Monday, March 17, 2014

AMICA NGO in support of Women and Children on Atlantic side of Nicaragua

Welcome.  We’re happy to receive you here.  We are an association of indigenous women.  Association de Mujeres Indigenous Costa Atlantica.  I am Doris Borst. 
Telma Correa Tasti Yamilette, a collaborator with AMICA since 1990, the year it was formed.
Mariloo, program “Your Power”, financed by Plan Nicaragua.
Maicla Avalino, “Your Power”
Dia Navajo, Minister for AMICA
The Board of Directors is in  Costa Rica at a round table on protected areas.  They wish they could be here to greet you.
AMICA received legal status with the government in 1991.  It was founded because there was no women’s organization, we were at war in the 1980s and 90s and the situation here was unstable.  Many of our people were in Honduras – single mothers and others were coming home and needed help.  In 1994, we organized to educate the people about laws that affect women and about our people.  In about 1995 we started handling longer projects about women’s rights, family planning, sustainable tourism, and a rotating loan fund.  We offer vocational training such as sewing without a pattern, cooking, and baking.  We had to include educating men about the broader rights of our people. 
We offer leadership training, and training about laws and international treaties.  We have Law 28 and 445, the International Labor Covenant, but the PEOPLE have not been trained except for a few leaders.
At first, we were bringing two or three women from each community to train them about these things including Law 779 to prevent violence against women, but the message was not getting back to the communities from those we trained, so we changed.  Eighty percent of our work now is going out to the communities themselves, two or three at a time, giving workshops.  We had our autonomy, but the men did not accept women into leadership.  Now in many villages, women are leaders, but not in all communities.  In some, access is difficult, there is not much education or leadership for women, and NGOs never go there.  Associations and Governments say that things are getting better, but this is not necessarily true – there are great needs and no one is paying attention.  It is lamentable, and we can’t cover up the sun with one finger.
We have had many legal advances, we have won through long struggle – it was not just given to us.  We struggle as AMICA to keep open and to help all who come.  We have grown in women’s rights and progress against violence against women and walking them through their legal processes.  From the Bilwi neighborhoods women come to us for help.  AMICA is a pioneer against family, women, and sexual violence; we are a coordinator of women’s rights action.  There was a lot of work done before we got special police stations for women and police.  We educate judges about women’s and children’s rights.
Our main focus is women and the family.  We also train to build capabilities.
We have broadened to political, logging, health care, food security, and other issues.  We work with international groups from different countries.  Funding has focused on small pilot projects and some longer projects.  Pilot projects lead to financial problems when they are over, and then we need to figure out how to continue the work.  For example, the World Wildlife Fund project for educating coastal communities to reduce eating the green sea turtle.  We go out and educate people, but the project ended.  It was a ten month project.  The sea turtle project was good – people used to live on them.  We provided people with fishing gear and refrigeration.
Paulette comment – this happens a lot with big NGOs that the projects don’t become self-sustaining.  Speaker continued - The World Bank came around – we said AMICA didn’t have money to continue to visit these communities.  The World Bank told us that the communities required follow up, but they didn’t send their final report back to us.  There have been some continuing projects at universities to see how sea turtle hunting has changed.  The problem is that they stay at the level of studying it.  The Latin American Development Bank and World Bank just study things.  They hire expensive consultants.  But AMICA work in that area has not continued.  Not all is bad, though – just pilot projects.
Longer programs, for one or one and a half years have had good results.  For example, women are organized in every community as members of AMICA with elected leaders, and organized in their community as a basis for us to do our work in the communities alongside the other community organizations.  These are women hat we’ve been training for years, who will now stand up in a community meeting and express themselves in a forceful way that they would not have 15 years ago.  This gives us strength to continue.  I can send the international group into our communities and these women know how to receive them and show them what’s happening in the community.  They also know how to respond to domestic violence to women and get them to the women/children police stations, to the judges, and to AMICA for help.  We train people to understand laws – about natural resources, rights, land, as leaders and community members.
We have outside allies – non-indigenous, men, teens – we educate all of them.  We educate youth about reproductive rights and health and women about leadership.  We teach ancestral tradition, traditional knowledge – which is being lost.  How our resources were managed and our leadership among our people was, traditionally.  We facilitate communication between adults and youth.  We’re weaving together these activities – everything related to family.
Here we see people with violence problems.  The government office – women’s and children’s police station – report some alarming statistics – As AMICA in 2013 we took care of 135 cases, which is an under-reported number, but the women’s and children’s police stations report 3600 cases.  This includes domestic and sexual violence, much of which is against young girls as young as five years old.  In case of rape of a child, the women take their child directly to the W&C Police Station or to a judge.
We must have an education focus as well.  In cases of abuse over a long period of time, we help with follow up, and help with child support for single mothers.
Nancy Alicia Enriques of the Board of Directors
Welcome.  We would like to maintain contact with you.  We struggle with other groups that are for rights of women and children and indigenous people.  We work on collective and individual rights of indigenous and Afro-Caribbean people. 
We are working with groups from Holland, Germany, Canada, and England.
Please let us know about international meetings and projects you find out about that are appropriate for AMICA.

In the evening, Susan, Helen, Kathy and one other visited the director of AMICA.

Susan – in Dario, so many women 14 – 16 years old are pregnant and having babies.
Director – this is typical.  Wedding vows include a vow of using no contraception.  The same problems are everywhere that there is a lack of information.The Morava church, possibly the most popular in indigenous areas, says that you must have as many children as God sends. 
We try to educate the judges, professors, pastors in each community regarding family planning, but it’s still hard, even with contraception available, to convince people.  There is a minimum of health care – one center for each 6 – 8 communities and not much medicine.  The Miskito nurses run out of medicine and may not love their work.  Another problem is malnutrition – people may only eat what they have planted, possibly no fruits or vegetables.  Even in the Bilwi hospital, you may be in the emergency room a long time before you are seen by a doctor.  There may not be enough money for the correct medicine or X-rays.
The free health care and polyclinics are there, but there is a lack of resources and materials.  The doctor might lie and say that they have no birth control pi8lls, but you can buy some from my friend/brother’s pharmacy.

It is 20 – 24 hours to Managua by bus.  Some people can’t even get to Bilwi because they don’t have enough money.

There was a male nurse who was injecting women with water instead of Depo-Provera – almost all of the women in the town were pregnant.  Eventually, people figured out what he had done and he was fired.
Everyone has been tested for HIV, and it came back negative.  They took a whole team, but just for one day.  The took care of all of the medical needs of the community that they could do on that one day.  There was one girl who tested positive, and she was pregnant.  The US military is using prostitutes in Honduras and HIV is coming across the border to Nicaragua.  There are lots of cases where people pass it on, and maybe they even know they have it.  Now the government is providing treatment for HIV+ patients in polyclinics.  There is a shelter for HIV+ people, which is private and the testing clinic is private.
A lot of girls can’t go to school.  The families send them to school somewhere, they come home pregnant, then have to go away to work to support the baby, and come home with another baby to care for.  This goes on and on.

Jazelle – people are losing the knowledge of traditional medicine, including those for birth control.  This implies a larger problem of loss of traditional education.

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