During the week of 8 March – International Women’s Day – Hivos is sharing stories of some of the amazing and powerful women we support worldwide. This year’s theme is: “Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives”.
Connie Tinoco is a woman farmer in Rocky Point, a town on the southeast Caribbean coast of Nicaragua in a mostly creole community completely off the grid. She normally spends the day in her fields near the coast, listening to the wind whistle through the palms trees as she harvests coconuts, but for the last 8 years she has also been working hard to bring energy to her town.
The spark for Connie
In 2010, after just one year in Rocky Point, Connie headed a community association with the goal of improving living conditions in the town. At their first meeting, the townspeople discussed what they needed most to improve their daily lives, and the conclusion was – access to energy at home. This was the “spark” that inspired Connie to start transforming the lives of every family in the community.
Rocky Point’s journey toward the light
Just a few weeks later, Connie contacted a representative of the Peace Corps. Connie remembers, “When I saw this man with all his technology and his solar panels, I said ‘This is the guy I want.’”. Unfortunately, the representative said the road to Rocky Point was too bad for his regular people to go in, but he managed to find volunteers willing to help.
Connie’s neighbors fixed up a big house for the volunteers to stay in. Their first objective was to enable each family to buy and install their own solar panel. So Rocky Point and Peace Corps cut a deal with blueEnergy Group to buy solar panels on an affordable financing plan. “The happiest day of my life was when we got the first panels. We gathered in the volunteers’ house to celebrate and we cooked for everyone in town”, said Connie in her beautiful English creole accent.
Hivos Latin America enters the picture
Connie’s strategy had succeeded. Now they only needed to improve their organization to bring light to the entire town. This is when Hivos stepped in. In 2012, Hivos Latin America started supporting this empowered woman after finding out about the wonderful work she was doing. Hivos helped Rocky Point get even better financial plans and bigger solar panels so the families could have energy all day long, as well as the training they needed to make best use of the panels on their own.
“Not only were we able to buy our own panels, but we also learned how to install them and fix them if needed. Even my kids can get on the roof and fix our panel!” said Connie, laughing.
“Pana a pana” – working from friend to friend
Nowadays, people from Rocky Point know what it’s like to have electricity in their homes thanks to the leadership of this amazing woman. But if you ask Connie, she’ll tell you this was a community effort. “Here in this town, women and men work equally. We do the same work, ‘pana a pana’ (‘from friend to friend’). Being a woman does not mean you have to stay at home, it’s not like that in Rocky Point. We all work together for our welfare and well-being”.