On the streets of Managua, women are cat called on every block and groped on crowded buses. In their homes, physical and sexual abuse is commonplace; however, it is silenced, a taboo topic in the family and surrounding community.
Below, a teenager from CANTERA’s Youth Program finds refuge in her peers and CANTERA Staff. As leaders and advocates for human rights in their community, they constantly support each other. The CANTERA Community Center where they meet is a safe space for emotional support, friendship, and leadership training. As youth tell their story and learn about social problems, they begin healing. This healing process allows them to blossom as leaders who face inequity and work for women’s rights together. As youth leaders, they make a commitment to work for change in their community; they refuse to stay silent.
In commemoration of International Women’s Day last week, Adilia’s piece is shared below.
“It’s been very hard for me to talk about these kinds of things. I have been taught to feel embarrassed, to be silent about what should really be reported, to look at abuse and harassment as something normal. Every time men have abused me in the streets, I have cried out of anger. I have felt so powerless after these incidents, knowing that these men feel as though they have not done anything wrong.
“With this photograph I want to illustrate how machista men harass women on the street every day. These men believe they own women’s bodies. It angers me that we are seen as objects, not as human beings who deserve respect.
“Today I feel supported by the women in my CANTERA Youth Center. This has inspired me to move forward. I do not want to continue complaining and feeling fear. On behalf of all women, I want to speak out and say: We have had enough of abuse and violence!”
Today, people around the world are protesting, marching, and demonstrating in the streets. The cause that unites them: Women’s Rights.
Internationally, March 8th commemorates the movement for women’s rights.
Today, people are taking to the streets. But everyday, women fight for their rights.
Everyday mothers and grandmothers protect their children from abuse and violence. Nicaragua has one of the highest rates of sexual violence in the world. The vast majority of victims are women and children, and 80% of victims know their abuser.1 Amidst this reality, mothers do all they can to keep their children safe–avoiding leaving them home alone, accompanying them to and from school, teaching them whom to trust.
Everyday social workers work with girls and boys to prevent violence; psychologists accompany youth to facilitate healing. From street harassment and frequent cat calls to murders of women, violence against women is tragically normalized in Nicaraguan society. As the CANTERA Youth Leaders mention in the video above, they long for harmony, happiness, freedom, and respect. Accompanied by CANTERA Staff, these youth have learned to critically analyze their reality and stand up for their rights.
Everyday teachers support youth to follow their professional and academic dreams. These efforts combat the reality that almost one-third of Nicaraguan women have their first child before their 18th birthday, constituting the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Latin America.2 What’s more, Nicaragua also has the highest rate of child marriage in Latin America–14th globally. 41% of girls are married by age 18, 10% by age 15.3 Supporting youth to follow their academic, professional, and leadership dreams is key to changing this reality.
Everyday, Nicaraguan women challenge the status quo with their strength and spirit. Women hold positions in universities and government, rejecting the stereotype of housewife. Men accompany this societal transformation, respecting women’s opinions, supporting women’s leadership and professionalism, assuming their responsibility in housework, and practicing non-violence. CANTERA Youth know their rights. Everyday, through theatre, gender workshops, and their example as youth leaders, they educate their community on equity and non-violence.
For 30 years, CANTERA has accompanied Nicaraguan communities in their empowerment and leadership. CANTERA’s model is based on the communities’ needs and dreams–as the community expresses them.
Depending on the community, CANTERA’s programs look a little different; as you can imagine, rural and urban communities have different goals for themselves! Likewise, farmers and children have different dreams!
CANTERA supports communities as they support themselves. Leaders of all ages learn to work in their community to improve their quality of life. CANTERA supports rural farmers in sustainable agriculture, urban youth in education, and families in healthy communication and non-violence, to name a few examples.
The women in the community of El Caimito work very hard to care and provide for their families. One of the women from this community is a single mom with a daughter in her last year of high school. The two of them, like many women in the community, regularly walk this long, difficult path. They carry baskets of clothes down the dirt road to the river to make some money washing other’s clothes by hand in the stream.
The above photo shows a hardworking, persistent mother and daughter on their way down to the river. They work together so that the daughter can achieve her dream: completing her studies and becoming a professional. This image teaches us men that we should be more responsible with our children. Inherent in machismo is the belief that if a man leaves or abandons his children, he is “more manly;” we must put a stop to this. Just think about how many children–boys and girls–grow up without the presence of their fathers. They grow up with limited economic and emotional support, all because of their fathers’ irresponsible and machista attitudes.
Like the daughter in this photograph, Nicaraguan youth face countless obstacles to their education: domestic violence, economic limitations, lack of family support, just to name a few. Even in the public school system, uniforms, notebooks, transportation costs, and school supplies add up for a family facing unemployment.
However, CANTERA believes that women and men of all races, ages, and economic backgrounds receive a full opportunity in life. The Beca Scholarship Program seeks to lessen educational barriers for high school and university students by providing them a monthly scholarship. (Beca means scholarship in Spanish.) In addition to their studies, these students become leaders in their communities: leaders in gender equity and non-violence, youth who volunteer with children and as community advocates, academics and professionals committed to giving back to their community. As demonstrated in the photo and caption above, Beca Scholars develop self-expression and leadership which empower them take a stand, working for a brighter future for their neighborhood and country.
Join the Beca Scholarship Program today. $30 per month—just $1 per day—ensures a High School Beca and $50 per month ensures a University Beca. By making a recurring donation, you guarantee a student’s education for one year!
Photo and reflection by Edwin Josué Berrios Lorente. Edwin, 23, is a CANTERA Leader from one of the 28 rural communities CANTERA accompanies. His photo and reflection (above) were among the 15 finalists in CANTERA’s 7th Annual Photo Contest for Social Change which took place in March 2017.
Blog compiled by Rose Costello Enos, Communications Coordinator for the CANTERA Development Office.
Beca Scholarship Students gather to discuss their studies and build community with one another. Beca translates to scholarship in Spanish.
It’s late afternoon in Managua. Nicaraguan heat lessens as the sun lowers. A group of teenage students join at their local CANTERA Youth Center. Some students have traveled an hour and a half, on two busses for this two hour workshop; others walked from a few blocks over. Thanks to their scholarship, these young adults are not forced to find a full-time job at 16 or 18. Though their scholarship only covers a portion of their academic expenses, it gives them enough economic flexibility to grow as academics and professionals in high school or university and dedicate time to their communities’ development as CANTERA Youth Leaders.
In addition to working together in their communities, these young adults periodically attend workshops to share their experiences as scholarship students. Some are long-time friends; others are recent acquaintances. The activity kicks off with an icebreaker so everyone gets to know each other.
During the icebreaker we pair up and take turns speaking about different questions such as “How am I coming into this space? How do I feel right now?” “What is my dream for myself?” and “How do I want to impact my community?”
This check-in allows students to dive right into serious topics with each other rather than just share small talk. A university student comments, “Although we come from different communities or are studying different things, we have common dreams and we all want to transform our communities…. We all want a better quality of life not just for ourselves, but also for our families and neighbors.” Another shares, “For me, it is so important to feel heard, and it is really special to be present to someone else by listening to them.”
As the icebreaker closes, we start to reflect using the artistic metaphor of “A Tree of Support.” Each student receives different paper cutouts – roots, trunk, leaves, and fruit. On the root, they write a difficulty they face as students; on the trunk, their accomplishments; on the leaves, who they receive support from; on the fruits, the hopes and dreams they have for the group of Beca Scholarship Students.
First, they share the roots, or difficulties. Many share that they struggle with how far they have to travel to get to school; some from the rural communities have to travel the day before, spending the night in Managua so they can be in class by 8 am on Saturdays. Others find it difficult to work to support their family on top of classes and schoolwork. One student says, “I am so tired by the time I get to class that it is hard to comprehend my lessons.” One university student from a rural community shares, “Without a computer or tablet or even steady internet access, I find it hard to meet my professors’ expectations. More and more of my assignments require access to technology.”
Despite the challenges, many share that their accomplishments motivate them to continue studying. A high school student mentions that this year she has improved her grades. A young man shares that his family now recognizes how important his studies are to him. While previously they wanted him to look for a job rather than pursue a higher education, now–to the best of their ability–they support his studies. Another student says, “My biggest accomplishment so far was helping to organize a student fair at my university. The skills I have learned at CANTERA have helped me be a leader at university.”
On the trunk, the students share what they study: Spanish, History, Journalism, Computer Technologies, Medicine, and Education. By sharing what they are learning, they begin to identify similarities; those who are studying similar things can reach out to each other for support.
By this point, the tree is starting to take shape. Each student has added roots and trunks; only leaves and fruits are missing. On their leaves, students share the different types of support they currently have that help them continue their studies. Everyone shares the importance of the scholarship; though it does not cover all their school expenses, without it they would not be able to afford their books, materials, uniforms, or other needs. Some identify their families as sources of support. A few of the younger students say that had it not been for for the CANTERA Staff’s motivation and encouragement, they would never have thought they could stay in school or university. While for most it is hard, each student can recognize at least one support system that helps them to continue pursuing their dream of higher education.
Lastly, students write on the fruit what kind of support they hope this group can bring them. Many share that they hope to receive solidarity–learning about others’ similar challenges, receiving emotional and academic support. A university student shares that he hopes for access to technology or internet. Others say they hope for a space for self-care. One young woman asks for workshops to process family problems, while another asks for a workshop to help improve study skills.
It’s amazing to watch how this space helps revitalize the Beca Scholars, reminding them why they work hard every single day to keep going to school. I am constantly amazed at the obstacles they overcome. Creating this tree of support with them with them reminded me of my own dreams and goals for myself: I too will work every single day to keep growing and learning from the world around me.
Since 1988, CANTERA has accompanied thousands of Nicaraguans as they create a better quality of life for themselves, their families, and their country.
The video below, made for CANTERA’s anniversary several years ago, shares the impact of CANTERA’s work alongside communities, dreaming with the people. Giving people tools and support to achieve their dreams, CANTERA will continue to inspire community empowerment and development for years to come.
Join us in 2018 celebrating CANTERA’s 30th year building dreams in Nicaragua!