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Broegaard, Rikke Brandt
Year of Publication:
DIIS Working Paper No. 2013:18
Nicaragua in Central America is characterised by both high levels of poverty (especially in rural areas) and considerable inequality. Land ownership is still highly concentrated, despite attempts of redistribution of land during past agrarian reforms. Legally, according to the Constitution, women can own property on equal terms with men and most of the legal framework is in place to ensure women's formal rights to land, although marriage and inheritance laws and practices affect women's property rights negatively. In practice, there is a markedly skewed distribution between men and women regarding productive resources such as land and animals. Consequently, Nicaragua is a case that illustrates the importance of other factors for enabling women's actual access to and control over land. It is remarkable that, despite the supposed gender mainstreaming in agricultural policy and the progressive legal framework from the 1980s and 1990s, the state as source of land ownership is much less important for women than for men. There is also a considerable gender-difference regarding access to agricultural extension services and access to credit, as well as regarding education and the labour market. According to the recent OECD Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI), Nicaragua has the highest level of gender discrimination in the region of Latin America and the Caribbean. The civil war and the influx of international development organisations from the 1980s influenced the subsequent Nicaraguan women’s movements and the gender balance. International donors have given support to making women’s contribution to society and to the economy more visible as well as supported the sensibilisation to gender issues among civil servants and others. It is only through the work of the women’s movement in Nicaragua that the attitude towards violence against women as something natural is gradually being challenged. Donors have both inspired and pushed. With the onset of the Structural Adjustment Programmes during the 1990s, gender-elements became a requirement for access to international development aid programmes. Several international cooperation agencies played a key role in the programmes of individual adjudication of former state land and in the promotion of joint titling in the 1990s. Recently donors have supported a large-scale land administration programme including land titling. Regional organisations have also received donor support to strengthen women’s land rights and their access to justice in general. Furthermore, there have been considerable efforts by donors to coordinate their policies and efforts with respect to gender issues, vis-à-vis the Nicaraguan government. Since the electoral victory of the Sandinista party in 2006, the Nicaraguan authorities object to donor support in the area of democratic governance, viewing it as political interference. The withdrawal of funding by six major Western European cooperation agencies has seriously weakened prominent non-Sandinista Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). Remaining donors work in an adverse political environment with regards to gender issues. The current government has a ‘familist’ approach, as opposed to ‘feminist’, and gender-based violence appears to be on the rise. Despite important advances for women’s access to education, to land ownership, to voice and awareness about rights during the past three decades, where Nicaragua at times has been referred to as a positive example regarding equal rights and women’s liberation, there seems to be a reversal in this positive development since the mid-00s.
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