By Analucía Silva.- It is a sunny June morning in a small rural community of the municipality of San Lucas in northern Nicaragua and nearby church bells are calling worshipers to a mass in celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace. In a community meeting, 25-year-old Eliana, who is about seven months pregnant, is enthusiastically telling how her partner is sharing with her the joy of the coming arrival of their baby, talking and saying nice things to it.
For two years now, this bright-eyed young woman has been participating in a training process carried out in the community with a group of 22 women of different ages, promoted by a non-governmental organization. She and several other women and men of different ages participating in the community meeting explain how they now know more about their rights and how to treat their sons and daughters better. They also feel more united and better organized and want to know more about plants and the health and rights of women and children.
The oldest person in the group, wearing a well ironed, light-blue cotton dress, is Maria. She says that she is happy because she now knows what community organization is and about caring for women’s health and other issues such as rape and the environment. She explains how much she suffered in the past due the violence of her husband, who would not even let her talk because previously there was a lot of sexism. It is therefore important for young people to learn more in order to change completely, according to Maria.
Among the things Eliana has learned about is the maltreatment of women, the different kinds of violence, community organization, and the planting and watering of seeds and plants. She explains how she now has a greater capacity to talk about these subjects and to help other people. Having previously viewed certain children and adolescents who formed youth groups as layabouts, she now thinks help needs to be provided to create them.
Eliana’s partner—a tall, slim young man called Kevin, who is five years younger than her—participated in a youth group when he was an adolescent. He says that he even started going to the training workshops attracted by the snacks provided, but stayed on because he was interested in the topics and they had a good dynamic. Kevin learned a lot about drugs and that alcohol and cigarettes are also harmful, while sports are important to make you feel better. Something else he learned was that men and women are equal and that it is important to know more about women and their rights. In relation to sexual violence, Kevin says that “violence is avoided by talking,” meaning that previous information is key to preventing these kinds of situations that have a harmful effect for the rest of one’s life.
For five months now a process has been under implementation in the municipalities of Somoto and San Lucas for the prevention of the sexual abuse of children and adolescents through the use of information and communication technologies. This has involved funding from UNICEF and coordination between its Protection and Communication areas. The Roundtable for the Fight against Human Trafficking corresponding to the department of Madriz, which is based in the departmental capital of Somoto, has been a key arena for linking adolescent communicators from both municipalities with the institutions participating in the Roundtable. The Roundtable has assumed the issue of sexual abuse as a possible precursor to the crime of trafficking as both a responsibility and commitment.
The Community Movement is a non-governmental organization that is part of the Roundtable and was chosen by Puntos de Encuentro—one of the UNICEF counterparts in the execution of the “Prevention of Sexual Abuse: Breaking the Silence” project—to provide valid stories of change in the lives of people that have suffered violence.
Analucía Silva, Specialist in Protection, UNICEF
June 27, 2014