NicaNotes: Violence against Women: Lessons from Nicaragua

By Louise Richards
Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign Action Committee.

[This article was published by the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign Action Committee (NSCAG) on March 24, 2021, at https://www.nscag.org/news/article/337/violence-against-women-lessons-from-nicaragua)

Women receive their diplomas from the National Technology Institute INATEC, where 62% of those enrolled are women

“In truth, the violence which we must eradicate in all its forms is violence against women – it destroys us, diminishes us, denigrates us, humiliates us all, not just women” – Rosario Murillo, Nicaraguan Vice-President, March 2021

Introduction
At a time when the issue of violence against women is being hotly debated in the UK, the UK government could learn some lessons from Nicaragua about how to tackle the problem. Nicaragua has the lowest rate of femicides in Central America (.7/100,000) according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC) and the Latin America and Caribbean Gender Equality Observatory and is testament to the Nicaraguan Government’s commitment to eradicating violence against women. In addition to a legal framework, Nicaragua has seen an ongoing education drive to continue changing the culture of the country so that misogyny and attacks on women have no place in society.  At the same time, women have been empowered through programmes which ensure financial independence and equality in terms of participation in all aspects of society and which recognise their contribution to the development of the country.

The Nicaraguan Model
The model developed by Nicaragua’s government prioritises the prevention of and attention to gender-based violence with a focus on changing attitudes, behaviours and power relations and implementing laws and public policies that are based on the construction of new socio-cultural patterns for gender demands and the integral protection of women. Since 2007, the government has introduced a range of proactive policies including legally mandated equal representation, ensuring that at least 50% of public offices be held by women and a drive to change attitudes and practices across all areas of society.

In addition to legal measures, it is Government policy to guarantee the population a life free of violence which favours their development and wellbeing in accordance with the principles of equality and non-discrimination and at the same time to promote national campaigns aimed at the prevention of violence against women. There is an ongoing public education drive to continue changing the culture in the country; this has been extended also to schools and includes the principle of complementarity in terms of promoting the participation of men in caring and domestic tasks among others. Another element of the campaign is to work with family therapists to include ‘more values of tolerance, respect and understanding’ into women’s lives.

The Nicaraguan government realises that the work it has started needs to continue in order to totally eradicate the macho culture which existed in Nicaragua and in most countries around the world for many years. However, the empowerment of women, ending economic and social dependence on men and breaking the cycles of violence are signs that this can be achieved.

Unite to End Violence against Women
Nicaragua has joined the UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign to end violence against women by 2030.  As part of the campaign, the Nicaraguan government has made a commitment to take a series of political, legislative and administrative actions to eradicate violence against women and girls. In addition to ensuring that the legal framework is respected and that the relevant laws are implemented, specific steps taken by the Government will include implementing the public policy of State against violence against women; guaranteeing prompt and effective access to justice; creating the Observatory of Violence pursuant to the provisions of Act 779 and improving the statistical information system on violence against women. The Government will also broaden the coverage of specialised justice with new courts specialising in violence and recruiting auxiliary staff to carry out judicial activities. Capacity for the investigation and punishment of crimes will also be improved.

Women for Life – Women’s Police Stations
In February last year, Nicaragua launched a ‘Women for Life’ campaign to defend women’s rights. The campaign saw the re-launch of a network of police stations across the country run by and for women (these had existed previously, but most had to close some five or six years ago when international funding dried up). The aim of the police stations, of which there are currently 60 in the country with more planned, is to make it easier for women to file complaints for aggression, threats or attempts to undermine their dignity and their life.  Government institutions – the Ministry of the Family, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Ministry of Youth and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs – are working hand in hand to strengthen women’s rights, as well as to form a culture of peace and non-violence from the beginning.

The Legal Framework
The Government has implemented a number of laws to counteract violence against women such as Law No. 779, the Integral Law against Violence against Women, and Law No. 641, the Penal Code.

On 20 January this year, Nicaragua’s National Assembly approved the Reform and Addition to the Criminal Code of the Republic of Nicaragua and Law 779, the Comprehensive Law against Violence against Women, which establishes a reviewable life sentence for those who commit crimes of extreme gravity and extreme danger, including rape and femicide. The sentence of life imprisonment is subject to review within a period of 30 years in which the degree of re-education of the prisoner can be assessed so that he can qualify for parole.

Sexual abuse in Nicaragua is taken very seriously.  In a recent case involving a 13-year-old and her father, the police not only arrested the father but also set up a roadblock so that he was unable to escape. The child is receiving treatment from the Ministry of the Family, including planned psychological help. Immediately after the arrest, the police helped the child and her sister move out of the home where the abuse took place. There is a strong emphasis on treating the victim as credible, in contrast to – for example – countries such as Honduras where cases are not reported as they are not investigated or taken seriously. The prosecutor’s office is asking for life imprisonment for the abuser, in part for sexual abuse and in part for physical violence.

In the labour sphere, the elimination of discrimination against women has been institutionalised through a strengthened legal framework which includes laws guaranteeing access to the labour market for women from the poorest sectors of society and their right to a decent job and a decent salary, through active labour market policies and skills training.

Education
As part of its violence prevention strategies, the Government guarantees free, equitable and quality education. It implements programmes to strengthen the practice of values, such as Education Community Counselling and incorporates into the curriculum subjects such as Growing in Values. Government Ministries promote new models of raising children, based on the values of respect, love and protection from any form of discrimination and exploitation, in line with the best interests of the child. Meetings of citizen security assemblies address the prevention of violence against women, aimed at reducing risk factors and vulnerabilities of women in the family and in the community, as well as promoting rights, dignity and respect.

The Ministry of the Family, Mifamilia, also carries out house-to-house visits to raise awareness of the importance of preventing violence against women and the sexual abuse of children.

Political Participation
The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, also known as UN Women, has released a list of countries with the best gender balance in political participation, highlighting that Nicaragua ranks first worldwide in women heading government ministries and fourth in legislative positions.

According to a new InterParliamentary Union report, Nicaragua has the world’s highest percentage (56.25%) of women in Ministerial positions in Latin America and the fourth highest in the legislature (46%). Women also lead top state institutions including the Nicaraguan Institute of Agricultural Technology INTA, the National Technology Institute INATEC and the National Forestry Institute INAFOR.

Highest Participation of Women in the Workforce
The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) presented its Special Report COVID-19 No. 9: “The Economic Autonomy of Women in Sustainable Recovery with Equality” on Feb. 10. The report states that 55.7% of women in Nicaragua participate in the job market or carry out some form of paid work, placing it as the country in Latin America and the Caribbean with the highest participation of women in the work force, followed by Jamaica (54.5%) and Bolivia (53.3%).

Seventy-three per cent of those working in education are women.  In the health sector, the figure is 64%.

Economic Empowerment
In a move to enhance the financial independence of women, the government has given low interest loans to over 900,000 women over the last 14 years to enable them to start small businesses in urban areas. This programme, known as Zero Usury, serves not only to empower women but is also a key factor in combatting poverty, unlocking previously untapped pools of talent and driving inclusive, diverse and sustainable growth. Many of the women who have received loans are now turning their businesses into co-operatives in order to give jobs to more women.

In rural communities, of the more than 447,000 property titles delivered by the Sandinista government to families, women have been a priority, with around 1 million women benefitting, in addition to government support for women-led agricultural co-operatives.

The Rural Development Programme is also providing loans to women to improve production with equipment, water pumps, corrals, wells, improved pastures, installation of fences, and more. So far this year the National Technological Institute (INATEC has assisted 52,000 women with technical courses and careers in trade schools. Women make up 62% of enrolment. Since 2007, 3.5 million women, 69% of the total served, have taken courses, internships, workshops, and seminars to strengthen work skills through INATEC.

Health
Efforts made by the Sandinista government to eliminate the gender gap in health are also a contributing factor to preventing violence against women helping as they do to break the cycle of deprivation which is often a trigger for violence.

High priority is given to women’s health. For example, since 2007 there has been a constant and programmatic effort to make changes and improvements in the health system, and train health staff to drastically lower maternal mortality.  The government has made significant investments in infrastructure and other means to improve the care of cancer patients and reduce the cervical cancer mortality rate, which has decreased by 34% since 2007. Among these actions is the creation of the National Cytology Centre to guarantee early diagnosis of cervical cancer.  The number of women who receive Pap smears has increased from 181,491 in 2007 to 880,907 in 2020 and mammograms have increased from 151 in 2010 to 27,415 in 2020.

Nicaragua has been recognized for actions promoted by the Sandinista government in the health sector for women, children and adolescents. The award was granted by the Regional Interagency Coordination Movement EVERY WOMAN EVERY CHILD in Latin America and the Caribbean (EWEC-LAC), composed of a number of different organisations including UNICEF, UN Women, and the PAHO/WHO.  These organisations value the strategy of reducing maternal and perinatal mortality. Since 2007, the number of maternity wait homes (casas maternas) has increased from 50 in 2007 to 178 in 2020. Maternal mortality has been reduced from 93 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2007 to 37 deaths in 2020. Neonatal mortality has also been reduced by more than half.

Conclusion
According to the World Economic Forum, Nicaragua is the world’s fifth most gender equal country, the highest non-Nordic country and the only country in the Western Hemisphere in the top 10.

The Nicaraguan government continues its drive for full gender equity across all sectors, with the liberation of women a fundamental pillar of Sandinismo.  This has been listed by the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) as one of the drivers of Nicaragua’s economic growth and resilience, with the country achieving 8% export growth in 2020, the highest in Latin America, compared to a regional average of -13%, and projected to grow 3.5% this year.

As in many areas, Nicaragua continues to be a good example. Alongside the implementation of tougher laws, Nicaragua sees education, empowerment, participation and the eradication of poverty as key tools to eliminate violence against women. This is surely a model worth following.

 

Briefs

By Nan McCurdy

Best Hospital Network in the Region
Finance Minister Iván Acosta said that with the loan granted by the Central America Bank for Economic Integration, Nicaragua will advance towards the goal of creating the best and most modern hospital network in Central America. Acosta was accompanied by the presidential health advisor, Dr. Sonia Castro, who explained that these funds will be used to expand and improve six hospitals: New hospital wards will be built in the Alemán-Nicaragüense and Manolo Morales Hospitals in Managua; the Humberto Alvarado Hospital in Masaya, Asunción Hospital in Juigalpa, César Amador Molina Hospital in Matagalpa and San Juan de Dios Hospital in Estelí. “These six hospitals will have 400 new beds in different wards.” She added that this funding will also be used to build the oncology outpatient ward at the Bertha Calderón Women’s Hospital and the epidemiological laboratory at the Estelí Hospital. Radio (La Primerisima, 25 March 2021)

4,000 Titles Delivered
The Attorney General’s Office on March 31 will complete the delivery of 4,000 property titles to families throughout the country. Every week for the last month, 1,000 titles were delivered in Managua, Mateare, Ciudad Sandino, Rio San Juan, Rivas, Jinotega and Nueva Segovia. This gives legal security to the families who have been waiting years for this document. (Radio La Primerisima, 30 March 2021)

800 People Freed to House Arrest
The Ministry of the Interior granted house arrest, known in Nicaragua as the Family Coexistence Benefit, to 800 people serving sentences in the National Penitentiary System on March 25. María Amelia Coronel, head of the Ministry of the Interior stated that the benefit is extended to all the penitentiary centers as it is a state policy in favor of the reunification of families. “You should remember that there are opportunities in life that are not repeated and this is one of them, so you should be aware of the importance of this day for the rest of your lives. Do not forget your obligations and commitments, you will have moments of weakness and despair, but always remember that you can make the right decisions, you must be responsible with your freedom and lead your lives with joy, faith and hope for a better tomorrow.”  Aracelly Flores, FSLN Political Secretary said that there is great satisfaction to know that none of the 169 inmates who received this benefit three months ago have returned to the Penitentiary System, which means that those who receive it are taking advantage of the opportunity they had to regain their freedom. See photos: https://radiolaprimerisima.com/noticias-generales/destacado/excarcelan-a-800-de-los-distintos-penales-del-pais/ (Radio La Primerisima, 25 March 2021)

Turtles Protected in the Caribbean Regions
During the V ordinary session of the Regional Autonomous Council of the Southern Caribbean, the council members unanimously approved the technical resolution of the permanent commission of Natural Resources (SERENA), on the updating of the system of consumption for subsistence purposes of green turtles in the territories of Awaltara, Tasba, and Marshall Point. The session was held in the community of Haulover, in the municipality of Laguna de Perlas, in commemoration of the 224th anniversary of the Garífuna peoples’ resistance. Attendees saw a presentation on conservation of the green turtle. “The Government has sought alternatives for families that used to survive on the green turtle and among them are projects such as NICAPESCA through which it will be possible to regulate the capture of turtles, as families will have other ways to support their families. (Radio La Primerisima, 25 March 2021)

XXXII Graduation of Inter-Cultural Bilingual Teachers
On March 27, 91 teachers received their diplomas at the XXXII graduation of inter-cultural monolingual and bilingual educators of the Bilwi Normal School. Of the graduates 83 belong to the Miskitu people, three Afro-descendants (Creole), three Mestizos and two Mayangna. “Year after year this center trains and sends to the regional education system teachers committed to quality teaching. Most of them come from Indigenous communities and they feel committed to their communities, the good thing is that these teachers have the ability to teach in their mother tongues, an advantage that facilitates teaching in the classroom” said Professor Javier Vicente. The preparation of teachers with a vocation for teaching has allowed more children in remote communities to receive the bread of knowledge in the same way they receive it in the main cities and in their own languages. (Radio La Primerisima, 28 March 2021)

SICA Countries Promote Eco-tourism post Covid-19
The national tourism entities of the member countries of the Central America System of Integration (SICA), through the Central American Tourism Promotion Agency (CATA), presented their star tourism products for 2021. The event was called “The Best of The Best” and was aimed at tourism and related agencies from Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Holland and the United Kingdom. According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), international tourist arrivals during January to October 2020 fell by 68% in the Americas. The Organization estimates a rebound in international tourism starting in the third quarter of 2021. The countries of the region are betting on ecotourism in open environments, emphasizing nature, adventure, ecology and sustainability. The region occupies 1% of the planet’s surface and has 12% of the world’s biodiversity. It also has the second largest reef in the world, colonial cities, volcanoes, diverse cultures, and Pacific and Caribbean beaches. In the last ten years, regional tourism registered sustained growth.

Nicaragua focuses on the theme of “Nature in the land of lakes and volcanoes”, a multicolored country, surrounded by seas, bordered by mountains. This country has great biodiversity and natural scenery, with three biosphere reserves, 165 private wildlife reserves, 72 protected areas representing 25% of its territory, 26 volcanoes, seven of which are active. Nicaragua highlights the natural biosphere reserves, volcanoes, lakes and lagoons, forests, jungles and waterfalls. (Radio La Primerisima, 29 March 2021)

90th Anniversary of 1931 Earthquake
90 years ago, March 31, 1931 a powerful earthquake of 5.8 magnitude devastated the city of Managua. Tragedy and chaos took over the city on the morning of that Holy Tuesday. Ninety years later, Managua is a different city and although the seismic risk is still latent, the city is better prepared to respond to such events. Managua was a small town of 45,000 and the majority of its houses and buildings were of wattle and daub construction. The earthquake destroyed the city and many surviving families sought refuge with relatives in other municipalities. In addition to the loss of many human lives, the earthquake also caused a large fire. Months after the earthquake the city was still full of rubble, fallen buildings, half-destroyed and abandoned houses. In1931 Managua had important buildings, warehouses, banks, drugstores and a varied commerce that imported and exported a variety of products. There were hotels, clubs, newspapers, churches, car and truck agencies, bicycles and motorcycles.

After the earthquake, only the iron framework of the old Cathedral construction (begun just three years earlier in 1928), the Pellas House, the Social Club, the Municipal Palace Building, the National Palace, which Radio La Primerisima reports was later burned by the US Marines, and the Presidential House on the Loma de Tiscapa, among other buildings, were left standing. On the day of the earthquake, the Central and San Miguel markets, the Variedades Theater, La Casa del Águila, the Candelaria, San Antonio and San Pedro churches and the National Penitentiary fell. The principal buildings of the central part of the city fell and those that remained standing were damaged. Thanks to the progress of science, technology and geological studies, it has been determined that the 1931 earthquake was precisely on the National Stadium fault.

The panorama was desolate, it is estimated that between 1,200 and 1,500 people died that day; 2,000 were injured and 36,000 people had property damage. There were no firefighters or Red Cross and the population was not educated on how to act at the time of an earthquake. Today Managua is one of the best capitals in Central America with lots of new infrastructure. See photos here: https://radiolaprimerisima.com/noticias-generales/destacado/hace-90-anos-un-terremoto-destruyo-a-managua/

(Radio La Primerisima, 31 March 2021)

Covid-19 Report for March 23 to 29
For the week of March 23 to 29 the Health Ministry reports 38 registered cases of Covid and 38 people recuperated and one death. Since March 2020 there have been 5,326 registered cases of Covid-19, 5,102 people recuperated and 178 deaths. (Radio La Primerisima, 30 March 2021)

Orchestrated Campaign against Sandinismo
The Board of Directors of “Friends of Nicaragua” (Peru chapter), made a statement about the new Amnesty International document regarding Nicaragua. The Peruvian statement states that conservative forces have promoted an orchestrated campaign against Sandinismo, and that the campaign has a clear electoral nature, given the elections will be held in November. This campaign encourages the conservative sectors of society to unite, since currently they are divided. “Amnesty International’s statement should come as no surprise. It is a known fact that in November of this year, elections will take place and will once again be the scene of a confrontation between the conservative forces and the majority of the people committed to developing and deepening social transformations aimed at raising the material living conditions of [Nicaragua’s] inhabitants, encouraging and promoting the construction of a better, more humane and just society,” details the statement. The Friends of Nicaragua state that since last year the reactionary forces have been fomenting an artificial climate of violence but the country’s authorities have not fallen into the trap. The statement indicates that this campaign is the continuation of the one initiated in April 2018 generating an artificial climate of confrontation and violence that damaged Nicaraguan society. During the attempted coup there were terrorist attacks, arson of public buildings, radio stations and private homes and businesses; barricades were built to obstruct the passage of people and vehicular traffic, FSLN headquarters were attacked, and crimes were committed against defenseless people, many of whom were barbarically tortured before perishing.

“We could all see, in effect, that the events in Nicaragua were the continuation of identical actions perpetrated a year earlier in Caracas against the Constitutional Government of President Nicolás Maduro; in Ecuador against Rafael Correa and in Bolivia against Evo Morales and his governmental administration,” the statement adds.

Within the framework of the upcoming elections, they seek to do the same in Nicaragua. And to achieve this, they need to undermine the prestige of the Sandinista Government beyond Nicaragua’s borders, since they feel defeated domestically. They try, then, to fool the uninformed, those who do not know the reality of Nicaragua and allow themselves to be influenced by major media at their service. In the face of the lies spread against Nicaragua, the Friends of Nicaragua have taken a clear position in defense of the Sandinista Revolution. “We consider ourselves, from Peru, in the obligation to act not only raising solidarity as a flag; but also safeguarding the interests of the peoples of Latin America affected by the constant aggressiveness of the Empire.” “We renew our support of the Sandinista Revolution and we call on all to keep our flag of solidarity with the cause it embodies on high.” (Radio La Primerisima, 28 March 2021)