January 2013 Live It! Project Report
Hana Masri, Carmen Mendieta Women’s Association, Nicaragua
When I left Nicaragua in August 2012, after a semester there plus two months interning at a feminist NGO, I did not know when I would be back. The prospect of never returning, particularly never returning to see the women I worked with to start a feminist group in the city of Matiguás, left me feeling immensely sad and uncertain. I started looking for opportunities to go back almost the moment I arrived in the U.S. and it was Macalester’s Live It! fund that allowed me to make that vision a reality this past January.
With the grant from Macalester, the Carmen Mendieta Women’s Association and I originally hoped to open a pulpería—a small convenience store—with the goal of generating funds so that the group could facilitate workshops educating community members about gender violence. When I got to Nicaragua, the plans had changed. The members of the women’s group now wanted to work together to buy used clothing in bulk and sell the pieces individually, a process that generates money faster and involves more women than a pulpería would have. The plans had also gotten bigger: while some of the funds generated from the used clothing collective would still be put towards facilitating feminist workshops for the community, the women were also talking about saving funds in order to build a Casa de la Mujer. The Casa de la Mujer, the women’s house, would provide space for the group to meet and be an important resource for women looking to escape situations of violence.
After an exhausting week of buying and selling hundreds of pounds worth of used clothing, the Women’s Association opened a bank account in which to deposit the three hundred dollar profit made from the week’s sales. When I left Nicaragua, this time much more certain that I will return to continue collaborating with the women I have grown to respect so much, the group was looking at plots of land, one of which will hopefully provide space for the Casa de la Mujer in the near future.
From this project, I learned the power of stepping back; while I provided the funding for the clothing collective, it was not my idea—in fact, it was far superior to my idea and better suited to the women’s group and their community—nor did I do the major work of planning and executing its sustainability. For anyone who is looking for an opportunity to work with a community they care about and step back from their own ideas in favor of those of that community, the Live It! fund is a great option.