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Learning and Monitoring: two key tools for better governance.

The recognition of community leaders in Layasiksa II and the comment of the ACM facilitator in Iltara were not isolated cases. In fact, almost all the discussions around forest degradation and bad community organization for the management of natural resources referred to the lack of knowledge and enforcement of community norms by community leaders. Knowledge and training The acquisition of knowledge through training workshops was also regarded as a necessary step in the path drafted by ACM participants to solve the problems they identified. In fact, all the action plans developed had at least one training workshop in them. The topics of the workshops varied according to the prioritized problem in each community, but in all of them womens participation was high. Two cases stand up for their relevance in the gender equality discussion. The first case refers to Layasiksa community, in which the prioritized problem was weak organization for the care and protection of natural resources. As part of the future scenario exercise, ACM participants (45% male and 58% female) identified the need for a workshop on Leadership and Community Governance to be imparted for community members. The activity was then organized and conducted in September 2012, with a tremendous women attendance (85% of the attendees were women). This indicator was noted by the leaders present; one of them stated it is the first time I see that there is an active and massive participation by women during this year, as in previous years, their *womens+ participation was inexistent (Elder in Layasiksa community, personal communication, September 2012). Although womens interventions were not massive (only around 8 out of 25 spoke up during the workshop), it was noted that all of them were really interested in the topic, as illustrated by the fact that more women attended than those appearing in the workshop list. Some months before, as part of the documentation process, one woman had expressed that knowledge is a crucial determinant in womens willingness to speak up and participate in meetings. She stated "when we [women] speak we start acquiring experiences and analyzing things and when it is like that, ideas come to us and we need to speak up our points of views" (Woman in Layasiksa, personal communication, August, 2012). Another standing outcome of the leadership workshop was the solicitation by the womens organization leader in Layasiksa to the Nitlapan ACM advisor of elaborating a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis to improve the performance of the communitys womens organization. She had solicited the exercise as many of the women who had been part of the ACM process identified that they needed to strengthen their organizational structure. The workshop took place in November 2012 in which both women and men participated (50% of attendance in both cases). As this was a topic that particularly concerned women (it centered in the reflection of womens experience in the womens organization1), they shared their views more

The womens organization in this community was formed through a project by the WWF, which intended to empower women economically by training them in the elaboration of handicrafts out of timber. The project was not successful as the women did not have enough access to markets outside the community. In

openly, and more women intervene in the dialogue than usual. Men on the other hand also participated, sharing information with women and complementing with their views on the performance of the womens organization. The workshop also involved work in subgroups mixed with women and men, and men assisted women by writing in the poster papers (something that is usually a womens job during workshops). Layasiksas case is illustrative of what has been observed in the rest of the communities, where all the women have expressed that more training will be the key catalyzer to increase womens participation in community governance. Some women, in fact, are soliciting longer and more indepth training workshops in order to increase their knowledge and confidence to intervene in decision making spaces, such as the community assembly. The elder from the Mayangna community Fruta de Pan mentioned women have gone through training and they want more, and more formalized training; women want to know about forest management, they asked us to propose it to you *Nitlapan+ (personal communication, February 2013). Community norms Besides lack of knowledge, it was noted that the lack of clear norms for the usage and access to natural resources also worsen community governance and leaders performance in it. It is important to mention that, although communities have had their traditional norms grounded in their own cultural framework, there have been deep changes to the way law I enforced nowadays, changes related to various external and internal dynamics2. During a side interview with one elder from the Fruta de Pan Mayangna community explained that throughout the years, the knowledge of the traditional community norms has decreased among community members. In fact, he explained that many years ago this knowledge would go from generation to generation orally; however, this has lost relevance in community culture especially among youngsters. Mairena (2009) mentions the historical and continuing changes that community authority structures have gone through, with the specific example of elders councils which have lost almost all authority in the communities. The reasons are usually related to interaction with people from other parts of the country, the need to coordinate with state government structures, among others. Therefore, drafting community norms became a central component in all of the working plans elaborated as products of the ACM process, in all communities. This elaboration was done through three steps: (1) community discussion, brain storing and systematization, (2) validation and evaluation of results, (3) delivery of a written document to community members and their communal leaders where leaders duties and all norms (especially on natural resource use and exploitation) were outlined. The activity proved to be of great importance, and in all communities where the delivery was accomplished, community members highlighted the importance of having

addition, women in the community stated that the womens organization had been restructured three times with different projects that entered the communities with the intention of empowering women.

There has been little research done on the topic, specifically in the Miskito and Mayangna cases. This study invites to pursue future research on it.

something in paper that proved that they had their own norms. The elder of Fruta de Pan expressed that "without a document we felt that we did not have value but with this document we feel we have a base with which we can demand" (Personal communication, February 27, 2013). In fact and according to him, the document was presented in a communal assembly and they are planning to reproduce it, "we plan to send it to regional and municipal authorities, so they know that Fruta de Pan we have internal norms to defend our territory" (ibid.).