Gender-based violence is unfortunately something experienced by many girls and women globally. Rarely spoken of or seen in public, it cuts across different cultures, beliefs and nationalities around the world.
In the North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region (RACCN) of Nicaragua, the rates of sexual violence, and violence against girls and women in general, are among the highest in the country.
The women, and men, in this community have had enough. Many have seen friends and family members suffer from violence in silence, and want what has unfortunately become a “cultural norm” to end once and for all. See how people are coming together to break the cycle of violence.
Empowering youth to speak out
Growing up in RACCN, sexual violence was common. Determined to create a new normal for their community, youth like 17-year-old Dorleni and 19-year-old Harly joined Plan’s Girl Power Project – a youth-led initiative that engages girls and boys in promoting gender equality.
“Some men think it’s okay to harass girls. We’re here to tell them it’s not,” shared Dorleni.
“We don’t believe in violence, that’s why we want to show others it’s wrong,” added Harly.
Youth like Dorleni and Harly have become agents of change in their community, sharing information about girls’ rights, raising awareness about gender-based violence, and offering support to peers who are at risk or have suffered from violence.
Inspiring change is no easy task and takes time, but Dorleni, Harly, and others like them, are committed to ending sexual violence. They believe in this cause, and when asked by other youth why they do this, Harly responds: “I am doing this to help you.”
On the ground, Plan is working with partner organizations, like Nidia White, who understand how to work collaboratively with community leaders to change local mindsets and end gender-based violence.
Shira Miguel Downs, Director of Nidia White, has years of experience working in the remote area of RACCN, where implementing educational programs and awareness-raising campaigns have slowly started to change long-standing traditions and cultural norms.
“Violence against girls is not right. It’s that simple,” said Shira. “We need to work with communities and show them why it shouldn’t be taking place. We run workshops where we change their way of thinking, so they can see why children and women deserve to be protected.”
Providing support to girls and women
For girls and women in RACCN who’ve experienced violence, seeking support is difficult. A remote area of Nicaragua, police and social services are hours away. So, Plan is working with the police force and government to bring mobile counselling to these communities.
“The local police commission has joined forces with the government, as well as Plan International, to promote girls’ rights across remote communities and ensure the rights of sexual violence victims are met,” shared Carmen Poveda, special police commissioner to RACCN.
Carmen and her team are working closely with community leaders to educate people on how to report instances of violence, and how to provide protection and support to girls and women.
“We are giving victims of sexual violence a voice, and helping them realize their rights,” shared Carmen. “The work we are doing with Plan is helping us break the cycle of violence.”
Find support in Canada
If you or someone you know is looking for information or assistance here in Canada, there are organizations across the country working to support girls and women who are at risk, or have been victims of violence. Please visit Status of Women Canada’s website for a list of organizations, programs and services in your area.