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BWAP 2024: Grace & Power Under Dictatorship ~ Allyson Mills

Allyson is a first-year Master’s student in Environment and Resources along with getting certificates in Life Sciences Communication and Gender and Women’s Studies.

In Nicaragua there are societal, political, and economic challenges which stifle many people’s hopes for self-sufficiency and opportunity to improve their lives. On this trip we experienced how local organizations like ProMujer assist Nicaraguans in bettering their lives and increasing their financial and mental space to dream.

ProMujer (a microfinance organization which translates to ‘pro-woman’) places unemployed women at the core of its comprehensive financial, educational, and healthcare efforts. When women seek a loan, many have children or are pregnant, and ProMujer ensures these mothers and their children thrive through prenatal, postnatal, and nutritional care. Our guide, Leilani, shared that reproductive education is extremely limited in Nicaragua in addition to a complete abortion ban. Therefore, ProMujer’s work counseling, caring for, and supporting these women gives them the agency to start working towards a better life.

We had the opportunity to meet some of ProMujer’s end borrowers in a more rural part of Leon. In a neighborhood with chickens, stray dogs, and children running through the ficus trees and snake plants, 17 of us entered a lime green house with a corrugated metal roof. Inside a group of women sat hard at work flipping through stacks of cordobas to count their weekly earnings, fanning themselves with paper as our presence made the already hot room even stuffier.

The diversity of the group surprised me and filled me with hope. The women appeared to range from their early 30s to late 70s. One bounced her 2-year old daughter on her knee and let her wander around the community of women as we talked. She was eager to greet us, hugging one of our legs and proudly calling out “Pollo!” at the wandering chickens across the street. The women initially banded together because it is easier to apply for a group loan than an individual loan.

Each of them pursued different businesses. For instance, one member sells frozen chicken and another runs a small book and perfume shop out of her home. At the end of the week, the group splits their income based on need, which reminds me of the scripture from Acts 2:44-45: “The company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which they possessed was their own, but they had everything in common.” The passage continues to share the power present in their community and the “great grace upon them all”.

To me, these women end-borrowers believed in a better collective future as the disciples believed in Jesus. While meeting with them, I heard how powerful grace unfolded when one older, partially blind member shared that ProMujer provided independence from abusive husbands who restricted their wives’ personal and financial agency. Another in the corner half-jokingly added “Sí, no more cheating men!”

This passage from Acts can sound a bit Pollyanna in the face of the Nicaraguan dictatorship and the immense economic challenges many are facing in the country. Despite this, our conversations with people in Nicaragua only solidified my conviction that grace has immense power, especially when enacted in solidarity found through community. Extending one’s financial and personal gifts to one’s community gives this grace power.

The question for our Pres House community now is, what can we do? And what will we do? Grace Lee Boggs, one of my favorite American social activists, wrote in her autobiography that “we can begin by doing small things at the local level…that is how change takes place in living systems, not from above but from within, from many local actions occurring simultaneously.” Now, for us, it’s our turn to reflect on how we can support local actions seeking positive change, both in Nicaragua and in our own local communities. Amen!

Read the rest of the BWAP Nicaragua 2024 reflections:

Rev. Mark Elsdon ~ Why Nicaragua?
Jack Wilharm ~ The Power of Microfinancing
Mei Hippe ~ Perfect Solutions?
Nathan Tan ~ Politics and Faith
Aurora Kuelbs ~ Opportunity
Kyle Digman ~ Murals in Nicaragua
Will Clancy ~ Politics of Faith
Sophie Elsdon ~ Nicaraguan Pride

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