermore, as the Contra war dragged on the rights took a backseat. Because of this, women within the Sandinista unions began to push for greater freedom, both fr om the FSLN and within their organizations. The electoral defeat of the Sandinistas opened up new spaces for the creation of highly influential and visible part of Nicaragua n civil society and combine coordination These developments did not go unnoticed by scholars and there is a significant body of Sandinista Nic aragua. The Sandinista affiliated

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15 class based organizations experienced a period of disarray after 1990 as many of their organizations lost their position as privileged spaces for th rights. organizations had been pressing for independence for some time and seized this opportunity to break away from the mixed sex organizations and form thei r own and from their parent organizations. This was often possible because funding in this period was available from some international NGOs who switched from channeling the majority of their aid through the government to concentrate more on funding civil society organizations. In her book From the Revolution to the Maquiladoras (2005) Jennifer Bickham Mendez describes how the Mara Elena Cuadra Movement for Working and Unempl oyed Women (MEC) emerged from the Sandinista affiliated workers union (CST). She explores some of the challenges they faced in establishing the organization and investigates its strengths and weaknesses. Although the MEC successfully managed to distance it self from affiliation with a particular political party, the extent of their autonomy and success was limited by a number of factors. Two of the most important of these were a lack of economic sustainability and its dependence on international funding. Thi s thesis presents a similar case study, but whereas Bickham Mendez focused organization representing rural women producers active in Nicaragua today. Just as the

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16 MEC emerged from the Sandinista CST, the Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives of Rural Women Producers of Nicaragua, henceforth known by its acronym, Farmers and Ranchers (UNAG). This organization also had links to the FSLN, although it was widely regarded as one of the most autonomous of the mass organizations. In the chapters that follow I explore the extent to which FEMUPROCAN has managed to rganization representing the interests of smallholding rural women producers. Although FEMUPROCAN and MEC appear to share the same basic trajectory and face some similar obstacles and challenges to the achievement of their objectives, there are also impor tant differences between the organizations. For example, FEMUPROCAN number of important ways. Firstly, their members are dispersed over a wider area and live in more rem ote communities than the maquila leading to greater challenges regarding maintaining sufficient contact with the grassroots, organizing meetings and communicating information quickly and effectively. Secondly, rural women are o ften some of the poorest and most disadvantaged groups in Nicaraguan society (Lanuza 2005, 20). 1 Typically they have some of the lowest rates of literacy and education levels and least access to services. 2 This presents further difficulties in organizing the women, training them in new skills and techniques and 1 According to Lanuza, the N in which 80.2 % of the rural population were classified as poor and 52.6% as living in extreme poverty (compared to national figures calculated by the United Nations in 2002 of 48% of the population as poor and 17% as living in extreme poverty.) 2 For exam ple, Lanuza (2005, 27) states that only 22% of the rural population of Nicaragua has access to electricity

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17 collecting membership dues. Third, rural communities are often characterized by more members face triple discrimination for being women, for being rural and for being poor. Finally, the MEC decided to become an official NGO, whereas FEMUPROCAN, although undergoing NGO ization to a significant degree, has not accepted the NGO label, prefe rring to assert its identity as a trade association. By examining the experience of FEMUPROCAN, in the light of that written about organizations such as MEC, I hope to draw some tentative conclusions about the extent to which successful, independent women based mass organizations in post revolutionary Nicaragua. country following the Sandinista revolution of 1979. Particular attention is giv en to the developments affected the position of rural women. Chapter 3 explores the phenomenon of NGO izatio n in greater detail. After a brief explanation of the reasons behind the hyper NGO ization of Nicaraguan society in the years following Hurricane Mitch (1998), I examine the advantages and drawbacks of the process for the construction of successful, autono essential to understanding the way in which FEMUPROCAN has developed, as well as Chapter 4 provides an account of the history of FEMUPROCAN and explains the reaso ns behind the decision to break away from UNAG and the difficulties faced by the

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18 women in setting up and strengthening their own organization. Given that many of among Secretariat in UNAG this chapter expands on the brief summary of the work of the Secretariat provided in Chapter 2 possible to identify three main phases in the development of the organization: First they focused on building self e steem and personal development; next they concentrated on strengthening the organization and developing new production techniques; and finally, they are now devoting the majority of their attention to developing entrepreneurial capacity among their members last part of the chapter provides a brief snapshot of the organization today and some of its main structures. One of the questions raised by Bickham Mendez is where to draw the line between a social move ment and an NGO. She argues that the MEC is attempting to incorporate elements of both, and break down the boundaries between the two terms. FEMUPROCAN, I argue, could be seen to display a number of characteristics normally associated with NGOs in combinat ion with others usually attributed to social movement organizations and still others typical of trade or membership organizations. Chapter 5 examines the differences between these organizational forms and asks the question terms are not mutually exclusive and that organizations like FEMUPROCAN are blurring the boundaries b etween traditional definitions. The next part of my thesis analyzes in detail the extent to which FEMUPROC AN could be considered an example of a successful organization. In order to do so it is first

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19 necessary to define how success can be measured. I discuss some of the main contributions on this subject from the literature and argue that the success of FEMUPR OCAN can be measured using two main components: Firstly the extent to which the organization is capable of influencing government policy and public opinion in order to achieve its goals and improve the lives of the members at the grassroots and secondly, t he degree to which FEMUPROCAN has been accepted as a legitimate representative of rural women producers in Nicaragua. This acceptance is discussed nd inclusion. FEMUPROCAN sta tes that its overall objective is to achieve the greater participation of rural women in the economic and social affairs of the country. They aim to achieve this by increasing their leadership and lobbying capacity at both the local and national level, in order to promote and participate in the formulation of economic policy that benefits rural women producers and entrepreneurs in Nicaragua. These overarching goals have been broken down into a series of institutional objectives: to be a strong organization with leadership capacity; to facilitate the training of capable, empowered women leaders; to strengthen the entrepreneurial capacity of women producers; and to influence the processes of promotion and formulation of policies related to the countryside and women producers. In turn, FEMUPROCAN has identified a whole series of specific components necessary for the achievement of these four objectives. I take each one of these components in turn and discuss the record of FEMUPROCAN to date, highlighting those a reas in need of improvement and those where they appear to have enjoyed considerable success.

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20 are the linkages they have built with other organizations and groups. In Chapter 6 I thus devote significant time to exploring the alliances they have forged and spaces in which they cooperate with other organizations. To date, FEMUPROCAN appears to have focused more on coordinating their efforts with others in the cooperative movement tha n concerned with improving the economic position of rural women. They have especially refrained from coordinating with more radical feminist groups and women working on such controversial issues as abortion and reproductive health. They have focused on those currents within the wider movements with which they feel a particular sense of identification and with those directly related to their previous organizing work within UNA G. Next, in Chapter 7 I consider the degree to which FEMUPROCAN has gained acceptance as a legitimate representative of rural women. I argue that although they appear to have made considerable progress in terms of acceptance by the Nicaraguan government, particularly by those policy makers concerned with formulating policy related to the cooperative sector, they have been less successful in gaining accep tance among the general public. The final chapter, Chapter 8 addresses the other main theme of the thes is, autonomy. I examine the meaning of the term in some detail and identify four main dimensions of autonomy relevant to an organization such as FEMUPROCAN. These are political autonomy, economic autonomy, organizational autonomy and autonomy within FEMUPR OCAN. The autonomy of FEMUPROCAN is then analyzed in regard to

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21 each of these interrelated dimensions. The federation appears to have achieved a high degree of political autonomy at the national level and grants their individual members a significant amount regard to their economic autonomy. Completely dependent on funding from their NGO partners, FEMUPROCAN does not look likely to achieve economic self sufficiency any time soon. I argue that thi operating in Nicaragua today and investigate what represents the best balance between autonomy and dependence for such organizations. In many cases total autonomy does not seem either the most feasible o r the most desirable arrangement. In this chapter I also discuss the autonomy of the NGO partners, and illustrate that they too are dependent on governments and donations from civil society in the developed world. This means that, indirectly, FEMUPROCAN is dependent on the continued good will of these actors and the importance they attach to international aid to the region. The remainder of this introduction is devoted to a consideration of the research sites and methods used for the collection and analysis of data. However, before doing so I feel it is necessary to briefly discuss my background as a student and motivations for doing the research, in order to draw attention to any possible biases in my work. There is, in my opinion, no such thing as an objec tive researcher, and I began this project with a clear sympathy for the goals of the organization to improve the position of rural women in Nicaraguan society. Given the long tradition of feminist scholar activists I feel I am in good company here. Part o f my aim in writing the thesis was to draw attention to the important work being done by organizations such as FEMUPROCAN

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22 courses on gender and development, gender and cultural politics, and anthropology of development, reaffirmed development of a society and my faith in the abilities of thir d world social movement organizations to bring about real, meaningful changes in the countries in which they work. Coursework focusing on the role of NGOs in the development process also enabled me to begin my research with an awareness of the power imbala nces inherent in relationships between northern NGOs and their southern partners and to examine the ways in which FEMUPROCAN negotiated these relationships. However, sympathy for the cause of an organization does not preclude the identification of its weak nesses and areas for improvement. Throughout my research I attempted to listen to all points of view on a subject, including those I did not agree with. Whilst some elements of subjectivity are unavoidable within any research project I attempted to follow Strauss give voice to respondents, be they seeing what others do, and representing these as accurately as possible It means based on the values, culture, training, and experiences that they bring to the research and that these might be quite different from those of their respondent The R esearch S ites Managua The vast majority of my field research was carried out at the national office of FEMUPROCAN, located in the Bolonia district of Managua. The Nicaraguan capital is home to approximately 1.8 million people, or roughly 30 % of t he total population of the

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23 country. It is a sprawling and chaotic city located on the southwestern shore of Lake Managua, and rests on a fault line that has, periodically, resulted in a number of devastating earthquakes. Hot all year round, the winter mon ths see bursts of torrential rain that often threaten to flood certain areas of the city and cause localized power cuts. The Bolonia district was once considered one of the most prestigious residential areas of Managua, although during my time there I was informed that it had gone downhill in recent years. It is still the location of many foreign embassies and the headquarters of a located on the same street as the Canadian embassy a nd is a fairly unassuming building from the street. Inside it opens up into a number of air conditioned offices, a sparsely furnished room for workshops and meetings, a small kitchen and a shady outside patio. When the promotoras or other members come to M anagua to participate in training workshops or programs they stay overnight in the office, sleeping on the floor. FEMUPROCAN has a full time staff of six working at the headquarters, although the members of the national leadership also try and get out to t he countryside and visit the cooperatives as often as their schedule allows. During the time I was there the atmosphere in the office ranged from calm and relatively relaxed days with few visitors to times when the building was full of people members of the base level cooperatives, children and babies of FEMUPROCAN members, relatives of members of the national team and employees of partner NGOs. There were periods when everybody was extremely busy, working past their scheduled hours in order to get everyt hing done and other times when the women were able to take a leisurely lunch break and relax a little

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24 more. I arrived during the rainy season and power cuts were a frequent problem. Some of these lasted just a few minutes whereas others went on for hours. Terrabona and San Juanillo Terrabona is a small community located in the department of Matagalpa. There is a daily, direct bus connection to Managua (the journey lasts approximately three hours) and various buses from the community to Matagalpa. The landsc ape is hilly, with narrow valleys and rocky soils. Farming is made more difficult because of the scarcity of rainfall. There is little employment in the area and significant outmigration of people unable to make a living off the land. Most of these migrant s are headed for Costa Rica, although they may come back at certain times during the year to sow or harvest their crops. When I visited in August 2009 the road leading into Terrabona was in the process of being paved, but at the time of my visit the last p art of the journey was a bumpy, uncomfortable ride. There was a small general store, a shop selling vegetables and an internet caf located in the main square. The health clinic was undergoing renovations and had been moved to a temporary location in one o f the houses. FEMUPROCAN has around 300 members in this area organized in agricultural production cooperatives. The community of San Juanillo is also in the department of Matagalpa. It is reached by way of an unpaved track leading off from the Carretera N orte just before the turning to Ciudad Daro. Here too drought and unreliable rainfall make farming difficult and this community is on the verge of disintegration as a result of the high level of outmigration. The women in both San Juanillo and Terrabona w ere mostly engaged in the production of basic grains corn, beans and sorghum but had recently begun to branch out into the cultivation of vegetables thanks to the installation of drip watering

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25 syste ms by FEMUPROCAN. I stayed overnight in Terrabona, in th e house of Mar a Elsa around the community and introduced me to some cooperative members. Whilst there I conducted individual and group interviews with representatives from the grassroo ts cooperatives. The following day I caught the bus with Mar a Elsa to the roadside market, where I met Ana Julia, the coordinator for Sbaco. Ana Julia took me to San Juanillo, where I spent the morning conducting more interviews. Nueva Guinea Founded i n the 1960s, Nueva Guinea is a rapidly expanding town located in the Autonomous Region of the South Atlantic (RAAS). The climate here is tropical, with ample rainfall throughout the year (averaging approximately 2,245mm annually (FEMUPROCAN 2006)) and the vegetation lush. Soils range from low to medium fertility and the area produces basic grains, yucca, taro as well as bananas and plantains. Recent years have seen the introduction of a number of nontraditional crops such as cinnamon, black pepper and caca recently settled communities of agricultural colonists. They grow a variety of different crops and many of them also raise cattle. Methods This thesis is primarily an ethnographic case study of a particular org anization, FEMUPROCAN. As such it is primarily descriptive. However, using a grounded theory approach to data collection and analysis allowed me to identify patterns within my data to tease out an answer to my question on the extent to which FEMUPROCAN had been

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26 My field research was carried out from late June to late August 2009. I spent a total of eight weeks in Nicaragua, the vast majority of which time was spent in Managua. Howeve r, I also accompanied members of the national team on visits to Sbaco, the roadside market owned by FEMUPROCAN and located near the turnoff to Ciudad Daro, and spent three days attending a workshop for young people organized by FEMUPROCAN in Nueva Guinea I carried out a series of interviews and stayed overnight in the town of Terrabona before travelling to San Juanillo the foll owing day for more interviews. Participant Observation Participant observation formed one of the core components of my research. From Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5pm, I helped out in the Managua headquarters of President) and Matilde Rocha (Vice President). This involved summarizing reports of meetings, and perform ing a number of administrative tasks. I was able to participate in a economic and political rights, self esteem and business networks. Through these training sessions I was able to me promotoras who ranged in age from teenagers to women over sixty. However, the bulk of my time was spent with the six person national team, allowing me to gain an understanding of how the leadership of the organization wor ked and develop close personal relationships with members of the team. These relationships and the conversations I had with both leaders and promotoras over the course of my stay proved at least as useful and revealing as many of my interviews. I made fiel d notes to record my experiences, key

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27 points of conversations, observations and feelings on issues that I thought might be relevant to my research question. Semi s tructured Individual Interviews I carried out a series of twenty two individual semi structur ed interviews which lasted from just half an hour to approximately two hours. I interviewed members of promotoras and four of the members from the grassroots. I also identified representat ives of the three NGOs with whom FEMUPROCAN work most closely; Oxfam Canada, VECO MA and El Centro Cooperativo Sueco and conducted interviews with their leadership. 3 For each interview I prepared a basic interview guide with the themes I was planning on ad dressing during the interview. Semi structured interviews provided the respondents with enough freedom to expand on topics should they choose and allowed the interview to proceed in a more natural manner, with the possibility of exploring certain unexpecte d topics mentioned by the respondent in greater detail. However, the interview guide also provided a structure for the interview and helped to keep both me, the researcher, and the respondent from going too far off topic and ensured we covered all the nece ssary areas. Respondents were identified in a number of different ways. For the national leadership it was simple: given that there are only six members of the team I was easily able to interview all of them. The promotoras were selected during workshops in which they participated at the Managua office. I was able to make a short announcement about who I was and what I was hoping to do. I asked the women when the best time 3 Oxfam Canada is based in Canada and focuses on grassroots development, VECO MA is the Central American team of the Belgian NGO Vredeseilanden (VECO ) which focuses on sustainable rural development for small farmers and El Centro Cooperativo Sueco was created by the Swedish Cooperative Movement in 1958 and works with cooperative organizations around the world.

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28 would be to carry out the interviews and at the appointed time I explained that thei r answers would be kept confidential and asked for volunteers, specifying that I wanted to hear from people from different parts of the country. The women at the grassroots and the regional coordinators I managed to interview during my visits to Terrabona, San Juanillo and Nueva Guinea. The grassroots respondents were selected almost by accident I had arranged for group interviews with cooperative members as described below. However, more women than intended turned up and some arrived much earlier or late r than the others. Rather than making these women wait to participate in the group interviews and take up more of their time I decided to interview them individually. I recorded these interviews onto a digital recorder and transcribed them word by word to use in my analysis. The names of the members of the grassroots cooperatives have been changed to protect the anonymity of the women. Names of the leaders of FEMUPROCAN have been retained with their permission. Group Interviews with Women at the Grassroots My original plan had been to conduct all of my interviews on an individual basis. might not be the best strategy. The women at the grassroots of the organization live scatter ed across remote areas of the countryside, often having to walk for hours to attend FEMUPROCAN meetings and workshops. It would be incredibly time consuming and difficult for me to visit each one of these members in their homes and difficult to coordinate all of the interviews at times that were convenient for the women. Therefore I made the decision to organize a series of group interviews during my visits to Terrabona and San Juanillo. These three interviews were arranged with the help of the regional coo rdinators who called the women together and established the most appropriate time

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29 and place for these to be held. Thus in Terrabona they took place in the house of the coordinator, whereas at San Juanillo I held the interview outside, under the shade of a tree in the center of the community. Given the difficulties in contacting many of the members at the grassroots, I left it up to the regional coordinators to select the respondents. I was aware that this might lead to a bias towards those members most enth usiastic about the organization but felt that in the circumstances this was unavoidable. The first interview comprised six women, the second four, and ten women participated in the last session in San Juanillo. This was rather more than I would have initia lly liked to have per group but the women made sure that everybody spoke their piece about the topics under discussion. Grounded Theory I used grounded theory to analyze my data as it was being collected, and thus was not primarily attempting to test a pa rticular hypothesis, but rather allowing the theory to emerge from the data I was gathering (Strauss and Corbin 1998) I felt that qualitative methods would provide me with a more nuanced and complex understanding of the concepts of success and autonomy th an I would have been able to capture using quantitative techniques. Thus I began to analyze and code my data as soon as I collected it, trying to identify patterns and relationships in the data which would explain why FEMUPROCAN had succeeded in certain ar eas but not in others and the extent of ion on a wide range of topics. I then grouped these codes into concepts which helped to guide the direction of my research as it progressed, identifying those areas in which I needed to gat her more data as well as those topics that appeared redundant or unimportant in a nswering my research question. Following Strauss and Corbin (1998) as these concepts began to build up I

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30 was able to start grouping them together into categories. Over time I developed ways in which to organize these categories around the central concepts of autonomy and success. Along the way, I periodically checked what I was finding with my respondents, to see if they agreed with my analysis and if not, why not. By constant ly comparing my findings to those reached by Bickham Mendez in her study of MEC, and those reached by FEMUPROCAN in the many documents to which they generously gave me access, I orga nizations to emerge from class based mass organizations. Figure 1 1. Locati on of Research Sites, Nicaragua. Source: http://mapsof.net/uploads/static maps/nicaragua_pol itical_map.jpg SAN JUANILLO NUEVA GUINEA MANAGUA TERRABONA

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31 C HAPTER 2 The participation of Nicaraguan women in the Sandinista revolution has been well documented in the literature. The end of the brutal Somoza dictatorship and the triumph of the FSLN ushered in a n ew era in Nicaraguan history. Women were granted new rights and the revolutionary government pledged its commitment to achieving greater gender equality in the country. The period of Sandinista government (1979 1990) saw women make some important advances, subordination. As the Contra war dragged on defense of the revolution took Sandinista electoral defeat in 1990 a strong and vibrant autono mous movement developed in Nicaragua, gaining international recognition as one of the most dynamic in all of Latin America ( e.g. Aguilar, et al. 1997) Particularly after the devastation of Hurricane Mitch (1998) the NGO sector in Nicaragua mushroo med and ization. In recent years observers have drawn attention to the increasing fragmentation and lack of coordination (Disney 2008) conser vative shift and alliance with the Catholic Church is also a serious problem for 1979 to the pres Before the Revolution The rise of large capitalist agribusinesses and the introduction and expansion of first coffee (1870 1945), then cotton (1950 1960), then cattle (1970 onwards) indu stries

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32 in Nicaragua in the century preceding the Sandinista revolution transformed the countryside, pushing large numbers of peasants off their land in the Pacific region of Nicaragua (P rez Alem n 1990) They either settled new lands on the agricultural f rontier (leading to increased deforestation and environmental degradation) or joined the swelling ranks of landless agricultural workers. Increasing numbers of women were forced to work as laborers as they could no longer rely on their subsistence plots al one to feed their families. Collinson (1990, 39) observes that before 1979 up to 40% of coffee pickers were women. However, their integration into the workforce was shaped by their subordinate position relative to men. Perceived not to produce as much or w ork as hard, they were paid half the amount their male counterparts received, and often were only given temporary jobs around harvest time. Th was given priority, and women were often not paid directly for their efforts, bu t rather the (Chavez Metoyer 1999, 20) t (Collinson 1990, 40) The processes of expansion of large landholdings did not go uncontested, despite the fierce repression of th e Somoza regime. Rural men and women began to organize to fight for land and against the dictatorship. P participation in these struggles was significant, there is a lack of literature on the subject, and thus a tende ncy to underestimate the political contribution of these women (1990, 29). When the guerrilla war began, many of these same women actively

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33 participated. Although not all were guerrilla fighters themselves, rural women often played a vital role in the succe ss of the revolution. However, their activities are often peasant revolutions. As Kampwirth (2002) and P rez Alemn (1990) note, women and men often participated was limited by patriarchal ideologies and traditional gender roles. In 1977 the FSLN created AMPRONAC ( Association of Women Confronting the National Problem ) which was largely concerned with d enouncing human rights abuses and opposing the dictatorship. However, the creation of a women only space was important in mobilizing women and suggested recognition of the special interests and problems shared by women as a group on the part of the FSLN. T his organization would subsequently be renamed AMNLAE (Luisa Amanda Espinoza Association of Nicaraguan Women) after the revolutionary triumph in 1979. The FSLN G overnment 1979 1990 Although the revolution was not able to end the drudgery of life in the co untryside (Collinson 1990, 38) One of the first priorities of the Sandinista government when it came to power was to improve conditions in the countryside. Major social programs were enacted, and women were the main beneficiaries of the new housing, health programs and infrastructure, education and literacy campaigns and the provision of electricity and potable w ater in rural areas. Women were allowed to receive their own pay packets, and the minimum wage in the countryside was drastically increased (though this would be cancelled out

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34 by spiraling inflation by the end of the 1980s) ( Ibid 40 41). In 1987, the new constitution affirmed the equality of men and women in the eyes of the law. Perhaps one of the most important advances for rural Nicaraguans in general, and for rural women in particular, was the Sandinista Agrarian Reform. A significant share of cultivabl e land was redistributed, privileging cooperative forms of production and, first in Latin America to include the incorporation of women among its initial objectives. The 1981 agrarian reform law stipulated that neither gender nor kinship status would hinder someone from becoming a beneficiary of the reform. Moreover, the 1981 agricultural cooperative law established that a goal of the cooperatives should be to encourage th e active participation of women, stating that they should be incorporated (Deere and Len 2001, 95 96) However, despite this provision, the reforms did not deliver the ex pected results in terms of female participation and the allocation of land titles. A 1985 report by the ATC concluded that many rural women simply did not know what their new rights were, and that when women were incorporated it was usually on unequal term s. They were often assigned the most menial jobs, the worst land, and suffered from discrimination and opposition from both their husbands and the male cooperative members. In fact, Deere and Len note that the level of female beneficiaries from the agrari an reform law in Nicaragua was not that much different to those in neighboring countries, where there was no specific gender equitable language in the legislation.

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35 Much of the international aid to Nicaragua during this period came from groups sympathetic t o the Sandinista cause, in an attempt to show international solidarity with the revolutionary government. This aid was largely administered by the FSLN administration itself, or was directed to the Sandinista affiliated mass organizations. Independent orga nizing was very much discouraged during this period, and loyalty to the revolutionary cause was se en as of paramount importance. AMNLAE, regarded as one of the only legitimate spaces for women to organize as organizations, especially that of the rural workers union, the ATC, became much more vocal in attempting to voice the concerns of the female members of these organizations). The Sandinistas were certainly more progressive than the previous regime when it came to matters of gender equality, and provided opportunities for many women to gain valuable leadership experienc e through their associations. However, the focus was very much on unity (often at the cost of diversity), and everything, including revolution. The mass organizations, al though they certainly carried out some important functions, were characterized by a fairly rigid and hierarchical structure. In these conditions, and partly due to prevailing machista attitudes from male colleagues, many women became increasingly dissatisf ied with the Sandinista unions, and began to look for spaces of their own in which to organize (Bickham Mendez 2005) Nevertheless, that formed the basis for much of th

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36 produced many of the most important policy changes for rural women. Of these, the secretariats of the Rural Workers Union (ATC) and, later, the National Union of Farmers and Ranchers (UNAG) are widely regarded as th e most dynamic and influential, certainly with regard to making changes relevant to the lives of rural women. The ATC Established by the FSLN in 1978, the ATC maintained strong links to the government throughout the 1980s. The vast majority of its members tend to be Sandinista supporters, limiting conflict with the government but not, according to he organization provided agricultural workers with a channel to get their demands heard by the FSLN leadership and a space in which to discuss and elaborate new ideas and in Ibid 44). During the Contra war, and in the context of increasing female participation in the paid agricultural labor force, and in skilled positions normally only open to men, women flocked to join t a figure high enough to worry the male leadership (at that time, 99% of the ATC leadership). As Collinson points out, their main priority during this period was increasing production to aid the Sandinista war effort. The influx of women was seen as a potential problem in that women were perceived to be less productive than men, and it was only when leaders debated how best to raise productivity that they realized that they knew almost nothin g about rural women ( Ibid 44). To rectify this situation, the ATC leadership organized the 1983 National Assembly of Women Workers, attended by 100

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37 representatives from all the major areas of agricultural production. They then decided to carry out an in d epth investigation of the situation of rural women at the time. The results of the study emphasized the need for a separate section of the (Murguialday 1990, 197) 1 The etariat would fight for women within the ATC, and the ATC would fight for the rights of campesinas within the FSLN, an idea predicated on the assumption that there is only one system in which they all operated and which had to respond to the needs of women (Isbester 2001, 72) This form of operating had the advantage that the ATC already had the support of the government assured and could therefore get action taken quickly to address its demands. No other organization for rural workers was permitted this level of access to government channels. argues that this was a strategic decision on the part of the authors designed to limit opposition within the organization inevitably raise all other specific issues relating to women. This approach also helped to establish the principle within the union that every labor issue should be considered from (Collinson 1990, 45) Workshops were held at regional and local levels to allow grassroots members to express their opinions and relate their experiences. A picture emerged of the multiple ways in which women experienced discrimination, from rape and p hysical violence to macho attitudes from the men (Murguialday 1990) Women were able to meet and talk about a wide range of issues of 1 ATC el Im March, 1984

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38 special importance for them, including reproductive rights, lack of childcare facilities and lack of local infrastructure, including corn mills and drinking water. These sessions laid the groundwork for the formation of a gender identity by enabling women to compare experiences and identify common barriers to their participation (Isbester 2001, 73) In September 1986, the ATC convened a Second National Assembly of Rural Women. This time, hundreds of delegates attended, and among the most important decisions taken, they agreed to accept the same work norm as men. To enable them to do this, however, the women explained that they would need childcare centers, paid maternity leave, paid leave to care for children who were unwell, drinking water and to raise their productivity. There was a recognition th at men ought to help women with household tasks, and a resolution was put forward for the union to encourage male members to take some responsibility in this area. The delegates took the ideas from the national assembly back home with them and began to rai se the same issues at a local and regional level. As in most agricultural systems, the burden of work does not fall evenly throughout the year in Nicaragua. Harvest time was by far the busiest time for rural women, and Collinson (1990, 46) notes that visib le results of the passage of the resolutions included an increase in the provision of childcare facilities (from 30 farm crches in 1985 to 500 in 1986 7), public washing sinks on some state farms, and the provision of corn mills. Productivity subsequently increased, convincing many male members and leaders of (Isbester 2001) In the wake of the 1986

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39 were largely written by volunteer fe male agricultural workers who found the process to be empowering, and a boost to their self confidence. The growing recognition of and support for women within the ATC was reflected in leader ship statistics. In 1983 just 1% of the leadership positions were held by females. By 1995 this had jumped to 30% (Aguilar, et al. 1997, 385) The levels of attendance at union meetings and the resultant commitment to the ATC as an organization and their cooperatives were high among women members. Women worked hard to s how that they deserved their new position within the organization and by 1988 90% of female workers had managed to surpass established work norms (Murguialday 1990, 169) These advances also helped to consolidate support for the Sandinista government among the female beneficiaries (Isbester 2001, 75) The women of the ATC began to formulate new understandings of their situation based on these experiences and debates. They argued that men ought to respect ision of labor should be considered when analyzing any and all issues (Criquillon 1995, 217) This developing ithin a wider social context of inequality and structural discrimination and thus could not be 2 thinking organizations es at the time in Nicaragua. It played a vital role in opening up debates among many other groups of women about the unequal power relations and systems of 2 Chuchryk cited in Isbester 2001, 74.

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40 domination with which they lived. It was certainly more progressive than the FSLN itself, and placed reproductive health, sexual abuse and working conditions firmly on the agenda of women around the country, from di fferent socioeconomic statuses. Secretariat of the ATC Isbester (20 01) points to the role played by male leaders, and the political and economic opportunities of the period. It was the male leadership that first identified the need to bring the women together. They then subsequently provided significant resources to foste (both material and organizational), and already had the ear of a sympathetic Sandinista govern ment to obtain these resources. The political opportunity arose with the realization on the part of the FSLN likely be a win win situation: women wanted the equality of opportunity to do so. The government wanted political support; the women wanted a different organization of labor. The government wanted a political solution to its economic problem; the women wanted justice. The two complemented each other. At least in the short term, the government and the women both got wh (Isbester 2001, 75) The fact that the interests of the government happened to coincide with that of the we see an example of the benefits of close ties to the ruling power. However, there are also drawbacks. To a large extent the FSLN determined the scope of what could be on the agenda. Opposition by the government to a particular demand would lead to

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41 opposition within the ATC, and a lack of progress towa rds achieving that goal (or even the opportunity to discuss it in depth). The government was also able to cut off resources at any time should it choose to. This had implications for the sort of gender consciousness that emerged from the ATC. Overwhelming ly restricted to those issues related to economic productivity and in accordance with Sandinista ideology, it failed to explore fully the notion of patriarchy and the myriad ways in which unequal power relations affect the daily lives of rural women in Nic aragua. Other Sandinista affiliated Despite these (admittedly serious) limitations, the relationship between the ATC a nd the FSLN was not always as cozy as is sometimes made out. They were able to discussions down. They forced the government into formal decision making and activated resolut ion mechanisms on issues that the government would have preferred (Isbester 2001, 103) The achievements of the ATC would form a model for others to follow and build on with varying degrees of success. UNAG 3 The importance of the ATC decl ined after UNAG emerged as an umbrella organization representing the interests of a variety of rural people in 1981 (Luciak 1990, 59) with many small farmers and experienced cadres leaving the ATC to join the new organization. Before 1984, capitalist produ cers were excluded from participating in UNAG and it primarily addressed the needs of small producers and the cooperative 3

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42 sector. After 1984 membership was extended to larger landowners, provided that they affirmed their commitment to the goals of the revo lution. Whilst representing an important step in national unity this development made it difficult for UNAG to balance the demands of its constituents (who ranged from poor peasant producers to wealthy landowners) and it has come under fire for privileging the interests of its wealthier members, to the detriment of its poorer peasant constituents (Luciak 1987, 44) popular consultation with th e grassroots of the movement and, though it shared the degree of autonomy from the FSLN and was more ready to oppose government policies it perceived to be against the in terests of its members (Luciak 1990, 66) 4 It made some performance on this matter was uneven and women still experienced discrimination from their male colleagues. UNAG, the main organization representing the cooperative sector in Nicaragua, The 1982 National Cooperati ve Census revealed that only 44 % of cooperatives in Nicaragua contained at lea st one female member, and women made up just 6% of total cooperative membership (Valle 2009, 223) It was not until 1986 when members voted to 4 Although the women at FEMUPROCAN questioned this assum ption, as when they were in the UNAG attempts to gain greater decision making power.

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43 women in the productive task s of the co operative, incorporating them as members in (Collinson 1990, 52) this same year, and began by following the model of the ATC and conducting investigations at the grassroots of the o included the participation of male members to reinforce that these are matters relevant to all members, and to limit the possibility of male opposition to the proposals of the would bring benefits for the entire family thanks to increased productivity and higher r years of the Sandinista government. However, women within UNAG still faced considerable discrimination by their male own federation, comprised entirely of women. The histo and the tensions within UNAG are expanded upon in Chapter 4 which deals with the history of FEMUPROCAN. There is not space here for an in depth analysis of all of the other o rganizations in which rural women participated in significant numbers after the 1979 Revolution but it must be emphasized that rural women were not passive apolitical victims eking out a miserable existence and suffering horrific abuses in silence. 5 Rather they were active subjects, capable of a wide range of political actions and methods of resistance to unequal power structures. They were able to make strategic decisions in important 5 For a more detailed discussion see Perez Alemn 1990

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44 interests when they were thre atened. Different rural women organized in different ways. P rez organizations: UNAG. The sp here of action is limited to the public. Women were taken into account but it was male leaders who determined the priorities for action and attempted to control the agenda of the Communal Organizations, AMNLAE. This entails mobilizing women around the practical needs of their daily develop a sense of common problems and a shared id entity as rural women. This type of participation is unlikely to lead to a transformation in gender roles or bring Participation with the possibility of empowerment educational organizations. Through involvement in such organizations women were able to acquire skills and knowledge that would, potentially, enable them to contest their situation of subordination and take greater control over their own lives. Reading and writing not only gives women self esteem but allows them to access a whole range of technical training programs and financial assistance, without having to ask a (literate) man to accompany them. Conserving the ol d patriarchal framework in religious organizations, (excluding some progressive wings of the church such as Liberation theology) Women participated in great numbers in the local organizations affiliated with the church. However, many of these organizations discouraged women from attempting to sacrificing mothers and obedient, subservient wives. Having said that, church organizations did provide many poor women with much needed material and spiritu al assistance, and helped to sponsor community activities. The Contra War The Contra war had both benefits and drawbacks for rural women in Nicaragua. The economic crisis caused by the conflict made survival difficult for many rural women. Those organized into cooperatives found that they were now the target for much Contra aggression and were forced to defend their newly won lands. Social programs were

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45 countryside and national defense. With many men needed to fight in the war (including those who participated on both sides of the conflict) women found themselves having to conflict opened up opportunities for female employment in areas previously considered confidence and desire to be The longer the war lasted, the more opportunitie (Murguialday 1990, 218) Sometimes the employers discovered that they ac tually preferred female workers. Collinson (1990, 42) quotes a farmer in Boaco who explained to her in 1987 that: are almost 100% effective Having said this, the war took a huge psychological and emotional toll on m any rural women. They lived with the constant threat of aggression and violence, and had to suffer the loss or injury of their loved ones. The image of the grieving mother was a powerful one, and the FSLN realized the importance of this symbol of feminine identity in the Asociacin de las Madres de los Hroes y Mrtires It is not surprising that support for the Sandinista government was among the lowest among rural women in the 1990 elections when the amount of emotional and material distress they suffered during the c onflict is taken into account. Neoliberal G overnments 1990 2007 and Structural Adjustment The election of Violeta Chamorro to the Nicaraguan presidency in 1990 threatened to destroy the progress made by women and by rural people under the Sand inista

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46 government. Chamorro began to steer Nicaragua onto a neoliberal course and implemented harsh structural adjustment measures. Characterized by a much more conservative ideological stance towards women and the development of Nicaragua focused on images of motherhood and caring (Kampwirth 1996). Rural people no longer enjoyed a privileged position in the ideology of the government either (as the figure of the peasant ha d during the Sandinista period), and the neoliberal administrations tended to neglect the rural areas in favor of the cities. With the opening of the economy to international trade, large agribusiness was again promoted over the protection of the interests of the small producers. Structural adjustment and the neoliberal policies implemented by the subsequent administrations in Nicaragua hit rural women hard and they struggled to survive. Aguilar et al. (1997) note that households headed by women were more affected than those with male household heads, and that rural households suffered more than urban ones In order to make ends meet women across Nicaragua took on more work (adding to their already arduous timetable) and devised a variety of coping strateg ies (Babb 2001) In times of economic crisis women will often sacrifice their own interests, and even their health, in order to ensure the well being of their family. The lack of a state safety net and the emphasis on traditional gender roles threatened to undo some of the progr ess made under the Sandinistas. For rural women, of special concern was the question of land titles. The Sandinista agrarian reform had distributed a significant proportion of available land but had been slow and inefficient at award ing legal titles to the land. This generated conflict and

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47 insecurity: act that almost 70 % of agricultural properties acquired during the Sandinista period were not legalized with property titles has generated insecurity and instability in the country (Aguilar, et al. 1997, 371) movements by surprise. They had no t prepared a strategy or discussed a plan of action for this outcome and the initial response of many activists was largely one of disappointment and disillusionment. Despite the limitations of the Sandinista a return to more traditional gender roles. According to Isbester, it took two years for rom the shock and restructured itself in organizers discussed the future of their relationship with the FSLN and whether to adopt a decentralized network structure or create a central coordinating body. These questions provoked fierce debate and disagreement between activists, and tensions rose to the point that the movement fragmented and threatened to disintegrate entirely. Consequently, the movement achieved very little in t he period immediately following the (Isbester 2001, 124) Membership declined in many organizatio ns, partly due to increased economic hardship, and the activists were faced with a government much less sympathetic to its

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48 demands. Not only that, but the Sandinista government had been the principal source of funds and other resources for the organization s, wh ich suddenly found themselves On the other hand, this period provided time for much needed reflection and urning point in the ats of unions and other (Isbester 2001, 138) The ATC After the electoral defeat of the FSLN, the ATC also faced a crisis. Its membership contracted sharply, falling from 15,000 to 8,000 women, largely due to increased unemployment. Of the remaining members, 5,000 were employed only on a temporar y of the female members who had been in the union i n Chamorro government left women leaders struggling desperately to keep up. They wasted valuable time and energy on disagreements over internal reorganization and suffered from a profound sense of disorientation and disillusionment. Nevertheless, continued to provide opportunities for its female members to channel their demands to the leadership o f the organization.

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49 UNAG UNAG experienced a similar process of disorientation and disorganization after degree of autonomy it was better able to weather the storm than the organizations in the rural areas organizing women to increase productivity continue d to (Isbester 2001, 138) Having said this, many of the problems identified throughout the history of the organization have not yet been fully resolved within UNAG and although discrimination has diminished, it still exists. A report presented at the Second National Meeting of Women Producers held in 2004 identified the following difficulties: Weak communication, which limits the ability of women to keep themselves up to date and participate bette r Mistreatment and discrimination against women inside the organization, which expresses itself through control, overloading with work and substitution of municipal and departmental rep resentatives Little or no participation by women in the decisions of the association Lack of cohesion between groups of women at different levels of the organization. (Montenegro and Cuadra Lira 2006, 17) Similar problems, and the desire for greater auton omy from the FSLN and from the concerns and prejudices of male members would contribute to the decision made by an

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50 from the main organization in 1997 to form a women only association called FEMUPROCAN. This history is dis cussed in greater detail in Chapter 4 The affiliated mass organizations and the space that this left t groups not linked to any political parties. There was a growing recognition of the the breadth of these experiences. Babb notes that this dive rsity is still one of the most striking features of Nicaraguan feminism, and has proved to be a double edged sword: ns. This diversity has been both a strength and, at times, a cause for consternation as social class and other differences (Babb 2001, 207) During this period there were some groups who maintained the hierarchical organizational str uctures favored by Sandinista mass organizations but many other groups replaced these vertical, top down structures with more horizontal structures. There was a growing tendency towards decentralization and the growth of the network as an organizational f orm. This development can be seen as an important step towards The Festival of the 52 P ercent 6 organized to coincide with the official conference being organize d by AMNLAE on March 8, 1991, attracted over eight hundred women (Babb 2001, 38) This represented 6 The figure re presents the percentage of women in the Nicaraguan population.

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51 movements, who had been obliged to maintain a low profile during the Sandinista period: 7 eighties, they had occupied a precarious space during the revolution, having been or the Sandinista loss in 1990 that the groups became large and vocal (Kampwirth 2004, 57) The First National Feminist Conference was held the following year with the them e for, the differences between women and the search for common goals. The opening statement set the tone for the rest of the conference: To recognize difference as a funda mental fact of our existence is to incorporate politically the reality that we women live multiple dimensions of subordination and exploitation through the mere fact of being women. We are daughters, mothers, wives, or grandmothers, with a class, an ethnic ity, a culture, a political option, a religious belief or a sexual option. And all of these have a concre te expression of discrimination (Thayer 199 4 quoted in Isbester 2001, 141) The conference settled the debate about coordination and st ructure of the mo vement in favo r of decentralization. Eight networks were formed on a range of issues including economics, environmentalism and sexuality, of which only two, the network s. These two, however, have been widely applauded in the literature as examples of 7 For more on this movement see Babb (2001; 2003), Randall (1994) and Kampwirth (2004).

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52 office space from which they coordinated the work of a significant number of member organizations: one hundred twenty to one hundred fifty in the case of the network against violence, and ninety (Kampwirth 2004, 64) So, despite their d objectives around which to unite. After much debate and discussion the ethos of care, unifying principle for the mov ements at the time, and questions relating to the body formed the basis for action and organizing (Isbester 2001, 145). Thus, although the period 1990 1992 was indeed characterized initially by disagreement and disarray, by the end of the two years the fou ndations had been laid for what was soon to become for a successful social movement: autonomous identity based on a Utopian ethos, (Isbester 2001, 153) However, the identification of shared themes and struggles did not lead to unity at the expense of diversity. By contrast, the women realized that they could celebrate both their similarities and their differences. Their debates and discussions led many to re evaluate their opinions about the intersections of party, class and gender interests. As a erging autonomous feminist movement made alliances (Kampwirth 2004, 67) Kampwirth cites the ( Comisar a de la Mujer y la Niez ) and the National Coalicin

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53 Nacional de Mujeres ) as some of the most prominent demonstrations of the willingness of women to build these cross pa rty and cross class alliances. Chavez Metoyer al lowing the different organizations to recognize diversity but also identify common objectives : movement has accomplished what no other social movement has done in the 1990s: It egardless of different objectives, ethnicities, ideologies, and economic experiences have set aside (Chavez Metoyer 1999, 110) women were cut furt (Kampwirth 2004, 52) In addition, were, by this time, highly skilled pol itical activists owing to the ir long history of organizing within the Sandinista mass organizations. many of the tools necessary for success. Thus, despite the more conservative stance of the Chamorro go legisl (Isbester 2001, 107 108) This success began to be

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54 countries, who would look to the Nicaraguan movements for inspiration. But, while these achievements cannot be denied, it should also be remembered that the position of many women in Nicaragua worsened under the Chamorro government, as a consequence of neoliberal economic policies and economic crisis, as role based around the functions of wife and mother. Struggling to survive, many women did not have the time to organize and still suffered from considerable discrimination and machismo in their homes, their communities and in Nicaraguan society in general In light of this Isbester (2001, 123) The subsequent neoliberal administrations of Alemn (1997 2002) and Bola os (2002 2007) in many wa found themselves facing increasingly hostile governments, which threatened to chip away at their hard won achievements. Alemn, for example, refused to acknowledge that discrimination on the basis of gender was even a problem in Nicaragua and made it consider working together on initiatives designed to increase gender equality. Under these conditions, the ability making processes was severely restricted. Furthermore, Alemn abolished the dealing with issues related to the family (MIFAMILIA). One of the duties assigned to this

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55 nongovernmental organizations that work wit h children, women, youth, the family, (Kampwirth 2004, 72) thereby increasing including funding from international NGOs. However, Kampwirth argues that this was rather than actually being used to instigate a wholesale crackdown on the movements. Despite the ever more hostile political context, this time around movements were better prepared. Sufficient work had been done to strengthen to movements internally that the prospect of another unsympathetic government did not provoke the same kind of disorder and soul The public eye: T knowledgeable about what it was facing, and experienced in dealing with an uncaring government. It has kept the organizational structure it developed in the early 1990s of identity ba sed groups at the local level intersecting through nationwide networks to agitate in public spaces for a specif ic social and political change (Isbester 2001, 212) It was during the period of neoliberal governments, especially after the devastation wrought important transformation. With the increasing influence of nongovernmental and adopt more formal org anizational structures. In other words they began to bear more resemblance to NGOs in a number of important ways. Chapter 3 deals with this

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56 ization of Nicaraguan civil society, a nd drawing attention to some of the benefits and The Nicaragua Today Recently, observers have worried that the Nicaraguan movements have diversified to the point of fragmen tation. Many of the networks established at the 1992 conference no longer function and there has been a lack of coordination at the national level on many issues. In 2005, only the Network of Women Against Violence was still functioning (Disney 2008, 208) Pluralization has reached the point of atomization, with individual funds and a tendency for groups to pursue the specific interests of a small group of women, rather than se eking to join forces with other organizations to achieve common objectives. Any hopes that the return of the FSLN to power would usher in new era of h the hierarchy of the conservative Catholic Church may have helped him regain power, but it also meant that the new administration adopted a Ortega himself was the subject of a political scandal in 1998 wh en his adopted stepdaughter, Zoilam rica Narvez, published a 48 page report accusing him of systematic sexual abuse, beginning in 1979, when Zoilam rica was 11 years old, and continuing for twenty years Ortega and his wife, Rosario Murillo, denied the al legations and, as a sitting member of parliament, he was immune to prosecution in Nicaragua. Narv ez then took her case to the Inter American Human Rights Commission, which

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57 recommended a n amicable settlement to the case. This was accepted by the Nicaraguan government in 2002, but Narv ez has not withdrawn her allegations of abuse, and Ortega continues to deny the charge. bill banning therapeutic abortion in Nicaragua. This bill, sup ported by all major parties (including the FSLN) made abortion illegal under any circumstances, even in cases of rape or when the life of the mother is in danger. It has been widely condemned by international institutions, human rights groups, and some for eign governments, but to date the administration has refused to budge on this issue. groups in Nicaragua mounted public protests and campaigned against the passage of the bill there was a lack of concerted, coordinated action by the w 8 Many leaders of grassroots organizations failed to mobilize their members to protest the bill, or hold meetings to discuss the implic ations of it for their members. This d contributed to a s movements. Thus, at a time when they needed to join toge ther they failed to do so, and, in recent years, they have lost much of their ability to make an impact on government policy. 8 Mara Rosa Renzi, regional director for UNIFEM (the United Nations Development Fund for Women), pointed to the fact that abortion remains a very divisive issue in Nicaraguan society. Many poorer women considered the debate on therapeutic abortion as an elite topic of discussion which had little relevance to their daily lives She added that there is a curren country and argued that Nicaraguan civil society in general has become more fragmented and polarized over recent years (Interview with Mara Rosa Renzi, Managua, July 15 th 2009).

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58 CHAPTER 3 NGO international NGOs began to expand their operations into Nicaragua. Today it is one of e world, with over 4,000 registered organizations active in a country of 5 million people in 2004 (Briones 2004) The NGO sector (O'Neill 2004, 40) After the anizations had to find new sources of funding and new ways of operating. They increasingly relied on international development agencies and NGOs for the majority of their funding. Gaining access to such funding, and the conditions attached to the assistanc e provided translated into increasing pressure to professionalize and construct formal organizational structures for izati on in their competition for funding. This chapter will explore the phenomenon of NGO ization in more detail, highlighting some of the possible advantages and drawbacks of the process for o show how FEMUPROCAN has also undergone a similar process and resembles an NGO in several important ways. A Brief History o f NGO Ization Prior to the Managua earthquake of 1972 relatively few NGOs were active in Nicaragua. The devastation caused by the ea rthquake, in which over 10,000 people lost their lives, brought the small Central American country to the attention of the international development community. However, when it became clear that much of the

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59 assistance money was lining the pockets of the ru ling Somoza clan (and those close to them) rather than reaching the victims, foreign donors began to look for alternative channels for the funds, which would be less susceptible to governmental corruption (Fogarty 2009) The first nongovernmental organizat ions operating in the country thus initially focused on immediate disaster relief, but later shifted to providing humanitarian aid to people in poor rural and urban communities. As discussed in Chapter 2 Sand inistas came to power in 1979 international aid to the country was largely channeled through the government and went to the FSLN affiliated mass organizations. Women made important gains in the period, but the movement was, to a large extent, controlled by the government. The mass organizations linked to the party were the only revolution. T he electoral defeat of the Sandinistas in 1990, and the inaugurati on of a more conservative, neoliberal regime, helped to create the conditions for the NGO ization of Nicaraguan society. The Chamorro administration cut funds from the FSLN affiliated organi zations, and drastically slashed public spending on services. AMNLAE was no longer affiliated with the state, and therefore lost its privileged position as the only associati ons were faced with the prospect of losing their jobs and responded by setting stood to lose out, as the introduction of user fees for health and education

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60 disproportional ly affected poor and rural women (Caivano and Hardwick 2008, 279) .There was an urgent need for the provision of these services, which previously had been free, and it was civil socie to find a solution. Thus NGOs, largel y financed using international funds, appeared to provide a potential solution to the different problems facing middle class and poor women in Nicaragua at this time: time creating jobs f or educated, middle class women who previously had worked for the (Caivano and Hardwick 2008, 279) The experience these women had gained during the Sandinist a years, and the links they had forged with international organizations, helped to ensure t hat these NGOs survived, and developed linkages both within Nicaragua and on an international scale. The fact that it remained one of the poorest nations in Latin America (second only to Haiti in terms of per capita income by 1988 according to IMF data ), a nd the obvious poverty experienced by many Nicaraguans on a daily basis played a part in keeping the country in favor with international funders portance of the personal relationships forged between solidarity activi sts from the Global North and the Nicaraguan people continues to this day, and helps to explain why Nicaragua consistently received much more in aid than its Central American neighbors 1 These people, many of whom came to Nicaragua on solidarity trips orga nized through student associations or organizations linked to European socialism, subsequently found jobs with bilateral development 1 Although much officia l development assistance, such as that from the European Union has now been suspended following controversy over the lack of transparency at the latest round of municipal elections.

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61 many NGOs were able to find donor agencies willing to fund their Nicaraguan projects, even during periods of considerable governmental corruption and attempts to control the operations of NGOs, as happened under the Alemn administration (O'Neill 2004, 44 ) The advent of another natural disaster, Hurricane Mitch, i refusal to modify the harsh measures imposed by structural adjustment in the wake of the crisis once again put Nicaragua high on the priority list of countries requiring urge nt humanitarian assistance, and further encouraged the hyper NGO ization of Nicaraguan society, both in terms of international organizations with a presence in the country, and smaller national NGOs run and staffed entirely by Nicaraguans tions were not immune to these processes. However, in order to fully understand the reasons behind NGO ization it is necessary to look beyond Nicaragua and consider the global context which facilitated this process. After all, many other Latin American cou ntries experienced a similar phenomenon during this period, and it is likely that pre existing networks and connections between groups played a role in spreading NGO ization from place to place: The proliferation of NGOs must be understood in the context o f wider global phenomena the hegemony of the neoliberal development model, the dismantling of the welfare state, and the debt crisis in the developing world. Further, the web of connections among NGOs, social movements, government agencies, and cross nat ional networks of grassroots organizations involves transnational processes, as ideas, funding, knowledge, and people move through various local, n ational and international sites ( Bickham Mendez, 2005, 82 ) 2 2 Alvarez ( 1998 ) ; Fisher ( 1997 ) ; Lebon ( 1996 ) ; Safa ( 1996 ) ; Appadur a i ( 199 1 ) cited in Bickham Mendez, ( 2005, 82 )

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62 The change in focus of the international develop ment community to models based consolidation of democracy played an important part in shaping the way NGO ization developed in the Global South, conditioning wh ich types of or ganizations were likely to be favored, and which projects were seen as priorities. The commitment by the World Bank to c ivil society, rather than state led solutions to Third World problems served to further legitimize NGOs as the developmental actors par excellence, and absolve governments of the responsibility for the problems (caused in part by the very measures designed by the Internat ional Financial Institutions). It also suggests a degree of disdain for the ability of third world leaders to improve th e lives of their citizens ( even as the richest countries in the world are looking to their governments, not civil society, for economic bail outs). Benefits to NGO ization prov ided vital spaces for the influx and exchange of new ideas, technologies and links to similar organizations worldwide in order to share experiences and coordinate global campaigns (and thus more successfully pr essurize governments and international organiz ations to acquiesce to their demands). Large organizations such as Oxfam or World Vision, active in every region of the world, have the advantage that they can share stories of best practice s from different countries and devise innovative solutions to prob lems that local organizations might not have been able to come up with by themselves. in Nicaragua were able to significantly improve on the models developed by the

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63 government. S (Ewig 1999, 98) In this sector feminist NGOs had taken a leading role in devising policies which were then subsequently copied by the Nic araguan state. Arguably NGOs, with no formal ties to any particular administration, have a greater amount of freedom to experiment with new ways of doing things than the governing politicians, who are constantly concerned with how their actions will affect their future chances of reelection. Given their tendency to be smaller in scale than either many popular social movement organizations or government ministries, NGOs are often able to respond more quickly and decisively than other actors. This can make th em especially efficient and valuable in times of crisis (such as in providing emergency disaster relief), and able to modify programs that are not functioning as planned much more quickly. The majority of NGOs are organized along strict internal lines of c ommand, with everybody aware of who makes which decisions and who answers to whom. Although this tendency to favor vertical structures has come in for some criticism (see the next section), it can also be an advantage in that it limits the potential for co nflict and power struggles within the organization that have paralyzed popular social movements at various points in countries around the world. Within an NGO, it could be argued, there is less scope for unnecessary duplication of work (as sometimes happen s in over bureaucratized states) and more clarity about where responsibility lies at every stage. Further contributing to their relative efficiency in comparison with popular social movement organizations is the NGOs tendency to favor a few, full time, pr ofessional staff members over a larger number of mainly volunteers from a variety of backgrounds

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64 and levels of knowledge or education. The women employed in many of the NGOs active in Nicaragua have relatively high levels of education, which allows them to communicate better with their international funders and with government officials. They are likely to be more aware of current trends in international funding (the vocabulary in vogue at the time, existing international development targets and priorities, the types of projects likely to attract most funding and so on) and able to frame their demands in the most favorable way to secure the maximum amount of money. These women and men are very conscious of the need to present their organization in the best l ight possible and have become very effective media managers, both in Nicaragua and on an international scale. Conversely, popular social movements and membership based keep ing the donor agencies pleased, to the possible cost of large quantities of money and press coverage. Politicians are much more likely to listen seriously to the proposals of a smartly dressed, well spoken woman with a university degree in her field, than to the ideas put forward by a group of poorer women unused to public speaking, with lower levels of countries both in Latin America and in Europe, governments have been so impressed by the credentials of the professional women working for NGOs that they have actually contracted them to develop policy on behalf of the state (Lang 2000, Ewig 1999, Alvarez their social movement counterparts (they rarely threaten to revolutionize society but rather to work within existing structures and boundaries to foment social change), and thus are often

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65 more appealing col la borators for government ministries: l government governmental organizations, which can be see spring of new social movement initiatives, are better locally positioned to commun icate and (Lang 2000) However, as Ewig rightly points out, the level of access to government officials and policy making arenas enjoyed by an NGO very much depends upon their relationship to the government in question, an d to individual ministers within the administration. This is likely to vary from NGO to NGO, with those primarily concerned with providing services or humanitarian assistance much more likely to be asked to collaborate with the state than those whose deman ds could potentially foster social unrest, or upset powerful sectors of society (such as some of the feminist NGOs operating in Nicaragua). Precisely because of their non governmental nature, NGOs have no formal link to the state (in contrast to the Sandin ista affiliated mass organsiations for example) and therefore without the goodwill of the government NGOs are no more able to formulate institutions has depended greatly on particular elected and appointed officials within the state. Without direct connections to the state or influence within its structure, the movement is subject to the willingness of these individu al state officials to cooperate (Ewig 1999, 98) Another ar ea in which the professional nature of NGOs ser ves as an advantage is in their relationships to the media both in Nicaragua and abroad. Transnational NGOs have the money and skills to mount high profile global campaigns and gather extensive

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66 mainstream medi a attention to their causes. It would be extremely difficult for a small, to get their concerns into the pages of European or North American newspapers. It is difficult f or the social movements to do what they want such as mobilize people, come into Managua for meetings, pay for educational materials and have some core people dedicated 100% to the movement. They lack the funds for these activities. The NGOs, on the other h and, have access to funding and therefore can pay someone to work full time on an issue; they can produce their own materials; they can pay travel expenses for networking and attending meetings; they can pay for radio and TV spots. So NGOs working on any i ssue that the social movements are working on have huge advantages over the movements in the formation of public opinion and in the ability to advocate (Quandt 2005) Thanks in part to their access to monetary resources, NGOs in Nicaragua have proven thems elves adept at publishing and distributing informative material, and opened up discussion among populations on a wide range of important issues: I been difficult for certain sectors of society to learn about the true implications of issues such as the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) with the United States, the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas and Plan Puebla Panama. The same goes for such important issues as therapeuti c abortion, sexual and reproductive rights and even the defense and promotion of human rights (Grigsby 2005) The monetary resources available to NGOs have been advantageous in improving ant for poor women is the fact that NGOs do not collect dues from the people they claim to represent. Even a small deduction from a salary can make a huge difference to someone living on less than a dollar a day, and consequently some unions may not includ e women from the poorest sectors of society. It is precisely these women that many NGOs are set up to help.

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67 Whatever th e criticisms leveled at service providing NGOs, the benefits of clean water, adequate housing and access to education and health care are undeniable. Whether using international funds or money from within Nicaragua, the vital role played standard of living should not be forgotten. It is all very well to argue t hat these are things that the state should provide for its citizens, but in cases where the state is either unwilling or unable to do so it would seem inhumane to deny NGOs access to these areas. Some remote villages in Nicaragua (particularly in the less developed Atlantic Coast region) were simply not served by the government at all. For these people, the presence of an NGO in the area can literally mean the difference between life and death. Lastly, the proliferation of NGOs in Nicaragua, each claiming t o represent a certain the country and opened up space for the articulation of the specific concerns of different groups of women within society. Nicaraguan women now hav e a wide range of organizations keen to be seen to represent them, in marked contrast to the Sandinista Drawbacks of NGO ization The benefits mentioned above are certainly important, but there are many aspects of the process of NGO ization of a society that are much less beneficial to the ability of women to organize in defense of their interests Various writers have raised concerns about who is actually represented by an NGO, and how accountable these organizations are to the constituency they claim to be representing. Very often it would appear that NGOs are far more accountable to their

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68 Nicaraguan and transnationa l NGOs, who both rely on international funds for their Sandinista state) for another (international fun organization from formal political power: Autonomy is not only a failed electoral strategy; it also diminishes the effectively marginalized themselves and their issues from political power. (Barrig, cited in Cai vano and Hardwick 2008, 286) This reliance on outside funding affec ts the types of projects the NGOs are able to implement, as they are restricted to those likely to be approved by their international agenda, rather than the Nicaragu an women participating in the project. The agenda of local communities are ofte n designed in such a way that local participation remains largely for show, rather than an integral part of each phase of a particular project (from design and planning right through to evaluation). International funding cannot be relied upon in the long t erm, and if the donor suddenly decides their money would be better spent elsewhere the Nicaraguan organization often has no effective way of putting pressure on the donor not to pull out or to fulfill any prior agreements. Due to complaints about the way i n which the December 2008 municipal elections were carried out, and concerns generally about the

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69 line the current Ortega administration appears to be taking, various donor countries withdrew all official development assistance from Nicaragua. Much of this assistance was to be channeled through NGOs, many of whom had no connection to the Nicaraguan government, but suffered nonetheless. Equally, if a project ends up having a negative impact on a community it is very hard for the local people to hold the NGO f ormally accountable, let alone receive any compensation. Conversely, donors are keen to ensure that their money is being spent in the way they had intended, and often attach innumerable strings to any funds given to Southern partners, diverting precious t ime and money towards reassuring dono rs rather than improving lives: Accountability to external funders means systems of evaluation that redirect important time and energy away from social justice pursuits and towards satisfying agencies and donors that lo cal organizations are sufficiently accountable to their social bases (as judged by the donor or Northern counterpart) and a range of global agents (Mato 1998 cit ed in Bickham Mendez 2005, 216) NGO ization has thus shifted t movements in Nicaragua from broadly defined goals aimed at transforming attitudes and practices to a more project focused approach, with an emphasis on easily measurable results (Jaggar 2005) Organizations are under constant pressure to provide quantifiable data on their successes No matter how impressive such data may appear the fact remains that some of the most important, long term changes in societies are often those most difficult to represent through a neat set of statistics or graph. Figures cannot capture changing attitudes, as Silliman observes : trying to change power structures or dominant social values cannot easily be quantified

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70 through standard evaluation procedures to fit neatly into a project report for a fund ing 138). Thus these initiatives have fallen out of favor. There has been considerable debate about the potential role NGOs play in politicizing or depoliticizing women. Evidence from Eu rope seems to suggest that NGOs can foster greater levels of political awareness and action within communities (Lang 2000) whereas the majority of articles written about NGOs in Latin America have claimed that they have served to reduce the organizational capacity of women. By (2006) notes that NGOs often serve to depoliticize the people they claim to represent, Former activists are now often well salaried employees in NGOs, which coordinate with the very institutions the social movements sought to transform. In many ways the NGOs owe their survival to the maintenance of the status quo, and thus it is not in their interest to rock the boat unnecessarily, limiting the range of options available to those approved by the international funding communit y, which are not necessarily those that promise the best results for the women they claim to serve. In some cases the women bes beneficiaries target population but rather the women em ployed by the NGO themselves: i zation of politics threatens to turn resistance into a well mannered, reasonable, salaried, 9 to 5 job. With a few perks (Roy, 2004) It is not surprising that many of the most talented and e leaders have opted for the NGO sector, given the choice between a well paid position in

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71 a comfortable office, with the opportunity to travel around the world to NGO conferences, and the prestige that comes with this, or an unpaid (or low paid) position in charge of a local social movement, with little in the way of recognition for successes achieved, but the constant threat of repressive measures from the state hanging over your head. However these coveted positions are frequently only op en to a certain type of woman. She is likely to be middle class, urban, well educated and able to speak English to a high level, whereas poorer, rural or indigenous women find it harder and harder to gain a foothold in this lucrative sector. Thus NGO izati on can sometimes reproduce class and racial inequalities 3 The increasing professionalization of the encourages the growth of organizations for rural women whil e at the same time contributing to the disappearance of organizations of rural women. Pressure to secure funding has contributed to the increasing professionalization money destined for t he NGO sector in recent years, there is not an unlimited amount of donor funding available, and yet there are more and more organizations applying for support. This leads to competition among organizations, rather than cooperation, and pits NGOs against on e another in a battle for funds and for recognition as the and most professiona l staff (Alvarez 1998) 3 Lebon ( 1996, 602 ) cited in Bickham Mendez ( 2005, 113)

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72 However, it is doubtful whether the most professional organizations are those that best serve the interests of women at the grassroots. It is difficult to gain an accurate picture of the situation faced by rural women from day to da y from an office in the capital city. The leaders of large, well funded NGOs run the risk of losing touch with the women they claim to represent, women who find it hard to make their voices heard at the higher levels of the organization. New social movemen in particular, have been widely praised for their new ways of organizing, based around (Bickham Mendez 2005) They emphasized horizontal structures in contrast to the vertical models favored by traditional social movements and political parties, thus fostering participation from women at all levels in the decision making processes. Most NGOs, on the other hand, appear to have reverted to a more hierarchical organizational structure, with power c oncentrated in the hands of the directors and the board. These leaders are rarely from the poorer sectors of society. Ewig notes that it is often the smaller, less professionalized NGOs that foster the greatest amount of participation from the women at the base, and are more internally democratic (Ewig 1999, 97) However, it is precisely these organizations that are losing out in the battle for funding. But NGO ization does not just involve unequal power relations between women, but also between Northern fu nders and their Southern partners. This has led many to question the notion that NGOs can contribute to the wider democratization of societies, and instead simply reproduce global inequalities within a country: NGOs are seen by many as embodying participat ory democracy and presenting a solution to the top down development strategies of previous decades. Yet NGOs do not escape the power dynamics of North South relations in the postcolonial context. Despite the flow of ideas and

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73 resources across national bord ers, a great deal of power remains in the hands of both state and non stat e political actors in the North (Bickham Mendez 2005, 215) Some critics, ( e.g. Petras 1997, Toni Solo 2007 ) have gone so far as to classify this as a new form of colonialism, and th at far from representing an alternative to paternalistic models of development, NGOs are in fact just another manifestation of it. Deborah Mindry (2001, 1189) feminist NGOs operating in the third world is emp loyed in a paternalistic manner by many donor organizations, reproducing earlier patterns of colonial domination, recipients She notes that (construed as something akin to political navet) they are represented as helpless, apolitical in their misery, and needy Ibid., 1203) In the eyes of some critical observers NGOs represent a threat to the national sovereignty of third world governments, and an attempt by the hegemonic po wers to increase their control over other countries via the back door. The recent Bush administration did much to further this belief by claiming that NGO relief agencies the war on terror. 4 I n particular, it is the service providing NGOs that tend to come in for some of the harshest criticisms. These organizations, despite their good intentions, are seen as 4 Burnet ( 2004 ) cited in Bendaa ( 2006 2 )

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74 ps in services that it ought to [Nongovernmental Development Organizations] stage right when nobody is looking. Sometimes the s tate nev er even makes it onto the stage (Grigsby 2005) In this respect, Grigsby argues, part of the blame lies in the propaganda successes of the NGOs themselves. In constantly emphasizing their achievements in their publicity material and in the wider m edia, they have often successfully convinced large sectors of the international development community that they are more efficient than national governments. Thus it is relatively easy for states to hold up their hands, admit defeat and pass the responsibi lity on to the non governmental organizations So long as the NGOs are there to pick up the slack for the neoliberal state, the likelihood or organizing mass demonstrations against this model of devel opment is severely limited. Sof a Montenegro, a prominen t Nicaraguan feminist and intellectual, has observed that in this sense states can use the NGO sector as a type of safety net or buffer against social explosion. She makes a distinction between NGOs and social movements, arguing that the former try and wor k within existing models of development, and are vulnerable to cooptation (or are ignored by the government), whereas the latter are attempting to change the model entirely, and mobilize large numbers of people in support of their cause (Sof a Montenegro, quoted in Quandt 2005) This has contributed been shifted from the streets to the board rooms and conferences of government ministries and international funders. The sm all scale of many NGOs active in Nicaragua

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75 limits their capacity to organize mass demonstrations, and has been seen as a sign of Dependence on international funding has also caused problems for fe minist NGOs in Nicaragua. They have had to contend with the accusation that feminism is a foreign import, and not something appropriate for the Nicaraguan context. Feminists have faced an uphill battle to try to change the image of the word in Nicaraguan s ociety, which still has negative connotations for some women. 5 The current administration has exploited these currents of thought to justify its increasing crackdown on many of the more radical Nicaraguan feminist NGOs and organizations. Feminist N GO s i n N icaragua Today: Agents o f Yankee Imperialism ? The current Ortega administration has capitalized on this negative cultural stereotype of the feminist movement in its recent attacks on organizations in Nicaragua. These NGOs have been denounced as an attempt by the United States to infiltrate Nicaraguan society and even described by Rosario Murillo (the wife of Nicaraguan particularly strong connotat ions in Nicaraguan soci ety, intended to evoke the memory of the U.S. supported Contra war in the 1980s which cost so many lives). In an article published by the Sandinista government magazine 19 Murillo accuses the feminist ankruptcy: We are faced with a political prostitution with the booming voice of a billy goat [ macho cabro provocation, which, in addition, takes advantage of its role as political in order to try and change our set of cultural values, and impose strange, 5 Of the women I interviewed in Nicaragua, who were members of grassroots cooperatives, very few of them said they un derstood what feminism was or how it was relevant to their lives.

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76 foreign social norms upon us regarding our the way in which we live together with our families and within our communities. I n this politico cultural war, which they are carrying out in the name of women, they seek to sell their stereotypes as postmodern politics, promoting their foreign culture, alien to our way of doing things, which forms part, moreover, of a failed cultural model, destroyer of the world, which has dispossessed souls, and enthroning egoism, s olitude and deep emptiness/gaps (Murillo 2008) undermine the Sandinista government, the current Or tega administration is stepping up the pressure on nongovernmental organizations which have questioned the gender equality record of the FSLN and its increasingly hard line stance on issues such as the feminist NGOs appear to Even the service providing NGOs run the risk of being labeled as a form of imperialism, although the Nicaraguan government is more than happy to accept internat ional investment and money when it suits them (Mannen, 2009) This reinforces movement depends very much on the goodwill of the state, and of particular individuals working for the government. Faced with a hostile administration, a lack of official channels through which to p ut pressure on the government, and the increasingly organized and profession al the NGOs may appear they are unlikely to succeed in changing the policies pursued by the state. Concluding Remarks The process of NGO accompanied by its increasing atomization and professionalizatio n. Dependency on

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77 external funding has fostered competition rather than collaboration, and privileged so me middle class pursuit, and of losing touch with the very women they claim to represent. NGOs are characterized by hierarchical structures which threaten to destroy some of fostering spaces for the participation of women of all classes and backgrounds. There has been a tendency to switch from broader goals of changing gender relations in society, and influencing attitudes regarding women towards focusing on short term projects with easily measurable outcomes. In the vast majority of cases NGOs are much more accountable to their funders in the global North than to the poor women they claim to represent. NGOs in the health sector prove that NGO ization is not inherently negative, and inde ed can help to foster innovative solutions to urgent social problems. The ability of the NGO sector to respond quickly in an emergency and to provide vital services to the most disadvantaged in Nicaraguan society can mean the difference between life and de ath for some poor rural women. Partnerships with organizations in the global North are problematic to say the least, but have provided NGOs with links to other similar organizations in different parts of the world, and to put certain issues on the internat ional development agenda, and fostered discussion of difficult topics in countries all over the globe. The process of NGO ization appears to be largely irreversible today. However, this is not to say that the type of NGO ization will remain the same in the

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78 organizations in Nicaragua have proven themselves to be capable of a remarkable degree of readjustment and adaptation to differing political contexts. Although NGO ements in the country, there is no reason to suggest that activists will not develop new ways of working and new forms of coordination. They may find ways in which to establish more equitable partnerships with their funders and ensure that the voices of po or and marginalized women are heard and respected. What we are currently witnessing may movements to influence state policies, akin to the two years of disarray following the e lection of Chamorro. There are several reasons to be hopeful: some NGOs (mainly small scale, less professional operations) which appear to have maintained a degree of internal democracy as well as competing with other organizations in terms of efficiency, so it would appear that the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. More could be done to encourage coordination among NGOs and between NGOs and popular social movements (although there are some initiatives, such as the Coordinadora Civil in place at the moment which attempt to do this), as there is no reason why the growth of NGOs should necessitate the weakening of social movements (and in fact NGOs can play a role in strengthening organized civil society campaigns, as happened in Europe.). Not all international funding organizations are alike, and there is growing recognition among many of the more progressive organizations, such as Oxfam International, that it is often local women who best understand some of the problems they face and how to go ab out solving them. These international organizations are

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79 discussing ways of working with their Nicaraguan partners to build relationships based on mutual respect and exchange of knowledge and experiences. In the case study of FEMUPROCAN described in this th esis, the relationships they have built with Oxfam Canada and, to some extent, El Centro Cooperativo Sueco, show that international the women to voice their opinions about p riorities for action and develop their own strategies. However, as I will demonstrate throughout this thesis, the relationship is still

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80 CHAPTER 4 THE HISTORY OF FEMUPROCAN: A BASTION OF STRUGGLE FOR THE UNITY AND DEVELOPMENT OF WOMEN PRODUCERS W e were I am talking as if the child is an Mara Mara Castil, and this stomach continue d to grow. Then we were the Federation, and the baby was born when we put a name to FEMUPROCAN. 1 This chapter presents a brief outli ne of the history of FEMUPROCAN from its roots carried out my field research. I discuss why the women found it necessary to set up their own organization and break away from UNAG and describe some of the main obstacles and dilemmas they encountered along the way. In order to be able to assess the extent to which necessary to outline some of the main organizational structures of the federation today and their functions. Within UNAG Phase One : Disappointment and t he Roots o f Organization 1980 1983 FEMUPROCAN traces its history back to 1984, when the first collectives of rural women producers were created within UNAG Matagalpa and women began to press U organizing within UNAG goes back even further. The Sandinista rhetoric of equal rights in 1 Leticia, President of a FEMUPROCAN cooperative, Terrabona, July 21, 2009.

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81 inequality in the countryside. The new laws on Agrarian Reform (1980) and the cooperative sector (1981) formally established equal rights for men and women, an important step forward, and the future leaders of FEMUPROCAN were filled with optimism about the future. However, as discussed in Chapter 2 formal recognition was one thing, but actually ending discrimination in practice proved much more difficult. Machista attitudes co uld not be swept away overnight and after the National Cooperative Census was carried out in 1982 women such as Martha Valle, already active within the mixed sex organization, were shocked to discover that women comprised only 6% of total cooperative membe rship (Valle 2009, 223) These women realized that rural women producers were not getting the recognition they deserved or being given the same opportunities to participate in organizations as their male counterparts. Rural women encountered resistance on all sides, even within their own would work extremely hard but we had no importance, no value for the men. They saw us as garbage, we were worth nothing. We worked in the countryside, raised cattle and 2 However, when they proposed this t (Valle 2009, 223) Despite this rejection the women who had raised the issue were not prepared to abandon the 2 Ana, member of a grassroots cooperative affiliated with FEMUPROCAN, Terrabona, July 21 st 2009

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82 idea so hastily, and continued to press for the national organization to meet their demands. The leaders of these women, many of whom had risen to positions of some status and responsibility repeatedly demonstrat ed that women are producers and they have a long history of working the land in Nicaragua. They began to denounce machismo as the main obstacle preventing the integration and participation of women, in conditions of equality, in the process of agrarian ref orm as established by law (FEMUPROCAN 2006, 26 27) : We had the laws in our favor but they served little purpose due to the machismo that reigned at all levels. Their own husbands were the main obstacle preventing women from joining and participating in the national leadership] did not understand this situation. 3 Phase T wo: Coffee P icking C ollectives and the B eginning of the S truggle for I ndependence: 1984 1986 According to FEMUPROCAN, the formation of the coffee picking brigad e Mar a Castil Blanco marked a turning point. They describe the experience of this brigade as secretariat, putting further pressure on the male leadership of UNAG to follow suit. Valle described to me the difficulties that they had in forming the brigade in the first place. At first the proposal was dismissed as unworkable, but gradually, through a great deal of hard work and effort by the women organizers, enough of the male members of UNAG 3 Benigna Mendiol a, FEMUPROCAN member, in an interview carried out during the mid 1980s and cited by FEMUPROCAN 2006, 27

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83 busy picking coffee. Even so, many of the participants had no choice but to bring their children with them, carrying the younger ones on their backs. The brigade served to visibilize the presence of women within the organization and prove to the male members that they were quite capable of organizing themselves efficiently and I bid 29). This was especially important to the campesina participants who were sometimes quite iso lives and struggles (Collinson 1990, 54) In 1986 45 women were mobilized for a period of forty days in these brigades. One year later this number had increased to over five h undred. The brigades did not go unnoticed by those outside the movement, receiving significant media coverage and support from prominent feminist journalists and activists, publicizing the existence of discrimination against rural women. However, women sti ll faced difficulties in reaching positions at the higher levels of the organization and were not trusted with many positions of responsibility. Some posts were reserved for women, but these were overwhelming those of secretaries and not those that challen ged pre existing conceptions about the gender division of labor or the unequal power relations between men and women. Phase Three: The C The success of the brigades resulted in the First National Meeting of Peasant Women and played an important role in persuading the male leaders of UNAG to agree contributed, as Martha Valle explained in 2009:

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84 There were several factors that facilitated the cr just adopted the position that women should be integrated in all aspects of the revolution; that AMNLAE had begun encouraging the formation of ts within the various unions and organizations; and that (FEMUPROCAN 2006, 7 cited in Valle 2009, 224) The fact that UNAG of the CST described by Bickham Mendez (2005) it was the male leaders of UNAG who determined the priorities allocated them a budget. Thus, as Morena Diaz, (currently head of training and advocacy in FEMUPROCAN but formerly active in UNAG) explained to me, within UNAG women were only able to advance as far as the men wanted them to and no further. The men were keen to keep control over the women and worried that the movement and a desire to distance themselves from the main org anization. They were organizations at this time and felt that their positions of power and privilege might be under attack: at it would be the body that worked to organize lines and actions directed towards peasant women. We were very clear that the idea was not to create a separate association, we are a union of men and women and we have to fight for the interests of all producers and not for the interests of any particular group. 4 4 Interview with the leadership of UNAG, carried out by Mara Angelica Faune and cited in FEMUPROCAN 2006: 32.

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85 subordination of women within the organization, resulting in an escalation of tensions deviation from the correct role of the organization and a result of penetration by (FEMUPROCAN 2006, 33) In or der to dissipate specific demands of women to the priorities of the organization as a whole. However, the women had by no means abandoned their fight. The first National Assemb ly of UNAG Women was held in 1989 and highlighted the range of problems women faced within their cooperatives. Despite legislation, there were reports of women being paid less than men, and that women still faced discrimination with regard to access to lan d. Instead of modifying many of the land titles to officially include the name of the woman as well as the man, most were simply many women should they wish to prove their ownership of the land. Furthermore, men still received more of the better, more fertile land, whilst women were allocated smaller to couples, rather than male household he ads (FEMUPROCAN 2006). They also raised the same issues as male members In the years leading up to the 1990 elections events such as the National Meeting of Peasant women producers (both affiliated and not affiliated to UNAG) coming together to

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86 formulate a common platf orm for struggle. Plataforma de Lucha was agreed upon, which set out the main demands of the women, including but not the punishment of those who physically and /or sexually abuse women or children and training for women at al l levels of the organization (FEMUPROCAN 2006) participation in cooperatives organization for women, mostly financed by international cooperation, including projects for women. These alternative modes increased female particip ation in UNAG but were not linked to the production plans of the cooperative and small farm sector which form the backbone of the organization This organizing, contributed to the persistence of th e idea that women could not produce at the same level as their male counterparts and that their activities were marginal and of little overall importance They thus served to reinforce, rather than challenge, the biased perceptions about female members he ld by many of their male counterparts, and did right. Perhaps one of the toughest battles fought by the women of UNAG was over the productoras le emphasized the symbolic importance this word had for the female farmers and its contribution to the development of their identity. 5 It 5 Interview with Martha Valle, President of FEMUPROCAN, Managua, July 17, 2009

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87 their own right (rather than as assistants to the men, or inferior workers). It also suggested that women could have control over their own land and their own production without permission from the men. Phase Four: After the 1990 E lectoral D efeat of the FSLN D eman ds G reater A utonomy After the defeat of the Sandinistas, UNAG, like the other FSLN mass organizations, was forced to revaluate its position and way of working. The women found that although the organization suffered from the withdrawal of financial support they were able to find more space to define their own strategies and priorities for action. During this period the scaling back of services formerly provided by the state and neoliberal economic policies hit rural women hard. Many struggled to survive and keep their families together in the context of increasing migration to Costa Rica and economic crisis in Nicaragua. There were increased reports of domestic violence, and the roles. as discussed in Chapter 2 acti topic of gender in those government bodies responsible for the formulation of policy; and the pressure from international development organizations for UNAG to develop pla ns an d projects with a gender focus.

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88 but in an uneven fashion. Membership actually fell in some regions, with others experiencing growth rates between 30 and 50 % The largest numbers of members were found in the departments of Matagalpa, Rivas, Jinotega and Estel (FEMUPROCAN 2006, 44) They also encouraged their members to organize themselves into collectives based on the production of particular goods, cooperatives and second degree cooperative organizations, which grouped together around 1,400 women, or 13% of the total members, associations dedicated to specific products or groups of products and savings clubs ( Ibid 47). Again, the extent to which these alternative organiza tional forms were adopted by the women differed from area to area. Those regions with experienced and dynamic leaders, such as Matagalpa and Rivas flourished, whereas others made little in the way of real progress. 6 Similarly uneven results were reported i n 7 Perhaps one of their greatest successes in this period was their participation in the new gov ernmental policies allowing property to be registered in the names of more than one person, ideally, the couple. This represented an important breakthrough although it 6 Only four of the Department Offices managed to create second degree cooperative organizations: Len, Rivas, Matagalpa and Jinotega. However 90% of the members in this type of organization were located in Rivas and M atagalpa. Of the groups dedicated to the production of specific products eight were created, but 48% of the members were concentrated in Matagalpa (FEMUPROCAN 2006, 48) 7 Only the Department Offices of Matagalpa and Jinotega managed to form their own rural savings and loan associations and only Matagalpa formed a Trading Company (comercializadora). In the case of Matagalpa, the savings association managed a total of almost US $200,000 and, according to FEMUPROCAN, had an average repayment rate of 92%. Riva s was able to diversify its sources of financing, increase the amount of funds available to their office and their capacity to manage these funds themselves thanks to help from Swissaid and agreements with local NGOs that had credit programs (FEMUPROCAN 20 06, 55)

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89 has not yet had the expected effects (see the section Chapt er 6 ). Despite these successes and evidence that progress was being made, the objectives. One of the most serious was that there had not been sufficient consideration of the ways in which projects and policies were decided, formulated, implemented and evaluated. The women realized that the tendency to employ top down methods was perhaps not the most appropriate way of working, had only limited success and did not fit in with t trying to foster. They thus strove to implement more democratic forms of working, but were still limited in their freedom to define their objectives and strategies by the subordin Phase Five: The Break with UNAG : 1997 P resent The persistence of male resistance and opposition to the more radical demands of ince rem ained within the organization. The men, particularly those at the departmental level, and participation in the leadership structures of UNAG. The search for greater financial autonomy for the Section also touched a nerve among the men. At this time, UNAG had experienced a sharp drop in the amount of funds available to them, and some members felt that their positions were threatened by to be removed from leadership positions in the organization for one reason or another;

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90 s Section were replaced. Other women who (Valle 2009, 225) This history has striking similarities with that described by Bickham Mendez on the ST. They too found that those women who dared to challenge the male leadership were quickly replaced by women willing to tow the line without complaint. For both groups of women, who had endured years of discrimination and resistance from many male leaders the loss of their positions proved resolve of the future leaders of FEMUPROCAN to break away from UNAG and set up their own organization, where they would enjoy real de cision making power for the first have autonomy it is difficult for 8 The women claimed that it was never their original intention to set up an independent organization, but in the end, the men left them little alternative. T he desire for autonomy grew ever stronger until, in 1997, the women formed an Organizing committee were Martha Heriberta Valle, Maritza Lainez, Modesta Gonz lez, Matilde Rocha Lpez and Mara Josefa Martnez At this point they still believed that it might be possible to continue their affiliation with UNAG. However, the men saw the formation of the federation, a third level organization, as confirming their worst fears about t he 8 in FEMUPROCAN 2006, 62

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91 and there was also pressure from the other compa eras [fellow female members of U 9 This type of ultimatum persuaded some of the women to abandon the idea of the federation and remain within UNAG, but m any others were not swayed by the pressure and opted for the federation, abandoning UNAG. 10 On the 20 th of November 1997 they formally founded the Federation of Rural Women Producers. In the beginning the Federation had very few resources and few supporte rs. The national team was comprised of three members, working out of a garage in Managua, and Modesta Gonz lez described to me that the Nueva Guinea office was little more than a corner of her house with a typewriter. 11 Nevertheless, after having struggled so long to achieve the freedom to make their own decisions, the women were not about to give up. The national team now operates out of an air conditioned office in the Bolonia area of Managua. They have various computers, laptops and audiovisual equipment and a permanent, full time staff of six. In Nueva Guinea the women held raffles and other events and, after a lot of effort and perseverance, they managed to buy the land on which the office sits today. By the second anniversary of the Federation (1999) th ey 9 Interview with Matilde Rocha, Vice President of FEMUPROCAN, Managua, August 6 th 2009. 10 The women of FEMUPROCAN felt that sin organization had been marginalized even further. They described how it was confined to a tiny office, hidden behind the kitchen in UNAG Headquarters and that women were hardly ever seen to be taking on leadership roles or positions with a high public profile 11 Conversations with Modesta Gonzlez, Regional Coordinator for FEMUPROCAN Nueva Guinea, Nueva Guinea, July 29th 2009.

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92 had inaugurated the regional office. Half of the cost was covered by Fundacin PRODESA (The Foundation for Promotion and Development) but the women, in addition to raising money, provided many materials and their labor. Gonzlez went on to say that in t themselves as, at the time, Nicaraguan law prevented two federations from operating in the same sector. With the help of some lawyers sympathetic to their cause, the women embarked on the long struggle for le gal recognition. The women realized that, although they had broken away from UNAG, the government institutions and the way in which they treated women remained the same. The federation was determined to change the machista ways in which these bodies worked as they realized that they could not just sit there passively and hope that changes would take place. If this was their strategy, they argued, they would be waiting forever. With this in mind the women decided that they would have to actively work toward government institutions and policies and engage policymakers and government officials in debates at every opportunity to try and change their machista attitudes. On top of this, they still faced opposition and harassme nt from some of the men in UNAG, who attempted to divide the women and provoke fights among the members of the new ry and upset interfered and 12 When these kind s of tactics did not appear to be working the men declared that it 12 Clara, President of a FEMUPROCAN cooperative, Terrabona, July 21, 2009

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93 Th putas 13 But FEMUPROCAN did survive, and found support from several international development organizations, such as Oxfam C anada and El Centro Cooperativo Sueco (CCS), which provided them with vital financial and technical assistance to help them get the organization off the ground and keep it running. One of the first dilemmas faced by the new federation was how to decide on wh ich issue to their standard of living would not happen overnight and would require work on many different aspects of the problem. After some discussions, and with the support of their NGO pa rtners, the leaders decided that their first priority needed to be raising the esteem and confidence in their own abilities. This would be the foundation, they argued, that would make everything else possible. Diaz explained that the history o f FEMUPROCAN since their independence from UNAG could be roughly divided into three phases. The first, as mentioned above, focused a lot on personal development, self received training on various administrative, method ological and leadership techniques and activities focused on creating bonds of solidarity among the members. The second concentrated more on production techniques and strengthening the organization, with little real attention given to advocacy work. The th ird and current phase emphasizes the development of entrepreneurial skills among the members. FEMUPROCAN is out beyond production into processing and marketing and more attention is being given 13 More na Diaz, Head of Training and Advocacy, FEMUPROCAN, Nueva Guinea, July 30, 2009

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94 to advocacy work and lobbying. They are trying to create more linkages with other organizations in Nicaragua and the region, in order to influence decisions made by policy makers, and have begun a training program for advocacy prom otoras at the local and regional levels. FEMUPROCAN T oday FEMUPROCAN today is comprised of 1 ,767 members belonging to sixty eight base level cooperatives. O f these cooperatives 58 have full legal status, and the remaining ten are all in the process of leg alization. These base level cooperatives are organized into nine unions of cooperatives and are located in six different departments of the country; Managua, Granada, Matagalpa, Jinotega, Madriz and RAAS. The nterior of the country, particularly in the areas of Matagalpa and Jinotega. Leaders are elected democratically and the Federation is organized through the following structures: General Assembly : manda te is to determine the overarching policies of the organization and approve its short and medium term plans, provided that these have been formulated in It is comprised of 200 delegates elected via assembl ies carried out by the Unions of Cooperatives. Delegates from the base level cooperatives in all of the regions in which FEMUPROCAN w orks participate in these assemblies Nominally, a General Assembly must be held every year, with the objective of examinin g what was achieved during the past 12 months and approving the plans for the upcoming year anniversary in November, but can also be convened at other points should the need arise. The National Board of Directors : This is the executive body of FEMUPROCAN, charged with its administration and management. It is comprised of a President, a Vice President, a Treasur er and a Trustee who are elected every five years by the General Assembly. Currently these positions are held by Martha Heriberta Valle (President), Matilde Rocha L pez (Vice President), Modesta Gonzlez Amador (Treasurer) and Mara Elsa Soza Obando (Trust ee). Its mandate allows it to

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95 manage the socio economic activity of the federation in accordance with the criteria and directives set out by the General Assembly Supervisory Council : this is the body responsible for the auditing and supervision of FEMUPR OCAN and, like the Board of Directors, is elected for five year periods by the General Assembly. It is made up of members who occupy the positions of Administrator, Secretary and Trustee. Those elected cannot belong to any other administrative body (such a s the Board of Directors). Unions of Cooperatives : members were organized into one of the nine unions of cooperatives affiliated with the organization. These were comprised of base level cooperatives, and de mocratically elected their representatives in a similar fashion to that described above for FEMUPROCAN. Grassroots or Base Level Cooperatives : individual rural women producers join together to form cooperatives in order to either produce collectively, or gain collective access to credit and services. Each cooperative periodically holds elections for the positions of responsibility, (President, Vice President, etc.). Work Councils : are elected within base level cooperatives if deemed appropriate. They are d esigned to increase the level of self sufficiency and ability of the cooperatives to manage their own affairs.

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96 CHAPTER 5 NGO S, SOCIAL MOVEMENT S AND TRADE ASSOCIATIONS: WHERE DOES FEMUPROCAN FIT IN? When breaking away from UNAG the women in FEMUPROCAN had a number of options regarding the type of organization they could become. This chapter will instead of opting to become an NGO and examine the benefits and drawbacks of t his decision. Does FEMUPROCAN form part of a social movement in Nicaragua or have they reduced the strength of their rhetoric about social transformation after breaking away from the Sandinista party? Have they been reduced to an interest group seeking to maximize benefits for their members or are they aiming for larger, more fundamental changes? During the 1990s, the NGO movements in particular, across Latin America became the focus of much concern and scholarly res pressure to professionalize and develop good relationships with foreign NGOs and donor agencies. This can lead to accusations that the leadership loses touch with the grassroots and that the organization becomes more accountable to its foreign partners than to its membership at the base level. Many scholars have pointed out that the lines between social movement organizations and NGOs are becoming ever more blurred (e.g. Bickham Mendez 20 05). It is increasingly difficult to draw a line between the two, and some scholars have argued that it is no longer appropriate to even attempt to do so Although FEMUPROCAN does not portray itself as an NGO, it has faced some of the same pressure to pro fessionalize and engage with transnational discourses of

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97 feminism and international development. Part of my research therefore aimed to analyze the extent to which they have been affected by the processes of NGO ization, and the nature of the contact the l eadership maintains with the women at the base level. As with the case of the MEC, I expect ed that this process would have led to certain disagreements within the organization, and had an effect on the strategies, discourse s and programs employed and carr ied out by FEMUPROCAN. However, just as the women of the MEC placed strict boundaries on the degree to which they were prepared to accommodate the desires of their foreign partners, FEMUPROCAN also has certain beliefs and areas about which they refuse to c ompromise, and others in which there is some room for negotiation and modification. Firstly it is necessary to define some of the main terms to be used in this chapter, to examine to what extent NGOs, social movements, trade unions and trade organizations overlap, and in what fundamental ways they differ. It will then be possible to examine the development of FEMUPROCAN in the light of these definitions and explain why they have chosen the path that they have, and how this affects their ability to achieve their aims. Defining Social Movements Many of these terms are still the subject of fierce debate amongst scholars, and social movements are no exception. There appear to be almost as many definitions as there are social movements, and there is not space he re to go into the intricacies of all of the arguments, but it is worth mentioning a few of the most prominent thinkers in this field before arriving at the definition to be used in this thesis. Perhaps one of the most widely cited early definitions of the term comes from Herbert Blumer (1939) who writes that

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98 form of life and, on the other han d, from wishes and hopes for a new scheme or system (Blumer 1969, 99) The concept was theorized in much greater detail by the French sociologist Alain cultu (Touraine 1985, 776) Writers pointed to the fact that participants in social movements were normally those individuals lacking access to and influence in formal decision making spheres (Smith, Pagnucco and Chatfield 1997, 59) From these definitions it is clear that common characteristic of social movements. Related to this, Sidney Tarrow introduced t other types of collective action. He sees social movements as a modern phenomenon, whose emergence is due to a change in political opportunities: Contentious politics occurs when ordinary people, often in league with more influential citizens, join forces in confrontations with elites, authorities, and opponents. Such confrontations go back to the dawn of history. But mounting, coordinating, and sustaining them against powerful opponents are the unique contribution of the social movement, an invention of the modern age and an accompaniment to the rise of the mo dern state. I that contentious politics is triggered when changing political opportunities and constraint s create opportunities for social actors who lack resources on their own. They contend through known repertoires of contention and expand them by creating innovations at their margins. When back ed by dense social networks and galvanized by culturally reson ant, action oriented symbols, contentious politics leads to sustained interaction with opponents. Th e result is the social movement (Tarrow 1998, 2) Charles Tilly, in addition to recognizing that contentious politics form a major component of social movem ents, also pointed to the importance of attachment to a particular set of beliefs or particular types of actions in the creation and maintenance of

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99 these movements. He thus expanded the definition of what constitutes a social movement to encompass more th an merely the participants and their organizations and identified a number of important dilemmas for students of social movements around the world: The notion of a 'movement' is more complicated than the ideas of groups and events. By a social movement we often mean a group of people identified by their attachment to some particular set of beliefs. In that case, the population in question can change drastically, but so long as some group of people is still working with the same beliefs, we consider the move ment to survive. Thus the Women's Movement survives major changes in composition and internal organization. But the movement also commonly means action. People writing histories of the women's movement are quite likely to include past heroines who were qui te different in beliefs and personal characteristics from current activists, just so long as their actions were similar or had similar effects. The fact that population, belief, and action do not always change together causes serious problems for students of social movements. When they diverge, should we follow the beliefs, whatever populations and actions they become associated with? Should we follow the population, whatever beliefs and actions it adopts? Should we follow the action, regardless of w ho does it and with what ideas? (Tilly 1978, 9 10) According to Tilly, social movements are made up of a number of essential elements. The first, campaigns, refers to an organized, public, sustained appeal to the relevant authorities to hear the collective claims of the movement participants. Repertoire describes the range of types of action from which social movements can choose. These include a wide variety of techniques, from the formation of special purpose associations to public meetings, processions, demonst rations and media spots. Finally, and an essential component of the repertoire of any social movement, is what Tilly defined as WUNC displays. These are related to representations of the social movement by the participants, which help to define its public image and take the form of displays of w orthiness, u nity, n umbers, and c ommitments.

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100 Resource mobilization theorists, on the other hand, explained that social more effecti vely in the political system than in other kinds of organizations or in purely (Finger 1994, 54) These scholars believed that the emergence and success of these social movements was related to political opportunity structures at the moment in question. Scholars of New Social Movements emphasized the cultural in the struggles of social movements. The idea that social movements were acting in order to transform cultural symbols and practices was nothing new, but New Social Movement th eorists linked these cultural struggles to the processes of development, the spread of global capitalism and neoliberal ideologies, and the expansion of the reach of the state. ise not only over the distribution of goods and power, hence not only as conflicts of interest, but over socially shared meanings as well, i.e., over the ways of defining and interpreting reality. These conflicts arise in areas previously considered typica l of the private sphere, involving problems of self (Lebon 1996, 590 591) These conflicts of meaning are also evident in the differing definitions of what constitutes a social movement. Different indi viduals construct their own meanings for the term and who are we to judge which definitions are more valid than er who proposes the reading of a set of practices as a social are objects constructed by the researcher, which do not necessarily coincide with the

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101 empirical form of collective action. Seen from the outside, they may present a certain degree of unity, but internally they are always heteroge neous 1 With this consideration in mind, for the purposes of this thesis I decided to adopt a similar approach to that taken by Bickham Mendez in her ethnography of the MEC. She recognizes the importance of finding out how the women in MEC view their actions, and in taking their definitions of social movements and collective action into account when analyzing the organization: In my view the diverse theories on social movements demonstrate that these movements cannot be reduced to their organizat ions, goals, and practices. A structural yet culturally informed approach to social movements reveals other cultural, subjective and identity based dimensions. ..if, however, we take an approach that legitimates the subjectivities and perspectives of parti cipants in social movements, then we cannot ignore seriously how the women of M EC see their collective actions (Bickham Mendez 2005, 65) Thus, when I arrived in Managua I was keen to fi nd out not only about the goals, actions and practices of the organization, but also to discover how the women v iewed their own participation. I attempted to understand the nature of the struggles in which they were involved and the ways in which they were these insights into my definition of what constitutes a social movement. Difference Between a Social Movement and a Social Movement Organization (SMO) Many scholars have questioned the idea that a social movement is no more, or less, than the organizations which participate in it. For me, the term social movement implies a shared identity, beliefs and practices related to how an excluded or marginalized group aims to transform society. Any organization or individual w ho shares 1 Jelin (1986, 22) cited in Alvarez and Escobar (1992 ,6)

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102 these characteristics may be considered part of the social movement. Therefore, in my opinion, FEMUPROCAN cannot be participate n be defined as social movement organizations. Lofland summarizes the difference between the two concepts quite well: SMOs [Social Movement Organizations] commonly but not always have an office, phone, publication, list of members, and other accoutrements of explicit association. Because of such features one can literally telephone or thousands of such movement organizations and other persons and activities, SMs [Social Movements] cann ot be located in an y single place or simply dialed (Lofland 1996, 12) hundreds or thousands of organizations. They may, or they may consist of a few individuals and groups. For me it is not a question of numbers but rather a matter of the difference between a set of ideas and the organizations formed to promote these ideas, groups explicitly designed to promote specific social changes. They are the principal carriers of social movements insofar as they mobilize new human and material resources, activating and coordinating strategic action throughout ebbs and flows of (Smith, Pagnucco and Chatfield 1997, 60) Defining Social Movement Organizations Thus, based on my interpretation of the existing literature on the subject and my fieldwork in Nicaragua, I define some of the key characteristics for social movement organizations as: Content ious politics and a desire to transform the status quo for the benefit of the participants in the movement. This can take many forms, including struggles over cultural norms (such as gender roles), but I was expecting to be able to

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103 clearly identify the goa ls of FEMUPROCAN in transforming some aspects of Nicaraguan society as a whole. I was also looking for evidence of sustained opposition to the power holders by the social movement in their desire to achieve their goals. For FEMUPROCAN I expected that the p ower holders in question would sometimes be the government, sometimes be men, sometimes perhaps be big business and/or proponents of the free market. Moving up the scale, I was interested to find out whether FEMUPROCAN had extended its contentious politics to encompass international actors such as the World Trade Organization, the IMF or the World Bank. The construction of a shared identity, a set of beliefs and/or practices on which the movement is based. In the case of FEMUPROCAN I was interested to find out whether they had successfully constructed the identity of rural women producers among their members and whether this collective identity was also recognized by those outside the movement. Collective actions and c ooperation among t he participants in th e social movement based on their shared identity and goals The forms these actions take may differ over time but they should reaffirm the members commitment to the overarching goals of the movement. Defining T rade A ssociation s Organizaciones gremiales t ranslated from now on as trade associations, can be defined as a formal association of people who have similar interests because they work in a particular field. Besides carrying out lobbying and advocacy work on behalf of their members, trade associations in the Third World often facilitate the acquisition of technical skills and knowledge by their members. Requirements for membership may vary but, at least in the First World, there is normally an annual membership fee and a commitment to mainta in a certai n standard of work. Membership dues, certification exams, publications and events provide sufficient funds for the effective functioning of many of these organizations in the Global North. As can be seen by FEMUPROCAN, however such organizations located in the South may not collect enough money from subscriptions to sustain themselves without the assistance of international donor NGOs.

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104 Defining NGOs The term Nongovernmental Organization (NGO) was coined by the United Nations after the Second World War and h as now slipped into popular usage (Tinker 1999, 89) The problem seems to be that although many people profess to have at least a vague understanding of what the term means, the definitions given by most international bodies remain precisely that, vague. The matter was further complicated by the rise of so called INGOs (International Nongovernmental Organizations), BONGOS (Business Organized Nongovernmental Organizations), BINGOS (Business Interest NGOs) and GONGOS (Government Organized NGOs). 2 I ndeed the literature has become crowded with endless acronyms poking fun at th is very phenomenon (e.g. MONGOs, my own NGOs and, perhap s best of all, FLAMINGOs, Flashy Minded NGOs for the rich (Gotz 2008) ) However, despite these word games, many of the articles wri tten fail to provide a precise definition of exactly what the term NGO means today. the United Nations. According to the UN Economic and Social Committee an international z ation that is not established by an agreement among governments (Iriye 2002, 2) Since then the UN has elaborated on the first definition, in an attempt to clarify their understanding of the concept: A non governmental orga nization (NGO) is a not for profit, voluntary citizens' group, which is organized on a local, national or international level to address issues in support of the public good. Task oriented and made up of people with common interests, NGOs perform a variety of services and humanitarian functions, bring citizens' concerns to governments, monitor policy and programme implementation, and encourage participation of civil 2 This proliferation of NGOs of all shapes and sizes, reflecting a wide variety of interests, raised questions about t

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105 society stakeholders at the community level. They provide analysis and expertise, serve as e arly warning mechanisms, and help monitor and implement international agreements. Some are organized around specific issues, such as human rights, the environment or health. (United Nations n.d.) However, despite the apparent thoroughness of this definitio n, when one analyzes it carefully one realizes that it could be applied to a wide range of vastly different groups (and indeed NGOs may differ greatly from one another), including some un expected types of organizations. Tinker observes that; category, the term covers a wide range of groups that are not commonly thought of today as nongovernmental organizations: trade union federations, business councils, international unions of (Tinker 1999, 89) regulations designed to govern these types of organizations in different countries (European Commission 2000) Not only that but NGOs range from tiny organiz ations staffed by a few volunteers or part time employees to huge, multinational organizations with thousands of members a nd hundreds of salaried staff. So it is clear that size cannot be a defining characteristic of an NGO. If one turns to look at the way s in which NGOs work, their areas of focus, and their objectives, one finds a similar problem. Willets identifies two main types of NGOs in functional terms; contribute to the delivery of service s (such as in the field of welfare), whereas the primary aim of advocacy NGOs is to influence the policies of public authoritie s and public opinion in general (Willetts n.d.)

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106 Such complications have not, however, precluded attempts to identify common ch aracteristics shared by the vast majority of NGOs. These can be summarized as follows: Voluntary most NGOs are organizations that were formed voluntarily, allow at least some degree of voluntary participation by individuals, and are open to all those who wish to join (Iriye 2002 ; Willetts n.d. ; European Commission 2000) Non state and n on partisan independent of all governments, political parties or groups attempting to take control of the state. Nonprofit NGOs are not designed to generate personal pro fits for their founders generating activities they do not distribute profits or surpluses to members or (European Commission 2000, 3) Nonreligious organizations affilia ted with churches and other religious institutions form another group of international development organizations, normally termed faith based organizations. Nonmilitary and n onviolent NGOs refrain from direct intervention using the force of arms, althoug h at times they may play an important role in mediating peace negotiations and monitoring the activities of armed forces/paramilitary groups to ensure that human rights are upheld, or in providing humanitarian assistance to victims of armed struggles. Some formal organizational structures e.g. Statutes, Mission Statements, Objectives (although NGOs may vary greatly in terms of their internal organization and ways of working) Accountable to members and donors NGOs must provide reports on their activities to their members and donors. However they have sometimes been their projects. (Pearce 1993, 223) Not linked to particular commercial organizations (European Commiss ion 2000) Independent from criminal groups NGOs refrain from criminal activity and normally abide by the regulations of the country in which they operate. Altruism issues related to th e well being of people, specific groups of people or society as a whole. They are not pursuing the commercial or professional interests of their (European Commission 2000, 4)

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107 As private actors, NGOs do not seek to control the levers of public power. Therefore they neither organize for elections like political parties, nor use violence to seize power like terrorists and insurgents. In contrast to firms, NGOs do not pursue the pr ivate profit of their owners or shareholders. Instead, they articulate and claim to serve a broad, public (DeMars 2006, 41 42) He then goes on to point out that one of the main sources of controve rsy when discussing defined, by whom and on what basis. He rightfully points out that these are contested concepts, whose meanings are not fixed, changing with time and f rom society to society. Again, this highlights the importance of understanding how the women of FEMUPROCAN define NGOs and considering their opinions in analyzing the extent of ization. Given that boundaries between public and private can sometimes be unclear and the source of disagreement within a society, it is not surprising that one can find a whole range of self particular political party, engaged in a wide range of commercial income generating act ivities (e.g. producing publications or providing consultancy services to other organizations) (Willetts n.d.) On the other hand there are certain activities and organizational forms, such as government bureaucracies, political parties, companies, crimina l organizations or guerrilla groups, which are almost universally seen as unacceptable for an NGO ( Ibid .). My analysis of FEMUPROCAN examines the extent to which they fit the model of an NGO by using the ten criteria outlined above and incorporating the vi ewpoints of my

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108 informants, who tended to define NGOs as organizations staffed by professional, well educated women and funded with international money. Internally NGOs were regarded as undemocratic, with a tendency towards top down leadership and little ac countability to the women involved in their projects. For these reasons it was hardly surprising that the women of FEMUPROCAN were quick to reject any suggestions that their organization had undergone any of the effects of NGO ization. Difference between a n NGO and a social movement or social movement organization Now that definitions for both social movement organizations and NGOS have been established, it is useful to highlight the differences between the two. There has been a tendency in the literature to write off the actions of NGOs as inherently less political than immediate problems, whereas SMOs attempt to bring about long term changes. James Petras, for example, argu es that the main difference between NGOs and social movements is that NGOs although they adopt much of the same rhetoric used by social movement participants, attempt to be non confrontational, and thus often fail to address the underlying reasons for str uctural inequalities in a society : produce at the margins but not to struggle to control the basic means of production and wealth; they focus on technical financial assistance of projects, n ot on structural conditions that shape the everyday lives of people. The NGOs co up to a framework of collaboration with donors and government agencies that subordinate practical activity to nonconfron tational politics. (Petras 1997, 11) This approach seems rather narrow and overly simplistic. Petras focuses on only one type of NGO, igno ring the fact that there are huge differences among NGOS. Some

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109 do seek primarily to address basic needs or provide services without much consideration of why the people need the services in the first place, or how to stop people from finding themselves in a similar situation in the future. On the other hand advocacy NGOs seek to bring about policy changes, and challenge current government practices or existing regulations. Many NGOs combine aspects of service provision and advocacy, mixing short term projec ts with longer term objectives. movements were not considered to be social movements in the same way as labor movements (Bickham Mendez 2005, 66) The reality, as always, depends on the meanings we give to certain words, and how these words are interpreted by others, especially those in positions of power and responsibility. Bickham Mend ez (2005) cautions against the construction of a false dichotomy ns the risk of reifying the revolutionary versus reformist She illustrates that the boundaries between the two are blurred and shift over time. Many organizations combine certain characteristics normally associated with NGOs, with others generally attributed to social movements. As organizations develop over time, they constantly adjust these combinations of characteristics, meaning that a group such as the MEC may easily be considered a social movement organization one day, and NGO the n ext, depending on the moments, and who is doing

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110 the asking. In the case of the MEC, Bickham Mendez views this as a deliberate strategy on the part of the leaders: rompiendo esquemas patterns, they are attempting to create an organization that merges the commitment to populism practiced within the mass organizations of the Sandinistas with the bureaucratization and professionalism that are increasingly necessary for social justice organizations, and perhaps democr atic politics, in a context of the developing world und er conditions of globalization (Bickham Mendez 2005, 122) Peter Willets (n.d.) also disagrees with the tendency to contrast nongovernmental organizations and social movements, but for different reaso ns. He points out that the different groups with shared objectives. Often some of these groups are in fact NGOs. For Willets, NGOs form an essential component of social movement s because: If an idea is to catch the imagination of people, it has to be articulated by leaders through speeches, pamphlets or visual images. If the idea is going to reach large numbers of people, resources have to be mobilized and allocated to communicat ion processes. If demonstrations are to occur, they have to be organized. If a movement is to achieve change, priorities have to be selected and targets designated. If a protest lasts more than a few days to become a movement, existing organizations or new organizations will provide the skeleton that transforms an am o rphous mass into a strong body (Willetts n.d.) I therefore expected to find that although FEMUPROCAN may appear to fit the definition of social movement organization, popular membership organi zation or NGO described above, they were likely to have incorporated elements traditionally associated with other organizational forms. Whether they emerged looking more like an NGO or an s in Nicaragua.

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111 FEMUPROCAN So where does FEMUPROCAN fit into all this? The leaders repeatedly reaffirmed that the movement was not an NGO, but rather a trade association for women producers. FEMUPROCAN a s Trade Association On paper, certainly, the organiz ation seems to fit the profile of a popular membership organization better than that of most definitions of NGOs. Its membership is comprised of women engaged in the same types of economic activity, namely agriculture and raising livestock, and organized i nto cooperatives. Theoretically the members of FEMUPROCAN pay monthly dues to belong to the organization, which is primarily designed to further the interests of its members. Both the national and local leadership are elected democratically by the membersh ip. Many of these leaders were once producers themselves, and come from relatively poor backgrounds. They connection to the countryside and the base of the organization de spite being based largely in Managua. Having an office in the Nicaraguan capital allows the national leadership to engage in lobbying and advocacy work to advance the interests of their members. In this way, FEMUPROCAN could be seen as an interest group or popular organization. supposed to pay monthly dues for the upkeep of the organization, the reality is that less than twenty per cent of members actually contribute. In most membership based organiza tions in the developed world, failure to pay would lead to automatic dismissal from the organization. In FEMUPROCAN, not paying subscriptions appears to lead to nothing more than

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112 exasperation from the national leadership and a reminder of the importance of contributing to the organization. Many of the members may genuinely not be able to wonder how successful the leadership is going to be in encouraging more members to pay if those who ot to be penalized in any way. The money comes from FEMUPROCAN a s Social Movement Organization However, when one examines the goals of the organization, it becomes clear tha t FEMUPROCAN is not just seeking to secure benefits for its members but it is also fighting to transform Nicaraguan society in a number of ways. This involves working towards gender equality and for recognition of the importance and value of rural women p roducers to the country. The visio to achieve the greater participation of rural women producers and entrepreneurs in the economic and (FEMUPROCAN n.d.) These women currently face triple discrim ination due to their rurality, their gender, and their poverty. FEMUPROCAN has fought hard to construct this shared identity among its members and for recognition of this identity as rural women producers by the wider Nicaraguan population. They are involv ed in contentious politics in that they are challenging the mainstream discourses about gender roles and the position of rural people in modern Nicaraguan society. empowered women le aders is evidence that the organization shares certain beliefs and practices with other organizations of women working in Nicaragua. In this way particular, is a major player in the

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113 actually more of a social movement organization? The answer is not that simple. In fact, in a number of important ways FEMUPROCAN fits the profile of an NGO. FEMUPROCAN a s N GO L ike many other organizations in Nica ragua over the past two decades, FEMUPROCAN has not been immune to the processes of NGO ization sweeping across the region. They have faced pressure to professionalize their organization, expanding their Managua team of full time paid employees and moving the headquarters from its original location, in a garage, to an air conditioned office in the Bolonia area of Managua 3 This office is equipped with four desktop computers, all with access to the internet, a phone line and fax numbers. FEMUPROCAN also owns two laptop computers and various other items of audiovisual equipment, allowing them to show PowerPoint presentations and videos during the workshops. Not only have the Managua team learned how to use a number of different computer programs to produce a w ide range of printed materials, they have also trained in a number of different methodologies required by their NGO partners. For example, the system of planning, monitoring and evaluation being implemented at the moment uses logical frameworks to identify goals and indicators at each stage of the process. Each member of the national team has a clearly defined role and area of expertise, (although they admitted that everybody helps one another out as much as possibl e when the workload is heavy). Further ev idence of increasing specialization of 3 This area, fashionable and expensive a few years ago, and the location for many embassies and consulates, has recently e xperienced a period of decline. Nevertheless it is still described in travel guides (Arghiris & Leonardi, 2008)

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114 team talk about their work. The women at the headquarters have all become fluent in lect fashionable trends in international developmen t discourse. These discourses have not only served to alter the way in which the women talk about their work, but they also seem to have influenced the whole structure of the organization and its stated go als. For example, cutting Gender and Development, Cooperativism, Women Entrepreneurs and the Environment (noticeably absent from this list is any consideration of race). They claim that they integrate these four topics into all of their actions. Many social movements are identified by their active opposition to the status quo in some form or other, and the engagement in a number of forms of contentious politics (e.g. mass dem onstrations, protest marches, petitions and, sometimes, acts of civil disobedience). NGOs, by contrast, are normally seen to be less overtly confrontational. FEMUPROCAN, although it has educated its members about their rights and encouraged them to partici pate in politics, has, on the whole, shied away from organizing and/or officially participating in many of these highly visible forms of protest or vocal opposition to particular policies. Although they claim to be fighting to end rural on in Nicaragua they have remained silent (as an organization) on economic rights. The proj ects implemented by FEMUPROCAN and its provision of credit and training services to its members also appear to fit in better with the role normally

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115 assigned to nongovernmental organizations, rather than social movements. Their primary aim appears to be to improve the material well being of their beneficiaries, not to pressur e power holders into changing policies or transforming systems. Could it be that FEMUPROCAN, in its determination to distance itself from party politics, has chosen to refrain from all p olitical protest as an organization and focus on encouraging their individual members to participate in actions organized by others on an individual basis? This may well be the most prudent strategy, given the current Ortega therapeutic abortion. Nonetheless, this sort of reluctance to take a public position on many issues is not what is normally associated with social movement organizations. FEMUPROCAN, in this regard, could be seen to be concentrating on the provision of services (a role usually carried out by NGOs) rather than the mobilization of its members. I n keeping with the definition of NGOs outlined above, one could argue that the goals of the organization are altruist ic and that it is a private organization pursuing a public purpose They aim to improve the lives of some of the poorest people in Nicaragua, both economically and with regard to their position in society. FEMUPROCAN seeks not only to achieve change at the macro level, but also at the level of the individual, through a process of personal development and leadership. At the same time they are helping to ensure the basic needs of their members are met. Few could argue that these are not examples of altruism. Aside from the desire to generate enough money to pay for the administrative costs of FEMUPROCAN (including the salaries of the leadership), the training programs

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116 and the projects formulated by the organization, FEMUPROCAN is not geared towards the pursuit of profit. They seek to increase the profits made by their members, but the overwhelming majority of this money would remain with the producers at the grassroots (with a small percentage being reinvested in the individual cooperative to pay for f uture ini tiatives and projects) The members of the national leadership do not earn high salaries, and the promotoras are provided with a very minimal amount of money for the amount of time and effort some of them put into their work. Thus, overall FEMUPROCAN could be classified as a nonprofit organization. They do not maintain any official ties to political parties (for more information on this please refer to the section on autonomy), religious organizations, commercial enterprises or groups engaged in illegal and /or violent activities. Although they sometimes are consulted about policy decisions by institutions linked to the Nicaraguan government, FEMUPROCAN is not employed by the state and is not dependent on the state for funding. Many of the members were activ e participants in the Sandinista revolution of 1979 but this has not translated into any form of military or armed action by FEMUPROCAN. Membership is entirely voluntary, and open to all who fulfill the criteria outlined by the individual cooperatives at t he grassroots. However, although members and cooperatives may leave the organization at any time, it is up to the individual cooperatives to determine the rules regarding re entry into the cooperative. In this way FEMUPROCAN differs from many NGOs who allo w people to join, withdraw their support and then subsequently rejoin as many times as they please.

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117 Perhaps some of the most important contrasts between NGOs as defined above and FEMUPROCAN are related to the question of organizational structure and accoun tability. Both in much of the literature and in many of my conversations with members of FEMUPROCAN NGOs were characterized as top down, hierarchical organizations led by unelected professionals with little accountability to the participants in the project s implemented by the organization. Whilst FEMUPROCAN does indeed have a clear chain of command, and various hierarchical tendencies remain, the leadership (both the national and the local) are elected by the membership and can be held accountable by the g rassroots for the projects implemented and strategies chosen. As explained in the section on autonomy, FEMUPROCAN is also accountable to its donors, as are all NGOs, but it differs in that all of the grassroots women interviewed responded that they felt th and the membership of FEMUPROCAN, and they feel confident that any complaints or problems they encountered with the projects would be addressed quickly and without many objections from those responsible for its design, implementat ion, monitoring and evaluation. Like many NGOs, FEMUPROCAN has sought to formalize its organizational structures and procedures. They produce a range of promotional literature in which the mission statement and vision of the organization are clearly identified, and the princip al objectives are described. They have introduced standardized methods for the formulation, monitoring and evaluation of the projects implemented by the various cooperatives. Regular meetings are scheduled and clear job titles (and associated

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118 responsibilities) are defined. In this way FEMUPROCAN appears to more closely resemble an NGO than the more informal relationships of ten found in studies of social movement organizations. However, once we remember that the women in FEMUPROCAN associated NGOs with urban, well educated and professional women, it again becomes clear that the organization should not necessarily be described as completely NGO ized. Many of the national leadership had been farmers themselves, or come from rural areas. Martha Valle did not learn to read until the Sandinista literacy campaign in the 1980s, and Blanca Torres still tried to return to her home in M atagalpa as often as she could at the weekends. She had first become involved in FEMUPROCAN by joining her local cooperative, and had risen through the organization to become a vital member of the Managua team. Torres was now being paid to study Gender and Development at the UNIFEM. She was clear evidence of the pressures for professionalization and specialization identified by Alvarez (1998) as key components of the NGO ization of that they were not an NGO and that their leadership maintained contact with the grassroots of th e organization, being grassroots women themselves. Cooperative Organizations and FEMUPROCAN In contrast to the MEC the members of FEMUPROCAN are organized into cooperatives and unions of cooperatives affiliated to the national organization. Cooperatives ra nge from loose associations of people who come together to gain access to a particular resource or service to groups in which all resources are pooled

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119 among members and every stage of production and marketing is organized collectively. Some cooperatives re quire membership fees or enforce strict regulations about conditions for entry and continued membership whereas others are more informal, looser groups of people with members who come and go over time. There are cooperatives that were formed by governments social movement organizations and NGOs, but there are also those founded by the members themselves on their own initiative. The degree of internal democracy may also vary, but many cooperatives hold periodic elections for the posts of President, Vice Pre sident, Treasurer, Secretary and other leadership positions. These people often represent the cooperative in its dealings with other organizations and government institutions, coordinate meetings and manage the day to day business of running the cooperativ e. Normally all members of the cooperative are given a chance to express their opinions and participate in important decision making processes. Cooperatives are likely to hold periodic general assemblies to which all members are invited, organize work coun cils to focus on specific tasks or activities and hold training sessions open to members (including the dissemination of training and skills learned by cooperative representatives at regional or national meetings of larger organizations). In Nicaragua, th e FSLN encouraged the formation of cooperatives after the 1979 revolution in both the urban and rural areas by a combination of economic pressure and persuasion (Bugajski 1990, 54). The mass organizations affiliated to the Sandinista party in the countrysi de, the ATC and, later, UNAG played a key role in mobilizing the peasantry and forming cooperatives. The vast majority of land redistributed under the FSLN agrarian reform was allocated to the cooperative sector and many peasants

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120 realized that their best c hance of accessing land and credit was to organize as a cooperative ( Ibid. ). For the FSLN, the objective of cooperative organizations should have been to produce and manage resources collectively and, initially, private sector initiatives in which members maintained an individual stake in profit sharing were discouraged. The growth and development of cooperative farms was further encouraged throughout the period of Sandinista government by the provision of significant state subsidies and government resource s to campesinos organized into cooperatives, even if these cooperatives were not economically self sustaining or functioning properly. This tended to create a degree of dependency and expectation of handouts among cooperative members. There were two main k inds of cooperatives founded by the FSLN: Credit and Service Cooperatives (CCS) and Sandinista Agricultural Cooperatives (CAS). In the case of the CCS, credit and technical assets were held collectively but land remained in the hands of the individual prod ucers. Members were able to make their own decisions about which crop varieties to cultivate, but were expected to sell their production through the state marketing agency, the Nicaraguan Enterprise of Basic Foodstuffs ( ENABAS ) Any government assistance o r subsidies granted to the cooperative were administered by the cooperative leadership and benefits shared among members. The production cooperatives (CAS) represented the next level up in terms of 1990, 56). Members shared all resources, land was held collectively and all income was administered by the cooperative leadership, who determined how it was allocated. These cooperatives initially attracted mainly poor peasants an d rural workers but

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121 expanded to represent over a third of all agricultural cooperatives in Nicaragua by the end of the 1980s. Many women remained some of the poorest peasants in the country, which may cooperatives are organized as production cooperatives (which tended to attract the poorer peasants) rather than credit and services cooperatives (which often appealed most to the middle peasantry). All cooperatives active in Nicaragua today are required to abide by the General Law of Cooperatives passed in 2005 and amended in 2007 This law prohibits discrimination on the grounds of gender race, social class or political or religious views. It also establishes a number of regulations and structures designe d to ensure the cooperatives function democratically and that all memb ers are able to participate in decision making processes and share in the benefits. Membership is voluntary and cooperatives are required to maintain a degree of autonomy and independenc e from other organizations and political parties Having said that, they are encouraged to coordinate with other cooperatives by forming second and third degree organizations. FEMUPROCAN can therefore be classified as a third level cooperative organization (comprised primarily of production cooperatives organized into unions of cooperatives). Each level of the organization is required to follow the requirements set out in the General Law on Cooperatives and function democratically. In addition, each level m aintains a degree of independence and is not totally subsumed into the larger organization. Interestingly, although FEMUPROCAN declares itself to be an organization of rural women, given that they are governed by the aforementioned General Law on Coop erati ves, they are actually unable to refuse to accept men into the cooperatives affiliated with the

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122 organization. Consequently, a very few men have been incorporated into which allow in dividual membership, cooperative organizations require all their members to be organized into cooperatives, and it is the entire cooperative that is affiliated with the higher level organization, rather than the individuals. C onclusions To summarize, it se ems fair to say that FEMUPROCAN has undergone similar processes to those experienced by the MEC as described by Bickham Mendez. Both of these organizations could be seen to portray characteristics often associated with Trade Associations, as well as many o f those outlined in definitions of both NGOs and Social Movement Organizations. This begs the question about whether it is necessary, or even useful, to define them as one or the other. However, in the light of ey be considered similar to an NGO, I have opted for the following statement: FEMUPROCAN can be best described as a the rural cooperative movement. They are fighting to trans form the position of rural women producers in the country. They are also clearly a cooperative organization, although I was to discover that this did not necessarily mean that all of the cooperatives were functioning as they should and in accordance with t he General Law on Cooperatives. Whereas cooperativism certainly provides the organizational structure for FEMUPROCAN and guidelines for the operation of the organization at all levels I discovered that the base level cooperatives displayed an uneven commit ment to the practice of cooperativism. For example, despite the fact that many of the cooperatives are production cooperatives, one of the most frequent complaints I heard from the

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123 women I interviewed was that the majority of the members still produced and marketed their products individually. 4 During their struggle to establish themselves as a strong, autonomous organization they have undergone a process of partial NGO ization, notably reflected in an increasing professionalization and specialization of me mbers of the national leadership. However, this has not led the national leadership to completely lose touch with the members at the grassroots, and FEMUPROCAN can be held accountable for its actions to both the international donor agencies and, crucially, its members. 4 in the Chapter 6.

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124 C HAPTER 6 The second part of my main research question concerns whether successful organizations can emerge from class based mass organizations. In order to answer this question it is first necessary to cons ider how to define the success of a social movement, and how this success can be measured. This chapter analyse s the extent to which FEMUPROCAN could be described as successful, highlighting the areas in which they appear to have secured considerable advan ces, as well as those where they have not managed to make much progress. What C onstitutes S uccess and H ow C an I t B e M easured? The concept of success when analyzing social movements and social movement organizations is still the source of some scholarly deb ate Perhaps one of the most important issues in this debate is that of subjectivity. Success means differe nt things to different people, (Giugni 1998, 383) ,whic h makes it difficult for the researcher to justify why their version of success should be any more valid than as Gamson observed in his influential study of social protest (1975), success What of the group whose leaders are honored or rewarded while their supposed beneficiaries linger in the same cheerless state as before?...Is a group a failure if it collapses with no legacy save inspiration to a generation that will soon take up the same cause w ith more tangible results? And what do we conclude about a group that accomplishes exactly what it set out to achieve and then finds its victory empty of real meaning for its presumed beneficiaries? (Gamson 1990 [1975], 28) Thus is seems clear that one sho uld not judge the success or failure of a movement merely on whether they achieve their objectives, although this remains an

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125 important component of the definition of success. What Gamson is arguing for is that we do not accept the achievement of stated ob jectives at face value, but that we examine whether these achievements have translated into real improvements for the people the SMO is supposed to represent. With regard to the dilemma he poses about groups which collapse without having achieved any tangi ble results, but serve as inspiration for later generations, it seems that there is no easy answer. These groups would appear to have failed in their objectives, but are apparently successful in sustaining ideas of the social movement and disseminating the m to future generations of activists. If the movement subsequently achieves the goals laid out by the original organization, can they be described as successful? The work of Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward (1979) can perhaps help to shed some light on this matter. Responding to criticisms that the gains of the movements they analyzed were insufficient they suggest that these critics had failed to more realistic q uestion whether the gains made were intrinsically important, and thus worth winning, is not addressed. Nor do the critics say why more was possible, how la rger gains might have been made (Fox Piven and Cloward 1979, xiii) They highlight the importance of judging the success or failure of social movements in terms of what was possible. This necessitates a consideration of the wider political and social context in the light Ibid xv) to ascertain whether things could have been done differently. Strategies that are successful in one context may be ineffectual in

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126 another. With this in mind, the success of FEMUPROCAN cannot be gauged without an examination of Nicaraguan society in the period following the 1990 electoral defeat of the FSLN and, in particular, from 1997, when FEMUPROCAN was founded, until today. An an alysis of this period can be found in Chapter 2 of this thesis. One of the most commonly used measurements of the success of social movements is that of government policy changes (Wong 2007) This is based on the argument that government authorities and in stitutions form the primary target of social movements, whose general goal is to affect some type of governmental policy change. However, whilst this is indeed a key objective of many social movements at a national level, Giugni points out that this is not a sufficient measure of success. Many social movements active around the world today may be as, if not more, concerned with changing the attitudes of the general population, or a key sector of that population in order to provoke changes in government poli cy (Giugni 1998, 385) He cites Melucci political side of new social movements, as they have identity related goals that do not Ib id ., 385). Therefore it seems clear that only analyzing policy changes is not enough. What is less obvious is how to measure success in terms of these identity related goals. Tilly (1996) raises another question with regard to the analysis of the effects o f social movements. He observes that there are often both intended and unintended contradictory to the objectives of the movement. He queries the usefulness of the terms

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127 (Tilly 1998 268 ) Instead, he conceives the problem as a set of three, overlapping circles, namely: outside events and actions. T he ways in which these circles overlap produces d ifferent analytical categories (see Figure 6 1) To measure the success or failure of a social movement organization such as FEMUPROCAN one would want to consider the area of overlap between the effects of m However, as Giugni observes this does not do away with the problems caused by differing evaluations of what constitutes success. For some this success might entail the achiev e Some outcomes are the result of both social movement actions and those of outside influences bearing directly on movement claims (area B). Thus, while this di agram provides us with a neat illustration of the complexity involved in provide us with any methods of distinguishing the causes of a particular effect. It may not alw is the result of external forces. This problem of correctly identifying causality has no easy solution. In my analysis of FEMUPROCAN I have attempted to investigate the reasons behind the changes in policy that have benefitted rural women and changes in attitudes

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128 therefore investigate how other groups, whether the government, other c ivil society org anizations and international organizations, may have also played a role in the introduction of these changes, and attempt to identify whether these changes could be organiza tion, it is my contention that there must be convincing evidence to support the argument that FEMUPROCAN has influenced and/or is influencing changes in policy or societal attitudes towards achieving its objectives. If changes are the result of work done initiatives then progress towards these goals should still be celebrated, but FEMUPROCAN could not be described as a successful social movement organization. FEMUPROCAN should thu s be assessed on the basis of their specific contribution as an organization in affecting changes and progressing towards their goals and this contribution should be compared with that made by other actors. To illustrate my point, if FEMUPROCAN states that one of its goals is to improve the education of its members and reports that one year later 99% of its members have passed the equivalent of tenth grade this should not necessarily be taken as evidence that FEMUPROCAN is a successful organization. If we w ere to analyze the situation in more detail we might discover that FEMUPROCAN created an educational trainin g program that only covered 2% of its members, half of whom dropped out after a week, an d managed to graduate only 5% of its initial intake. This co uld hardly be described as making a significant contribution to the increase in the educational level of its members. On the contrary, it would provide evidence to suggest that FEMUPROCAN was not a particularly

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1 29 successful organization. The success would ha ve to be attributed to other actors. On the other hand, if, on closer inspection, it appears that FEMUPROCAN implemented a highly effective educational training program for all of its members (which graduated all of its students and retained the vast major therefore would have played an important role in the overall improvement of the education of its members and the initiative could be taken as a sign that FEMUPROCAN is a successful organization. So how do we measures of success may be useful here. These are defined as the acceptance of challengers as legitimate claimants and the obtaining of new advantages for constituents (Gamson 1990 [1975]) For Ibid., 31).He proposes that this more positive relationship can be identified from four main indicators: consultation, negotiation, formal recognition, and inclusion ( Ibid ., 32). Consultation must be instigated main targets for their contentious politic s) and must be carried out in a manner in which Negotiations should be undertaken over a sustained period of time and provide representatives of a constituency antagonist making explicit, typically in writing, that it recognizes the challenging group as a legitimate spokesman for a designated const

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130 st retaining the members of the social movement organization as m embers (Wong 2007, 63) em of subjectivity resurfaces : not be so for the alleged beneficiaries; and achievements considered to be a gain from (Wong 2007, 63) To try and minimize this proble m I interviewed both the leaders of FEMUPROCAN and women from the grassroots to find out what they considered to be the greatest successes of the organization, and its biggest weaknesses. I attempted to find out what he leadership had had on their members a t the base of the organization. For the purposes of this thesis I define success as having two main compone nts; f irstly, the ability of FEMUPROCAN to influence the government and the general public, in order to achie ve their objectives and benefit their members at the grassroots, and secondly, the extent to which FEMUPROCAN has been accepted as a legitimate negotiation, recognitio n and inclusion to analyze whether FEMUPROCAN has successfully gained acceptance by the government, by international organizations, and by the general public.

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131 Has FEMUPROCAN B een A ble t o Influence t he Government a nd t he General Public i n Nicaragua t o Achie ve t heir Objectives a nd Benefit t heir Members a t t he Grassroots? leadership and lobbying capacity at the national and local level, with the aim of promoting and formulating economic policy that benefits all rural women producers and entrepreneurs in the economic and social affa Ibid .). In order to work towards achieving these overall goals, FEMUPROCAN has identified four principal institutional objectives. These are: 1. to be a strong organization with leadership capacity; 2. to facilitate the training of cap able, empowered women leaders; 3. to strengthen the business and entrepreneurial skills of women producers; and 4. to influence the processes of promotion and formulation of policies related to the countryside and women producers. They also have pinpointed four cross cutting themes to be integrated into all their actions: gender and development, cooperativism, women entrepreneurs, and environmental protection. FEMUPROCAN has also developed strategic components linked to these institutional objectives which explain the actions the organization will take in each of the aforementioned areas. They have constructed lists of indicators and set targets for the organization as a whole. Each cooperative is also expected to have formulated their own targets (with assi stance from the national team) and to report on their progress (SPME).

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132 A S trong O rganization with L eadership C apacity? The specific objectives relating to organization and l eadership are found under the headings association and community leadership, formulation and management of projects, growth and subscriptions, legality of the cooperatives, and planning, monitoring and evaluation. It includes assessment of the legality of land, internal regulations, the payment of dues to the cooperatives and control and monitoring of the growth in membe rs. To monitor this FEMUPROCAN maintains a system of planning, monitoring and evaluation, financed by the Centro Cooperativo Sueco, which i dentifies the needs of each cooperative, formulates the Annual Operational Plan (POA) of each cooperative and tracks progress (UNIFEM Central America 2007). Association and c ommunity l eadership FEMUPROCAN states that it is keen for its members to assume l eadership positions within the organization and their communities and it appears that although the president and vice president of FEMUPROCAN have remained the same since the organization was founded (1997) this does not mean that there are no opportunitie s for promotion for those at the grassroots. Torres, for example, began by participating in her local cooperative in Matagalpa. Her talent was identified and she quickly rose through the ranks to become a full time member of the national team, in charge of the system of planning, monitoring and evaluation. organization was keen to focus on the development of their human resources and the construction of a strong organization. They were su pported in this goal by El Centro Cooperativo Sueco, which financed training workshops for the leaders of FEMUPROCAN. It seems that this initial focus is reflected in the knowledge and use of

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133 a number of methodologies and analytical tools by the national t eam. Torres, in particular, is keen to continue to develop her skills and sharing what she has learned with the members of the organization: In my own case, it has been one of my goals to always be training myself, always be updating myself, always be stud ying because the more updated knowledge we have the more we have to give to the organizat ion, right? This is a benefit if you personally, satisfactorily, fill yourself up with knowledge that contributes to your personal growth then you can share what you have been taught with other members. Right now I am going to university and I want to share this knowledge, to replicate what I have been taught with the two thousand and something women members of FEMUP ROCAN through training programs. 1 FEMUPROCAN hopes th at this sort of training will enable its members to feel capable of assuming leadership positions within their communities, and improve their leadership capacity within their cooperatives and FEMUPROCAN. According to en had leadership posts or positions of responsibility within their communities. These included Health Brigadistas Environment Brigadistas Members of Councils of Citizen Power (CPCs), members of Municipal Development Committees, members of regional commi ttees, Health and Education Coordinators and members of Sandinista committees. Many of the women I interviewed were proud of their position within their communities and attributed part of their recognition as community leaders to the work they do with FEMU PROCAN and the training they had received. Denis Medina, from the Centro Cooperativo Sueco seems to increased the ability of women to produce and to exercise greater leadership, leadership at the level of the cooperatives as well as leadership at the level of their municipality. The women leaders of FEMUPROCAN also 1 Interview with Blanca Lidia Torres, Managua, August 3rd, 2009

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134 have community leadership in the municipalities and are taken into account in the 2 I was interested to find out whether this community involvement was seen as However, despite the extra work involved in carrying out these leadership roles, it appeared that the women saw this as a worthwhile sacrifice. They enj oyed the status that these roles gave them within the community and they relished the opportunity to take part in decision making processes. They thus worked hard to fit these new responsibilities into and around their other work and had been encouraged by the progress they had made and the feeling that they were contributing to the development of their communities: I know that one day I will not exist but as long as I live as long as I have strength to give to the community I will continue to help the co part of the school governing board I negotiated the land for the construction of a school and we achieved it. So, everything I have learned about organizing has been of great use to me, not only to help my family or myself, but also to help the community, to the children who are studying, of course. To administer a project is something that is remembered in the community, in the town so even when I die people who see the school are a Chepita did that, when she was on the b oard of 3 The women at the grassroots are thus not only receiving training in leadership, but they are putting this training into action and winning recognition within their communities. This has not gone unnoticed by local governments, who would call the women in order to define some proposals, and even to discuss some budgeting 2 Denis Medina, CCS, Managua, August 1 st 2009 3 Clara, President of a FEMUPROCAN cooperative, Terrabona, July 21, 2009

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135 strong local leadership capacity. However, there were some problems also reported at the local level due to political differences. Sometimes local governments only took those leaders who supported the same political party into account. This had led to some frustration 4 It could be argued that the women who and that their leadership is the cause, not the effect of their membership. However, I heard numerous cases where women explaine d that before they joined FEMUPROCAN, they had been afraid to speak in front of anybody and thought that people would laugh at them. As a result of their experiences with the organization, however, they had become more confident in their dealings with othe r people and developed their ability to present their opinions on a wide range of topics. It therefore seems fair to say that FEMUPROCAN is making progress in achieving this objective, efforts. Formulation and m anagement of p rojects autonomy formulate and manage projects. Some regions, such as Nueva G uinea, appear to be relatively successful in this regard, whereas other areas are still very dependent on the national team. Women from the more successful areas praised the freedom granted to the regional and local levels of the organization to design and manage their own 4 For more details on this problem, see the chapter on autonomy

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136 projects whereas some members from less successful cooperatives lamented their lack In order to address the uneven level of success and capabilities, FE MUPROCAN has produced a number of printed materials and held workshops on how to do a feasibility study and how to design a project. However, there has been a tendency for the women to base their project ideas on the cases discussed in these workshops, wit h the result that they all appear to want to do the same things (and have not fully considered whether the case would work in their area or what the implications would be if all of the cooperatives in a region suddenly began to produce the same thing). Rai sing chickens for eggs appeared to be by far the most popular project, as the women themselves commen It was also unclear as to the success that the women had in getting their projects funded. Often they lacked the technical writing skills necessary to secure money from international development organizations, and still faced discrimination (because they were women) when it came to getting an appointment with various other funding institutions (both public and private). Even w hen their proposals were accepted the women often felt that they were allocated less money than similar initiatives proposed by mixed sex organizations. Mara Luisa, daughter of Modesta Gonzlez, d that FEMUPROCAN Nueva Guinea had just applied for funding for a project and been granted C$4,900. This was certainly an achievement, but the women felt aggrieved that a similar project not targeted at women had recently received C$25,000 from the same fu nding organization. She saw this as a clear demonstration of the gap that exists

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137 between men and women, even when dealing with international development organizations. It seems that although FEMUPROCAN is attempting to train its members in project formulat ion and management, there is still much work to be done on this matter. For example, in 2008, FEMUPROCAN reported that they had formulated and administered just eight projects at the level of grassroots cooperatives, unions and the federation (FEMUPROCAN 2 008). Especially considering that most of these projects were formulated at the national level, this does not suggest that FEMUPROCAN is succeeding in their aim of enabling women to devise and manage their own projects. Growth and s ubscriptions s objectives in this area are twofold; firstly they are attempting to increase the number of members in the organization, to increase their national presence; and secondly they aim to increase the percentage of members who pay their dues, generating resour ces vital for FEMUPROCAN to function without the support of donor organizations. However, progress on these two areas appears to be slow and uneven. Their 2008 report states that they increased membership by 112 women, and collected a grand total of C$11,3 52.00 in dues. 5 According to their website attended to directly. 6 T herefore, in 2008, less than 13% of the total members paid their sub scriptions, or approximately 30% of members at tended to directly. This has been a problem since the beginning of the organization and does not look likely to drastically 5 This equates to approximately $540 at March 2010 rates. 6 The number attended to directly refers to the number of women cooperative members who participate in FEMUPROCAN. The other, larger number includes family members of FEMUPROCAN membe rs who

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138 cultura de cotizaci n paying culture) in Nica raguan cooperatives. This was, according to Diaz, mainly due to the fact that the cooperatives were formed by groups to defend their land in the Sandinista period, in the context of the fierce Contra War that plagued parts of the countryside, rather than t o work together. Others were formed because Sandinista programs favored cooperatives when distributing grants or in formulating new policies. This means that now, even when individual members of the cooperatives are doing well economically (sometimes becau se of projects implemented by FEMUPROCAN) they do not give any of this profit to the cooperative. 7 Changing mentalities about the need to begin contributing to the organization and to their cooperative will not be easy, especially when there do not, at pre sent, appear to be sanctions for failure to pay. Moreover, even if the number of members increased in 2008, overall membership does not seem to have expanded much over the last five years. Measuring membership in FEMUPROCAN is complicated, with some source s citing the total number of members and others the lower figure of the number attended to directly. For example, between 2006 and 2009 FEMUPROCAN appears to have lost 300 members. However, they have increased the number attended to directly by 400. Does t his represent a success in increasing membership? Nor has the process been uniform across the organization and whereas some cooperatives did increase their membership, others experienced a decline in the uge decrease as a cooperative. 7 Interview with CCS, Managua, August 1 st 2009

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139 8 There also appears to be some disagreement about the importance of increasing membership at this poin t (although all members of the national leadership agree about the need to improve the collection of subscriptions). Whereas it is clearly outlined in the Annual Operational Plan that increasing the number of members is one of e that by the end of 2009 FEMUPROCAN aimed to have added 16 new cooperatives), Diaz told me that FEMUPROCAN believed that bigger was not always better. She said that FEMUPROCAN had enough trouble trying to attend to all of the cooperatives they have at the moment and are attempting to make them more self reliant before the national leadership can contemplate expanding the organization any further. Thus, overall, while the organization appears to have met with limited success in this area in terms of maintai ning a fairly steady number of members and the addition of some new ones, the problem of convincing members to pay dues still plagues the organization, and they have not managed to significantly increase their number of members. So FEMUPROCAN cannot be des cribed as particularly successful in this regard. Legality of the c ooperatives Whatever their lack of success in achieving their objectives with regard to membership FEMUPROCAN can take some comfort from their resounding successes in other areas. One of th e most important of these for the strength of the organization, 8 Adela, President of a FEMUPROCAN Cooperative in Rio Blanco, Managua, July 15, 2009.

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140 and for the women at the grassroots, concerns the legality of the cooperatives. FEMUPROCAN is, it seems, close to achieving its targets in this area, with all of its cooperatives legalized or in the process of legalization. 9 This is no mean feat, as legalization can be a long and complicated process women at the grassroots were reluctant at first to dedicate so many hours to something they did not regard as particularly important for improving their own lives. For about why complying with all the regulations was important and then to g uide them through the process from start to finish. This dedication on the part of the national team was acknowledged and praised by the women at the base, the vast majority of whom now seemed to grasp why legalization was necessary. However, it is not jus t the length of the process that discourages women. It is clear that the complexity of the process means that the base level cooperatives really are dependent on the expertise of the Managua office, consulting them in detail about every step of the process This, and legalization in general, requires resources, which sometimes the women do not have. FEMUPROCAN, suffering from a reduction in funds from its international partners (an effect of the economic crisis) can no longer support the women throughout th e entire process in the way that they used to: mobilization costs. It is necessary to spend money and sometimes you lling them to give you legal status. Now perhaps they give them more quickly, 9 As of 2008, 55 cooperatives were fully legalized in accorda nce with Law 499 and 16 were in the process of obtaining their personera jur dica or legal status.

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141 but there are always paperwork expenses. You have to open bank accounts and produce legal documents, and save so that they will grant you legal status. It is a difficult process, which requires money to keep going. And there is continue supporting people in obtaining their legal status r ight no 10 The complicated, drawn out and expensive nature of the process makes the fact more impressive. This achievement has not gone unrecognized by the National Institute for the Promotion of Cooperatives (INFOCOOP) and other cooperative organizations. service to cooperatives who are not affiliated with FEMUPROCAN, but who r ecognize cooperatives. So there is a demand, with people requesting these services and the 11 To summarize, it appears that FEMUPROCAN has achieved an indisputab le success with regard to this objective and gained recognition from their membership, government institutions and other organizations. This has been achieved only through the dedication and determination of the national team, in conjunction with the coope ratives themselves. Planning, m onitoring and e valuation When FEMUPROCAN broke away from UNAG the leaders realized that they needed to define their work strategy and devise specific objectives. So, one of the first 10 Tania, FEMUPROCAN Cooperative Member, San Juanillo, July 22, 2009 11 luation, Managua, August 3, 2009.

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142 things that they did was to carry out a ce nsus of their members in order to know where the members were located, how many members they had, what they did for a living, and what level of education they had etc. The census was designed to allow the members of FEMUPROCAN to get to know one another an d in order to define what exactly it was that FEMUPROCAN was going to do. The biggest obstacle to carrying it out was money, as FEMUPROCAN lacked the resources necessary to hire professional census takers. Undeterred the women decided they would do it them selves, as Rocha explained: Our census was homemade [de manera artesanal ]. When I say homemade and the coordinators from the cooperatives made a card with a question guide and everybo dy took the cards to use in their cooperatives. It was massive. Afterwards the boxes came here, filled with all of the information. We were already half crazy from carrying out the survey, so we said well lp us. And we looked, and they said to us, OK I will give you a cheap price have that, bu t we told them to do it anyway. 12 Luckily for FEMUPROCAN, they were in contact with the representative from CCS. They explained the situation to him and he agreed to support them, providing the money for the sociologist to carry out the work and produce a document containing the findings. In this way FEMUPROCAN was able to find out how many of their members were illiterate, how many had access to land and under what tenure system, how many were single mothers and so on and so forth. However, there were still large blank spaces in the information they had collected. In order to fill these in FEMUPROCAN decided to do a socio economic diagnostic wi th a gender focus. On the basis of the 12 Matilde Rocha, Vice President of FEMUPROCAN, Managua, August 4 th 2009

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143 information from the census and the diagnostic FEMUPROCAN was able to establish detailed baseline data and define their organiza tional strategy and objectives. With the help of CCS FEMUPROCAN has implemented a detaile d system of planning, monitoring and evaluatio n (SPME), which Torres administers This system is used both at the level of the national organization and for each of the affiliated cooperatives. The members are given training sessions and assistance on how to use this system to develop their own, individual targets and monitor and evaluate their the time I was carrying out my fieldwork only the planning and some monitoring reports for the first part of that year (2009) had been completed, and these were collected in a computer database in the national office. However, FEMUPROCAN was having some difficulty in convincing the members to complete the monitoring reports and hand in their paperwork outlining targets and progress towards these. Of the reports that were returned, many were missing important information or provided little detail. This is not just a problem confined to the SPME reports, but rather something that affects data collection within the whole near Daro. She needed to collect information about how the w atering project was going. However, it soon becomes apparent that some of the monitoring sheets had not handed in their sheets. Later in the same visit Valle asked the coordinator to provide her with the

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144 receipts she had collected from the women, detailing their expenses. Again, some of these are missing and, according to the coordinator, this is because the women claim not to have been given receipts or only have part of the receipts. Some of those that have been turned in simply state the total amount, without describing what it was for. This is not to say that there is no progress being made, and the info rmation collected, however incomplete or imprecise, will still help the national team to formulate strategies to improve performance, and highlight areas of success and weakness. The more information FEMUPROCAN has about their members the better they will be able to design programs and lobby for policies that will benefit the grassroots. The 2008 report states that a total of 30 cooperatives, four unions of cooperatives, one business network and the Credit Window at the roadside market complied with the SPM E. That year FEMUPROCAN did manage to devise, monitor and evaluate 57 production plans for members involved in the watering systems project and eight unions (who represented 67 cooperatives and an individual cooperative) p resented their Departmental and/ or Local Advocacy Plan. Not only does FEMUPROCAN expect its members to provide periodic updates on their progress towards their goals but the national leadership also carries out interviews with producers and diagnostics and appraisals that attempt to evalua te the work done so far. In August and September of 2008, for example, they held evaluation meetings with every single base cooperative affiliated with FEMUPROCAN to assess the functioning and legality of the cooperatives as well as identify the main probl ems and advances.

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145 Finally, FEMUPROCAN is also required to fulfill the various planning, monitoring and evaluation requirements demanded by their international NGO partners. Each organization has different requirements, using different methodologies. For ex ample CCS hires external consultants to periodically evaluate the success of initiatives funded by the Center and carried out in conjunction with FEMUPROCAN. The results are then discussed by the two organizations, providing FEMUPROCAN with the opportunity to discover how the organization is assessed by independent analysts and what analytical tools were used to produce the report. Thus it is definitely a learning exercise for FEMUPROCAN, even if they do not always agree with all of the conclusions reached by the consultant. So, it appears that whereas FEMUPROCAN is attempting to construct a detailed and up to date database on all of their cooperatives the reality is that although some progress is being made, the most effective monitoring exercises and evalu ations so far have been those carried out either by the national team, or by external consultants specifically hired for the task. Perhaps this mixed performance on reporting by the grassroots women is linked to low literacy levels and a lack of understand ing about why this information is important. Furthermore, there does not appear to be any punishment for those cooperatives that do not provide information, or any rewards for those that do. Thus, with regard to planning, monitoring and evaluation FEMUPROC AN could be said to be partially successful, although there is much room for improvement. Training C apable, E mpowered W omen L eaders? FEMUPROCAN also works on issues related to technical assistance and training. The topics of the training sessions are varie d, from personal growth and self esteem to more technical topics (formulation of projects, how to do diagnostics, marketing etc.).

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146 They are also trained in how to do advocacy work. For each cooperative they identify what the training needs are by asking th e members which workshops they would like to receive in the future, and to name the most convenient place and time for this to happen. In fact, there are so many different topics to address that one woman joked that ing bien talleriadas de todo In 2008, FEMUPROCAN reported that they had trained 510 cooperative members, leaders and grassroots promotoras in the following topics: Strategic Planning of Organized Political Lobbying The formulation of Annual Operatio nal Plans Functioning and Legality of Cooperatives Methodology for the Formation of Business Networks with a Gender Focus Agro business and product quality in Daro, Nandaime and San Francisco Libre Post harvest in Nueva Guinea Sanitary measures and Artisa nal Processing of Foodstuffs in Daro Large Livestock in San Francisco Libre and Nueva Guinea Plan The training process is directed to 508 promotoras from the unions of cooperati ves or base level cooperatives. These promotoras attend workshops in Managua and are then expected to pass on the knowledge they have learned to the members of their cooperatives, so that every member of FEMUPROCAN can benefit from the knowledge and skills taught in the workshops. However, FEMUPROCAN requires that not just one, but two promotoras from each cooperative attend these sessions at the national office. In this way, if one person is sick or leaves the cooperative there is still another person ther e who has also attended the same workshops. I now turn to examining some of the principal training topics tackled by FEMUPROCAN.

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147 Agroecological t echniques cutting theme on the environment is most evident. Not only is the leadership of FEMUPROCAN concerned about ensuring their members can continue to farm their land for many years to come in ways that do not destroy the environment, they also link environmental issues to health. Reducing the use of industria l chemicals and educating their members about the health promoting organic farming. They have carried out workshops on the production of organic fertilizer and the benefits of re for estation, and the land owned by the roadside market is all managed organically. Martha Valle appears to be genuinely concerned with promoting environmental awareness among the members and implementing innovative techniques designed to reduce environmental damage. provides her with an opportunity to showcase some of these new techniques and to demonstrate to the members the results of organic farming and re forestation. There is even a small wind turbine providing power to some of the offices on the site. Now, whereas a wind turbine is certainly beyond the reach of most of much more affordable and feasible. Some cooperatives are making much more progress than others on this front. Others, unable to get the support of their entire cooperatives for their project have formed business networks in order for the production of organic fertilizer. Nueva Guinea, for instance, ha s (finally) been able to get its organic fertilizer business up and running after a series of failed attempts and is now

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148 investigating expanding into other areas. Pastora Amador, 59, explained the history of the network: At the beginning of the project to produce organic fertilizer, we did a survey of producers in the municipality of Nueva Guinea and the results were positive. In the survey we found support for our plan because in Nueva Guinea there is nobody who produces and sells organic ferti lizer, and there is a need for the supply of this product. Six of us began the project, we met in FEMUPROCAN and we agreed to invest a total of C$2,500.00 initially for the construction of the shed. This involved the purchase of: wire mesh, containers for the worms, fences, nails, zinc, pillars etc. 13 When we had already finished the shed we realized that we lacked the worms, but we also lacked money to buy them. So we looked for a loan two members abandoned the project and only four of us were left. We managed to buy two kilos of worms, we brought them from Managua and this first investment was a loss because the worms died. So we had to look for worms again, but this time in Nueva Guin ea. We bought another two kilos and began again from zero. After a fortnight we began producing organic fertilizer. But this time we were hit by a plague of African Bees and we lost one kilo. With what was left we continued fighting, we lagged behind in te rms of production but after another fortnight the worms reproduced and we managed to increase production to six containers from the two we had before. In the course of all of this we lost another member of the network and so only three of us remained, and we continue working together today. We returned the money they had initially invested to those that withdrew, according to our initial agreement. Now we are producing 20 quintals of organic fertilizer a month, with a price of C$250.00 per quintal. 14 The net work also maintains one manzana of reforested land, using organic fertilizer. 15 Right now we are only selling 6 13 Approximately $118.54 at March 2010 rates 14 A quintal is equal to 100 lbs or 46kg. 15 A manzana is equal to 1.73 acres

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149 The network continues working, we have a shed for hens, and we already have ten hens, one rooster a nd eighteen chickens. They produce 150 eggs a month. Our objective is to form a farm to produce meat and eggs and the worms from the fertilizer also serve as food for the chickens. t hat we were able to all work together and decide where to put our resources, and for this reason we joined together in the network. Each one of us has invested approximately C$12,000.00. 16 For the future we are thinking of developing a rural tourism p roject where we would have a restaurant and a pool and so on. We have received visits from tourists from Belgium and Germany and they also thought this was a good idea. All this has been possible due to the training that FEMUPROCAN has given us. The training se ssions have given us strengths, skills and capabilities to develop our work, to move forward and to improve our standard of living. 17 Despite many difficulties, these women were able to create a profitable and well functioning project, the success of which was recognized in an article in the monthly magazine El Observador Econmico published by the International Foundation for the Global Economic Challenge (FIDEG). The network is now producing enough fertilizer to satisfy the needs of its members and provid e a surplus which they offer for sale. In fact, their achievements have attracted considerable interest from other cooperative members, who have been trained by the members of the network in the techniques necessary to carry out a similar project. However, most cooperatives affiliated with FEMUPROCAN use a mixture of organic and non organic methods, with the organic fertilizer sometimes being supplied to the cooperatives by a representative of FEMUPROCAN, rather than the individual cooperatives manufacturin g it themselves: 16 Approximately $569 at March 2010 rates 17 Pastora Amadora, Trustee of the Cooperative Los Pinitos, interviewed by FEMUPROCAN in 2008 and

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150 fertilizer is mostly used when the plant is well established and so there is where organic should be used at other times of its development it is better to use urea still got quite a lot left. Yes, they brough t it, on behalf of FEMUPROCAN. 18 Some cooperatives, however, do not appea r to have adopted any of the agro ecological techniques proposed by FEMUPROCAN. This happens for a number of reasons. An important limitation on whether cooperatives are able to introduce these techniques is related to the question of land ownership. Witho ut access to their own land, some cooperatives are simply not able to farm organically or pay for the start up costs necessary to begin production of organic fertilizer. I was interested to find out whether the women were learning these agro ecological tec hniques primarily from FEMUPROCAN, or if they were also receiving similar training from other organizations. The women in many communities responded that there were a number of government institutions and civil society groups offering projects in these are as, providing plants for reforestation programs and encouraging the women to take action to conserve the environment: N ow there are even programs from government institutions, including INTA (Nicaraguan Institute of Farming Technology), MARENA (Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources), MAGFOR (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry) and several NGOs, one of which is called el Porvenir, all of which are concerned with strengthening the environment through reforestation, bringing plants, ensuring that the trees on the steep valley sides are not being cut down. So they are working on this. And the orientation is all in this Everyone is involved. Here, last September they brought 60,00 0 plants and distributed them among all the communities. Now there are nurseries, to 18 Beatriz, FEMUPROCAN Cooperative member, Terrabona, July 21, 2009

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151 facilitated by INTA and an NGO, in a program called CENADE (Center for Action and Support for Rural Development). 19 In fact, in some communities there were so many organizations working on these themes that the women had sometimes been given workshops on the same topic by a number o f different groups (which hardly seems an efficient use of resources). Thus, the fact that they are participating in government or NGO run programs does not necessarily mean that FEMUPROCAN has not already trained them in this. It is less likely that FEMUP ROCAN will repeat trainings already carried out by other organizations due to the simple fact that FEMUPROCAN asks its grassroots cooperatives to identify their individual training needs, rather than implementing the same sequence of workshops everywhere. Nevertheless, in the case of Nueva Guinea outlined above it seems clear that FEMUPROCAN was the main organization that enabled the women to carry out this project. To conclude, there are a number of organizations and institutions working on agro ecological techniques with women rural producers, and therefore not all of the changes as opposed to these other actors. However, it does seem that for some cooperatives FEMUPROCAN has succes sfully supported the introduction of these techniques, and the other hand there are other areas and cooperatives that still have not managed to introduce these projects, a nd the vast majority of the cooperatives still have not converted to using all organic methods. 19 Tania, FEMUPROCAN cooperative member, San Juanillo, July 22, 2009.

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152 Formulation and m anagement of p rojects The national leadership of FEMUPROCAN have recognized the need to train the base level cooperatives in methods that will allow them to become more autonomous from the central organization, by formulating and managing their own projects. As such they have carried out a number of workshops and assisted the women in the development of their proposals. The results of this have b een mixed, as discussed in the section under Organization and Leadership above, with some cooperatives needing much more assistance than others. Gender and d evelopment (GAD) Development (GA D). To understand how successful they are in training their members on this topic it is first necessary to define what GAD is. The gender mainstreaming team at the British Department for International Development (DFID) provide the following he GAD (or Gender and Development) approach to development policy and practice focuses on the socially constructed basis of differences between men and (Reeves and Baden 2000, 33). In contrast to many development frameworks that had come before, GAD argues that women cannot be seen in isolation from men, and that gender equality is, fundamentally, a question of unequal power relations between men and women. GAD practitioners nor Ibid .). According to my interviews with Oxfam Canada and the women from UNIFEM, aragua, although they claim

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153 sided approach often leads to as many problems as it solve s. I was interested to find out whether FEMUPROCAN understood the differences between these approaches, sessions. The overall impression I received was very encouraging. Ever ybody, from the national leaders right down to the grassroots of the organization, seemed to have an awa reness of the need to work with men to achieve their objective of bringing about more equal gender relations in Nicaragua ( rather than exc luding them or failing to consider how initiatives challenging current inequalities might provoke male resistance of hostility). FEMUPROCAN argued that challenging unequal power relations does not necessarily mean that men should be seen as the enemy, but that machista attitudes and practices need to be contested and men should reconsider many of their preconceptions and prejudices regarding appropriate gender roles and relations. The work that FEMUPROCAN does affects entire families, and this is acknowledged by the lead fact that we propose that women should be leaders is not that we are saying that men are worthless, because the fight is for the integration of the family. In the watering s 20 In fact, FEMUPROCAN is active in promoting the participation of family members in the projects it implements (both men and women) with a focus on building a supportive family environment for its women members, whilst at the same time arguing 20 Cristina, FEMUPROCAN cooperative member, San Juanillo, July 22, 2009.

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154 liberate ourselves. It is not about being against men but rather about strengthening our work within the nucleus of the family, and changing lives in this way, because at times 21 economic rights under Nicaraguan law. These were condu cted by a human rights lawyer, and former Sandinista Member of Parliament Angela Rosa Acevedo. Whereas the workshops were certainly very thorough they largely consisted of the participants breaking off into small groups to read the text of the laws. Altho ugh the women appeared to genuinely appreciate studying these laws many struggled with the complex legal language in which they were written. Difficult even for many highly educated s members who had fairly basic reading and writing skills. Having said that Acevedo helped them to pick out the most important parts of the legislation and discuss its implications. Making women aware of their rights in this way seemed to be paying off in many cases. Members reported that they had seen changes in the ways in which men saw gender and development workshops: With so many training sessions on gender that took me n into account, men gradually began to understand that in reality we women were very, very important and that we do a lot of things, you understand? They have now realized that we are the last to go to bed and the first to get up in the morning. Men are us ed to coming back from work and waiting calmly for 21 Cristina, FEMUPROCAN cooperative member, San Juanillo, July 22, 2009.

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155 their meal while we are working, and the m en have begun to recognize that 22 organizations and development industry understand th e difference between a Women In Development and a Gender And Development Approach and were seeking to consider the implications of their initiatives on both men and women and their relationships. 23 Devel Economic Agenda (AGEM) organized by UNIFEM. As mentioned above, funding from AGEM is paying for Torres to pursue a diploma in GAD at the Universidad Centroamericana in Managua on Sa turdays. It is perhaps worth mentioning here that FEMUPROCAN has, in the vast majority of cases, avoided stirring up large scale opposition by the men in the communities in which they are active. This may be, in part, a result of the Gender and Development approach taken by the organization and the benefits for the men of many of in part, to the fact that the vast related to economic development and education. The organization does not provide a detailed analysis of problems relating to domestic violence or sexual matters (from 22 Tania, FEMUPROCAN Cooperative Member, San Juanillo, July 22, 2009 23 I asked Mar a Rosa Renzi, regional director of UNIFEM, if she thought that FEMUPROCAN understood the difference between Women in Development (WID) and Gender and Development (GAD). She replied ared that the leadership were clear about the differences between the two frameworks, and that FEMUPROCAN tried to apply a gender focus to their work (Interview with Maria Rosa Renzi, Managua, July 15, 2009)

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156 abuse to contraception t o sexually transmitted diseases ). These topics might well provoke a more confrontational response from men. Overall, it appears that FEMUPROCAN is successfully training its women in gender and development but doing so by focusing on a relatively narrow set of issues non confrontational manner, but one in which women are encouraged to learn about their economic, political and social rights and to exercise those rights at home and within their communities. 24 ed mainly in economic terms (such as lack of access to land and cred it). Workshop participants are encouraged to share stories of when they felt subjected to discrimination on the basis of their gender and to re examine some of the ways in which men and wo men are expected to behave. However, FEMU PROCAN was also keen to emphasize that men and women are different. Unlike much liberal western feminism, FEMUPROCAN was not suggesting to its members that they should be treated the same as men, but rather that wom en and men should be valued for their equal, but different contributions to society. They maintained that there was something special and mother) and that in fact women could be seen as before taking care of themselves, they work the longest hours for the least amount of pay, etc.). FEMUPROCAN is attempting to con vince both their female members, and 24 It is possible that some of the more controver related to reproductive health, are tackled in these workshops on social rights (there were none held when I was there). However, I heard little mention of such topics during my fieldwork and they do not feat from FEMUPROCAN.

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157 Leadership and e mpowerment Linked to the GAD approach, FEMUPROCAN cl aims that it is training empowered assuming leadership roles in their communities. In this section I wan t to explore whether the women feel they have developed personally as a resul t of their participation in FEMUPROCAN. Do they feel that it has been an empowering experience? How has their self confidence changed? The women replied that, thanks to the skills they were self, as a woman, as a person I feel that I have advanced a lot because now I can make 25 This sense of empowerment was also fostered by the environment of moral support and understanding that the organiza tion provides. It provides women with the chance to talk about their experiences, some for the first time in front of a group of people, and to develop shared bonds of understanding and a feeling of solidarity among the members. They drew strength from bei we are brave, we have the spirit of the organization, which is what keeps us going and has filled us with empowerment, from the focuses of the initiatives and from the visions 26 25 Clara, President of a FEMUPROCAN cooperative, Terrabona, July 21, 2009 26 Adela, President of a FEMUPROCAN Cooperative in Rio Blanco, Mana gua, July 15, 2009.

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158 For some of th e members, particularly those from tiny settlements in remote areas, FEMUPROCAN provided them with a chance to make new and meaningful friendships, and a reason to leave their houses and travel to different parts of the country. This was vital to the devel opment of their self confidence and fostered a sense of identification and belonging: Through the organization you get to know more people right, there is more out, you spend all your time shut up inside, but through the organization and the cooperatives and all that you go out more and have more communication, you make new relationships. 27 Firstly I think that I have changed because the organization has taught us how to leave behind our limitations as women. Well the organization has taught me how to be organized as a woman. One of the principles was learning how, as cooperative women, to leave behind our timidity because growing up in the countryside is very diff erent from the city. One of the biggest things for me, and in which FEMUPROCAN has helped me is that and then, little by little, I began to present my ideas, and when I got up to pr esent I was afraid that it was going to come out all wrong. However, through the work I was doing in the training, through our training with FEMUPROCAN, I became more confident. For me, the organization has taught me how to learn to understand other women and that we women can get over our fears to get wherever we want to go in life. 28 Getting involved in FEMUPROCAN, and having leadership positions within their own cooperatives made the women more confident about asserting themselves outside the cooperative and convinced them that they were capable and legitimate representatives of the women with whom they worked: ourselves we are going to begin doing a better job. They are going to recognize us more. And we all become empowered women, leaders who can administer our own 27 Daria, FEMUPROCAN cooperative member, San Juanillo, July 22, 2009. 28 Margarita, FEMUPROCAN promotora and president of a cooperative in Jintotega, interviewed in Managua, July 16, 2009).

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159 things and negotiate on our own behalf. And they will listen to us, and we will not 29 This self belief was fostered by, and was instrumental in, increasing the recognition FE work with rural women. Many of these organizations actively sought out the women in FEMUPROCAN to act as representatives of the women in negotiations with their organization. The women had begun to realize that they too had important knowledge to share and that they deserved to be respected and valued for this knowledge: One goes wherever they call you to because one has knowledge to share with other organizations that need it as well. I was even called by a program, one of those programs that gives credit for staple grains/pulses are capable of work ing and paying off this credit. 30 So, in this way I liked organization, where I was also given responsibilities, I participated in that as well. 31 FEMUPROCAN, and the fact of being or lives in many different ways, not just in regard to their standing within the community. organized you train yourself and so you learn to change even the way you live this could be in the home, it could be how you relate to and interact with other people, it could be considering how you are going to express your words, how you are going to 32 29 Mara, FEMUPROCAN cooperative member, Terrabon a, July 21, 2009 30 Granos bsicos or staple grains/pulses refers to beans, corn and rice in Nicaragua 31 Adela, President of a FEMUPROCAN Cooperative in Rio Blanco, Managua, July 15, 2009. 32 Tania, FEMUPROCAN Cooperative Member, San Juanillo, July 22, 200 9

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160 These changes, a consequence of being organized and taking part in training workshops, had led many of the women to re evaluate their lives and think about the community was important and justifi manage projects and have a say in the allocation of resources within a community one woman argued that women were natural administrators because they had to manage their households and their communities, k nowing when there would be a shortage of something and where to buy it, or how to economize. Thus, their role within the household gave them economic skills, often equal to or better than those of the men. FEMUPROCAN also wants to make it clear to the memb ers that empowerment means that not only do they not have to depend on men to speak for them and make either. Empowerment, for FEMUPROCAN, involved increasing the me act to solve their own problems and to take a proactive approach to their lives and their personal development. Diaz saw evidence of this in her dealings with the women, and regarded it as one of the principal achievements of the organi independence of the women, who are not waiting for someone to solve their have worked hard on increasing the self esteem of the women, and you can see the 33 As Diaz explained to me, everything was connected the women were training in skills that would allow them to make more money to support their families and increase 33 Morena Diaz, head of training and advocacy in FEMUPROCAN, Managua, August 6 th 2009

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161 their decision making power. This, along with the self esteem workshops run by self confidence would enable them to lobby the local government more effectively and take on more leadership posts within the community. Both economic help and training and personal development were vital for the empowerment of women. simply from being part of an organ ization in which everybody was taught to respect the opinions of everybody else, the grassroots members of FEMUPROCAN had begun to feel more empowered and capable of making decisions about their own lives. Some were evidently more confident than others, as is to be expected with any group of people, but all of the women I interviewed said that their self esteem and confidence in their own abilities had improved as a result of their participation in FEMUPROCAN. As we are somebody. of the ability of FEMUPROCAN to aid in their aim of achieving greater participation of rural women producers and entrepreneurs in the economic, social and political life of the country, and thus can be considered to be a major success for FEMUPROCAN. In this respect the organization seems to be a leader in its field. Angela Rosa Acevedo, a time in thirty years of work that she has seen this level of detail and clarity from an organization on the subject of

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162 Literacy and p rimary e ducation Within the training and empowerment component there is also a line of action on literacy. FEMUPROCAN maintains a literacy program for leaders and members of the organization, but its impact has gone further than this and they have also incorporated other family members, both men and women, into the program. The program began in 2000, and is no w in the sixth process of literacy. Approximately 600 women have been taught how to read and write in the areas of Nandaime, Matagalpa, Jinotega and New Guinea. After the training program the women can continue their learning through the contact the unions of cooperatives have with PAEBANIC (the Nicaraguan Adult Literacy and Basic Education Program) (UNIFEM Central America 2007). The need to teach their members how to read and write became apparent to FEMUPROCAN from the results of their initial census carr ied out in 1999. Despite the fact that the FSLN had claimed to have ended illiteracy in the country in the wake of their celebrated Literacy Campaign, which did indeed make remarkable progress in improving literacy and basic education rates in Nicaragua, F EMUPROCAN discovered that 25.71% of their members who took part in the census had not had the possibilities and/or opportunities to gain access to basic formal or informal education. This was, in part, due to the decade of war that devastated the countrysi de, the policies of the neoliberal administrations followed the Sandinista electoral defeat and the problems women faced in attending literacy programs (for example due to ill health, pregnancy, family or work responsibilities and the remote location of ma ny of their homes) The highest proportion of illiteracy was found to be in Nueva Guinea (26.9%) and Matagalpa (20.7%). The leaders of FEMUPROCAN realized that literacy had to be one of their first basic levels of instruction has

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163 limited the members in their growth and development in the areas of organization, training, communication and information and, as a result, in their capacity to decide and 2003). They were keen to get started and put an end to illiteracy among their members as soon as possible, but El Centro Cooperativo Sueco, wh ich was funding the project, suggested that they try a pilot project first, and iron out any difficulties before e xpanding the program to other areas. Terrabona was selected for this initial phase, because of the high levels of illiteracy reported there and because of its proximity to Matagalpa, FEMUPR OCAN began the program in a new department each year. I n each area FEMUPROCAN consulted its members about the most suitable times and places to conduct the sessions. In the case of Terrabona the 80 participants and 12 educators agreed to meet three times a week for two hours each time. However, even before FEMUPROCAN had finished training these educators they encountered difficulties. The National Coordinator for the program, Rita Larenas, fell ill and eventually had to leave the country as a result of thes e health problems. The organization was then forced to recruit her replacement from outside of FEMUPROCAN. There were then further setbacks when some of the educators withdrew, leaving the program running in only three out of the initial six communities. D espite these difficulties FEMUPROCAN reported that the women were making process, with the majority able to read a little by the end of the first term. Some were more advanced, and others struggled to keep up, but morale remained high (FEMUPROCAN 2003). Th is difference in learning pace and irregular attendance posed a challenge for the

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164 educators, who were forced to redesign their methodology to incorporate groups with different learning speeds. The educators themselves, some of whom had no prior experience in teaching or professional qualifications, often lacked confidence in their own abilities and were afraid of doing something wrong. This concern led some of them to alter their reports on the advances being made by their students, a practice condemned for professional ethics in people who supposedly carry out leadership roles in their Nevertheless there were also encouraging reports that the project participants were losing their timidity and improving their oral ex pression and vocabulary. The literacy program had fostered the consolidation of study circles, and many of the women were reported to have put in a great deal of time and effort in order to make progress. The report notes that participants also developed t heir listening abilities and learned to The educators also reported that they had become more self confident and creative in their teaching methods. One of them was subsequen tly hired by the government literacy program (PAEBANIC) in recognition of her teaching abilities. Their experience of leading classes had encouraged them to take on other leadership roles students, with other people in the community, and this has enabled me to improve my leadership as an organized woman in the community. Through the training sessions I have developed n FEMUPROCAN 2003).

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165 The FEMUPROCAN literacy program also had a number of positive effects on gender relations in the communities. The women described how, as a result of the literacy process, there was an improvement in the way men and women valued one ano ages, with their partners and children, who, as well as all their obligations as housewives and their commitments to the organization, have been able to defend their own s pace as women, in order to be able to respond to one of their practical needs; learning how to read and write. This, in turn, generates the satisfaction of a strategic need, that is, their ability to be able to carry out positions and other functions in th e themselves orally translated into better communication within families, with their children, their partner, their neighbors and their friends. Furthermore the process of li teracy had helped the women of FEMUPROCAN to grow closer to one another. Many of the educators were relatively young, and many of the participants were relatively old (although people of all ages participated). This led to a greater understanding between t he different generations of women and helped to strengthen the organization. Reading and writing was seen by the women as much more than just another skill, it was intimately linked to their sense of identity and personality. They were able to identify the mselves from a list of names and sign, rather than just putting an x or their fingerprint. This was a source of pride and self confidence for the women, who felt that it would be much more difficult for somebody to manipulate them or trick them into someth ing now that they could read and write. They felt that they had greater control

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166 over every aspect of their lives and greater status within their communities. For example, they now had the ability to decide which name they were going to give their children, giving them more power within their families. This self confidence and self the experiences. The national team was quick to point out to me that although the literacy program have been successful had it not been for the administrative skills of the central organization. Literacy programs such as this one, even when the educators are not professional teachers, do not come cheap and require a great deal of organizational work an d section emphasized topics such as identity, the value of the group and their importance within the structures of the Federation in an effort to boost their self esteem a nd sense of belonging. Despite the difficulties FEMUPROCAN faced along the way; the illness of the national coordinator, the irregular attendance of some of the participants (due to severe weather, obligations linked to their work as producers, illness, pr egnancy and, occasionally, the opposition of their husband or partner) and the different learning speeds of the participants, overall the organization was more than satisfied with the results. From an initial enrollment of 80 women, which increased to 92 a nd then fell to 91, 70 managed to complete the course. This represents a retention rate of 76.92%.

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167 However, not all of those who finished managed to pass the final exams. FEMUPROCAN attributed this to a number of different reasons, including difficulties i n their vision and learning difficulties. Those who did pass were awarded their certificates on the 8th of March, According to FEMUPROCAN, this represented an excellent re sult in comparison to the national statistics for literacy programs. This was even more of an achievement when one takes into consideration the obstacles that these women had to overcome; they are poor, rural, women, many of whom were already quite old at the beginning of the project and have to deal with harsh climates and sometimes unpredictable weather. However, the excellent results did not mean that there was not room for further ors on the national and departmental teams for the day to day administration of the program. The departmental teams also tended to rely heavily on the national administration, erall coordination and facilitation. Some of the educators appeared to view their job primarily in terms of making money, rather than as part of their activism within the cooperative. Finally the evaluations completed at the end of each stage of the progra m suggested that FEMUPROCAN try and coordinate with a health organization to negotiate for cheap glasses for the participants. This would help to solve the problems caused by poor vision, which had set many of the older women back in their learning. FEMUPR OCAN had wanted to establish a network of promotoras and literacy teachers to keep the program going at a national level and continue their literacy

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168 process. However they were unable to achieve this objective due to a lack of financial resources and the re mote and dispersed location of many of the women in need of literacy training. development today, even though they have succeeded in teaching many of their women basic reading and writing skills. The national leadership came to realize that literacy was often not sufficient and now is focusing on making sure its members reach the third level of basic education. By doing so they hope that the women will develop their abilities furth er and retain a greater number of skills for a longer period after the program has finished. Currently, there is a sense that many members still lack some of the basic skills needed for them to make the maximum possible impact in their organizational and l obbying activities. This was highlighted as one of the key weaknesses of FEMUPROCAN by Angela Rosa Acevedo: women who have only recently learned to read and write, and some are still illit erate. So, this requires greater effort in order to train them, in order to invest in their development. This is a serious limitation, not just for FEMUPROCAN b ut for the country as a whole. 34 To conclude, it seems that the literacy program of FEMUPROCAN ca n be considered a success and is helping to achieve many of the objectives of the organization. The members receive a number of direct and indirect benefits from the program and displayed higher levels of self esteem. They were also more respected by their communities, and felt more capable of assuming leadership positions and making 34 Angela Rosa Acevedo, Lawyer specializing in human rights, Managua, July 24th, 2009

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169 needs, whilst at the same time aiding them in their ability to satisfy their practical gen der needs. 35 Having said this, there remains much work to be done in this area, and the a greater role in economic and social affairs of the country. Organization and C ooperativism Whereas most of the women seemed to understand the importance of being organized and building an efficient organization, it was more difficult for FEMUPROCAN to achieve its aim of changing their mentalities on the subject of cooperativism. Whe reas the cooperatives were supposed to work collectively to achieve their goals, FEMUPROCAN. Officially the vast majority of the base level cooperatives are agricultur al production cooperatives, meaning that production is supposed to be organized collectively at every stage of the process (from initial planning and preparation of the land to the commercialization and marketing of the products) and resources ought to be pooled among cooperative members. However, many of the women explained that in actual fact their cooperatives functioned more like credit and service cooperatives, in which land remained individually held and only technical assets and credits are shared am ong members (Bugajski 1990, 55). It appeared that in some cases the cooperatives were not even functioning at this level of collectivism and were really cooperatives in name only. Individualism prevailed, (admittedly to varying degrees across the organizat ion) and it was difficult for the national leadership to convince their members of the benefits of working more closely toge ther. In fact, it was due to this sort 35 For a description of the differences between practical and strategic gender inter ests see Molyneux (1985).

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170 of problem within the cooperatives that FEMUPROCAN had found it necessary to set up the busin ess networks discussed in a later section of this paper. Did this mean that they were fighting a losing battle with regard to cooperativism? If this was true it would represent a serious weakness for FEMUPROCAN, given that cooperativism supposedly forms on e of the cross cutting themes of the organization. One thing is certainly clear the principles of cooperativism are certainly emphasized in most of the training workshops that I attended. In fact there are workshops entirely devoted to the topic and in l earning about the General Law of Cooperatives, and what it means in practice. These workshops were often requested by the women, and members talked about their determination to keep their cooperatives going. This suggests that there is at least some intere st in understanding the topic better and improving the functioning of the base level cooperatives. Perhaps enthusiasm for the idea of cooperativism is not surprising when the principles of cooperativism are listed as follows: equality, solidarity, dignity, moral principles, honesty, love, value, respect, responsibility and kindness. Who could be against these things? The leaders of the training workshops explained that if the cooperatives take love as their base, then you can see how if there is love there is understanding, if there is understanding there is unity, and unity is achieved to the extent that each person gets to know herself and the others, that accumulate and share knowledge i.e. everybody y have all of this then they will be able to develop economically as a cooperative. However, it is one thing to be enthusiastic about the idea of something, and yet another to actually be enthusiastic about how the ideas translate into practice. During

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171 my fieldwork I heard numerous examples of cooperatives that were not functioning as they should. Sometimes this was due to personal differences between members of the group, sometimes due to a lack of engagement and involvement in the activities of the cooper ative (such as a reluctance to take on leadership positions, forcing the same people to hold these posts for long periods of time and irregular att endance at cooperative meetings ) and sometimes as a result of the poverty of the members, which obliged them to sell their products individually and as soon as they were harvested. Despite the best intentions of the Sandinista party, the idea of producing collectively in cooperatives was never really fully developed and failed to take hold among rural people in m any parts of Nicaragua. Many cooperatives were formed primarily to defend their land during the turbulent years following the 1979 revolution. Diaz explained that the majority of their members were still most accustomed to working individually and using th e cooperatives primarily as a means of gaining access to services and projects. FEMUPROCAN is attempting to demonstrate to their members that by working together they can often negotiate better prices for their products, coordinate their productive activit ies to ensure that there is not an oversupply of a particular product and have more of a voice in the spaces of local government. From my fieldwork I noticed a contradiction between what FEMUPROCAN and the General Law on Cooperatives described as the funda mental principles of cooperativism (described above) and the growing emphasis on increasing profitability and competitiveness in the marketplace as the primary motivation for producing collectively. However, Diaz explained to me that the two need not be mu tually exclusive and that the principles of cooperativism ought to enable the cooperatives to generate greater profits for their

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172 members and improve their standard of living. This is one of the reasons that they are currently focusing on commercialization: Maybe now with the mechanism of commercialization they will manage to get the cooperatives to sell their products collectively rather than each producer selling individually. These cooperatives would do what many economically successful cooperatives have done, which is that they manage everything related to commercialization, they stock pile production and it is the cooperative who takes it to market and exercises quality control over the merchandise. The profit, instead of going to an intermediary, is re tained by the cooperative and the cooperative can then provide mo re services to its members. 36 FEMUPROCAN, in its attempt to instill its members with the spirit of cooperativism emphasized that this meant that the cooperatives must seek to be self sufficien t as much as possible, and decrease their day to day dependence on the national organization of FEMUPROCAN. Diaz repeatedly asserted that it was up to the people in a cooperative to make it work, that no one was going to come and solve their problems for t hem and that working together to solve these problems would be a long and difficult process but worth it in the end. The national leadership of FEMUPROCAN was attempting to increase the about the need to share information and techniques with the whole group. The women mentioned that sometimes only the president or promotoras attended the training sessions and co operative. Others responded that all of the blame should not be leveled at the presidents or promotoras meetings or paying attention to what was being said. There were complaints that 36 Denis Medina, El Centro Cooperativo Sueco, Managua, August 1, 2009

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173 sometimes it w as difficult to get members to attend meetings, to arrive on time and with 37 This lack of enga gement was, in turn, causing problems for FEMUPROCAN in its relationship with its NGO partners. VECO M.A, who was sponsoring many of the training sessions relating to commercialization, had expressed concern about the irregular attendance of FEMUPROCAN mem bers. One way to increase this ownership would be if the cooperative members were obliged to contribute some of their own money for the maintenance of the cooperative on a regular basis. This would give them a direct stake in the outcome of the initiatives proposed by the cooperative and encourage more active participation. Unfortunately FEMUPROCAN has a very low collection rate for subscriptions (approximately 20%) and there are no standardized punishments for failure to pay. This means that when individua l coordinators, such as Ana Julia (based in Sbaco), attempt to impose restrictions on those who have not paid (such as banning them from claiming expenses and transport costs from FEMUPROCAN to travel to workshops in Managua), the women protested that thi s was unfair. In examples such as this the national team sided rom being in a cooperative. However it seems that FEMUPROCAN cannot actually enforce these measures unless it is prepared to risk losing up to 80% of their members. This would be a dangerous gamble, and fewer 37 Beatriz, FEMUPROCAN Cooperative member, Terrabona, July 21, 2009

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174 fluence on policy making and in changing public opinion about rural producers. So, it seems that while FEMUPROCAN is certainly committed to educating its members about cooperativism, they are having only limited success in changing the mentalities of their members. This is likely to be a slow and difficult process and requires more of the coordinators to take a firm stance against those who will not pay. Commitment to the ideals of cooperativism entails taking actions in support of those ideals, and fosteri ng a sense of ownership over the cooperatives by the members. Ownership will probably only be achieved if the women are prepared to invest their own money and resources in the cooperative. It is therefore imperative that FEMUPROCAN increases the rate of co llection of subscriptions in order for their focus on cooperativism to become successful. Strengthening the B usiness and E ntrepreneurial S kills of W omen P roducers Business t echniques When FEMUPROCAN began working with the women it became apparent that m any of their members lacked the business skills that would allow them to maximize their profits. This would not only improve their individual material wealth but also make them able to contribute to the financial stability of their cooperative, and to FEMU PROCAN. This lack of knowledge about the market was not confined to women, but rather was a problem for male and female smallholding farmers in Nicaragua: Historically small producers have had the problem that they have not managed to take ownership over a nd take control over the mechanisms of the knowledge and the experience to manage themselves in the market,

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175 and determine prices. This is a long, hard task which still requires mo re ti me for its consolidation. 38 phase of its strategy. They have developed a number of teaching materials and workshops on matters such as feasibility and profitability and are exploring ways in which the members can increase their incomes and diversify their production. Some members reported feeling more confident in making calculations and carrying out cost and how to know how much you are going to spend from when you begin to plough or 39 In the workshops they emphasize that the members are perfectly capable of navigating the ins and outs of the market, and that one of the benefits of being in a cooperative is that each member can concentrate on the areas that they are best at, supporting the other members as need be. It appears that FEMUPROCAN is shifting its focus to emphasizing market based solutions to th e problems faced by its members. I was repeatedly told that the cooperatives should be seen by their members, and by the general public, first and foremost as economic enterprises oriented towards the generation of profits for their members and for FEMUPRO CAN. It was for this reason that they were setting up the business networks in all of the departments where FEMUPROCAN is active. Rather than trying to fix some of the problems in the cooperatives described above, FEMUPROCAN saw the business networks as an opportunity to start afresh, and avoid the emergence of these problems in the first place. 38 Denis Medina, El Centro Cooperativo Sueco, Managua, August 1, 2009 39 Tania, FEMUPROCAN Coop erative Member, San Juanillo, July 22, 2009

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176 However, it is not just FEMUPROCAN that is attempting to improve the business skills of rural women producers. There are many organizations and NGOs working on micr ofinance projects for women, many of which involve some training in business techniques (Babb 2001) The Nicaraguan Institute for the Support of Small and Medium Sized Businesses (INPYME) is the government body responsible for the promotion of this type of enterprise. Among other things they organize exchanges of experiences between groups from different areas of the country. FEMUPROCAN is one of the organizations that benefit from these exchanges, providing their members with the opportunity to learn from the success of other cooperatives outside of the organization and generating new ideas. It is important to point out that although the fact of being organized in FEMUPROCAN grants the women access to this type of exchange, the initiative is coordinated by INPYME, not FEMUPROCAN. FEMUPROCAN cannot, therefore, claim all the credit for the benefits of this program for their members. There are also members of FEMUPROCAN who, on their own initiative, are seeking out other ways of improving their business and adm inistration skills. Several of the younger promotoras with whom I spoke were currently enrolled, or hoping to enroll, in university level programs in Business Administration. They are not being supported by FEMUPROCAN in order to do this and it was unclear how much of what they were learning they passed on to the other members of their cooperatives, or whether they planned to remain part of FEMUPROCAN after graduation. It remains to be seen whether FEMUPROCAN can develop sufficient incentives for these youn ger, skilled members to remain within the organization in some function. To lose them would

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177 members. So far, it seems that there is significant interest among the grassroot s members in developing their business skills. However, they are limited in their abilities to put some of these skills to use, due to a number of interrelated factor s. Many of these are related to their position as rural people who have only rec ently lear ned to read and write, their poverty and the lack of financial resources within their cooperatives, a nd in FEMUPROCAN more generally, their gender, which limited their access to credit and othe r forms of financial assistance, and their lack of confidence i n their own abilities. Many of the cooperatives still do not make a profit and the business networks are in their infancy. Therefore FEMUPROCAN cannot, yet, be described as successful with regard to teaching their members business techniques. Access to lan d and other property Perhaps one of the most important limitations the women of FEMUPROCAN had to overcome was their lack of access to resources, and, in particular, to land and other property. Angela Rosa Acevedo explained that even though the Sandinista agrarian reform allowed for the land title to be put in the names of more than one person often this meant that, rather than placing their partner on the title, men would register the property in their name and that of their eldest son, effectively bypassi ng the women in under Law 278. This law states that property titles are understood to be automatically extended in the name of the couple, but that this meant that, in practice, the man retained control of the property, and only his name featured on the deeds. He could thus do whatever he wanted with the property, without having to consult his wife/partner.

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178 For FEMUPROCAN, then, one of their priorities was that women legalize th eir situation with regard to land tenancy. Torres explained that although FEMUPROCAN is comprised of women producers this does not mean that the members own the land on which they were producing. Many of them are sharecroppers and/or farm rented or borrowe d land. Often this land was borrowed from their husbands who could, theoretically, take it back at any time. They thus had little real control over the land, and few incentives to carry out improvements on the land. They also found it difficult to gain acc ess to technical assistance or training programs, and lacked the collateral usually required in order to take out loans. 40 In order to gather more information about the extent of the problem among their members, the national leadership decided to undertake a rapid appraisal of the ways in which the members gained access to the land they were working, and the legality of the land parcels that the women declared as their own. This appraisal was carried out in 2008 and involved 343 members (338 women and five m en), organized in 43 cooperatives located in nineteen municipalities from different regions of the country. The results showed that 61% of the members interviewed responded that they had access to their own land. The remaining 39% had access to land which was borrowed (15.6%), rented (14.6%), sharecropped (8.5%) or given (but without handing over the legal title to the land) (0.5%) (FEMUPROCAN 2008). Of the 61% that was owned by the 40 the women are in a cooperative because their husband has given them two or three parcels to work, but the ow ow well, subject to the will of their partner. If these women were to genuinely have access to land, access to f inancing and access to technical training with Mara Rosa Renzi, UNIFEM, Managua, July 15th 2009).

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179 members, many women lacked some or all of the documentation necessary to p rove their legal ownership of the land. To try and improve this situation, FEMUPROCAN participates in the Coordinator and lobbies the Nicaraguan government to try and influ ence policy and mobilizes rural women to struggle for equal access to land. They put forward proposals to the government, one of which has already been accepted for debate by the legislative s access to land, which would include the crea tion of a land bank for women. those in which many of the members had managed to legalize their ownership rights over the land, whereas many that were struggling were comprised of women without access to their own land. Those that had land were the ones selected to participate in the projects organized by FEMUPROCAN, such as the drip watering schemes piloted in Terrabona and Daro. Howeve and time consuming process. Not only that but men have to be persuaded of the need to grant property rights to women, in a way that minimizes conflicts within couples and/or fami lies. Consequently, FEMUPROCAN acknowledges that many of their members still have problems regarding their access to land. Even when the members were able to access credit and training programs and were able to buy or rent their own plots of land they ofte n faced problems explaining their actions to their partners and families. When I attended a workshop in Nueva

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180 Guinea, one of the participants described how she and her husband had been working land together for a long time. Although their house and various assets were in her name she never received direct benefits from her work but was dependent on her husband, who held the land title. The woman decided she wanted to work her own land in order to be able to provide for herself without having to ask for ever ything. So, she sold a cow, understand why she would want to do this, and felt personally offended by her actions. He went to live with his family and continued to work the land. T he woman was betraying her husband and damaging his reputation. Her husband accused her of wanting to leave him and it was almost impossible for the woman to convince him other wise. Every time they came close to a reconciliation, her husband would ask if he could work her land, she would refuse, and the whole argum ent would start all over again. To summarize it does seem that FEMUPROCAN is having some success in influencing poli the Coordinator for Rural Women. They are also providing support and assistance for their members in their attempts to gain access to land and legalize their situation. In the training sessions the importance of having access to land in their own name is discussed and members find a space to share their experiences. control over their own lands, limiting their abili ty to make their own production decisions, determine how income should be spent within the household and gain greater

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181 independence from their partners. It does not appear that FEMUPROCAN has successfully managed to persuade these husbands of the importance of granting women access to lands in their own names. The organization has not succeeded in desire for greater independence. Changing mentalities takes a long time and p erhaps the men will gradually come around to accepting the idea. However, at present it of access to land. Diversification and m odernization of p roduction However, access to land is not enough if the amount of income generated by the members from their production is insufficient to lift them and their families out of poverty. To try and improve the standard of living of their members FEMUPROCAN is attempting to facilitate the diversification and modernization of production, introducing new crops and farming techniques. According to their 2008 report, out of a total of 2083 manzanas (approximately 3600 acres) worked by the members, 90.9% was devoted to the production of basic grains. 41 Beans and corn comprised the vast majority of this figure. It appears, therefore, that FEMUPROCAN has so far struggled to persuade many of the members to diversify their production. One reason for this was simply that the inputs needed for the pro duction of basic grains are much cheaper than other, potentially more profitable, crops such as tomatoes or onions. Valle explained that the cost of planting basic grains in the region was on the order of C$5,000 per manzana including all the seed and 41 1 manzana = 1.73 acres

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182 inp uts. One bag of improved tomato seeds (containing 10,000 seeds), by contrast, costs C$10,000 to C$10,500. For onions one can expect to spend from C$10,000 to C$15,000, depending on the variety. Not only do both of these crops require a higher initial inves tment, they also need a qualified workforce to work in the nursery and in the transplanting process. As the above figures clearly demonstrate, it should not be argued that people keep sowing corn and beans entirely for traditional reasons or because they d women producers who do not have the capital necessary to invest in expensive new crops, especially when they have not grown them before and they require a high level of care and attention. The fact that prices of inputs and the cost of living had risen sharply in recent years in Nicaragua made it even more difficult for the members to diversify their production. Despite these difficulties, with the support of FEMUPROCAN some of th e cooperative members have managed to diversify their production, mainly moving into the cultivation of vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers and sweet peppers on a rotational system. These new crops had allowed some members to substantially improve their ec onomic situation and gain standing in their communities. Some had even made enough money to finance the purchase of various luxury items and household appliances. Others were not so lucky, and had found it difficult to care for the vegetables properly. Som e had lost their crops to pests and/or disease, whereas other members mentioned that they had been forced to sell their products at a low price or risk them spoiling. The women knew how to store basic grains, but lacked knowledge of appropriate techniques for dealing with the more perishable vegetables.

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183 FEMUPROCAN, along with VECO M.A., are currently in the process of training the women who grow vegetables how to process them and make new products. It is hoped that these new items, such as tomato chutney, w ill have a both a longer shelf life and higher selling price than the unprocessed vegetables. Essential to the production of these vegetables is a reliable supply of water. Ciu dad Daro, Terrabona, San Francisco Libre and Nandaime. In these areas the families depend on the winter rains in order to farm and support their families. They were thus only able to cultivate crops fo r part of the year, leaving an epoca muerta or dead se ason in the summer. Poverty and the rising costs of living, as well as the scaling back of government support after 1990, have forced many people from these communities to migrate to Costa Rica, or other parts of Nicaragua, in search of seasonal employment Often only one or two members of the family might migrate, and the women in FEMUPROCAN were keen to find alternatives that would allow them to keep their families together. For these reasons, FEMUPROCAN devised a drip watering system that could be used i n these arid areas in the summer months. Martha Valle first tested it out on her own farm and then, encouraged by the results, FEMUPROCAN formulated a proposal with El Centro Cooperativo Sueco for the implementation of a pilot project. Four years after its initiation, the project had been gradually expanded to benefit more members, with a total of around forty watering systems installed. By 2008, this had increased to 63, covering a total of 252 manzanas with an average of 4 manzanas per watering system. T his number, however, does not capture the number of people who have

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184 benefitted from these 63 systems. Mercedes, a FEMUPROCAN member from near Terrabona, described how the motors from the watering systems were shared by the have their turn at watering during the night, another begins in the morning and we take it in turns like this. In our community there is only 42 Such intensive use of the motors in these remote communit ies sometimes led to mechanical failures. The women described how, in the case of breakdown, they were still much better off being affiliated to FEMUPROCAN than they had been previously, as the organization responded quickly and efficiently to their proble ms: Listen, the main achievement of being organized has been, for me, to be able to manage resources and find responses to the needs that I had. For example, our motor broke down right when we had our nurseries all ready [to transplant the crops]. So I rus hed to a meeting and Martha Valle said to in house and he agreed to support me and gave me his signature. The very next day they took the motor away for repairs. It was all very quick without had gone to a bank I would have waited two or three months, or who knows how long but FEMUPROCAN resolved my problem practically overnight. 43 Through this project, FEMUPROCAN provides the members with financing for fertilizers, seeds and motors at lower interest rates than many micro finance organizations. Thus the organization hopes to be able to recoup its initial investment, plus some interest, to make the project financially self sustainable and enable them to keep expanding its scope. At the time of my visit, m any of the beneficia ries were still in 42 Mercedes, FEMUPROCAN cooperativ e member, Terrabona, July 22, 2009 43 Mirna Gonzales Mairena, Vice President of the Board of Directors of the Cooperative Rafaela Herrera, Terrabona, from transcripts of interviews carried out by FEMUPROCAN in August of 2008 kept in the Managua headquarters of FEMUPROCAN.

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185 debt but were confident of their ability to repay in the near future. Others hav e been somewhat more successful: in their houses, they have televisions. Some have tele phones, others have fixed up their houses. And this has been because with the watering systems they have achieved all this. They sell well, although sometimes they lose money, but only somet imes the majority earn money. 44 A member sowed one manzana of min t and cilantro and it sold for C$100,000. 45 With that they paid off the credit and bought another little farm for their children and constructed another watering system with the money that was left. Today the family is involved in the commercialization of t hese nontraditional products (Agurto and Guido 2007) Overall, it seems that while not all of the participants enjoyed this level of success, the vast majority were benefitting from the watering systems, which enabled them to sow all year round. They were able to demand higher prices for products like tomatoes and onions, provide year round employment for their families and thus help to halt the disintegration of families due to migration. This project has managed to win a significant amount of attention in Nicaragua, and in March of this year (2010) featured in a television news report shown on the national Nicaraguan TV Channel Canal 2. But cash crop production is not the only way FEMUPROCAN would like its members to diversify. The organization has also en couraged the women to think about planting more varieties of foods for household consumption, such as avocado and vulnerability in times of crisis. Planting more of these tree s had also encouraged the women to take better care of their homes and the surroundings and many of the interviewees expressed pride in how beautiful their homes now looked. They were 44 Mercedes, FEMUPROCAN cooperative member, Terrabona, July 22, 2009. 45 Approximately $4,737 at March 2010 prices.

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186 learning how to cultivate new foods for their families, some of which, like the sweet potato, were still relatively unknown in their communities. Thus, some of the women were gaining a reputation as innovators, of wh ich they were rightfully proud. For many of the people I interviewed, this type of diversification for househo ld consumption was considered as, if not more, important than diversification for the market. This demonstrates that, in many cases, the health and well being of their of pro to produce food to sustain your family. For the people who are growing vegetables they 46 It seems especially for the members benefiting from the watering systems project. These benefits are helping to keep their families together, and improving their nutrition and overall quality of to bad weather and greater food self sufficiency has diminished the impact of economic demonstrating to Nicaragua that women are capable of producing a wide variety of traditional and non traditional crops and incorporating new farming techniques. On the other hand, FEMUPROCAN does not appear to have successfully expanded the opportunities to participat e in projects such as those mentioned above to all of its members. The watering systems benefit only a small percentage of the 46 Mara, FEMUPROCAN cooperative member, Terrabona, July 21, 2009

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187 resources to provide low interest credit to all of its members. The vast majority of the women at the grassroots are too poor to afford the inputs required for them to experiment with new crops. This helps to explain why, in 2008, 90% of rains. It seems fair to say that those few members of FEMUPROCAN who had managed to diversify their production had met with considerable success. However, for the vast majority FEMUPROCAN is not succeeding in its objective to diversify and modernize produc tion. Financing of p roductive a ctivities As discussed above, FEMUPROCAN recognizes that having access to land, training and information about new production techniques means little if the members cannot get financing to put this knowledge and these skills into practice. As poor, rural difficult to get credit, especially from traditional banks: perhaps because they are worried that we will not pay 47 Many of the loans they were able to access had extremely high interest rates which members might struggle to repay. Considering the fact that the majority of ng have set up their own credit window and provide financing for the members selected to participa te in the watering systems project, as well as for other inputs, seed and 47 Adela, President of a FEMUPROCAN Cooperative in Rio Blanco, Managua, July 15, 2009.

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188 agricultural equipment. In 2008, for example, 30 women from Rio Blanco were able to benefit from the establishment of a credit fund in their area. All of this does not mean that FEMU PROCAN seeks to encourage its members to take out loans without careful consideration of the costs involved and prospects for repayment. The training workshops on feasibility studies and creating business networks aim to teach the women how to calculate wh ether a potential venture will likely be profitable or not, and the national leadership urge caution before taking out expensive microfinance loans, especially at the beginning of a venture. However, they do not dismiss all microfinance organizations, and recognize that for many of their members, microfinance may well be the only option open to them. FEMUPROCAN has thus sought to train its members on how to manage credit, in coordination with a North American faith based organization called Red Arco Iris, o r Rainbow Network. access to credit and financing as one of the most serious problems they faced, and as a weakness of the organization as a whole. Many cooperatives had not managed to set up their own credit funds within the cooperative and this meant that the members had to waste considerable time going from institution to institution, bank to bank, looking for credit. It also limited their freedom to define their own priorities for financing, as only those initiatives with prior approval from the lending organization were able to proceed. With a fund within the cooperative it would be the members themselves who participated in the decisions about how to allocate credit, based on the ir knowledge of one another and assessment of their most pressing needs at the time. I found little evidence that FEMUPROCAN had been able to grant their members greater access to

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189 credit on a large scale, with some women even reporting that it was now more difficult to find credit than it had been a few years ago. This situation had been exacerbated by the international economic crisis, which Martha Valle blamed for the tightening up and/or closing off of avenues of credit previously available to the membe rs: We have a situation in which bank policy has focused almost entirely on recuperation [of money owed] and the restriction of credit lines and policies, worldwide movement of th e economic recession the banks immediately closed these credit lines and began a new policy, which is the policy of r ecuperating money owed to them. 48 quick and much needed assistance to a very small number of their members, it is still very much in its infancy, and the vast majority of women affiliated with the organization have not been able to access financing in this way. Poor, rural women still face many obstacles in accessing sou rces of credit, and the international economic crisis appears to be making things worse. Some members had managed to take out loans, the vast majority of which were with microfinance institutions. Many of these institutions charged high interest rates and were relatively inflexible in their terms. However, this may be the projects of their own, modernize and diversify their production, or set up processing enterprises, which they are encouraged to do by FEMUPROCAN. To date FEMUPROCAN has only achieved very limited success in their objective of increasing 48 Martha Valle, President of FEMUPROCAN, Managua, August 3 rd 2009.

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190 Marketing and c ommercialization orities is to develop the ability of their members to effectively market their products and train them how to add value or ensure that they receive the best possible price. The national leadership is struggling to change the mentalities of the women at the grassroots from that of producers towards that of businesswomen. Rocha informed me that commercialization represented a bottleneck large scale sale of products was seen a sectors. The women in FEMUPROCAN have to learn how to sell their goods and develop the skills to do so with confidence. Despite the success of the watering systems described above in enabling members to diver sify their production and adopt specialized agricultural techniques participants had sometimes struggled to find a buyer for their produce and had been forced to sell at a low price or risk spoiling their crops. In the light of this and other similar expe riences, FEMUPROCAN realized that, in order for the women to make real profits and become less dependent on the national organization they would have to pay more attention to marketing. El Centro Cooperativo Sueco agreed, and in 2006 they shifted their sup for the commercialization of production, how to organize this and how to create infrastructure for commercialization technical assis tance, including market studies, internal markets and the formulation of commercialization networks. These networks were designed to eliminate intermediary merchants and allow the women to sell their production directly, and thus obtain a larger

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191 profit. Th was preparing for the next phase of their cooperation with FEMUPROCAN. Thanks to assistance from CCS and several other organizations FEMUPROCAN was able to build the basic struc ture for their roadside market, located near Ciudad Daro. In addition to a small stall displaying a selection of soft drinks and products made by FEMUPROCAN members the roadside market consists of a number of different buildings set in grounds planted wit leadership. Many of the training workshops for the members in the Daro area are held there and FEMUPROCAN employs a recent economics graduate, Mayli, to staff the small office and carry out various monitoring a ctivities with the women at the grassroots. A small wind generator provides power and everything on the site is grown using organic methods. Valle informed me that she wanted to demonstrate that it is possible to produce good crops and healthy plants organ ically and also to educate the members about the need to plant flowers, to make more of an effort to make their houses and farms pleasant places to live. She wanted them to take pride in their houses and their lands but explained that it was a long and dif mentalities. The primary function of the market is supposed to be to provide the women with a place to sell their products. Little by little FEMUPROCAN is improving the buildings, which remain very basic at present. Martha Valle also has visions that one day in the future they will be able to construct a roadside restaurant and small cabins for visiting delegations to stay in. In the more immediate future FEMUPROCAN is seeking to transform two of the modules into a laborato ry for processing and packaging goods.

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192 CCS has promised to continue their support, but, at the time of my visit, FEMUPROCAN was struggling to find even half of the money they needed in order to equip the laboratory properly. They were thus proceeding piece meal as best they could. When I visited in July and August 2009, however, one thing seemed clear the members were not using the roadside market to sell their goods. There were a few bottles of honey and wine produced by the women, but very little in th e way of vegetables or other fresh produce on offer. The one little stall selling these goods was staffed by the caretaker of the site and his son, and business appeared to be very slow. My interviews with the women confirmed these suspicions, as did repre sentatives from both Oxfam Canada and VECO MA. The vast majority of members still sell their goods to intermediary merchants who arrive in trucks from nearby urban centers to buy from the women at their farms. They explained that these merchants were able to buy all of their production at once and pay for it immediately. The roadside market did not have the resources to be able to pay the women for large quantities up front and lacked adequate storage facilities to prevent the products from spoiling before they were sold. Although the middlemen were able to provide the women with much needed instant cash for their products, they also were able to make significant profits. Many of storage facilities, and lack of knowledge about commercialization and marketing to buy the products for the lowest possible price before selling them at much higher prices in memb ers was the tendency for some of these merchants to buy up large quantities of produce when prices are cheap, sometimes to sell in neighboring countries for higher

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193 prices. Then, during times of scarcity in Nicaragua the merchants would return to sell the s ame products at much higher prices. Thus, due to a lack of storage facilities and knowledge of the market the women who produced the food in the first place would then have to pay a lot more in order to buy enough food for them and their family to survive. Especially with some of the vegetables grown by members with watering systems the women had to find a buyer quickly, due to the perishable nature of the product and were sometimes forced to sell at very low prices. FEMUPROCAN aims to eliminate many of the se intermediary merchants and train their members in marketing techniques. The national leadership emphasized that, in order to make a profit, the members had to change their mentalities. There was a tendency for the women to concentrate entirely on produc tion before considering where they were going to sell it. FEMUPROCAN trains its members to have a client agree in advance whenever possible and to carefully examine the small details of any agreements they make. Through the planning system coordinated by t he national organization, but carried out in each cooperative, FEMUPROCAN is trying to create a ensure that although there are always products on the market there is ne ver an overabundance of one thing, which enables us to manage and predict prices more 49 The national organization is attempting to convince its members of the benefits of selling collectively, via their cooperatives, instead of on an individu al basis. They pointed out that not only would this allow the cooperative to generate money for use on 49 Denis Medina, Centro Cooperativo Sueco, Managua, August 1, 2009.

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194 future projects or initiatives but also that many clients needed large quantities of a product or a guaranteed supply over a specific period of time. It was much easier for a cooperative to meet these requirements than an individual, especially considering the The cooperatives could also carry out quality control and ensure that hygiene and food safety standards re quired to sell products in supermarkets were upheld by the members. FEMUPROCAN, with support from VECO MA and PECOSOL (The Regional Program for Economic Solidarity in Central America), has recently begun to train its members in these regulations and packag ing processes. 50 The business networks currently being developed by FEMUPROCAN are designed to focus on the production of just one particular type of product and often have fewer members than the cooperatives. Certain of these networks have been selected as pilot schemes for the production of a variety of fruit jellies and preserves, and members in San Francisco Libre secured financing for a mill to produce pinolillo and other cereal products. 51 As with any new venture, there we re initial teething problems the lids of some products were not properly sealed, causing the food inside the containers to spoil, and it took time before the women were familiar with all of the requirements but the women were keen to learn and understood the importance of this type of controls. They were beginning to express a greater sense of pride and satisfaction in the high quality of their products, and this pride made them more rigorous in their selection and presentation of goods for the market. These standards, processing and packaging techniques not only 50 PECOSOL is comprised of an alliance between organizations of small producers from Central Ameri ca and organizations dedicated to processing and commercialization. 51 Pinolillo is a typical Nicaraguan drink made from ground toasted corn, cinnamon and cacao. The powder is normally sweetened with sugar and mixed with either water or milk.

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195 improved the quality of the products sold by the members but also added value, ensuring that they were able to command higher prices for their goods. In this way, FEMUPROCAN is preparing its members to sell their goods direct ly, not only to local stores or markets, but to supermarkets and bigger clients, who were more demanding and set hig her standards. The work appears to be paying off. During my time in Managua FEMUPROCAN, assisted by VECO MA, submitted a proposal to Walmart To their considerable surprise, the supermarket chain (represented by Supermercados Pal and La Unin in Nicaragua) After several rounds of negotiations FEMUPROCAN and Walmart appeared close to agreeing on a pilot project. If everything went well then this pilot project would gradually be expanded and FEMUPROCAN would become a regular supplier to the supermarket chain. As exciting as this development was for the national team, t hey were determined not to forget what they had learned about commercialization and marketing. They would start small and set feasible goals rather than trying to do too much too quickly. Rocha recognized that whilst this presented FEMUPROCAN with a fantas tic opportunity, it also represented a risk. The large supermarket chains had a reputation for failing to pay the producers on time, something that represented a real concern for an organization like FEMUPROCAN that had precious few economic resources to b egin with. This caution did not mean that FEMUPROCAN did not have big ambitions concerning commercialization. The national team explained that they hoped that one day they would have developed sufficient capacity within their membership to begin exporting their products to neighboring countries and, perhaps, one day even to the

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196 at the level of the supermarkets and, why not, at the Central American level. At least we want to be able to sell processed products in Central American and international 52 However, at present, this international trade still seems some way off an d would require even stricter quality control and compliance with further hygiene and food safety controls. The members participating in the training course on business networks were guided through each stage of the process by FEMUPROCAN. They were encoura ged not to rush through the steps, but to take time to build a solid base for the network and allow the members to get to know and trust one another before attempting to set up an enterprise together. Diaz informed me that many of the cooperatives had not spent sufficient time on building their organization before they launched into various initiatives. She saw this as a major reason for some of the problems they subsequently encountered. This was a fairly new initiative for FEMUPROCAN, and they were still in the process of training the first round of promotoras Many of the networks were in the very early stages of development, so it remains to be seen whether this represents a more successful strategy for the commercialization and marketing of production. To conclude, FEMUPROCAN, in my opinion, is taking the first steps towards a new phase in its development that focuses on the ability of its members to sell, process and package their products. So far progress on this front has been insufficient and commer cialization represents an important weakness in the organization today. The 52 Blanca Lidi Managua, August 3, 2009

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197 roadside market is clearly not yet functioning as it should, and most members still sell their produce individually, via intermediary merchants. However, there are signs that demon may pay off in the future, such as the agreements with Walmart and the adoption of new products and processing techniques. This emphasis on commercialization, encouraging individual cooperatives to become less dependent on the national organization, and greater integration into the market economy is likely a consequence of the shift to neoliberal policies around the world and in Nicaragua since the 1990s and a reflection of the domina nce of market oriented discourses and microfinance projects in much mainstream development thinking at the moment. Influencing the P rocesses of P romotion and F ormulation of P olicies R elated to the C ountryside and W omen P roducers? Dissemination of i nformat ion and m edia strategy FEMUPROCAN does not seem to have been very successful in obtaining media coverage for their events or demands. This may be due to the fact that, as yet, they have not developed a media strategy or paid a great deal of attention to th is aspect of the organization. They have identified this as an area requiring improvement in the future and Oxfam Canada is currently providing them with assistance in formulating their media strategy. Morena Diaz is the member of the national team respons ible for of newspaper coverage of FEMUPROCAN she replied that it was true that they had litt le contact with the media. This was partly due to a lack of financial resources. Diaz explained that the main problem was that they had found that organizations had to pay

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198 journalists to attend meetings if they wanted to get publicity for them, and that FE MUPROCAN did not have sufficient funds to be able to do this. The journalists in Nicaragua, she said, tend to write in favor of whoever was paying them. FEMUPROCAN did not seem to be actively pursuing other avenues for raising their media profile. They d o have a webpage, created with the help of Oxfam Canada, which appears to function well and gives a basic introduction to the organization. However it is not updated very often (partly because Ericka is kept busy with her other responsibilities as the pers perhaps benefit from being translated into English, (for the benefit of potential international NGO partners in the future). At present, FEMUPROCAN has not explored the possibilities of making contacts onli ne, through social networking websites, for example, which again would perhaps help to build their international profile (despite the fact that some of the national team have individual Facebook profiles). A simple web search for the organization brings up their website, a few articles from the Nicaraguan press (mainly from El Nuevo Diario and El Observador Econmico ), and a video diary FEMUPROCAN to write an article on what it is like to live on less than a dollar a day. Most of the pieces that have been published, however, concern the achievements of FEMUPROCAN in providing their members with a way out of poverty and thus provide valuable positive publicity for the organization. Some others focus on the in the economic and social affairs of the country. For example, in an article from 2006 that appeared in El Nuevo Diario William Briones explai ns how FEMUPROCAN and

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199 various other organizations had invited the presidential candidates to a meeting on the candidates attended the event. Only two representatives, b oth women, from the main two parties (the FSLN and PLC) actually showed up. The candidates for the Sandinista Renovati on Movement (MRS), the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN) and send any delegate in their place (Briones 2006). FEMUPROCAN may hope that this kind of article will shame policy makers into taking action to meet their demands and convince them to attend similar events in the future for fear of further bad publicity. The organization has also published a series of reports to coincide with their annual anniversary, and a detailed study of the organization carried out in 2006 under publications are pr imarily intended for internal use and not for public consumption. They help to disseminate information to the members of the organization and to NGO In addition to these self published titles, FEMUPROCAN has been featured in a few academic publications available in the United States, most notably in Deere and case studies came out of a conference held at the Unive rsity of Florida in 2006 and combines chapters written by scholars with those written by social movement leaders. Martha Valle contributed a brief chapter summarizing the goals, history, and achievements of FEMUPROCAN, potentially bringing the organization to the attention of scholars of social movements throughout Latin America. Not only does this perhaps

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200 increase their chances of featuring in academic research projects in the future, but it grants FEMUPROCAN a significant level of recognition and legitima cy as an important social movement organization. At present FEMUPROCAN is much more successful in disseminating information None of the people I met in Managua who we re not directly involved in working with rural women had heard of the FEMUPROCAN, let alone knew anything about the goals of the organization. It will be difficult for FEMUPROCAN to gain high levels of public recognition and media coverage without spending significant amounts of money. assistance, may help them to identify less costly ways of publicizing the organization and its objectives. Since my visit there have been some initial signs that this new media recently featured as the subject of a television news report by the Nicaraguan national TV channel, Canal 2. FEMUPROCAN has informed me that, in addition it is actively seeking to improve its coverage in the local media and encouraging the members to publicize their events and successes at the local and regional level. Lobbying and a dvocacy Lobbying and a dvocacy work, vital for FEMUPROCAN to be able to ac hieve their aim of influencing policy makers and public opinion, has only relatively recently begun to receive the attention it deserves within the organization. A UNIFEM report published in e least work until last year [2006] when they began a training program with the objective of forming a network of lobbying promotoras

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201 initiatives regarding advocacy work among their members does not mean that FEMUPROCAN has not managed to lobby successfully on behalf of their members at various times. Opinion seemed to be divided about the level and success of UNIFEM repor t mentioned above) and others, such as Angela Rosa Acevedo, full of praise for the organization: For me, their greatest strength is the capacity they have had to push forward proposals concerning rural women. As a consequence, many of their initiatives are discussed by those bodies in charge of formulating policy for rural women. It is a strength that they [FEMUPROCAN] exist because they are authorized to present the demands of rural women and ural egree of clarity as FEMUPROCAN. 53 However, all commentators agreed that FEMU PROCAN has consistently worked for the recognition of the identity of its members as rural women producers. It has taken a lot of hard work for the members to recognize themselves as producers and proved even harder for FEMUPROCAN to persuade the general p ublic in Nicaragua that women are producers and farmers in their own right: In the beginning, for example, when there were debates and committees we presented ourselves as housewives, not as women producers. First we had to recognize this [that they were p roducers] ourselves and then we worked in order that others recognized us. But in addition to recognition we were striving for valuation, valuation of the work done by rural women producers and for the support she provides to the household economy, to the problems we face in our recognition of ourselves as women producers, and 53 Angela Rosa Acevedo, Lawyer specializing in human rights, Managua, July 24th, 2009

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202 be categorized as any number of things, a fem inist, a lesbian, a 54 Some members have been bolder than others in affirming their identity and demanding recognition of their rightful place in society. These women have helped to break down taboos surrounding traditionally male activities (UNIFEM 2007). Many of the women are recognized as leaders in their communities and participate in the different local decision making and coordinating spaces. However, UNIFEM ques tioned how many of these women were given real decision making power. These differences in opinion make it difficult to accurately assess linkages forged by FEMUPROCAN with othe r organizations may help to shed some light on the matter L inks with O ther O rganizations A vital component of social movement organizations is their coordination and cooperation with other participants in the same social movement. The national leadership of FEMUPROCAN has clearly recognized the importance of building linkages for the success of the organization. As Valle remarked to me 55 I was interested to find out about the type of bridges that FEMUPROCAN had been buil ding and with whom they had chosen to coordinate. This organizations, the cooperative movement and peasant organizations both in Nicaragua and abroad. 54 ng, Monitoring and Evaluation, Managua, August 3, 2009 55 Martha Valle. President of FEMUPROCAN. Managua, August 3 rd 2009

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203 It is interesting to n specific organizations with which they collaborate in any of these movements. By contrast, the NGO partners who finance the organization are clearly identified. The website of the MEC devotes an entire section to their regional links, with contact details for each of the organizations listed. In this respect the MEC seems to have developed much further than FEMUPROCAN. rights and improving the Nicaragua. They do not define themselves as a femini st organization, even though some of the national leaders considered themselves to be feminists, and have shown lated to the organizations, by focusing on the differences between women have perhaps forgotten some of those things which they have in common. They have been reluctant to coord inate with one another in case the specific demands of their members are lost among the other demands of the movement. For example, in a conversation with Diaz studying po or women in Managua asked whether Diaz knew much about a couple of Diaz

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204 movements, or that they will not develop these linkages further in the future. For example, during my time in Managua, the leadership received an invitation to meet with a feminist g roup from Le n to talk about possibilities for future collaboration. Unfortunately, the group had to cancel this meeting just before it was scheduled to take place an d no alternative date was set. Nevertheless, this demonstrates that FEMUPROCAN is open to dialogue and possible cooperation with a variety of different types of feminists. Whether this openness to dialogue will ever translate into agreements to cooperate, or whether FEMUPROCA N will ever begin to actively seek out these meetings instead of just receiving invitations remains to be seen. At present, FEMUPROCAN, represented by Blanca Lidia Torres, participates in Development Program. This program brings together government institutions and civil society organizations in order to facilitate dialogue and cooperation between the st ate AGEM trains the participants in gender analysis methods search for a devel the integration of social and political actions that promote the economic autonomy of women in t he country (PNUD Nicaragua) This space has allowed women from 14 different organizations, including FEMUPROCAN, MEC and the wome UNAG, to share their experiences and learn from one another. The level of coordination

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205 is such that the participants recently agreed upon and published a document entitled La Agenda Eco n mica Conce rtada desde las Mujeres Nicaragenses ) This sets out their analysis of the current situation of women in Nicaragua, and princip al challenges that must be overcome by those seeking to establish gender equality in the country, as well as highli ghting some of the initiatives already undertaken by the participating organizations. This is clear evidence of the construction of a shared set of beliefs, a necessary component of a social movement. However, it was interesting to note that the head of UN Nicaragua, Maria Rosa Renzi and the Coordinator for AGEM, Veronica Gutierrez, both movement. They pointed out that FEMUPROCAN had not got involved spaces for the debate of issues such as abortion and reproductive health: always restricted themselves as an organization to those rights directly related to campai gns assoc Maria Rosa Renzi, Managua, July 15 th 2009 ). The leadership of FEMUPROCAN freely admitted this, arguing that they encouraged their members to participate in a variety of organizations promoting an individual basis. They felt that, as an organization with a relatively small national team, they had neither the time nor the resources to begin to better to concentrate o n the area that they knew well than to attempt to cover everything

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206 alliances with other organizations representing rural women, the cooperative sector and ic rights. They have not only sought out similar organizations and spaces for dialogue in Nicaragua, but also at a regional level, creating linkages with At the international level FEMUPROCAN participates in th Central American Integration and in the Regional Rural Dialogue. They were supposed Quito, Ecuador. However, FEMUPROCAN was not able to finance the cost of the plane ticket. One of their NGO partners had offered them 800 dollars towards the price, but the women were shocked to discover that this would not even pay for 80% of the airfare, let alone provide for the expenses incurred in the trip. Valle pointed out that this was an illustration of why it was imperative that FEMUPROCAN become financially sustainable as lack of funds served to limit the links FEMUPROCAN could build on an international scale. Additionally, she explained that FEMUPROCAN had n ot yet developed an international advocacy plan, and that such a plan was urgently needed to prevent them from missing opportunities such as this in the future. When I asked for the views of Oxfam Canada and Centro Cooperativo Sueco on the extent of FEMUP received two very opposite answers. Oxfam Canada seemed to agree with the Maria relationships with a number of organizations, they had not really engaged with many of the issues of the broader Oxfam believed that such

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207 participation would not only increase the visibility of the organization on a national scale, but would also help to develop and str feminism. El Centro Cooperativo Sueco, by contrast, seemed overwhelmingly positive about economic and political rights. They have built a lot of external relationships the main focus of this com are fighting for this, they are proposing bills, they are organizing movements of women to fight for land, and they proposed a bill, which has already been taken up by the legislative assembly, arguing for the approval of a law t create a land bank for women. 56 It is worth noting that, although Medina mentioned that he believed FEMUPROCAN was s rights, the example he gives is still From my interviews, conversations and observations, it appeared that the level of expressed by Oxfam C anada and the women from AGEM. Although they have forged national and international level, they have, so far, not developed many relationships with in Nicaragua in 56 was subsequently approved by the Nic araguan Parliament in May 2010.

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208 recent years. FEMU PROCAN appears to be aware of this weakness to some extent, and of the need to focus more attention on their advocacy and lobbying activities both within Nicaragua and internationally. Hopefully this will translate into a greater effort to building sustai ned, meaningful relationships with groups from different branches of the FEMUPROCAN and Cooperative Organizations FEMUPROCAN has made perhaps most progress in building links with other organizations in the cooperative sector. Their posi tion as the only all women federation of agricultural cooperatives operating in Nicaragua has given them a high level of recognition within the cooperative movement and allowed them to assume a leading role in many coordinating bodies both nationally and r egionally. Martha Valle is currently the President of the National Council of Cooperatives (CONACOOP) and a member of FEMUPR is on the board of directors of the Institute for Cooperative Development (INFOCOOP). These are the m ost important organizations in the cooperative sector in Nicaragua, and reflect the level of recognition FEMUPROCAN has achieved in this area. Furthermore, t hey are currently discussing the possibility of forming a confederation of cooperative organizatio ns to further increase their ability to lobby the government on behalf of the rural cooperative sector : T his would be another strength, if we form a confederation with other federations which allows us to put forward stronger proposals to government and ci vil society institutions. I think they would be stronger economically, socially and I would say politically as well. Why? Because your proposal is not the same when you have four thousand members as if you are talking about twenty thousand, forty thousand members then your proposal would be more convincing. It is for this reason that we are

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209 attempting to form a confederation between s imilar federations whi ch represent the farming sector. 57 Should this go ahead it will be the first confederation of coopera tives at a national level Torres observed that due to their status as the only all ion of cooperatives they might well have been granted a place in the confederation anyway. However, she believes that the other organizations forming the confederation have recognized the achievements of FEMUPROCAN, and that this recognition will allow th em to play a leading role in the new organization One of the organizations in talks the history of animosity between the two, I was interested to find out whether FEMUPROCAN was wary about cooperating with UNAG in this confederation. Diaz replied that the women of FEMUPROCAN felt that their work had achieved sufficient recognition for them to enter into the confederation as equal partners with UNAG, and that their relationship had now changed for the better: Precisely because of our successes we have gained recognition, they respect us. That is to say our relationship is not the same as it was when we were within UNAG. Now we talk to one another as equals, I mean as organizatio ns FEMUPROCAN and UNAG are on the same level. We each have our own proposals, our own work but now we can act together on some points, whilst respecting one another. The relationship has changed a great deal you understand because before they used to decid e what they were going to do, and up to what point we could advance but now they cara a cara one is in a position o f subordination you understand? 58 57 Martha Valle, President of FEMUPROCAN, Managua, August 3rd, 2009. 58 Morena Diaz, head of training and advocacy in FEMUPROCAN, Managua, August 6 th 2009

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210 On an international level as well FEMUPROCAN has been keen to participate in regional cooperative forum s, primarily from Central America but also some from Latin America. They are members of the Latin American Confederation of Cooperatives and Mutual S ocieties (COLACOT) and participate in the Central American Cooperative Roundtable. Perhaps it is not surprising that FEMUPROCAN has, overall, developed many cooperativism is listed as one of the key values of FEMUPROCAN, whereas the organization has r emained silent on many issues. Cooperativism is also less such as abortion. Cooperativism still forms part w Martha Valle, Matilde Rocha and Morena Diaz all have long histories of organizing within the cooperative sector. This experience has given them much needed contacts, and helped them to win an impressive level of recognition within the sector. This recognition is perhaps not surprising when one remembers that they are the only all women federation of farming cooperatives in the organizations in the country, and it is consequently much harder to achi eve this level of recognition FEMUPROCAN and Peasant /Rural Organizations However, these contacts and experiences within rural and peasant organizations t in

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211 international mixed sex peasant organizations. They appear to have largely limited their mixed sex movements, but this does not seem to have affected their involvement in the cooperative sector, as discussed above. I was curious to find out why FEMUPROCAN had not joined Via Campesina or CLOC (The Latin American Coordinator of Rural Organizatio ns), the two largest peasant organizations operating in Latin America (and, Valle responded by saying that she had helped to found Via Campesina in 1993 when she was still in organization in its early years but when FEMUPROCAN separated from UNAG it had taken them time to become consolidated as an organization, and strengthening the organization formed their first priorit y. They were thus not ready to enter into Via Camp esina at th at point. Since then FEMUPROCAN has been in regular contact with Via Campesina and the two organizations have kept the channels of communication open. However FEMUPROCAN still has not become a fu ll member of the organization. The members of the national leadership did not rule this out for the future, explaining that one of their immediate priorities for the organization today was precisely the development of an international advocacy strategy and the creation of linkages with influential movements throughout the region. They had prioritized the cooperative sector as this coincided most closely with the particular goals and beliefs of FEMUPROCAN but they were not opposed to the idea of participatin g in organizations such as Via Campesina who represent a wider range of rural people. Given their limited human

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212 and financial resources, they explained that it had not been possible for FEMUPROCAN to explore all the possibilities for cooperation on an in ternational level. However they hoped to develop further relationships internationally in the upcoming years. FEMUPROCAN and Linkages with Other O rganizations Many of the grassroots members of FEMUPROCAN collaborated with, or were also members of other or ganizations working in their communities. In the area of health, in particular, Torres informed me that there was a high degree of cooperation promotoras within the community. Some of these promotoras are employe d by the Nicaraguan government, whereas others are employed by NGOs. Individual cooperatives affiliated to FEMUPROCAN have forged alliances with representatives of organizations such as IXCHEN, a ual and reproductive health, and international NGOs implementing projects within their communities. Although FEMUPROCAN is not a religious organization, many of the members at the grassroots coordinate with their local church organizations on a range of di fferent topics. Perhaps these linkages with church based groups may explain some of or ganizations and FEMUPROCAN disagreed about an important issue. The key to understanding why FEMUPROCAN has chosen to participate in some movements and spaces over others is that FEMUPROCAN considers that the selected movements share some of the same belief s or objectives as them, as Torres explained to me: puntos de agenda

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213 women are articulated and, above all, when we feel that there is an opening for the priorities o 59 Additionally, they have developed much stronger linkages to those movements probably due to th eir contacts, experience and recognition built up over their time within the mixed sex organization. This explains why FEMUPROCAN appears to have focused primarily on the with to feel that the organization can identify with some of the more radical feminist groups in Nicaragua. Nonetheless, there are signs that they are willing to listen to what some of e future. It is my opinion that such collaboration could potentially prove very beneficial to both sides and could help to make FEMUPROCAN a more successful organization overall 59 nitoring and Evaluation, Managua, August 3, 2009

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21 4 Figure 6 1. The problem of identifying social movement outcomes A = Eff ects of movement actions that bear directly on movement claims B = Joint effects of movement actions and outside influences that bear directly on movement claims C= Effects of outside influences (but not of movement actions) that bear directly on movement claims movement claims Source: Tilly (1998) Movement Claims Effects of Outside Events and Actions Effects of Movement Actions B C A D

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215 C HAPTER 7 ACCEPTANCE In this chapter I analyze the extent to which FEMUPROCAN has been accepted as a legitimate representa measure of acceptance has four main elements: consultation, negotiation, recognition and inclusion. I take each one of these components in turn to discuss the level of olicy makers, civil society organizations and the general public in Nicaragua. Consultation in this case government policy makers and mainstream public opinion in Nicaragua, instigate co nsultations with FEMUPROCAN in a manner that treats the organization as a legitimate spokesperson for rural women producers. At the local level, Diaz argued that, partly as a result of their advocacy work, FEMUPROCAN members were regularly consulted by mun 1 My interviews backed this up and something, I am invited to meetings and many different events. I have a position of 1 Morena Diaz, head of training and advocacy in FEMUPROCAN, Managua, August 6 th 2009

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216 responsibility within the community and am always invited to workshops and to share 2 Representatives of national government institutions working at the local level, such as technicians and extension worker s from INTA and MAGFOR have consulted seed in their communities: me so that I could do it. So I cou ld distribute the seed among my the seed through the cooperative and the unions of cooperatives. 3 INTA came to find me and we had a meeting. They are supporting the cooperatives with tr already distributed the seeds for the gardens to around twenty cooperative matters. We are allowed to select people [for programs or assistance]. They recognize that women want to work and they meet with the presid ents [of the cooperatives] who are responsible for selecting the participants. 4 As the only all women cooperative organization operating at a national level in Nicaragua, FEM UPROCAN has also been consulted on numerous occasions by national government institutions, an achievement recognized by Oxfam Canada. Negotiation The main questions to be answered here concern whether negotiations are undertaken over a sustained period of time and demonstrate that the Nicaraguan representatives of rural women producers. 2 Mercedes, FEMUPROCAN cooperative member, Terrabona, July 22, 2009. 3 Leticia, President of a FEMUPROCAN cooperative, Te rrabona, July 21, 2009. 4 Adela, President of a FEMUPROCAN Cooperative in Rio Blanco, Managua, July 15, 2009.

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217 As Angela Rosa Acevedo asserted members at the lower rungs for years. Some of them had begun their advocacy and lobbying activities before of UNAG. This long history of polit ical action has given them and FEMUPROCAN significant legitimacy as negotiators for the rights of rural women producers. They have consistently engaged policy makers in debates over proposals affecting rural women, with the result that some of their demand s were included in laws discussed by the national assembly. Denis Medina, from CCS, was also keen to emphasize the sustained nature of mportant to me is that they carry out political advocacy work, always looking for support to bring their membership benefits from public policies, to obtain resources to support the production of their ating in institutional negotiations 5 negotiating with the authorities, pledging their support in return for formal recognition: We will support our mayor, the teacher Daniela Mar tinez, and her plan together with her councilors, but our support requires: 1 That we are seen as an organization, since we are a legally constituted trade association with 12 cooperatives and two unions of cooperatives 2 That we are assigned a quota as an org anization under the expansion of the Bono Productivo 5 Denis Medina, representative of CCS, Managua, August 1, 2009

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218 3 That we are included in the programs and projects that come to the municipality. 6 With regard to negotiations with the other primary movement antagonist, that is, mainstream public opinion, Torres assert keep demonstrating, you know, we live in permanent demonstration of the fact that yes we can do things, yes, we are capable of doing things. That we deserve these rights and this respect whereas men do not have to d o this. We, the women, have to 7 Thus each individual member of FEMUPROCAN is involved in day to day negotiations with the rest of society, in order for the contributions of rural women to social life to gain the recognition and the acceptance they deserve. Recognition Formal recognition would be signified by an explicit recognition on the part of the government and/or the public that FEMUPROCAN is a legitimate spoke sperson for rural women. In some respects, the government and the general public have little choice but to recognize FEMUPROCAN, given that there are no other organizations comprised entirely of rural women producers at the national level. There are, of co urse, other organizations with large numbers of rural women members, such as UNAG. However, as Oxfam Canada pointed out, it is not the same to say you are dealing with a mixed sex organization as it is to work with an all women organization. 6 From a speech given in the town of Terrabona on October 30th 2008. Signed by a nu mber of FEMUPROCAN Presidents and representatives from the Unions of Cooperatives 7 Managua, August 3, 2009.

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219 FEMUPROCAN enj oys high levels of formal recognition with respect to its legality as an organization, and the fact that all of the base level cooperatives have documents to show they have been legally recognized and registered by the government, or are in the process of obtaining this. With respect to the general public it seems that whereas FEMUPROCAN enjoys a high level of recognition within the small communities in which they work, the vast majority of the Nicaraguan public outside of these areas have not heard of the organization, much less formally recognized it as a spokesperson for rural women. For many not involved in the cooperative sector UNAG still enjoys much higher levels of recognition and legitimacy to speak for rural women. Despite my attempts to interview so am unable to gauge the level of recognition FEMUPROCAN enjoys within the However, the women I did manage to engage in conversation the 1980s and appeared to have heard of FEMUPROCAN, suggesting that the organization has achieved at least a m inimum level of recognition among those in appeared to have less knowledge of FEMUPROCAN, suggesting that the Federation has a lower level of recognition among those organizations Inclusion Finally, inclusion concerns members have been granted positions of status and responsibility within the

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220 organizational structure of the Nicaraguan government, whilst simultaneously remaini ng active me mbers of FEMUPROCAN The General Law of Cooperatives, Law 499, passed in 2005 and amended slightly in 2007 established two institutions as the primary regulators of the cooperative sector in Nicaragua: INFOCOOP (The National Institute for the Promotion o f Cooperatives) and CONACOOP (The National Council of Cooperatives). INFOCOOP is primarily concerned with registration, regulation and oversight of cooperatives, whereas CONACOOP focuses mainly on the promotion of the sector and its demands (Clarity: The C ooperative Law and Regulation Initiative 2006). FEMUPROCAN has been included in both of these organizations with one of their members sitting on the board of directors of INFOCOOP, and Martha Valle currently serving as President of CONACOOP. To be included in the two most important government bodies in the cooperative sector is certainly a major achievement for FEMUPROCAN, and a strong indicator of their level of success in gaining government acceptance as a legitimate spokesperson for the interests of rura l women. As yet, FEMUPROCAN has not been included to the same extent in other government institutions that formulate policy affecting rural women, suc h as MAGFOR, INTA or MIFAMILIA. At both a local and national level UNIFEM (2007) raised doubts about the w ays in which FEMUPROCAN had been included by the government, suggesting that they were not given much in the way of real power to determine policy priorities or participate in their formulation. For the most part, UNIFEM argued, FEMUPROCAN members have bee n included in spaces where pre determined policy is debated, and perhaps modified, but have not played a decisive role in constructing the policies in the first place. Oxfam

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221 Canada expressed similar concerns, discussed below. However, the overall picture t hat structures of government suggests that the organization has succeeding in gaining a considerable degree of acceptance. Inclusion by mainstream public opinion is rather more difficult to measure. What would constitute the relevant positions of status and responsibility in which involvement as a representative of rural women in various organizations and groups in leadership positions elected by the community. This would suggest that public opinion in these towns accepted FEMUPROCAN as a legitimate spokesperson for rural women. Evidence of this inclusion can be found in the 508 members of FEMUPROCAN curren tly carrying out positions of responsibility as Health and Ecological Brigadistas members of the Councils of Citizen Power (CPCs), the Municipal Development Committees, the Regional Committees, Health and Education Coordinators and members of Sandinista c ouncils (FEMUPROCAN 2008). However, members also reported that they continued to face discrimination because they were women, and were sometimes elected to less important positions or sidelined by the men, who paid less omen tended to be included more in those bodies and organizations dealing with issues that coincided better with ideas about the tr aditional role of women as caregiver s and mothers. So has FEMUPROCAN been successful in gaining acceptance as a legitimate s pokesperson for rural women? It appears that the organization has, on balance, achieved a high level of acceptance among government policy makers and officials in

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222 Nicaragua. It would be interesting to see whether this level of acceptance would continue und er future administrations, especially those not controlled by the FSLN. With regard to public opinion FEMUPROCAN has achieved only limited and uneven success, achieving significant acceptance in some areas and among some sectors of society, and much less i n others. Changing mentalities takes time and determination, and raising the public profile of the organization would likely require substantial amounts of funds and the development of a coherent media and public relations strategy. It may then be some tim e before FEMUPROCAN is truly accepted by the mainstream Nicaraguan public as a legitimate spokesperson for rural women. However, even if we accept that FEMUPROCAN has successfully been accepted as a legitimate spokesperson for rural women producers by the Nicaraguan government, acceptance alone is not sufficient to guarantee success if the organization is not capable of influencing those in power to change their policies or satisfy the demands of the movement. In this respect, Oxfam Canada feel s that FEMUPR advocacy activities leave much room for improvement, suggesting that : They were not making the most of their opportunities and lobbying on the demonstrate results in terms of [affec they participated from an individual perspective or at a local level. For example three women members of the cooperative would be part of the development council or community council but there was not a collective positi on as a federation, the 8 On a larger scale, FEMUPROCAN has yet to develop an international advocacy plan, which limits their abilities to participate in international events and movements. 8 Interview with representatives from Oxfam Canada, M anagua, July 31, 2009.

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223 These limitations are probably partl y related to the cost of implementing comprehensive advocacy training programs for the members. Bringing women from their communities to participate in national decision making spaces requires a substantial financial outlay not only does FEMUPROCAN have transport expenses, but they also have to provide them with food and accommodation. It can also prove expensive for the women, especially in terms of time that they could be using to work on production to provide for their families. In order to attend all of the meetings and spaces to which they are invited would require FEMUPROCAN to hire another member of staff. Given their difficulties in finding enough money to pay the current administrative costs of the organization this does not s eem likely any time soon. Nevertheless, FEMUPROCAN does actually carry out numerous advocacy related activities. However, they lack the funds necessary to publicize these activitie s outside of the organization. Conclusions So, how successful is FEMUPROCAN as an organization? To summarize, it appears that FEMUPROCAN has been successful in gaining acceptance by the Nicaraguan government and by many civil society organizations as a legitimate spokesperson for rural women. At a local level members have won subs tantial recognition and assumed a number of different leadership roles and positions of responsibility. This acceptance has allowed them to participate in decision making processes and put their demands on the public agenda. However, the government has all owed them to participate only up to a certain point, and no further and it is unclear whether FEMUPROCAN enjoys any real decision making power. Often the representatives are still not able to participate in these spaces on equal terms with men

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224 and powerful elites. Nevertheless, their achievements in this area mark FEMUPROCAN out as one of the most successful organizations representing rural women in Nicaragua at present. Internally they have made considerable progress towards strengthening the organization and training the members in a wide range of topics. Many women reported that they had experienced significant personal development and a sense of empowerment through their participation in the organization. This had enabled them to participate more in the social and economic affairs of their communities, representing systems, organic fertilizer and processing, had also been able to significantly improve their standard of living and their ability to provide for their families. The organization has created a strong sense of unity and shared identity among its members and this identity is slowing gaining widespread acceptance in Nicaraguan society. However, FEMUPROCAN has failed to generate enough money for the maintenance and functioning of the organization, and looks unlikely to do so in the near future. This represents a serious organizational weakness. They have struggled to change the mentalities of their members (and of the general public) and persuade them of the benefits of working collectively rather than individually. They have met with only limited success in developing the principles of cooperativism and admit that many cooperatives are still not functioning as they should. Despite some successful initiatives projects remain very limited in scope and benefit only a fraction of th eir membership.

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225 There is also still much room for improvement in terms of developing the commercialization and marketing skills amongst their members (although to be fair to FEMUPROCAN they have only just begun to focus on this aspect). Related to this, the organization has found it difficult to foster an entrepreneurial mentality amongst the women at the grassroots, with many of the cooperatives dependent on the national organization for assistance and direction. persisting constraints on rural machismo, the members faced obstacles in terms of their lack of access to and control over resources, particularly land and sources of finan cing. Although FEMUPROCAN is attempting to help the women overcome these hurdles and push for policy that would rural women in Nicaragua.

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226 CHAPTER 8 THE LIMITS TO AUTONO MY: FROM SANDINISTA AFFILIATED MASS MOVEMENT TO IN This chapter analyze s the extent to which FEMUPROCAN has successfully established itself as an autonomous organization representing rural women producers, or whether they have simply exchanged one form of dependence (on the FSLN) for another (foreign donor NGOs). When FEMUPROCAN emerged in 1997 from the FSLN affiliated rural mass seriously within the mixe d sex organization, and that the time had come to cut all links with a particular political party. Affiliation to the FSLN had provided mass organizations with important financial and political support, but had also placed limits on the freedom of the orga nizations to push for change. The FSLN controlled what was allowed on the agenda, and defending the revolution always took priority over the interests and demands of the mass movements (Bickham Mendez 2005). Autonomy meant that FEMUPROCAN, like other impo organizations in Nicaragua, had to seek alternative means of supporting themselves. The vast majority of this support came from (and continues to come from) foreign NGOs and social movements, normally based in the developed world. Thus, altho ugh FEMUPROCAN may have been able to distance itself from the FSLN, they remained dependent on outside sources of funding for their survival and development. Such aid does not come without strings attached, and donors all have requirements that must be ful filled before they will consent to provide money to an organization. This money must then be spent in the ways agreed upon in pre approved plans and detailed budgets. FEMUPROCAN has to submit periodic reports demonstrating that they are not deviating

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227 from the organization really has (Ewig 1999). Some scholars have argued that other their ow n agenda and lack the freedom to ac partners. the rhetoric of partnerships and cooperation favored by these NGOs it is extremely difficult to construct a relationship of equality between two organizations if one of the partners controls the purse strings. However, not all NGOs operate in the same way, and some are much better at granting their partner organizations in the Global South some degr ee of freedom to determine funding priorities, to participate in the design and evaluation of projects, and discuss ultimate goals and objectives. Other NGOs are much more inflexible when it comes to priorities for funding and attempt to implement their ow n projects without a great deal of participation from their partners at the design or evaluation stages. Although it may be unrealistic to assume that they will grant total freedom to their partners, there are clearly cases of donors that aspire to more eq ui table relationships with their S outhern counterparts, and those that exercise a high degree of control over position. This is not to say that working with Norther n NGOs does not have other advantages (besides merely financial) that may offset the loss of some autonomy for the organization in the South. Powerful international organizations can help to put the demands of groups such as FEMUPROCAN on the global agenda pressure

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228 governments in both the developed and developing worlds to take action to meet these demands, as well as provide links to similar movements elsewhere and valuable moral and technical support. This chapter will investigate the degree to which FE MUPROCAN has managed to the relationships between the organization and political parties in Nicaragua, as well as rs function. I then turn to a discussion about whether complete autonomy is desirable, or even possible, for an organization such as FEMUPROCAN. By comparing the experiences of i organizations to achieve genuine autonomy and what this means in practice. Defining A utonomy Before assessing the extent to which FEMUPROCAN has successfully achieved auton omy it is essential to explore exactly what autonomy means and which criteria should be used to gauge the extent of the autonomy achieved by an organization. This has been a source of considerable disagreement between scholars and among activists. Karen Ka mpwirth (2004, 63) writes that at the first National Feminist United itself. What exactly di Did this entail breaking all linkages with other organizations or institutions or was perhaps some sort of coordinating body desirable?

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229 Most organizations agreed that autonomy need not mean complete isolation, and Kampwirth ar gues that it was precisely the amount of coordination between different them to gain such a high profile on the international stage. Chinchilla agrees that for Latin American group s autonomy has meant the creation of new spaces for coordination criteria for me ns, Gonzlez, Loria and Lozano (1988, 22) cite Chinchilla (1992, 47), suggesting that it also means : T demands, one which does not imply their subordination. At the same time it means the existence of safe spaces where women can discover their identities, give mutual support, build trust, explore previously forbidden definitions of what it In Latin America, these safe spaces are usually linked to political activity in such a way that autonomy, for the majority of groups, is not simply a defensive concept and does not signify isolation or ghettoi However, both of these meanings of autonomy are rather vague and give little idea day to day basis. At a more micro level of analysis some of the defin itions of autonomy used by scholars of management and business practices may prove useful. Brock (2003 58 ), writing about autonomy within organizations the degree to which one may make significant decisions without the consent of others to day organization, to take actions without getting prior approval from another organization. To these definitions I would add that autonomy entails the freedom of an organization to set

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230 its own goals and priorities for action, and to maintain or alter the se objectives as they see fit. When discussing autonomy, or independence, it is useful to emphasize that to be completely autonomous an organization must be legally, financially and politically independent from other organizations. In much of the literature scholars have made years following the 1990 election defeat of th e Sandinistas. However it seems that the party (the FSLN) or the independence of women as individuals: As women enter into struggles to dismantle the structures of domination, they become acutely aware of their own discrimination as women within their communities and families. Their drive for autonomy often takes the form of gaining control over their bodies in reproductive issues, sexuality and obtaining mobility a seeking autonomy not only in their community and region, but also in the home, where they seek rel ief from patriarchal oppression (Nash 2005, 7) These definitions are problematic as they may serve to obscure o ther relationships of dependence that these supposedly autonomous organizations may have, in particular with the international development organizations that finance many of their programs. Therefore, in order to ascertain the degree to which FEMUPROCAN h as become an autonomous organization it is essential to understand the nature of the relationship between the organization and political parties in Nicaragua and a lso with their NGO To operationalize the concept of autonomy it is necessary to c onsider its various Disney identi fies two main types of autonomy: autonomy of thought and autonomy of action, that is, the ideological space to think critically and propose altern ative policy

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231 recommendations and the decision (Disney 2008, 47) She labels these ideological and organizational autonomy Ideological autonomy is concerned with the degree to which members of the organizatio n are able to from a gendered or feminist perspective and, as a result, to shape and conceptualize of, for, and by women she defines as decisions, elect leaders, issue statements, and shape policies on behalf of women given (Disn ey 2008, 48) recognition of the diversity of social interests, the refusal of class reductionism, and, a bove all, of economism (Chinchilla 1992, 47) This acknowledges that a utonomy is far definition constructed by those on the outside. Bickham Mendez, on the other hand, whilst she does see the relevance of these definitions and the ir utility in constructing the concept of autonomy, also points to the how these might differ from organization to organization and between different individuals within the same organization: It is important not to gloss the complexity involved in the construction of collective definitions of autonomy within the organizations that make up this movement. Shared understandings of the meaning of autonomy do not exist a priori, as political actors with the specific political and social conditions. Contemporary me anings of autonomy draw from particular interactions

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232 between global and local processes and social movemen t partic understandings of them. (Bickham Mendez 2005, 90) Aguilar et al (1997) also acknowledge the multi dimensional nature of autonomy, and the fact that it can be applied to both individuals and a collective. For them personal autonomy relates t determination in order to generate the conditions to create the possibility of living freely, according to the interests, beliefs, feelings and values of each person (Aguilar, et al., 30) From their interviews with partici of collective autonomy around the following points ( Ibid., 67): The capacity to act and decide in an autonomous manner The self sufficiency of the movement Autonomy is equal to or ganizational and financial independence from any institution There is more recognition of organizational autonomy and very little regarding the construction of specific identities of organizations It is relative and depends on the situation and the object ives of the group or organization general It is a process constructed by way of negotiation With these considerations in mind it was possible to formulate a series of research q FEMUPROCAN and how these were understood by the leadership and grassroots of the organization, as well as by the NGOs with which FEMUPROCAN works. These questions include d finding out where the money to fund the organization comes from and what type of conditions were attached to it, as well as whether FEMUPROCAN

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233 would be able to survive without financial support from its NGO partners (economic or financial autonomy). The degree of political autonomy refers to whether there were any formal or non formal linkages remaining with any political party or tendency do they make any reference to support/opposition for a political party within the printed materials they produce? A re there any regulations or laws linking them to a party? How is the organization seen by the members? Do they associate it with a particular political tendency? Do other people in their community associate FEMUPROCAN with a particular party? Are the membe rs also active participants in political parties? Has this led to any tensions or disagreements? What about the leadership, have they retained connections with people in government from their days in UNAG? I also examined the criteria for membership and le adership to find out if anybody was excluded or discriminated against and why. With regard to the organizational autonomy of FEMUPROCAN today, and its relationship with the NGOs, I was interested to find out how much input FEMUPROCAN had into each stage o f the project process. Who designs the projects? Who implements them? How are participants in a project selected? What kind of monitoring mechanisms do the NGOs require? Who evaluates the projects and according to which criteria? Given that autonomy involv es the ability of an organization to set and alter their own objectives and priorities for action I was interested to find out whether NGOs had tried to change the goals of FEMUPROCAN or whether the women had been allowed to construct and maintain these go als independently. Related to this, I inquired as to what mechanisms FEMUPROCAN had for maintaining their autonomy.

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234 Finally, during the course of my research it became clear that I had to analyze another component of autonomy; that of the NGOs themselves. Who provided them with their funds and who were they accountable to? Did this affect their relationship with FEMUPROCAN and if so, how? Political Autonomy In her ethnography of the Movimiento de Mujeres Trabajadoras y Desempleadas EC ), Bickham Mendez (2005) mentions the problems caused by doble militancia when members of the MEC were also committed party activists. As the movement sought to distance itself from the Sandinista party and develop their own set of objectives, tensions arose when those whose principal loyalty remained the FSLN accused the women seeking autonomy of betraying the revolution. This issue was not groups throughout the region. Inde ed it formed one of the principle themes of the first Regional Feminist Meeting in 1981 in Bogota, Colombia and generated much disagreement amongst conference attendees (Craske 1999) Several of the national leaders of FEMUPROCAN held high profile positio ns linked to the FSLN or served as Sandinista representatives in the National Assembly. Many of the older women at the grassroots had participated in the revolutionary struggles in 1979, and carried out a variety of functions in Sandinista institutions at the local or f the cooperatives that comprise FEMUPROCAN were founded in the period of Sandinista government. All of these factors seemed to suggest that, whereas officially

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235 FEMUPROCAN may not be associated with one particular political party, in practice there was lik ely to be some sort of connection and sympathy, at the very least, for the political goals of the FSLN. However, the picture that emerged during the course of the research was more complicated than I had expected. Almost without exception the people inter viewed asserted that FEMUPROCAN was not associated with any particular party. During my time in Nicaragua I met members who were clearly and proudly Sandinista, but also women who were outspoken in their support for their largest opponent, the Constitution alist Liberal Party (PLC). There were members who had taken an active role in supporting the Sandinista revolution in the late seventies and also those who had supported the Contra fighters in the 1980s. All seemed to agree that FEMUPROCAN was not the plac e to initiate conflicts along political lines and that all political viewpoints were welcome in the organization. There were clear commonalities with Sandinista ideology, particularly the focus on cooperativism and working collectively. However, it was als o possible to denote a shift within the organization in recent years towards developing the entrepreneurial capacities of the members, and a belief in the market as the solution (provided of course that the women were given the skills and opportunity to co mpete on a more equal footing than in the past). These aspects appeared to coincide more with the Liberal standpoint, and also reflect current trends in international development for the promotion of small businesses, micro finance and the idea that people can work themselves out of poverty without too much help from the state. Additionally, given the organizational structure of FEMUPROCAN, it became clear that some individual cooperatives were more associated with a particular party at the

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236 local level, bec ause the membership of that particular cooperative consisted almost entirely of supporters of the FSLN or the PLC. Their political sympathies were thus sometimes well known at the local level but this never went as far as the formal affiliation of the coop erative with that political party and the political views of the grassroots members did not translate into the formulation of a political standpoint for the organization at the national level. Having said that the polarization of Nicaraguan society along party lines had obviously affected some of these members at the grassroots and they talked about the problems that partisan politics had caused them within their communities. If their cooperative was primarily comprised of women from a different political party than that of the mayor then they sometimes found themselves them. They only cal l their people when there is going to be a meeting, they only invite their people. Look, I have never had a meeting with those people. We, because we are Sandinistas, are not taken into acc ount. 1 These political affiliations at the local or regional level can sometimes have level cooperatives. It also seems that, occasionally, women will forget that they are not supposed to talk party politics when representing FEMUPROCAN, such as in the following announcem ent These sixteen years of neoliberal governments have denied us the right to financing in order to produce and develop ourselves economically. Today, now that our party is in power we 1 Marina, president of a FEMUPROCAN cooperative, San Juanillo, July 22, 2009

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237 demand that they support us, giving us our rights that were denied to us mine) 2 This may well be a legacy of years of work with Sandinista organizations such as UNAG, which trained women to make announcements in certain ways and use a certain type of language. Habits such as these can be difficult to break and take time and effort. It is likely that as time goes by and fewer members of FEMUPROCAN had this sort of training that the old ways of talking will slowly be phased out. However, given the age of many of the members of FEMUPROCAN today, some of the old style rhetoric persists within the organization. Having said this, the fact that the organization has its roots in UNAG does not necessarily lead to a political affiliation on the p art of FEMUPROCAN. It must be remembered that the women who formed FEMUPROCAN left the organization as they when they left. Some women preferred to stay with the mixe d sex union, and, given that one of the reasons FEMUPROCAN separated was to have more political freedom, it may be that many of the women most ideologically committed to the FSLN remained in UNAG. 3 This high degree of political autonomy may well have been fostered by the General Law of Cooperatives which sets out the principles of cooperativism. According 2 From a speech given in the town of Terrabona on October 30th 2008. Signed by a number of FEMUPROCAN Presidents and representatives from the Unions of Coo peratives 3 politics and those that opted to separate w anted a little more freedom or flexibility with regard to several issues fundamental to the question of gender. And so, even if at the grassroots they may have Sandinista terview, Managua, July 15, 2009)

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238 to these principles it is illegal to discriminate against somebody on the basis of their political affiliation when forming a cooperative. It is therefor e not surprising that in many the Nicaraguan government or the legal framework for cooperativism. Perhaps even more important, has been the determined effort of the leadership of FEMUPROCAN to convince their members to work together, whichever party they support. The national leadership has repeatedly stated that FEMUPROCAN is not the place for party p olitics, and have encouraged the leaders at the local level to follow suit: Look, in our organization as a cooperative there are women who are Sandinistas and women who are Liberals, but in my role as president of the Everyone has the right to decide for themselves about their political party. I respect their opinion if they are Liberal and I also respect their opinion if they are Sandinista because we all have the legal right to decide which party we want to vote for. 4 The importance of respect and of harmony between the members was a recurring theme in the interviews I conducted with members of FEMUPROCAN. This was something that many members had struggled with at the beginning, given the political polarization of the country and the memories of the armed struggles of the revolution in 1979 and the subsequent Contra War which festered on throughout the eighties. However, it was a lesson that Martha Valle, the President of FEMUPROCAN, was determined to get across to the women, right from the beginning of the organization, and she was prepared to spend significant resources on getting her point across: 4 Adela, President of a FEMUPROCAN Cooperative in Rio Blanco, Managua, July 15, 2009.

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239 I say that i t is better not to get involved [in party politics within a cooperative] because one of the lessons that we received from FEMUPROCAN was that we are women, we are trade associations and we are not linked to political parties. We are a trade association and we see everyone in the same way because this was one of the first lessons that were women who wanted to listen 5 However, Martha Valle herself does not only ref rain from identification with a political party herself but appears to be distrustful and disenchanted with the whole system of party politics. In this sense, she shares the defining characteristic of new social movements identified by Hellman (1992, 53): movements in both Latin America and Western Europe do share at least one defining characteristic. That is their fundamental distrust of the traditional parties and formations of the Left. Movement participants often see parties and unions as interested in the success of the new social movements only insofar as they can manipulate these Although she was involved in the FSLN since before the fall of Somoza (1979) Martha Valle claims that she never shared some of the ideological fervor of other combatants. This did not prevent her from serving as a FSLN congressional representative when still a member of UNAG, though she asserted that she was motivated more by a genuine desire to improve the p osition of rural people, and women in particular, than by any particular ideological commitment to a particular party or desire for power or self enrichment. She was offered the vice presidency of MAGFOR (the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of the Nic araguan government) and various important mayoral positions but she turned them down and told me that she quickly 5 Leticia, President of a FEMUPROCAN cooperative, Terrabona, July 21, 2009.

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240 became disillusioned by the back stabbing and corruption she witnessed throughout her political career. Her whole experience in politics appea rs to have left her with a very negative image of the whole system and a deep seated distrust of all politicians. According to Valle, corruption among politicians was rife and almost everybody was in it for personal gain, regularly abusing their positions to enrich themselves. These sorts of practices disgusted her and she was determined not to let FEMUPROCAN get co opted by a political party. Such strong leadership from the top of the organization appears to have paid off in terms of the national organiza tion. this does not mean that FEMUPROCAN is apolitical or that they tell their members not to engage in political action. On the contrary, they urge their members to exer cise their political rights and participate in local decision making spheres as much as possible. They hold training sessions on lobbying and advocacy and to inform their members about these political rights. They recognize the benefits this can bring to t he individual women, and to the organization as a whole, in terms of recognition, policy change and material benefits. So, to summarize, it would seem that FEMUPROCAN has achieved a high degree of political autonomy at the national level, although the pi cture at the local level appears more uneven. Many of the goals of the organization coincide better with those of the Sandinistas than the Liberals (cooperativism, redistribution etc) but this has not translated into affiliation with the FSLN. Perhaps it i s better to talk of political autonomy combined with a degree of sympathy for some of the ideals of Sandinismo.

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241 Economic and O rganizational A utonomy The issue of economic autonomy hangs like a black cloud over the organization, and threatens to diminish th e importance of the gains made by FEMUPROCAN in achieving a high degree of political independence. Both the representatives from the NGO partner organization and some of the national leadership of FEMUPROCAN admitted that the organization owes its survival to the continued financial support provided by their international partners. At worst this lack of economic autonomy could result in FEMUPROCAN being nothing more than a puppet organization, a cheap way of implementing projects designed by the NGOs accor ding to their own agendas, whil e simultaneously cashing in on the current fashion for local participation in international development circles. Should this be the case one would have to ask whether this form of dependence represented a step forward at al l from the Sandinista era. The parent might have changed (FSLN to NGO) but the child (FEMUPROCAN) remains a child, subject to the whims and wishes of the adult and unable to survive on its own. However, this is not necessarily the case, and as FEMUPROCAN shows, it is possible for third world organizations to find NGOs who are prepared to form more respectful and less unequal relationships. In this way the proliferation of NGOs with funds to spend in countries such as Nicaragua represents a real opportunity for organizations based in the global south to formulate their own objectives and maintain their own vision and strategy. More NGOs mean more diversity among funders, and this gives FEMUPROCAN the ability to control what type of organization they work wit h. Firstly, in order to understand the position of FEMUPROCAN today it is necessary to summarize the development of state sponsored mass organizations under the

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242 Sandinistas and their subsequent evolution into so after the elections of 1990. Although mass organizations linked to the Sandinista party had seen their particular objectives take second place to the overriding goal of defending the revolution during the war, their loyalty was rewarded in the form of funds, influen ce with the government on some policy issues and a privileged status in law which allowed for the existence of only one mass organization per sector. During the in the law an d the financial support of foreign NGOs. When FEMUPROCAN split from would provide economic assistance. Without this assistance FEMUPROCAN might well have fallen at the fi rst hurdle, and certainly would not have been able to implement many of its projects or facilitate the training of its members in a wid