"We'll he's dead now, so I am free. Thanks be to God."
Every year CIEETS -- the theology education and sustainable development wing of the university where we teach -- organizes a cátedra (or conference) on women and gender issues in Nicaragua. This past December the focus was on the "Daily Life of Women and Adaptation to Climate Change" and we organized two days of talks and activities, one in Managua and the other in Juigalpa. I confess, I was worried the theme would be a hopeless jumble, but it worked beautifully. (I already blogged a few of the videos and songs from the conference here and here.)
Domestic violence was brought up a lot, and unfortunately, the problem of domestic violence is a critical one in Nicaragua today. It is often said that Nicaragua is the least violent country in Central America, a fact that obscures the violence that happens behind closed doors. Nica feminist groups have done a lot to raise the visibility of the issue with an effective series of ad campaigns, marches and legal advocacy. All three women immediately drew connections between domestic violence and education for women, the importance of building self-esteem among women, of building their economic independence, and of raising the next generation in a new paradigm.
The sprawling nature of the conversation is fairly typical of these events. Once you enter through one door (e.g. domestic violence), you find yourself talking about every possible related topic: education, unemployment, food prices, rainfall patterns, etc. etc. The spanish word that gets used a lot is el desarrollo integral, which means integrated or holistic development. It's the idea that we need to address multiple issues in parallel in order to make progress. It can be daunting or inspiring, depending on your mood.
We showed the following video (produced by the UN Environmental Program) about the importance of investing in climate change adaptation measures. Nicaragua has long experience with natural disasters and so the need for such adaptation and preparedness measures is an easy sell. What is harder is securing funding for what needs to be done, and getting reliable regional predictions of climate change impacts (a very hard scientific problem that is woefully underfunded).