MIRIAM, Nicaragua – For a life free of violence

Young woman studying for her graduation at MIRIAM's school. Education paves the way to employment and self-determination. Photo: © LuceroYoung woman studying for her graduation at MIRIAM's school. Education paves the way to employment and self-determination. Photo: © Lucero

"Every consultation session begins with a list: what types of violence does the woman experience? Usually this list covers the whole range from psychological, physical and economic to sexual violence. The first step for the woman is to learn to identify violent behaviour. Next, it is about recognizing that 'machismo' and violence aren’t ‘natural’ and shouldn’t be accepted as such.”
Scarleth Díaz, Psychological Counsellor for Asociación Proyecto MIRIAM

Project area: Regions Estelí, Managua and Matagalpa, Nicaragua

Supported by TDF since: 2012                                 

Target group: Girls and women affected by violence and socio-economic disadvantages

Background:

  • Gender-specific violence is one of the greatest threats to physical and psychological health of women in Nicaragua.
  • In 2018, there were 57 cases of femicide in Nicaragua. Compared to 2017, these crimes were marked by increasing brutality including torture and mutilation. One woman was even buried alive. In 2019, 63 cases of femicide have already been registered.
  • According to a study of the National Autonomous University of Managua of 2015, 70% of the questioned women regularly suffer physical and psychological violence from their partners.
  • According to the national police report, 1,080 cases of rape were registered in 2016/17. The estimated number of unknown cases is expected to be much higher, though.
  • Women are faced with a nationwide total ban on abortion even when their own life or the life of their baby is at serious risk.
  • Nicaragua has the highest rate of teenage pregnancies in Latin America. This is mostly attributed to a lack of sexual education and to widely prevalent sexual violence in the country.
  • Lack of education for girls and women makes the situation even worse: Many families do not attach value to education for girls as they are supposed to marry and look after the family. That is why it is common that girls do not even complete their primary education.
  • Political unwillingness and slowness to put in practice the Law for the Protection of Women against Violence (Ley 779), and to tackle the issue of violence against women, threatens women’s health and disregards their rights.
  • Since the re-election of Daniel Ortega of the Sandinista National Liberation Front as president in 2007, the influence of the Catholic church on family politics has been growing constantly. Over the past years, strengthening family cohesion has become more important than implementing women’s rights, being illustrated, for example, by the decision of the government to reintroduce mediation between the perpetrator and the affected person in specific cases of violence.
  • “Machismo” is deeply rooted in Nicaraguan society, and the constant reproduction of patriarchal, conservative norms contributes to the lack of awareness of perpetrators and even the affected women.
  • In 2018, Nicaragua was struck by severe political crisis which hasn’t been solved until today. Protests against President Ortega and his wife and Vice President Rosario Murillo, against planned social reforms, state corruption and violations of human rights were fought violently by the police, military and paramilitary forces. Despite increased safety requirements and new restrictive laws, our partner organization Asociación Proyecto MIRIAM continues its work and provides a reliable anchor for women and girls in need.

Project activities:

Asociación Proyecto MIRIAM fights for the right to a life free of violence and the right to education of girls and women in Nicaragua. The non-governmental organization was founded in 1989 by scholarship holders of a private funding initiative for university studies. Since 1995, the organization has been offering legal support to girls and women affected by violence, in addition to the constant extension of the prevention and empowerment work.

  • Fighting impunity: Psychological and legal support as well as legal representation in court of girls and women who have experienced violence.
  • Knowing and propagating women’s rights: In workshops, women and men learn about women’s rights, reflect upon violent structures and are trained as multipliers, so they can pass on the information in their communities and assist in cases of violence.
  • Schooling, vocational training and economic empowerment: Women aged over 14 can attend courses in literacy, sewing, hairdressing, cosmetics, handicrafts or computation. Many start their own small business or enter the job market afterwards. Generating their own income, they become financially independent in the long run.   
  • Promoting university studies: A scholarship program provides socio-economically disadvantaged women with the financial means for their university studies and offers personal development and gender-related workshops. 
  • Promoting social change: Political lobbying and mobilization, awareness raising and public relations campaigns as well as mutual support in self-help groups

Impact:

Since the founding of Asociación Proyecto MIRIAM, over 34,000 girls, boys, women and men have been supported:

  • 5000 women participated in literacy courses, completed primary school or a vocational training or were granted a scholarship for their university studies.
  • 11,000 women affected by violence were informed about their rights or supported psychologically and legally.
  • 18,000 children, young adults, women and men have been trained and actively involved in the prevention of violence against women, sexual exploitation and trafficking in women.

Despite the currently tense political situation, TDF and Asociación Proyecto MIRIAM have been able to achieve the following results in 2018:

  • Legal counselling for 252 women (737 counselling sessions) and if necessary, legal representation for cases of domestic or sexual violence, divorce, maintenance claims and acknowledgement of paternity (74 trials).
  • 30 seminars and self-help group sessions with women about their rights, options for action, personality development, strengthening of self-confidence and empowerment.
  • Vocational training courses in sewing and handicrafts for 81 women in financially precarious situations.
  • 43 vocational training graduates were coached to develop business plans and start their own small-scale businesses (85 home visits).
  • 50 home visits for women affected by violence who had unexpectedly stopped legal and/or psychological counseling, in order to ensure their wellbeing and inform them about the processing status of their complaints against perpetrators.
  • 200 women, men and children participated in workshops on the Law for the Protection of Women against Violence (Ley 779), the cycle of violence and ways out, gender and power, sexuality and love, empowerment etc.
  • Campaigns on the occasion of International Women's Day with numerous participants.
  • Demonstrations in Managua und Estelí, especially against femicides and other types of violence against women (only until the beginning of the political crisis in April 2018).

Project manager: Yolanda Acuña Urbina

Contacts: Voluntary project coordinator Wencke Loesener (nicaragua@frauenrechte.de) or TERRE DES FEMMES – department for International Cooperation (iz@frauenrechte.de)

Support:

In order for MIRIAM to continue their work in an increasingly challenging political context, your support is highly needed.

Support MIRIAM with a one-time donation or contribute regularly and become a sponsor!

You can also donate to the following account, using the keyword “Nicaragua” as a reference for your payment:

TERRE DES FEMMES e.V.
EthikBank
IBAN DE35 8309 4495 0103 1160 00
BIC GENODEF1ETK