NicaNotes: Celebrating Women’s Day in Nicaragua: “We won’t go back into our cages!”

By Becca Renk

(Becca Renk has lived in Ciudad Sandino, Nicaragua, for more than 20 years, working in sustainable development with the Jubilee House Community and its project, the Center for Development in Central America. Becca and the JHC-CDCA recently hosted the Power & Protagonism: Women in Nicaragua Brigade. Find out how you can visit Nicaragua through the Casa Benjamin Linder solidarity project.)

“We have painful stories, stories of marginalization, a history of being trampled because we are women and even more because we are rural peasant women, campesinas,” says Rosibel Ramos, bright eyes belying her age.

“We were illiterate women. When I first started organizing, I could barely sign my name,” said Rosibel Ramos. Today, she holds a university degree in alternative medicine.

“What were women’s spaces?” she asks. “The kitchen, taking care of kids, taking care of everyone else. We were supposed to just sit quietly in a corner.” Rosibel, now in her 60s, is telling the story of the founding of the Rural Feminist Ecological Cooperative “Las Diosas” which means The Goddesses. The co-op is made up of hundreds of women from northern Nicaragua who grow, process and sell organic and fair-trade certified coffee, hibiscus and honey.

“We were illiterate women. When I first started organizing, I could barely sign my name,” Rosibel said.

Much has changed for women in Nicaragua since Rosibel first learned to read and write years ago. From being ranked 90th in 2007, Nicaragua has jumped to rank 7th in the world (and number one in Latin America) for overall gender equity according to the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report 2023, closing the gender gap by 80% in 17 years.

What has made such dramatic change possible in such a short time?

Neoliberal Nightmare

In 2006 Nicaragua had been suffering under 16 years of neo-liberal governments whose structural adjustment policies had effectively privatized education and health care, creating one of the most unequal countries in Latin America. When the Sandinista government was voted back into power, taking office in 2007, it immediately made poverty reduction its top priority and the situation for Nicaraguan women has completely turned around, particularly for campesina women like Rosibel.

New Maternity

During the neoliberal years, most women in rural Nicaragua gave birth at home to “as many children as God would give us.” Today, thanks to free universal health care, sexual health education, and access to free family planning, maternity rates in Nicaragua have dropped to 2.38 per woman, and many women are choosing to space their babies five or even 10 years apart. With the installation of 181 public maternity wait homes where rural women can spend the last two weeks of their pregnancies, maternal mortality has dropped by 67.7% and child mortality by 58.6% in 17 years.

Women leading food sovereignty

One of the first poverty-reduction programs to be implemented in 2007 was the Zero Hunger program, which gives women heads-of-household a pregnant cow, sow, chickens, feed and seeds. Over 17 years, 198,693 families have benefitted from Zero Hunger. Other government programs support 520,000 kitchen gardens and give low-interest financing to 250,552 farms to grow basic grains. The result of these programs is that production of basic grains in the country is up by 39% and Nicaragua is now 90% food sovereign.

“Now we’re proud to say we are campesinas,” declares Rosibel. Their co-op members not only grow cash crops, but also the majority of their families’ food and their co-op is pioneering a native seed saving programs. “We’re where the food comes from,” she says.

 #1 in Women’s Education

In 2006, illiteracy in the country was at 23%. When families couldn’t afford the fees to send all their children to school, they often prioritized boys’ education, leaving the girls at home to look after their younger siblings.

Today, education is free from preschool right through university education. Around the country, there are programs at all levels to catch up students who have fallen behind and there are 77 vocational training programs which in 2023 trained 520,000 students, 68% of whom were women.

Increasingly, women are now also more able to attend university: this year, women make up 52% of new university enrollment, for a total of 93,714 women enrolled in their first year.

After graduating from high school, Rosibel decided to continue her education, despite being in her 50s. “When I went to sign up for university, they asked me if I was there to enroll my granddaughter,” she laughs. “The taxi drivers who brought me to classes always thought I was the cleaning lady.”

Today, Rosibel holds a university degree in alternative medicine and overall, Nicaragua ranks number one in the world for women’s enrollment in third-level education, women’s educational attainment and women professional & technical workers.

#1 for Women in Legislative Office

Women’s participation in the political sphere has blossomed in recent years: Nicaragua’s gender parity law requires that 50% of all elected positions be held by women. Since the law was passed in 2012, Nicaragua has become the number one country in the world for women in legislative office – 50.6% of members of the National Assembly are women, many of whom are Indigenous and Afro-Descendant women. Nicaragua currently also ranks number one in the world for women in ministerial positions.

More women active in political spaces has led the country to developing a legal framework to give women more security–668,000 land titles have been given to families over the last 17 years and the majority of these properties are registered in the name of women heads of household. There are now laws that require fathers to pay child support and laws to process cases of violence against women quickly. Suspects in felony cases are immediately taken into custody and convictions are swift and serious – offenders are often tried and convicted within a matter of weeks and rape carries a sentence of 30 years. Nicaragua has a specific law against femicide and has the lowest rate of femicides in Central America in addition to being the safest country in the region according to the United Nations.

#1 in Women’s Safety

Rosibel and her fellow co-op members didn’t find it easy to escape their submissive roles in the home and many were subjected to violence from male family members when they decided to organize a women’s cooperative.

“They pulled our hair; they shouted at us to get us to stay quietly at home,” says Rosibel. For women who are victims of violence like this today, there is a now network of resources available to help them.

Women now make up 33% of Nicaragua’s police force and there are 300 women’s police stations around the country. These are spaces where female officers attend women and children exclusively. Additionally, a woman can file a police report online from her phone, at a police station electronic kiosk, or by calling a free hotline. Every day around the country, policewomen go door-to-door, systematically visiting homes to file reports, educate and make wellness visits.

“At a home visit, we identify cases that need referral to another institution,” explains General Commissioner Johanna Plata, Head of Women and Children’s Police Stations. “For example, right now we have a case of a woman whose husband is kicking her out of the house, along with their two children. We’re investigating the case, but at the same time we’ve brought in the Ministry of the Family to give them food and the Ministry of Women is helping the mother learn skills to become economically independent. We do not leave women to face these issues on their own.”

Emerging Economic Independence

“They put fear in us from a young age: ‘Don’t touch money; you can’t do that; you can’t work outside the home,’” says Rosibel. But, members of the Las Diosas Co-op now own small plots of land where they grow coffee using organic and agroecological methods. Co-op members have diversified to grow hibiscus which they process into tea, jam and wine. They have also learned beekeeping, a task which for many years was exclusively male.

“The patriarchy mocked us and said, ‘Who says women can do men’s work? These bees are aggressive.’ But we said, ‘We’ll give it a go, we are women; we can do this.’ I was scared the first time I put on the beekeeping suit, but I got over it.”

Las Diosas aren’t alone in viewing cooperativism as a way forward for women – since 2007 more than 4,872 new co-ops have been created in Nicaragua, benefitting 131,730 new co-op members, 46% of whom are women.

“Economic independence is something every woman should aspire to, because many times [lack of it] is what keeps us from spreading our wings to fly,” says Senior Commissioner Vilma Rosa Gonzalez, head of Public Relations for Nicaragua’s National Police.

“Our government has any number of projects where women are the protagonists.  We want to give alternatives to women who hesitate to report violence because they depend on a man economically. We want to guarantee her legal security and economic security so that she can face any situation that comes her way.”

The Zero Usury program, exclusively for women, makes loans of up to $1,400 through women’s solidarity groups at 5% annual interest. To date, 1.7 million loans have been made to 548,000 women, representing a $423 million investment in women-owned businesses.

“These are the achievements of the Revolution,” says Vilma. “It’s like when you keep a bird in a cage. Once it leaves, it never wants to go back. Nicaraguan women don’t want to go back in our cages.”

Rosibel believes that the gains of the past 17 years for women are so great that it would be impossible to reverse them. “Now we have voices, now we have faces because we are visible. We are recognized as valuable, empowered women,” she says. “I think only death can stop us now.”

[Sources: Government of Reconciliation and National Unity 2024 unless otherwise noted].


By Nan McCurdy

Nicaragua is a Leader in Access to Health, says PAHO/WHO
The representative in Nicaragua of the Pan American Health Organization and the World Health Organization, Ana Elena Chévez, highlighted the advances presented by the country’s Ministry of Health through a health map and emphasized that “Nicaragua is leading on the issue of access to health. It is an example and a health model that we have shared with other countries, as we believe it is the way. Working with families and communities is key to achieving these advances. The Ministry of Health alone cannot do it and that is why we believe that the Nicaraguan Health Model is an excellent example,” she said. The map contains information on the advances in the reduction of maternal and infant deaths. “When learning about this Health Map, every Nicaraguan should be proud of the progress that is being shown in an innovative way. I believe that with this, Nicaragua is giving an important example for other countries of how to manage data, how to present them in an accessible way for the entire population.” She added that the data on the advances in the reduction of maternal death and infant death, reflect the political commitment of the Nicaraguan government.

The General Director of Health Services, Óscar Francisco Vásquez, said that this update of the National Health Map shows information from 2023 that will be available to all. For example, in a comparison between 2022 and 2023, maternal mortality decreased by 18.9%; infant mortality decreased by 17.4% and neonatal mortality also decreased by 23.1%. Chronic malnutrition in children under 5 years of age also decreased from 8.5% in 2022 to 7.8% in 2023. See photos: (La Primerisima, 6 March 2024)

Nicaragua Has a New Medical Liquid Oxygen Plant
On March 11, 2024, the Ministry of Health gave a tour through the modern medical liquid oxygen plant. This new facility not only reflects the government’s commitment to public health, but also consolidates Nicaragua as a regional leader in medical infrastructure. Construction on the plant, located in the municipality of Mateare, 20 km from Managua, began in May 2023 and was completed in January of this year. In addition to producing medical liquid oxygen, the plant will generate liquid nitrogen for industrial use.  With a daily production capacity of 20 metric tons and a liquid oxygen and nitrogen storage capacity of 650 tons, the plant guarantees a stable and safe supply of oxygen, complying with superior standards for medicinal use according to international sanitary specifications. During the neoliberal governments of the 1990s, Nicaragua dismantled and sold its only oxygen plant, forcing the country to rely entirely on oxygen imports. Today, thanks to this new plant, Nicaragua will no longer need to import medical liquid oxygen and nitrogen and will ensure the supply to both the Ministry of Health and the hospitals that work with the Nicaraguan Institute of Social Security nationwide. Nicaragua now has the capacity to export medical liquid oxygen and nitrogen to the entire Central American region. The regional company Gaspro, in charge of equipping the plant, highlighted the importance of the oxygen factory in the treatment of various medical conditions. Parallel to the liquid oxygen plant, a photovoltaic park was installed to generate 1.5 MW of renewable energy for the plant’s operation, demonstrating Nicaragua’s continued commitment to improving its healthcare system and its capacity to address public health challenges. See photos:
(, 11 March 2024)

Inauguration of the 300th Women’s Police Station in the Country
The new women’s police station inaugurated in the municipality of El Viejo, Chinandega, will serve 45,000 women, reported police authorities. The office bears the name of Sandinista militant Nidia del Socorro Espinal Martínez, murdered by the Somocista National Guard in 1979 in the Lechecuagos region of León. Commissioner General Johana Plata, chief of police stations nationally, said this is the second office inaugurated in this municipality and the 300th in the whole country. (La Primerisima, 6 March 2024)

Nicaragua Re-elected as Vice-chair of Palestinian UN Committee
Nicaragua will continue in the vice presidency of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People at the United Nations. The election took place on March 11 at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. The bureau is currently composed of Senegal, Chair of the Committee, and the Vice Chairs: Cuba, Indonesia, Malaysia, Namibia and Nicaragua. Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour congratulated the elected members of the bureau, expressing his appreciation to the committee as a whole for their efforts and work toward the realization of Palestinians’ inalienable rights, including the right to self-determination, independence and the right of return of refugees, stating that his delegation will continue to work closely with the bureau to achieve these goals. He also stated that the priority continues to be saving the lives of the Palestinian people and insisted that they will not cease in their efforts to get the Security Council to finally approve a ceasefire in Gaza. Nicaragua was first elected as a vice chair of the Palestine Committee in 2013 and since then, with each re-election, the solidarity of the government with the heroic Palestinian people is reaffirmed. Ambassador Jaime Hermida Castillo, Permanent UN Representative of Nicaragua, reiterated Nicaragua’s support for Palestinian initiatives to become a full member of the United Nations, for a ceasefire, and support and funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). (La Primerisima, 12 March 2024)

Lautaro Sandino Appointed Chargé d’Affaires in the U.S.
On March 7th, the Nicaraguan Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a press release announcing the new head of the Nicaraguan Embassy upon the retirement of long time Ambassador Francisco Campbell, parts of which are translated here: “The Government of Reconciliation and National Unity of the Republic of Nicaragua, through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, announces… that as of February 16, 2024, Mauricio Lautaro Sandino Montes is accredited as Chargé d’Affaires to the Department of State of the United States of America. Lautaro Sandino has represented Nicaragua as Ambassador to the European Union 2010-2020, to the Kingdom of Belgium 2010-2020, to Poland in 2019, to the Czech Republic 2012-2013, Representative to UNESCO 2011-2016 and to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in 2023. With this new mission, Lautaro will continue to serve his worthy Nicaraguan people in the pursuit of respectful relations with the United States… In Nicaragua, Mr. Kevin M. O’Reilly, is accredited as Chargé d’Affaires of his people and the Government of the United States as of June 28, 2023.” (Tortilla con sal, 7 March 2024

Finance Minister Acosta Answers New CABEI President
Last week the new president of the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI), Ana Sanchez, criticized Nicaragua’s handling of loans from CABEI extended under her predecessor Dante Mossi. On March 7, Nicaragua’s Finance Minister Ivan Acosta answered her criticisms in a letter published by Radio La Primerísima.

Managua March 7, 2024

Doctor Ana Gisela Sánchez Maroto

Executive President, Central American Bank for Economic Integration

Dr. Sanchez:

With cordial greetings, I would like to address you in reference to a statement circulating in the regional media regarding the intention to change the financing policies for programs and projects in our country. In your intervention you state that Nicaragua’s approved operations were carried out under a scheme of little balance and without technical rigor.

Your statement is refuted by the recognition received from both CABEI and other international financing organizations, as evidenced by the results of portfolio evaluations that determine the quality of execution, payment and accountability duly certified during the last 17 years.

The Central American Bank for Economic Integration, since its foundation, has an essential mandate to remain as a financial institution for the economic, social and integrated development of the Central American region. Nicaragua is a founding member country of this entity and as such exercises its right to request financing for its development programs in accordance with the established requirements and policies.

Therefore, we consider that your statements do not contribute to the management developed by the Bank and to the spirit of Central American integration. Nicaragua is one of the countries that works to ensure that it complies with the highest standards in the mission and vision of this financial institution as it should as a founding member. Our country has actively contributed to the acquiring of extra-regional partners with sovereign respect.

In multilateral financial institutions, the policies and strategic vision are defined by the Board of Governors and the Board of Directors of the Bank, as representatives of their States as shareholder members.

Honorable President, your statements break with the provisions of CABEI’s Constitutive Agreement.

We also appeal, President, to the support of our vote on the day of your election and respectfully urge you not to turn the Bank into a political battlefield, which—I reiterate—does not contribute to Central American development and integration.

Finally, we demand respect when addressing our country and the representatives of the State of the Republic of Nicaragua.

I bid you farewell,

Dr. Iván Acosta Montalván
CABEI Governor
Minister of Finance and Public Credit
Republic of Nicaragua

(La Primerisima, 7 March 2024)

Mossi Clarifies Misinformation from New CABEI President
The former president of the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI), Danti Mossi, stated this week that CABEI owes its existence to its member countries and he clarified misinformation related to the financing of nations such as Nicaragua. In declarations to the Nicaraguan radio station Radio 580, Mossi explained that each founding country of CABEI (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica) is entitled to an annual quota of US$800 million. He said that this amount is approved by the bank’s board of directors. “Government requests are analyzed by different technical committees that discuss them in the presence of directors and if the president finds that the project meets all the requirements, it is taken to the Board (of the bank) and there it is approved,” he said. Mossi made clarifications after the current president of CABEI, Ana Gisela Sanchez, in recent statements to regional media, addressed the granting of financing to the founding countries of CABEI saying that there has been alleged “favoritism” towards El Salvador and Nicaragua under Mossi.

“It is a fact that we currently have a higher level of portfolio concentration, with El Salvador and Nicaragua being the countries that receive the most funds. My goal is to have a more diversified portfolio,” said Sánchez. Mossi, who was at the head of CABEI during the period 2018-2023, said what Sánchez expressed was misinformation since Costa Rica is the country with the greatest support since the bank’s existence. “I can reiterate again and again: there was never favoritism; there was never a country that was not attended to.” According to Mossi, Nicaragua has a very dynamic program, as it executes loans in an orderly manner and he recalled how workers from Costa Rican and Honduran companies doing business here commented to him about the timely transparent way projects are carried out in Nicaragua. “That is what makes Nicaragua tend to recycle its loan portfolio faster,” said Mossi. (La Primerisima, 12 March 2024)