Gender and communications combat climate change in Nicaragua

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A shorter version of this lesson has been featured on the booklet produced by the MDG-F Environment and Climate Change window "Seeds of Knowledge - Contributing to Climate Change Solutions". - Read more about the booklet or download it in English / Spanish / French / Arabic.

Contents

Summary

This is an innovative and creative solution to our climate change adaptation problem. It addresses issues of climate change, environmental resources, communication, gender, youth and age. It tackles these problems through a local community-strengthening strategy.

The joint program was implemented in the municipality of Waspam in order to strength communications on Climate Change. The program started its implementation with a gender focus but didn't have a gender specialist, or resources to hire a specialist. To overcome this challenge the programme collaborated with an organization with strong leadership in the area. The local women's indigenous movement, Wanki Tangni was selected for this purpose.

The organization has more than 800 members and has presence in almost every community in the area. The members of the movement include teachers, politicians, religious leaders, technical, journalist, public defenders, judges and housewives. The collaboration of Wanki Tangni assures the programme’s success in the gender mainstreaming field.

They have organized 4 forums on 13 different topics; of these 4 had a focus on gender and climate change with subjects such as sustainable development and environment, women and land, women and biodiversity.

The programme benefits from the support and advice provided by the local women's indigenous movement, Wanki Tangni. The programme learned that technicians must recognize local forces such as the women’s movement in order to improve Gender and Communication for Climate Change. Women rely on the environment and play a proactive role in its protection. Therefore they are key partners and decision-makers in Climate Change development.

The programme also taught story writing and drawing. These are effective techniques to create awareness on environmental issues including climate change. The women’s movement also requested use of poetry as a communication tool.

The women's movement recognizes that when communication is accompanied by art it is more entertaining and effective. The art forms of communication used by the movement include: comedy, drama, satire, stories, songs, poems and drawings. They used metaphors and hyperboles as a means of expressing how they feel; what is happening around them and what they think will happen if things carry on as they are. 
These methods of communication revive local practices and local biological indicators from previous generations.

Based on our experience, our key summary recommendations are as follows:

  • Climate change is a topic of particular interest to rural communities. Adaptation and mitigation efforts are especially effective if they are lead by the community in its own language, culture and socio-economic context.
  • Gender identities and/or generational identities also have to be incorporated into the solutions, and programs must recognize local forces such as local movements in order to improve the process of gender and communication for Climate Change.
  • The art of story writing and drawing are effective techniques to create awareness and advocacy on the environment and climate change.
  • Partnerships with local and national authorities are key to the programme’s sustainability.

Anecdote: Rosse Cunningan, a female community leader, pointed out that quite often technology forecasts fail when it comes to predicting situations such as natural disasters, whilst local knowledge often remains accurate. She cites an example "If snakes are climbing to the roof and climbing to the tallest trees it means that hurricanes and floods are coming" to that place or territory.


Purpose of the activity

To strengthen existing local organisations and their communication methods. This will improve their communication skills on Climate Change advocacy.

Original issue addressed by the activity


The municipality of Waspam, is located on the banks of the Coco River, near the border with Honduras. Waspam Township, located almost 700 kilometres from the Nicaraguan capital has 108 communities. It is considered one of the country's poorest regions and the most vulnerable to natural disasters. The natural reserve is threatened by land invaders, livestock activity and illegal timber traffickers. The Miskito populations live on both sides of the border. Unlike other regions, these populations are not migrating. They live in the midst of nature reserves or buffer zones.

The River and natural resources sustain the lives and livelihoods these communities. With such dependence on nature they are especially vulnerable to environmental change. The river has many functions: it provides free transport; it is very useful as a source of food through fishing; it provides a constant water supply and is used for agriculture. These communities would not survive without the river and the forest. They depend on the river, as the people of the city depend on the air. Therefore they are well motivated to work on action for the environment and its natural resources. Especially the women, who oppose land invaders and illegal timber traffickers, they know that the river and the forests are inter-connected.

The Miskita women bring water for the home. They use it for cooking, housekeeping and child care. They understand well that the deterioration in water quality represents a health problem for the community. It affects their quality of life and gives them food security. If the water is contaminated it affects them directly because they must go further to get it. . That’s why the production of short stories, poetry, drawings and songs are always about the river.

Strategy / approach chosen to address the issue

The programme strengthens the capacities of existing local organizations with a focus on enhancing expertise on the interconnecting roles of gender and environment. It highlights existing mechanisms, methods, skills and styles of communication.

Implementation of the strategy / chosen approach

The programme aimed to strengthen the women’s movement in the area. It aimed to maintain their authority. The programme held one meeting with the leaders of the indigenous women’s leadership movement and in this meeting they accepted to be partners with the joint programme. They indicated areas in which they needed support.

An innovation carried out by the program, was for example, the women were already well advanced in storytelling and drawing as an artistic way of communication but they expressed their dream to become better writers and to improve their knowledge on poetry. The programme brought on board a poet, Christian Santos, who is an environmentalist and a famous poet known nationally for his voluntary work on violence against women. He established the framework for the poetry writing trainings. It was the first time in the country that a workshop on the art of poetry facilitated by the most famous poet was held for the women of the poorest areas. Women of many backgrounds attended.

Results and Impacts

Positive results:

  • The Ministry of Environment considered the women of the Wanaki Tagni organization a local counterpart to implement environmental and climate change work in the area.
  • The Biodiversity Youth Research Network was established in collaboration with The Ministry of Environment. The network builds the capacities of 48 youth and promoted participatory research on climate change among the youth between the ages of 14-19 in the communities. The aim is to promote community based monitoring and strengthens environmental education in schools. Local governments, local universities, women movement and local environment organizations are actually supporting the youth network.
  • The women's movement is leading the community committee and youth research network on climate change. It is monitoring the biodiversity in Waspan.
  • This method of using poetry to raise awareness on climate change and better use of natural resources has had a great impact on both the youth and the elders in the indigenous communities. It has had a great impact on local management of natural resources.
  • The Wanaki Tagni organization has attracted more members and allies for awareness-raising and advocacy on climate change and biodiversity. For example, the youth are putting lyrics to the environmental poetry and the songs have become very popular among among community members.
  • The Ministry of Environment considered the women of the Wanaki Tagni organization a local counterpart to implement environmental and climate change work in the area

Evidence

  • The Biodiversity youth research network
  • The school brigades for environmental education
  • The women of the Wanaki Tagni organization developed their capacity in storytelling and poetry writing. It was the first time in the country that a workshop on the art of poetry, facilitated by the most famous poet, was held for the women of the poorest areas. Awareness was raised through radio programmes. Women participated in poetry readings; others recited the poems in their villages during the environment week celebrations and others occasionally read poem fragments that were broadcasted on radio stations.
  • The women organized marches on women’s day to express the importance of the Coco River. Women carried slogans and banners carrying messages to urge population to protect the environment in Waspan and the river Coco. “the river is life; it is our transport, our water resource, our food source as we fish for, shrimp, and conches and it is the sources for the all species. Do not do not destroy it.”
  • In addition, all poems produced on the workshops were compiled and delivered to the national culture house for its publication and dissemination.

Next Steps

Wanki Tangni continues disseminating information and creating awareness on Climate Change. Some of the poems are going to be produced into plays at schools.

Potential replication / application

This experience represents a form of communication that respects traditional knowledge, folklore, art, creativity with ability to inform and entertainment. In addition it develops talent in different art forms (music, poetry, and storytelling). It adds elements to the culture and values local needs and norms. It has had great acceptance among community members and have great potential for replication. While it was successful and specific to the context of the Waspam community, we beleive that there are key messages and lessons from our experience which are also applicable elsewhere.

Recommendations

  • Climate change is a topic of particular interest to rural communities. Adaptation and mitigation efforts are especially effective if they are lead by the community in its own language, culture and socio-economic context.
  • Gender identities and/or generational identities also have to be incorporated into the solutions
  • Programs must recognize local forces such as local movements in order to improve the process of gender and communication for Climate Change.
  • Project and programs should aim to support the development of these local organizations.
  • The art of story writing and drawing are effective techniques to create awareness and advocacy on the environment and climate change.
  • The art forms of communication such as: comedy, drama, satire, stories, songs, poems and drawings revive local practices and local biological indicators from previous generations and had great impact in the youth and the community elders.
  • Partnerships with local and national authorities are key to the programme’s sustainability.

Information products

  1. Poems produced by the Women
  2. Pictures
  3. Stories about local environmental issues relating to natural resources highlighting culture/economic interconnections.

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