Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America. Until 1990, civil war raged in the country and large defense spending has left Nicaragua with a weak economy. Many live in extreme poverty and inequality is high. Sexual violence is a major challenge for the country and that is why we focus, among other things, on preventing violence.
Today, Nicaragua’s economy is based on the export of a few raw materials such as meat, coffee and tobacco. This makes the economy vulnerable to changes in world commodity prices. Although the official unemployment figures are relatively low, there are many indications that almost three quarters of all employment takes place in the informal sector.
More than half of the population is poor and as many as a quarter live in extreme poverty. The class differences are large and it is considered almost impossible to improve one’s social position. One of the biggest challenges for the country is violence in close relationships and sexual abuse of girls, which have led to a large number of teenage pregnancies.
Some results from the past year
The past year has been particularly marked by the presidential election that was decided at the end of 2016. Among other things, changes in the law and guidelines have led to increased tensions between civil society and the authorities. Plan International is a strong organization in Nicaragua and we have therefore been able to continue our work to strengthen the rights of children and young people as usual.
In the past year, we have trained 4,410 girls and boys in identifying risk factors for sexual and other physical abuse, bullying and gender-based violence. In order for more young people to be able to support themselves, we have also arranged training in entrepreneurship and vocational training, which has contributed to 58 new businesses being started.
The bookmakers in Madriz
My favorite book is ‘A Legend in Nicaragua’. Last Tuesday I borrowed the book to read with my family.
Inner, 12 years
In the small village of Madriz, the supply of books is low, so people simply do not read. Plan International has therefore established a book club where children are encouraged to read and thus develop their vocabulary. 12-year-old Inner is one of the children who shows up at the book club every Tuesday. Every week the children read a new book and then meet to talk about it. Children are also encouraged to bring the book home to read with the family.
Salva is a confident entrepreneur
This course has made me feel more confident. If someone does not want to pay for my products, I tell them: I have my rights and you can not steal from me.
Along the border with Honduras, many girls sell their goods and products to the people who cross the border. Poverty forces them to earn money themselves to pay their school fees and to support their families. But working along the way involves the risk of being exploited, harassed or exposed to prostitution and human trafficking. Plan International therefore works to give these girls the opportunity to start their own businesses across the street so that they can have a safer and more secure future.
Young boys on the road to gender equality
We used to think that girls can not do the same things as boys and that they should behave differently. But now we have learned that we can do the same thing. That’s what Oscar says, who is one of the boys who discusses gender equality with Plan International.
Oscar is 16 years old and lives in the mountainous region of Madriz in Nicaragua. There, girls and boys participate in one of Plan International’s programs.
– It is about achieving gender equality, how girls can live on equal terms. Girls have knowledge, qualities and talents, they can be presidents and football players. We must fight for a world where women and men have the same opportunities, says Oscar.
In the program, children and young people learn about the value of gender equality. They will also learn more about how to protect themselves from violence and avoid teenage pregnancies, two major problems in the region.
– We learn about how to ensure that girls do not get pregnant until they are over 20 years old. Because it is not only the case that a woman becomes pregnant, it is also the man’s responsibility because it takes two to have children, Oscar explains.
In the project, young people learn about the consequences of someone harassing a girl on the street – with words or tangible.
– Before we talked about this, we always kept on when girls walked by on the street, called her stuff and made her feel bad. But then we did an exercise where a boy had to walk past a group of men who said those things we used to say to girls, and then we understood how it felt and realized that we should stop, says Oscar.
Through the program, young people learn about gender equality, but they also talk about other things that are important to young people: such as self-confidence, relationships and other types of discrimination.
– It has been violent here… Before I had friends who discriminated against me because I am poor, but now they are different. This whole process has been very valuable to us, very important. It makes us better and happier people, says Oscar.
Facts about Nicaragua
Population: 6 million
Life expectancy: 75 years
Infant mortality rate: 17 per 1000 births
Proportion of children starting school: 91.8%
Proportion of women in Parliament: 45.7%