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From Nicaragua: What It’s Like to Live on Less Than a Dollar a Day

Worldwide, over a billion people—1 out of every 6 human beings—live in extreme poverty, surviving on less than $1 a day.

In Nicaragua, this is enough for a woman to buy a bus ticket to get to work …
In India, this is enough for a girl to buy one notepad for school …
In Nigeria, this is enough for a mother to buy one loaf of bread for her children …

Most Americans can’t imagine trying to feed their families, send their kids to school, or take care of relatives on only a dollar a day. But millions of women around the world are forced to do exactly that. Even though women are more likely to spend income on food and education for their children and, in many countries, produce the majority of the food supply, they face unequal barriers that prevent them from earning enough money to escape poverty. Giving women economic opportunity turns this cycle around.

Year round, Women Thrive Worldwide (the organization I co-founded and am President of) advocates for policies that give women the economic opportunity they need to escape poverty. On February 24, in honor of International Women’s Day (March 8) and Women’s History Month (March), I left my home in Annapolis, MD and traveled to Nicaragua where approximately 831,000 people live on less 20 Cordovas, the equivalent of one U.S. dollar.

Once in Nicaragua I traveled to the rural region of Terrabona, which suffers from extreme poverty. There I stayed with members of FEMUPROCAN, a local women’s agriculture cooperative working to empower Nicaraguan women. Keeping a diary, camera, and video camera, I documented the lives of two extraordinary women, Leticia and Betilde, both struggling to survive on far less than twenty Cordovas, or one U.S. dollar, a day.

Watch an interview with
Leticia Mansaranes Lanza, a FEMUPROCAN co-founder.





Continue and read an excerpt from my diary when I stayed with members of FEMUPROCAN in rural region of Terrabona.

Saturday, February 23, 2008, 6:30 AM

FEMUPROCAN: Empowering Women Through Agriculture

Our day starts bright and early in Managua, the capital. I have brought the following provisions for my weekend:

1 hand towel—which doubles as a shawl, hat, seat, pillow, or pillowcase, depending on the situation.
Bottled water
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Bug spray
Notebook and pen
A thin plastic Radio Shack bag to carry it all in

We are greeted by our colleagues from FEMUPROCAN, a women-run agricultural cooperative that helps women in poor rural regions grow and sell crops sustainably. Our host is Maria Elsa, a FEMUPROCAN organizer for the Terrabona region in the Matagalpa state, one of the poorest rural regions where FEMUPROCAN works.

We drive by car the 60 miles from Managua to the small town of Dario. At a Shell gas station, we board the ubiquitous retired Blue Bird school bus, turned Central American color mobile, and start off towards the small rural village of Cuajiniquil (Koo-AH-hee-nee-KEEL), where I am to see some of the members of the cooperative.

The 16 km (10 and a half miles) bus ride alone costs 25 Cordovas: over a dollar. This means that the poorest women must walk from their village home to Dario, a town where services are located. I suggest that we walk, but am quickly overruled by Maria Elsa, who says that the walk will take hours, the roads are dangerous and as Americans we would be likely targets for attack.

Living on a dollar a day turned out to be harder than I had ever imagined.

I encourage you to visit WomenThrive and to join me in taking the Dollar-a-Day Challenge to economically empower women living in poverty.

By Ritu Sharma Fox, President and Co-founder, Women Thrive Worldwide


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