by Jonathan Butcher, COO
I often have the opportunity to stand in and listen to the community meetings that take place with The Lily Project. Typically, I’m just involved in the strategic operations and “heavy lifting” while Anielka and her team organizes the community. However, yesterday I had an opportunity to do a little more.
While in the community with The Lily Project, I work on another project that focuses on connecting capital resources outside of the country with local communities in order to bring more opportunities to the local folks. As most of us know, foreign cooperatives and distributors take the biggest cuts of the profit in rural communities and the farmers are left poor, so we have a plan to change that scenario. At the meeting yesterday, we gathered a group of men and women to talk about the opportunities with The Lily Project as well as other sustainable opportunities.
Key to our approach with the community is the message that ALL people in the community have equal value. Both projects believe women and men should have equal opportunities in the home and the workplace. In the U.S., the philosophy is not foreign; however, in Nicaragua, the belief is not always welcome. When only women attend the meetings, heads will nod in agreement. However, yesterday the meeting was mixed with men and women, and the women did not even make eye contact with us. The men, on the other hand, were very vocal.
The first objection came from a 30-something year old man with his wife in the back of the room. He thought the idea of a woman being naked in front of another person violated God’s laws regarding women. Another objection came from the other side of the room regarding the position women take when the exam is being performed. Another man spoke up about the privacy of the women and felt that it was not worth it if others knew about an issue she may have. The Lily team answered all of the objections gracefully; however, considering it was the men who were vocal, I felt it was my responsibility to respond as well.
My response was “How can we as men gather together and talk about the women and their rights while they sit in silence? More importantly, we should be talking about reasons the women SHOULD have the exam. Cervical cancer is the number one reason women are dying in Nicaragua – the highest in this part of the world; only Africa occupies a higher place. The reason for this is clear: men are speaking for the women and often times pressuring them or prohibiting them from taking care of themselves. We as men have the responsibility to change this. We SHOULD be talking about the reasons the women should be at the Lily event and start encouraging and supporting our women to take care of themselves considering they take care of us and the family always.”
Men of Nicaragua, it is time to step up and end the control over women. Women deserve to be treated as an equal part in the relationship, and it is imperative that we ensure their needs are met just as we would attend to any need of a member in the family. Moms and wives are the cornerstones that must be cared for. After all, if your mom were not healthy enough to take care of you when you were growing up, where would you be today? Think about it and let’s change this situation together.