One day out of 365 isn’t nearly enough; one month out of 12 doesn’t begin to cut it. But, Green Nica would like to extend this small token of gratitude and appreciation to the women of Nicaragua and wish them a Happy International Women’s Day!
The reality for women in Nicaragua is not always easy. The country ranked 132nd of 187 countries in the UN’s 2014 Gender Inequality Index, has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in Latin America, one of the highest rates of maternal mortality and staggeringly high rates of sexual abuse with almost 80% of victims being girls younger than 17. On top of all that, Nicaragua has one of the strictest abortion bans in the world (denying it even when the mother’s life is at risk) and suffers from what Nicaraguan epidemiologist Elmer Zalaya referred to as “Virgin Mary Syndrome”, where the culture idolizes motherhood but demonizes sexuality.
However, despite the challenges they face, women in Nicaragua have a long history of strength and perseverance. Thousands of women fought and died on the front lines of the Sandinista revolution, women represent the people in all levels of government, and female laborers, professionals and entrepreneurs are an ever-increasing factor in the economic growth of the country. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2015 “gender gap index,” Nicaragua ranked 12th out of 145 countries, with high scores in educational attainment and political representation.
So, on this International Women’s Day, Green Nica would like to raise awareness to the issues faced by Nicaraguan women but also celebrate the many victories they have won.
Here are just a few examples of Nicaraguan women who have shattered barriers, overcome statistics and worked to create a better country:
FEMUPROCAN is the only 100% female growers’ association in Nicaragua. They boast over 4,200 members split into 73 cooperatives in 6 departments around the country: Madriz, Managua, Granada, RAAS, Matagalpa y Jinotega. After almost 80 years of fighting for fair representation in the agricultural world, FEMPROCAN was finally founded in 1997. Their vision: “An organization of empowered women driving business initiatives and having the capacity to participate and be an integral part of development with a progressive vision and sufficient resources to support their businesses and projects, ensuring their future and the continuity of their efforts.”
Violeta Barrios de Chamorro
Chamorro took over the Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa after her husband was assassinated by the Somoza regime for his anti-government stance; his murder sparked the Revolution. Chamorro didn’t hesitate in continuing her husband’s work. Through the paper, her voice helped fuel the flames of the revolution that would eventually overthrow the conservative government. She was eventually elected to serve as part of the provisional government, but resigned when they began to strengthen their ties with the Soviet Union. She continued to criticize the government through her paper, this time aiming her pen at the reigning Sandinista government. In 1990, she ran against and defeated Daniel Ortega in the 1990 election, becoming the first elected female president in the Latin America. While in office, though inheriting the country in political and economic turmoil, she oversaw the transition from war to peace. She continued to fight for international peace initiatives until her health began to fail. Whether you are for or against her politics, she is undeniably one of the most influential women in Nicaraguan history.
TRASEX (Nicaraguan Sex Workers Network)
Founded in Managua in 2007, Trasex works to defend and protect the rights of women sex workers. They now have a registry of 14,486 sex workers aged 18-60, 2,360 of which have actively joined the network. Bringing the voice of this marginalized group to the ears of the nation, they are working with various government and private organizations to increase safety, fight for regulation and provide a system of support for women voluntarily involved in the sex industry. In addition to legislative reforms, they have worked with the national police to create a special chief to address the safety of sex workers, and are working with the Education Ministry to increase literacy and graduation rates among sex workers. They have received messages of support from the international community including Amnesty International. While controversial to some, this group has been integral in the protection of the human rights of this marginalized group of women, protecting and empowering them in a way that no one previously had.
An active part of the Sandinista Revolution, Belli was eventually exiled to Mexico where she continued to contribute to the struggle from abroad. Returning shortly before the Sandinista victory, she later served in various positions in the Sandinista government, mostly in communications and journalism related roles. She wrote poetry celebrating women, and her first book “La Mujer Habitada” explored the gender issues in revolutions from the indigenous resistance to the Spanish colonization to the modern Central American revolutions of the 60s,70s and 80s. She published numerous novels and poems, becoming one of the Nicaragua’s most celebrated authors and poets. Her work has been translated into 14 languages, and she is considered one of the 100 most important poets of the 20th century.
The women of the revolution
The Sandinista Revolution was won in part by the strength of its women. Unprecedented amounts of women participated in the struggle from as early as 1967. In 1977, the Association of Women Against the National Crisis (AMPRONAC) was created as the female arm of the FSLN, with women fighting alongside men to bring down the Somoza government. The group would later change its name to The Luisa Amanda Espinoza Association of Nicaraguan Women (AMNLAE), in honor of the first Sandinista women to be killed during the revolution in 1970. By 1987, it was reported that 67% of the active militia were women. They fought not only against the Somoza government but against the patriarchal framework it imposed, stifling women’s rights and perpetuating gender equality. Many women gave their lives during the revolution; famed martyrs include Arlen Siu and Indania Fernandez.
Every mother, daughter, sister, and wife in Nicaragua
Nicaraguan women are fierce in their strength and determination, their quickness to laugh and their willingness to give. They are the backbone of Nicaraguan families and of the country itself. They face mountains of prejudice, but continue to climb higher. Green Nica would like to give un abrazo fuerte to all the women in Nicaragua and to all women around the world!
This list is just a beginning, feel free to share other Nicaraguan women who have changed the country or just your life for the better.