‘We are the revolution:’ The Nicaraguan Women’s Movement Taking Charge

“The revolution was what happened, but when we started to understand and describe it, and live in its reality, we realized that as women we were, and we are the revolution.”  

Post-revolution Nicaragua in the 1980s ushered in an avalanche of ideas on the reconstruction of the “new” society. After four decades of the Somoza dictatorship (1937-1979), women had emerged with a progressive feminist agenda and a determination to make fundamental and structural changes toward social, economic, and political equality. Their demands were within their rights, after all, over a third of the Sandinista revolutionary forces fighting in the military front-lines were women. (1) Heroic actions by Nicaraguan women are legendary and documented in archives of revolutions or armed conflicts where other brave and courageous women were notably recognized such as in El Salvador, Guatemala, Cuba, Spain, México, and in South America. In every case, the endgame was focused on improving the lives of women, with consequential outcomes that would potentially affect everyone. But, after a decade of struggle in the course of negotiations, Nicaraguan feminists had far less gains in their advances than anticipated or hoped for. Especially disheartening was to realize that their first democratically elected president was female (Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, 1990-97), and far from promoting an agenda favoring women’s rights, the new president emphasized the traditional role of women as primarily wives and mothers. It appeared as if they had experienced a serious and debilitating setback, but for feminists living in an era of revolution and change their fight was just beginning. 

Today, Nicaraguans are living under the repressive, authoritative government of Daniel Ortega and his wife and vice-president, Rosario Murillo. In a cruel and most unfortunate circumstance, the Ortega-Murillo regime has meticulously carved out a repressive government aimed at mostly the younger generation who seek democratic freedoms, but especially feminists for whom Daniel Ortega seems to have a personal vendetta against. Ortega’s disdain toward feminists originated at the time (in 1998) that his stepdaughter, Zoilamérica, publicly accused him of sexually assaulting her during a period of about twenty years since she was eleven years old. An intense campaign by feminists to hold Ortega accountable for his crime served to unnerve him, but he abused his power to wrangle his way out of the legal quagmire. Certainly, Murillo’s protective shield was instrumental in her role as the grieving wife, even though she turned against her daughter, and denied even knowing about the abuse. 

Since the 2018 Rebellion, the Orteguista regime, whose overwhelming power and control permeate throughout every branch of government, mobilized a crackdown on social protests, systematically blocking off any movement from the opposition. The extreme violence exercised by the various state police and parapolice units caused a devastating blow to Nicaraguan democratic society. Over 300 people were killed, mainly by the state forces and most were peaceful youthful protestors. Additionally, over a thousand people were injured and several hundred were detained, many of whom are still incarcerated.  

Ortega and Murillo’s strategy for controlling the opposition included the closures of certain social and civic organizations that functioned independently of the government’s purview. Over a hundred organizations have been forced to close their doors since the 2018 Rebellion, and their properties have been confiscated. (2) Many of these were non-profit organizations that for years had served the community, especially women and their children. The reporting of these closures by media sources generally maintain that the reason behind the governmental order is the organizations’ presumably accepting international funds to undermine the government or because of the lack of proper bookkeeping, all of which are flatly denied by the executive directors.  

Sandra Ramos, a representative of the women’s movement, el Movimiento de Mujeres María Elena Cuadra (MEC), describes the regime’s actions to shutter their organization as political violence. (3) Ramos is director of the non-profit organization, Asociación de Mujeres Trabajadoras y Desempleadas María Cuadra and in defiance, resolves that the government’s punitive actions will not deter their work seeking the rights of women in the workplace. The organization has endured for 28 years, assisting women in their clamor for descent and fair working conditions in the industrial zones, and in assuring women legal protection in the court of law. On a Twitter video clip, Ramos explains that their organization’s work has been continuously conflicted within the context of a society that is patriarchal and “machista,” (sexist) and where women’s political action is often disregarded and dismissed. (4) Ramos contends that the organization has established a solid structure of volunteers and supporters that will continue working and advocating, even if the government has cancelled their legal status.

Political Prisoners

The Ortega-Murillo winning strategy for the presidential election in November 2021 was to incarcerate all potential candidates by the time the ballots were printed. It was an easy win for the duo, except that they were critically regarded as illegitimately elected, but elected nevertheless, much to the chagrin of many Nicaraguans that anticipated a transitional change toward democracy. Among the more than 120 incarcerated political prisoners are women whose activism and feminism were particularly threatening to Ortega and Murillo. Some of the women have been sentenced, receiving around 8-12 years of prison each, although the trial processes were, and still are, reportedly a sham, clearly in violation of their rights according to the constitution and international law. (5

The following are brief bio summaries of some of the feminists/activists incarcerated since last year: (6)

Dora María Tellez (arrested on June 13th): Born in Matagalpa in 1955, Tellez joined the FSLN in León when she was twenty years old. Her initial move to León was to enroll in the School of Medicine. She was twenty-three years old and commander number three when on August 22, 1978, she participated in the Operation Pigpen, the takeover of the Somoza regime’s National Palace that resulted in the release of FSLN prisoners and a ransom. She was chosen as chief negotiator amongst her comrades, illustrating their confidence in her remarkable abilities. Then, under her command, the FSLN unit in León “liberated” the department, defeating the powerful, well-trained and equipped Somoza National Guard. Her success as a female commander was perceived as one of the most heroic acts in the Sandinista Revolution. The international feminist communities took special interest in her achievements. She was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Helsinki, and she was invited as a Visiting Professor by the Harvard University’s Robert F. Kennedy School of Theology, although she was unable to attend due to problems with a U.S. visa. After the Revolution, Tellez served as Vice President of Parliament and in the Ministry of Health. In 1995, disillusioned and disappointed over the direction of the FSLN political party, Tellez and many other stalwarts of the FSLN, left the party and created their own movement based on democratic ideals. The Movimiento Renovador Sandinista (MRS) was established and later “cancelled” by Ortega in 2008. A new version of MRS emerged as the Unión Democrático Renovadora (UNAMOS). Tellez’ writings have been well-received by international audiences. Her publications are archived in the centers of investigation such as Instituto de Investigación y Desarrollo Nitlapan (UCA), the Institute of History in Nicaragua an Central America (IHNCA), and the Envió Digital Journal. She was in charge of coordinating the project Memoria Centroamericana, an academic platform in the field of Social Science. 

Dora María Tellez and Ana Margarita Vijil were taken by force by the Orteguista police from their home on June 13, 2021. A few others that were in the home were also taken away but then released. A large convoy of police in tactical gear barged into their home, ransacking and confiscating anything they deemed of some value although they didn’t have a warrant nor could they elaborate on why they were being arrested.   

 Ana Margarita Vijil (arrested on June 13th): Vijil, born in 1978, is a human rights defender and former president of MRS (now UNAMOS). In her mid-twenties she worked at the International Court of Justice in the Hague. She received a Fulbright Scholarship and graduated from the University of Arizona majoring in Political Science. Vijil was professor at the Universidad Politécnica de Managua. 

Suyén Barahona (arrested on June 13th): On Sunday, June 13th, a huge police presence descended upon Barahona’s home. She was taken prisoner without the presence of a lawyer and remained in isolation for months. Like Vijil, Barahona is a Fulbright Scholar. She has a degree in International Relations and a Master’s degree in Environmental Politics. She was a political science professor for eight years. She founded the project, “La Mujer Nica Como Emprendedora Social,” that focuses on helping low-income women become entrepreneurs. She joined MRS, now UNAMOS in 2007 because she believed in the democratic principles, justice, equality, and respect for human rights. She looks to a brighter future for Nicaraguans, where no generation will ever have to live through another dictatorship. Barahona was elected president of UNAMOS in 2017.  

Violeta Granero (arrested on June 8th): Granero, a sociologist, is the leader of the Unidad Nacional Azul y Blanco political organization. 

Others include Maria Oviedo (arrested on June 29th): Oviedo, a human rights defender, is the coordinator for the Comisión Permanente de Derechos Humanos (CPDH). Also arrested and imprisoned were: María Fernanda Flores; María Esperanza Sánchez García; Karla Escobar; and Julia Hernández Arévalo. 

Tamara Dávila (arrested on June 12th): Dávila and her five-year old daughter awoke in the middle of the night to the noise of Police tearing down the front door, who then, proceeded to ransack her home, confiscating the electronic equipment as well as a family album featuring her daughter growing up, which was later used as “evidence” during the sentencing procedure. She was taken to prison without allowing her to prepare her daughter for her departure. Dávila is a forty-year old feminist and an executive member of UNAMOS. She is an experienced psychologist committed to the defense of human rights and gender equality. (7) Dávila commented in a podcast that although “machismo” is amplified by the dictator Daniel Ortega, who is a rapist (un violador), the fact is that women live within a societal structure that is profoundly “machista.” (8) Not only are women subjected to an extremely flawed dictatorship, she says, but we must also confront flagrant gender inequalities that exist throughout our society. (9

In a June 6, 2021 interview with COYUNTURA, just days before she was incarcerated, Tamara Dávila expresses confidence that the Ortega Murillo regime will collapse due to the escalating repression involving various segments of the population. (10) Her comments follow: 

“It’s unsustainable to live under these conditions, not only for those of us that are politically organized but for the population in general. There’s a tremendous economic crisis in our country. Every day, more people are unemployed, businesses are closing, and there’s a health crisis. With so much repression, and the economy stifling many families, an eruption is bound to happen. On April 17, 2018, the people didn’t imagine what would happen the next day. The same thing can happen again.”

Daniel Ortega Protected for His Crimes of Sexual Assault

When Zoilamérica Narváez, Daniel Ortega’s stepdaughter, publicly denounced in 1998 that for two decades she had suffered sexual abuse perpetrated by then the presidential hopeful Daniel Ortega, people expressed an array of emotional sentiments. Ortega’s supporters immediately responded with outright denials and accusations, while others remained silent and restrained. Feminists rallied around Zoilamérica’s case and began to give voice to thousands of “silenced” women that had experienced sexual assault, particularly during the armed conflict (known as the Contra War) in the 1980s. Ortega’s supporters, many of whom were regime militants, carried out an intense campaign aimed to discredit Zoilamérica and hide the truth. In response to why she had prolonged her pronouncement for so many years, Zoilamérica explained that Ortega had insisted that she must refrain from revealing his acts of sexual indiscretion for the sake of the “revolution.” (11

Sociologist, feminist and former member of the Sandinista guerrilla, María Teresa Blandón, re-affirms Narváez’ statement on how the system of militancy during the 1980s resulted in sexual assault cases where victims were too afraid or ashamed to seek justice. The ranking Sandinista militants gained preferential treatment, and the act of sexually assaulting young women was expected, especially among the officers. These acts of violence against women were “generalized, accepted, silenced, and concealed,” according to Blandón. Besides those who committed the assaults, there were others who were in complicity, and just as guilty. All of the sexual assault cases, recognized as violence against women, were considered of low priority in defense of the “revolution.” The prevalence of sexual violence and abuse suffered by women, especially the very young resulted in the “normalization” of this behavior. 

In general, the public had knowledge of the sexual assault problem during the armed conflict, but the government failed to systematize sexual assault cases and to conduct proper investigations. Instead, the government officials were likely to “dismiss” the problem (“borrón y cuenta nueva), in the same vein as recently observed when Ortega declared the 2018 Rebellion cases as “borrón y cuenta nueva.”

Blandón’s following declaration has similar sentiments as those spoken by Tamara Dávila:

“It’s intolerable to think we have a president, a magistrate, or a member of parliament that is a rapist (violador), one that is a sexual predator; and if this continues to occur, it means that this society has not changed, and the level of tolerance for this violence still exists.” (12)  

Luz Marina Torres, Coordinator of the Colectivo 8 de Marzo, explains that in 1987, during her work with members of the Asocación de Mujeres Nicaragüenses Luisa Amanda Espinoza (AMNLAE), she collected the testimonies of over 100 women serving in the military that had been sexually assaulted or abused. (13) They refused to lodge official complaints against their perpetrators, citing fear of retaliation and shame. At the time of the violations, the women were told that the immediate attention to the revolution took precedence over the crimes committed against them. 

Torres understands how victims of sexual assault experience long-term consequences, and yet, it’s highly improbable to prove their cases in the court of law. Their “profound silence” brings to the foreground a broader reality that the revolution was disproportionately cruel to women. (14

Even today, relatives of women murdered in the hands of their (ex)partners consistently voice their outrage over the failure of the courts to exercise their judicial order and punish the murderers. Each femicide, i.e., a woman killed because of her gender, is a murder of insurmountable consequences. But in a broader context, the circumstance of abject disadvantages that relegate women to an inferior position against men is a product of historical consequences. (15)  

Femicide Stories

The case of Yorli Xiomara Cuadro. (16)

Murdered in October of 2020 by her partner for whom she had sought a “breakup.” 

Yorli left behind an eight year-old son, a grieving sister, and a mother in the hospital with a serious illness. Yorli’s case brings into focus the flawed system of mediation, which she was required to participate in order to process a legal complaint against her partner. During the mediation, she described to the officiating committee, La Comisaría de Mujer y la Niñez de San Rafael del Sur, her partner’s relentless psychological violence against her, and asked for a legal separation. In response to the committee’s question on whether she owned the house, she replied that she had used her money that she earned in selling fruits and vegetables to construct the home but the land belonged to her partner. The committee refused to resolve her complaint since her partner asked that she leave their house. Three months later, her partner went into the house and viciously stabbed her in the presence of her son. She died two days later. Her murderer (known as “el femicida”) was eventually tried and sentenced to thirty years of prison term, although, the current status of his imprisonment is unknown. 

Sentencing a convicted murderer is not a guarantee that the sentence will be served. For example, in the case of Escalante Betanco who murdered his partner, Fatima Justina Cuadra Cruz in 2016, charged and convicted, was early-released after serving just four years of a 30-year sentence. After his prison release, Escalante returned to his town and proceeded to psychologically abuse the mother of the woman he had killed. The mother, Felicita Cruz, was not notified of his early release, nor given a rational explanation for the release. (17)

In the case of Yorli, several issues emerged as problematic in the handling of overall domestic violence. Women are at a disadvantage in abusive relationships because the men have the absolute, legal property rights in cases of marital ownership, even when children are involved. Everything falls under the husband’s name, and women are unable to acquire loans in their name unless, as in the case of Yorli, the loan is procured as a business microfinance debt. 

Another issue revolves around the incompetence of both the policing units investigating domestic violence and the judicial court consisting of the regional women’s commission, the Comisarías de las Mujeres,  established by the government. Luz Marina Torres, (Director of the women’s collective, Colectivo 8 de Marzo), explains that women who file a legal complaint with the women’s commission (Comisaría) don’t have the confidence that they will achieve justice for the injuries, and acquire the protection and assurance that they and/or their children will not be harmed. The mediation process officiated by the Comisaría actually serves to further place the women at greater risk since the partners, who are present in these hearings, are readily given a “second” chance based on their “promise” to improve upon their behavior. Torres explains that time and time again these sort of proceedings end in tragic circumstances, usually violently, and sometimes the women are killed. The gross negligence and overall lack of competence on the part of the policing unit and members of the Comisaría in the handling of these cases is appalling. The women’s organization such as the Colectiva directed by Torres has the staff competence and experience for working in domestic violence, yet the Ortega Murillo regime has diligently casted off her organization and others like it, cutting off their strong advocacy efforts in the pursuit of human rights for all women. (18

The case of Petrona (“El femicida de El Portón”) (19

In January, 2011, Petrona had stepped off the bus after arriving at her municipality, called El Portón, not far from Managua, when in broad daylight, her husband lunged a dagger into her chest — three times. This act of violence would not be less significant than other femicides across the country, except that in this case, the community of their families and friends made a concerted effort to protect the murderer, helping him evade prosecutorial action. In the process, Petrona’s death was considered inconsequential as demonstrated by the community’s rejection toward her and the three daughters.

The case is particularly puzzling to members of the Colectiva 8 de marzo, a woman’s organization focused on domestic violence prevention and protection. The community of El Portón, both  men and women, chose to protect Velásquez who had killed his wife whom he had physically and psychologically abused throughout their marriage of 37 years. In defiance of the law, some members of the community displayed egregious acts of hatred toward the police who wanted to arrest him, as well as animosity toward the women in the Colectiva for attempting to help Petrona.   

Petrona (Petrona Orquín Mendoza) and Rogé Son (a nickname of endearment for Velásquez Campos) were married when she was 13 and he was twice her age. Aside from being a housewife and mother, Petrona shared the farming workload with Velásquez, planting, harvesting, and tending to the cattle and other domestic animals. After thirty-seven years of marriage, and at the age of fifty, Petrona decided on a small business venture of raising cattle. She was able to  procure the loan she needed but only with her husband’s signature. When Petrona tried to engage in business interactions, Velásquez refused to acknowledge her ownership according to their previous agreement. They argued, and Velásquez agreed to leave the house. 

Velásquez became enraged and his abusive behavior escalated. Petrona felt afraid and powerless against his constant and vicious threats. Her only option was to ask the Colectiva to help her attain a restraining order. This was a court procedure that required Petrona and Velásquez to participate in “mediation,” based on a law, Ley 779 that addresses “violence against women.” (20) Petrona presented her complaint during the hearing, but Velásquez’ anger evolved into a physical altercation with the police and was ordered to remain in detention. He served two days in jail and was released. Having been forced to attend the mediation and then, serving jail time, Velásquez amplified his furor and continued attacking Petrona. Two days after his jail release, some of Velásquez’ neighbors told him that Petrona was seen traveling on a bus toward the main town nearby, and that she may be going to the Colectiva to cast another complaint against him. She had in fact, gone shopping at the market. Velásquez waited at the bus stop for Petrona’s return, and stabbed her, eventually killing her.

The police went to El Portón to arrest Velásquez, but they were refused entry into the community; no one spoke to the police, much less complied with their orders. Petrona’s funeral wake was arranged by the women from the Colectiva. Many community members expressed their bitterness toward the women and warned them to stay away from El Portón. But the women proceeded to hold the funeral service as a way to demonstrate respect for Petrona and her three daughters. Very few community members attended. Afterwards, the women decided to stay the night in El Portón, at a home where they had previously stayed as guests. That evening, Velásquez went to the house and demanded to see the women. The owner managed to convince Velásquez to leave since enough violence had been committed. 

Petrona’s three daughters were abandoned by their father and the local authorities denied them compensation for the violent murder of their mother. The Velásquez’ family members took over the entire property, leaving the daughters without their home. 

According to the women in Colectiva, Velásquez was never arrested; he lives in Managua and has been sighted with another woman, presumably his wife. 

Questioning the Integrity of Institutions Complicates a Patriarchal Society

The case of Petrona clearly illustrates the deeply entrenched sentiments against women, and how the laws function in favor of the husband, even in extreme violent circumstances that threaten the life of a woman. Velásquez was a beloved member of the community; he was known as handsome (with green eyes) and charming, except when he had too much to drink. Despite being a problem drinker, he was perceived as an outstanding, peaceful citizen. His long standing abusive behavior toward his wife was acknowledged by his immediate circle of friends and family, but it was not questioned. Even as a murderer, Velásquez maintained the affection and support of his inner and outer circle. He falsely believed that killing Petrona was justified, and his “machista” anger was buoyed by his inner circle of friends. General mistrust toward the state and civic institutions was common among the social groups in the community, and defying the authorities and threatening the woman’s organization were acts of self-preservation. Any regard for the well-being of women in general is secondary to the values and beliefs espoused by the community as a whole. 

Why the women in El Portón refused to support Patrona and her daughters in time of great need, has yet to be fully understood. One can readily conclude that the women’s behaviors were congruent with the overall gender-related situation in the context of a patriarchal environment, but there are too many other questions to draw conclusions in a generalized fashion.   

In towns such as El Portón, feminists recognize their work as vital not only in educating the public about women’s rights, but advocating for change at the highest ranks of governmental and civic institutions. Laws that protect women and defend their human rights are pivotal to building a responsive and responsible governance, but equally important are the adequate resources to develop programs of support and to build skills, knowledge, and competence among all those that work with the women. These concerns and others are commonly expressed by feminists that have first-hand experience living under a repressive Ortega Murillo dictatorship. 

Changes in the Workplace

Only a woman can give eyes to a blind woman; and 

only a woman can give voice to a voiceless woman.

In the absence of adequate pro-labor laws related to women in the workplace such as “sweatshops,” maquiladoras, or manufacturing factories and plants, the international treaty, the ILO Convention No. 190, serves as a formidable defense against the work-related forms of violence and sexual harassment. Subjecting women to verbal abuse, inappropriate touching and groping, and harassment are commonplace, but even so, in a climate of repressive and harsh economic circumstances, many of these cases remain unresolved, or underreported. 

Interviews with women reveal the inside story of women in the workplace, and ondalocal.com author, Duyerling Ríos provides a descriptive context to document the enormous challenges in efforts to implement substantial change and improvements. (21) Sandra Ramos explains that due to a pact devised by the private business sector and the government, ILO 190 has yet to be ratified, presumably for reasons of preventing the destabilization of the work place order. In the current repressive circumstances, many women refuse to formalize their own or others’ complaints, citing fear and retaliation. Ramos reiterates that this makes her role and others as feminists and defenders of human rights extremely difficult and challenging.

Work place violence and sexual harassment are among many in the long list of human rights violations. Health issues are of great concern to women who slave over the grinding, long hours of labor that aggravates key areas of the body such as the shoulders, back, knees, hands, and wrists. After seven or eight years of heavy and intense labor, many women end up in the hospital with serious ailments that can only be corrected by abstaining from their jobs. But their options are to either continue the work despite their disabilities or quit and accept a measly pension. 

Nicaragua’s labor law, “Ley General de Higiene y Seguridad del Trabajo,” obligates the employer to adopt preventive measures to guarantee the rights of their workers. But in general, employers have failed to comply with the law, evidenced by the affected women. After the women are forced to drop out of the labor market, they are stonewalled from receiving adequate and fair compensation from both their employer and the national social security office, INSS. Since there’s a lack of coordination between the government, the employer, and the labor unions in  addressing the conditions of work, i.e., safety, security, health, etc. in effect, the women are left to fend for themselves, and no one is held accountable. 

Women make up the majority in the industrial work force, which is approximately 52% of the total number of workers. Their monthly earnings of about $150 are less than the approximate amount deemed essential to feed a family of three or four, about $400. Apart from their full-time employment, the women, especially single mothers, assume other “informal” employments such as selling fruits and vegetables at the local market in order to provide for their children. Thus, women make up a large proportion of the informal sector of the work force. 

The Survival Economy

In the northern department of Nueva Segovia, bordering with Honduras, women continue to work in low-skilled employment as they have for decades, and their earnings are barely enough to survive. Sociologist Haydee Castillo describes the women’s work as self-employment in a “survival economy.” Nueva Segovia’s population relies largely on agricultural work, and women have very few opportunities to make advances in education and in acquiring specialized skills. Women are unable to develop a business plan because they lack literacy skills, explains Castillo, and whereas women in Managua have access to technology, learning English, and working with computers, the women in Nueva Segovia sell coffee, corn, fruits, and make bread to sell at the local markets. It’s a form of subsisting.

Castillo believes that improving the lives of women begins with an education that is designed to develop a strong labor force. Women are at a disadvantage when their economic well-being depends on their cash flow from outside the home, but they must also take care of the home and their family.  

Women Who Envision a Social Economy

“Las Mujeres Cooperativistas”

Organizers and leaders of agricultural production cooperatives, María del Rosario Alarcón Sánchez with the, Agropecuaria de Mujeres Productoras de Río Blanco (a southern department bordering Costa Rica), and Angela Rayo with the Cooperativa Multisectorial Angela Delgado, Chinandega (a northern department bordering Honduras), answered interview questions during a recent podcast episode delivered by ondalocal.com (February 2022). (22) In their remarkable stories the women discussed how they began their organizations, the innumerable rewards and benefits derived from their hard work, and the obstacles that stand in the way of achieving even greater goals.    

For Alarcón, the reason for creating a cooperative emerged as a survival strategy at the end of the armed conflict in the late 1980s. Families were desperate to find a way to feed their families, and subsistence farming was no longer a viable solution during this critical period. The concept of creating a cooperative was familiar to the communities, but actually leading and organizing the “movement” was difficult. Alarcón’s strategy was to organize the women, a practical approach considering that so many of the community male members were at war. Not every woman had experience working in the fields, planting, harvesting, and selling their products. But, the opportunity was too great to dismiss it, and Alarcón and the women worked diligently. They were highly successful in including more and more families in their collective, thus assuring that the women could feed their families. Although their work was not as consistent and productive from year to year, nevertheless, the women maintained the cohesiveness within their organization. 

Angela Rayo’s idea for organizing a cooperative was similar to Alarcón’s in that she recognized the need to create a space for survival in the aftermath of destruction, but in her case it was due to  the hurricanes. Rayo lives in an area that was heavily affected by natural disasters. She was  participating in the group clean-up tasks when she realized that the people involved could benefit from a cooperative. It was a labor of hope and love that compelled her and other women to develop an organization where they could make their own decisions concerning what to grow and when, as well as to eliminate the use of toxic chemicals. The development of a successful collective opened up opportunities for the women to become better educated and to develop specific business skills.  

Both women attest to the improvements in the quality of life for the participating women and the community as a whole. They argue that the women’s collective contributes widely to the overall economy at the national level. They envision a future where the cooperatives can continue to play a vital role in improving education for all children, opening more opportunities for women to actively engage in the labor market, and to adequately address the problem of increased migration amongst the youth. 

However, the women have battles to fight in a variety of fronts. One of the biggest challenges is procuring land to carry out the collective’s production. But to purchase land, the women must have access to credit, which they don’t qualify for, and be able to pay off the loans with exorbitant high interest rates within a short period of time. Basically, the women believe that the private and government sectors are in a position to assist them, but their investment strategies are focused on big businesses with wealthy patrons.   

Toward a ‘Global’ Feminist Movement

“Love amongst women is revolutionary, it is resistance, and it is giving yourself the opportunity to live each day with a different perspective.” (23

The feminist movement continues to intensify from the 1990s when women were increasingly concerned with establishing their organizational work as autonomous, removed from the Sandinista movement that had abandoned their position of support for women. The women that began the movement were reluctant to articulate their identity as feminist, in fact, some rejected the term “feminism.” The conservative faction in the Sandinista ranks was a powerful force against what the feminist wanted to accomplish. They were undeterred, however, and whereas their progress might have appeared waning in the face of the country’s political turmoil, the feminists remained steadfast in their beliefs in the equality of women. (24) Today, veteran feminists stand firm in their dedication as first and foremost “feminists” and their work continues to influence other women, in Nicaragua, Central America, South America, and beyond. 

What is different today, of course, is the extent to which technology has facilitated the development of the feminist movement. The technological network has extended throughout the Americas and in Europe, thus widening the worldwide web, bringing together diversified voices and promoting a unified feminist agenda. (25

 Perhaps, one of the best known feminist movement, Argentina’s Green Wave, brought the world’s attention to the 2018 march of over a million women, with green scarfs, demanding the legalization of abortion. In 2015, the Argentinians had organized a movement #NiUnaMenos (not one less), in reference to the skyrocketing femicide rates. México adopted their version of similar movement, #NiUnaMas, which served as a unified message that women demanded of their governments to take immediate action. 

The women in Colombia extended their feminist agenda, targeting the abortion bans in their country and helping others in their fight as well. It is the “shared struggle” of women around the world that results in a powerful, effective campaign that strengthens the global feminist movement. (26

In Nicaragua, university students have taken a leadership role in the feminist movement. Amaya Coppens recounts how she and her classmates joined the peaceful social protests in 2018, clamoring against the Ortega-Murillo repression, injustices and violence against women. (27) The consensus is that far too many young women fall prey as victims of sexual violence in their homes. Violators are rarely prosecuted, leaving women in revictimization that prolongs their suffering. The social media, then, becomes a way to deal with the injustices, according to María José Díaz Reyes. Publicly calling out the aggressors and violators for committing crimes against women is a way of treating the victims in a dignified way, letting them know that they are not alone. 

Although the feminist movement embraces the critical causes that affect women in general, the need for change in Nicaragua has its particular nuances. María José Díaz Reyes discusses the localized themes that are critical to the feminist agenda: “leadership, power, the State, coalition, violence, human rights, technology, and collective memory.” (28) As a leader in the feminist movement, Díaz Reyes acknowledges the diversity amongst its members, not only in the lived experiences but in the ideas, ideologies, opinions, concerns, even in their approaches to solving pressing problems. At the base of their collective narratives, Díaz Reyes explains, are the pleas for carrying out justice in reparation for the overwhelming occurrence of the machista violence in its various manifestations. The agenda is inclusive of all women, regardless of their political affiliation. 

The challenges facing Nicaraguan feminists are immense, and given that their freedoms are indefinitely suspended, their future may appear bleak, even so, they are embolden by the overwhelming national and international support of women who are passionate about constituting change. Everyday resistance strengthens women’s determination to break through the chains of repression specific to their gender. They realize that their fight is revolutionary, and their efforts illuminate the power of sisterhood and the lessons that they can pass on to the rest of the world. (29


1.  Please see article, “Nicaragua: Our Beautiful Country” for discussion on the women in the Sandinista Revolution.  https://bilingualfrontera.com/2021/09/26/nicaragua-our-beautiful-country/ and the 2018 Rebellion.

2.  For information on the NGOs that have thus far been canceled by the Ortega Murillo regime, see article in confidencial.com.  https://www.confidencial.com.ni/nacion/guillotina-contra-oeneges-mas-de-110-personerias-juridicas-canceladas-por-daniel-ortega/

3.  See the news article in artículo66.com:  https://www.articulo66.com/2022/02/15/movimiento-maria-elena-cuadra-nicaragua-cierre-ong-regimen-daniel-ortega/  Also, see report by the Iniciativa Mesoamericana de Mujeres Defensoras de Derechos Humanos http://im-defensoras.org/2022/02/whrd-alert-nicaragua-government-shuts-down-two-more-feminist-organizations-fundemuni-and-the-maria-elena-cuadra-womens-movement/

4.  Twitter post by ondalocal.com. https://twitter.com/OndaLocal/status/1493729063147646979

5.  See latest report  and YT video via Jared Genser, Twitter: @JaredGenser. See also Confidencial  article on how prosecutors are selected to preside in the trials of political prisoners, selected through a process initiated by the Attorney General Ana Julia Guido Ochoa who was sanctioned by the U.S. in 2020 for the formation of a judicial entity to work with the National Police on fabricating charges against political prisoners and their families.

6.  This information was published in the article, “Nicaragua: Our Beautiful Country” https://bilingualfrontera.com/2021/09/26/nicaragua-our-beautiful-country/

7.  See “Mensaje de Tamara Dávila,” message by Tamara Dávila posted on Twitter by @MaryChelis. 

8.  Podcast on ondalocal.com: Mujeres de Nicaragua luchan por la igualdad y a no violencia https://ondalocal.com.ni/galeria/audios/reportajes/551-mujeres-nicaragua-igualdad-violencia/

9.  Translations by bilingualfrontera editor.

10. Coyuntura,  https://www.coyuntura.co/post/tamara-dávila-esto-va-a-volver-a-estallar-es-insostenible-vivir-en-estas-condiciones

11. Information about Zoilamérica’s declarations are in the article: “Nicaragua: Our Beautiful Country.” 

12. See article in Nicaraguainvestiga.com: Abuso sexual, un mal silenciado en la guerra de los 80

https://nicaraguainvestiga.com/memoria/29136-el-abuso-sexual-un-mal-silenciado-en-la-guerra-de-los-80/   Also, the video that accompanies the article.  https://youtu.be/tKOCXApjjVw

13. This article is dated Aug. 24, 2020. See current website Colectivo de mujeres 8 DE MARZO http://colectivo8demarzo.org/conocenos/    

14. See article in Nicaraguainvestiga.com: Abuso sexual, un mal silenciado en la guerra de los 80

15. See Dore, E. (2000). Property households and public regulations of domestic life. In Dore, E., & Molyneux, M. (Eds.). (2000). Hidden histories of gender and the state in Latin          America. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

16. Story originally published in:  https://mujereseimpunidadnic.com/cuando-la-violencia-machista-mata-tambien-a-la-mediacion  Please note that this page may not be accessible.

17. Story originally published in: https://mujereseimpunidadnic.com/excarcelaciones-ilegales-e-impunidad-avaladas-por-el-gobierno Please note that the link may not be accessible.  

18. The Comisarías de Mujeres was originally established in 1993 to specifically focus on violence against women, then were completely shuttered in 2016. In early 2020, Murillo ordered the re-openings of similar organizations without the specialty care needed to work with women who have experienced violence in their homes. 

19. Story published in ondalocal.com: https://ondalocalni.com/galeria/audios/podcast/622-femicidios-nicaragua-violencia-machista/

20. (Ley 779) Ley Integral Contra la Violencia hacia las Mujeres was passed by the National Assembly in 2012; a year later the Supreme Court added the reforms that included the process of mediation.

21. ¿A qué se enfrentan las nicaragüenses en el mundo laboral?  Duyerling Ríos, ondalocal.com, (November 2020). https://ondalocal.com.ni/multimedia/30-mujeres-desigualdad-laboral-nicaragua/

22. Mujeres cooperativistas apuestan por el empoderamiento económico, (February 19, 2022),  Ondalocal.com,https://ondalocalni.com/galeria/audios/podcast/799-mujeres-cooperativistas-apuestan-empoderamiento-economico/ Also, see information on ILO 190   https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/violence-harassment/lang–en/index.htm

23. “Love amongst women is revolutionary,” says Mexican feminist.” Global Voices, https://globalvoices.org/2022/03/10/love-amongst-women-is-revolutionary-says-mexican-feminist/?utm_source=Global+Voices&utm_campaign=47d54758eb-Daily_Digest_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_633e82444a-47d54758eb-290674993&ct=t(Daily_Digest_COPY_01)

24. A podcast episode by ondalocal.com summarizes some of the key issues confronting women, including the ratification of CEDAW (Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women). https://ondalocal.com.ni/galeria/audios/reportajes/613-derechos-mujeres-nicaragua-agendas-politicas/

25. How the Green Wave Movement Did the Unthinkable in Latin America by Ximena Casas, February, 2021  https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/01/opinion/abortion-latin-america.html

26. Latin America’s Green Wave Offers Lessons for U.S. Abortion Advocates by Catalina Martínez Coral, March, 2022   https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/14/opinion/latin-america-colombia-abortion.html?campaign_id=39&emc=edit_ty_20220314&instance_id=55740&nl=opinion-today&regi_id=35815915&segment_id=85517&te=1&user_id=a2a47b53a1398e2b788287d4c1e0a8f8

27. Nicas rompen el silencio ante la violencia machista by Duyerling Ríos, (April 2020), ondalocal.com  https://ondalocal.com.ni/noticias/908-mujeres-rompen-silencio-ante-violencia-machista/   Please note that Amaya Coppens was recipient of the International Woman of Courage Award in 2020. https://ni.usembassy.gov/2020-international-women-of-courage-award-recipients-announced/

28. Feministas nicaragüenses en la sociedad denominada “Azul y Blanco” by María José Díaz Reyes, June 2020, ondalocal.com https://ondalocal.com.ni/opinion/151-rupturas-feministas-nicaraguenses-sociedad-azul-blanco/

29. Their acts of resistance are reminiscent of Bourdieu’s notion of reflexivity, the “conscious, rational use of power to resist all various forms of subordination.” In “Pierre Bourdieu and La Domination Masculine” by sociologist Bridget Fowler. 


1.  Despenalizar el aborto para que las mujeres interrupan un embarazo de forma segura (Citlalli, Sept. 28, 2021 https://ondalocal.com.ni/especiales/1423-despenalizar-aborto-p

2.  Abortion rates go down when countries make it legal: report.  The abortion rate is higher in countries that restrict abortion access than in those that do not. https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-care/abortion-rates-go-down-when-countries-make-it-legal-report-n858476

3.  Research, Human Rights Watch: Abortion around the world: Latin America,  https://www.hrw.org/topic/womens-rights/reproductive-rights-and-abortion

4.  Movimientos sociales en La Corriente Nicaragua:  


No nos callarán. We will not be silenced.

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