Young Women and Feminism in Nicaragua: Passive Generation?

Posted on 20 August 2010 by

I feel a little bit worried. More than a little bit actually. Since I started to learn more about feminism I can see some things I didn’t before. Right now, everyone who knows me can tell you that I am a feminist, or at least that I am trying to be one. Sadly in Nicaragua that is a label that can diminish who you are and establish how seriously you can be taken.

Demonstration for the Health of the Mother (cc) svengaarn

Demonstration for the Health of the Mother (cc) svengaarn

More than worried, I feel sad. I know how hard women in the past have fought for me to be able to have so many freedoms. I understand that other women have earned the rights I have now and they are a gift for my generation. I realize that there are still many doors to open, but I have some advantages that my feminist ancestors didn’t have.

I feel sad because when I talk to the women of my generation, they don’t see (or choose to ignore) that our rights are still fragile and that there is still a long way to go to reach equality. There isn’t any interest in analyzing our situation from a gender perspective. They are closing their eyes and believe that we, women, have conquered all. Most women my age (20-30 years old) in Nicaragua are passive and let things be.

Maybe this is because our feminist ancestors have earned a bad reputation in my country. Some believe they are too aggressive, judgmental, and intolerant. For me, they are very intimidating and it is difficult to express my opinions and thoughts to them.

The women’s movement is not attractive to most young women in Nicaragua, but if we want equality, organization is key. If we don’t build up a force that can keep the fight going, then we are bound to move backwards and lose some of the rights we have earned (for example, in Nicaragua therapeutic abortion was banned after more then a 100 years of being legal).

If we want to build a strong multi-generational movement, there is some work to do. The older generations have to open themselves to new ideas and approaches and understand that most of the challenges we face today are not exactly the same as before. The younger generations have to recognize the experience of our feminist ancestors and how this can help us.

Realizing that gender discrimination is still around us and comes from within us is a long process. The previous generations should help us in this process of discovery, but not only be willing to teach us, but also learn from us.

This is a complex problem with many roots. Why do you think the younger generations of women are more passive than active?

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13 Comments For This Post

  1. nadodi Says:

    Graciela, thanks for such a thought-provoking post. Your questions, especially the comment that “the women’s movement is not attractive to most young women in Nicaragua,” are very compelling.

    On the one hand, there are research studies that show that youth volunteer at lower rates. For instance, the Volunteering in the United States – 2009 report (pdf) says “volunteer rates were lowest among persons in their early twenties (18.8 percent).”

    However, our experience has been that when youth are given an opportunity to do something good, they grab it with both hands.

    We have seen it in person at our Youth Tech Festival in Jordan where young women and men jointly created advocacy campaigns for causes ranging from eliminating violence against women to preventing traffic accidents. One of the groups even worked on increasing volunteering among youth.

    We have seen it virtually at our Youth Essay Contest for CEDAW. Again, young women and men sent more than 100 essays from all over the world on possible solutions to various issues that women face in their countries such as maternal mortality, sexual harassment, fear, traditions, and more.

    So, I have two questions for Graciela and other young people around the world:
    1. Are youth less involved in social actions such as volunteering because of apathy or lack of opportunities?
    2. What can we do to increase young people’s interest and involvement in women’s movements around the world?

  2. Graciela Says:

    Hello!
    Thank you for your comment and this information. I believe that some young people are lees involved in social actions (sadly) because of apathy. Most of them are not active mainly because of the lack of opportunities and specially the lack of information about social actions in the country. I think it is important, first to encourage the debate about social injustice among young people, to then take action. It is also fundamental to offer young people opportunities to participate with actions that can contribute to gender equality, but first they have to recognize we the situation of Women. In Nicaragua, leadership is almost reserved for older generations, we have to develop capacities from an early age to be leaders and support the young people trying to make a difference.

  3. Achmad Zulfikar Says:

    thanks for the article.. maybe , the problem in Nicaragua not just the apathy but , the socialization for the youth women generation in Nicaragua thats not good . And maybe , the youth women get the pressure from the environment and that give effect to the habit , this factor can make silence of the action for the youth women.

    The solution is , the non-government organization give the socialization for the youth women in Junior High School , because in this step of school that have a effect for the future .

    In my conclusion its the socialization will give more solution , but for the socialization maybe that cannot have a fast different . I think slow but sure better that fast but empty :)

    thanks ..

  4. nadodi Says:

    Achmad, thanks for the feedback.

    Peer pressure from their social environment does indeed have a lot of influence on youth, especially when they are teenagers. And, there are so many ways and means for negative peer pressure. So, I think we have to figure out how we can create positive peer pressure.

    You wrote a great essay on how to eliminate trafficking in Indonesia. Graciela has created an avenue for constructive conversation with this blog post on Nicaragua. Though continents apart, you have a lot of similarities: young, tech-savvy, socially conscious, women’s rights advocates, and activists.

    So, what can we do to ensure that you both are the ones exerting peer pressure on your friends?

  5. Nadine Abi Kanaan Says:

    Dear Nadodi and Graciela,
    Beeing always updated about women’s issues thanks to your website, I’ve collected some really interesting informations about this subject.
    I would like now to answer to your questions Nadodi:

    1- When I say youth, I mean my friends and classmates. Knowing them very well, I know how involved and interested they would be if they had the opportunity to do so… But sadly, in Lebanon, there are almost no opportunities for youth to express their thoughts and take action about gender discrimination. Not all youth would really take time to examin deeply this issue and take part in activities to stop gender dicrimination because, I amit it, some of the youth are apathic, but if there were interesting opportunities and can guaranty that the purcentage of youth involved would increase not only in Lebanon but world wild.

    2- you can increase youth’s involvement in gender discrimination in so many different ways but first and most importantly,the awarness should increase by being integrated in the school’s programs.
    When youth become aweare, they become more intersted and they want to start fighting to reach gender equality.
    And at this point, you as an NGO can start opening doors to youth like. Organising summer camps that have gender discrimination for main theme. Get the youth organized through groups that take part in debates, manifestations, seminars about this issue. the NGO’s can also organise painting, theatre, essay writing and song writing contests about gender discrimination, and WLP has gotten the proof by receiving more than 100 essays from all over the world for the youth essay contest. All of these activities should bhe lead by credible, responsable and role model leaders for youth to believe in them and in the seriousness of there hard work and theses leaders shoul explained to them the importance of their envolvement in these activities and the difference they can make concerning this situations.

    Thank you for always giving us youth the opportunity to learn more about women’s discrimination world wide

    Sincerely,

    Nadine Abi Kanaan

  6. nadodi Says:

    Nadine, thank you.

    Your comments are as insightful and thoughtful as ever. You should know that we are still quoting the “XXX’s company S.A.L and daughters” from your Change? Yes we can believe in! all over the place because it is so inspirational.

    Your ideas of theater and song writing contests are quite imaginative. Can we borrow them for our next year’s contest? May be you can help us coordinate? :)

  7. Nadne Abi Kanaan Says:

    Dear Nadodi,

    It has been my pleasure to take part in this debate. I’m really pleased that my quote had a certain impact! :)

    Of course you can borrow my ideas of theater and song writing contests for next year’s contest, it would make me really proud! If you ever need assistance concerning coordination I am ready and more than happy to be of help!

    Kind Regards,

    Nadine Abi Kanaan

  8. Standtall- The Activist Says:

    I think this view of youth passitivity might not be applicable on a larger scale to every developing or under developed countries, it is however a case of what are the youth active on? What type particular cause is more important to them than the others?

    Also, it will be of note to consider the framework of opportunities available, with many governments being unable to tap into youth bulge and create employment opportunities for the youth, it makes it difficult for many to focus on development issues when their hunger issue has not being solved.

    Many organisations are actually trying to empower and reach out to the youth but many more innovations have to be developed. Government has to be involved and different organisations with the mandate of involving the youth in their programme will have to carry the goverment along by making sure they look into the plight of the youth while they themselves keep providing opportunity for the youth to be empowered within the their available resources…

  9. Graciela Says:

    I think Standtall-The Activist has made a very interesting question: What type of particular cause is more important to young people?

    In Nicaragua is very popular to organize annual Fundraisings, where groups of people go out for a day and collect money on the streets (malls, schools, banks, etc.) to support different Foundations and causes. Recently over 1500 young people were mobilized to raise money to build emergency houses for people living in extreme poverty. They raised U$25,000 exceeding their own expectations. It was beautiful to see these young people on the streets working together and compromised with the same cause. But sadly, for most of these people this activism only lasts one day and there is no long-term commitment.

    In a country like Nicaragua, we still have a lot of reasons to fight for. You can fight for Women’s rights, Children’s rights, the rights of the people living with HIV-AIDS and even our democratic rights. I am not trying to say that we have no activists, but that there are not enough of them, especially among the young. Between all the possible causes we could fight for, Women’s rights is the least attractive. There is no conscience of our subordination, therefore any interest in building or joining a Women’s Movement or a least an attempt to change the relations between Women.

    It is true that the situation of the country (specially the economic crisis) makes it difficult to focus on other issues. So, how can we promote activism (specially among Women to defend their rights) in this context? Ideally awareness should be raised at an early stage in life, but even tough it could be difficult, it is important to work with young adults also. For me the first thing we should do is encourage the exchange of ideas, discussions and debates. It is also important to develop leadership among young adults, so they can take their ideas to action.

  10. Roula Masri Says:

    (Personal thoughts from CRTD.A’s campaign team)

    1. Are youth less involved in social actions such as volunteering because of apathy or lack of opportunities?
    Youths’ motives to volunteer in social work cannot be exclusively attributed to internal factors such as apathy or indifference, or to external ones such as the lack of opportunities. There are many factors that could affect the extent of youth involvement in social work.

    It is worth to note that social and community work rarely attracts youth to get involved in, and in case there were such experiences, it tend to be unsustainable and non-cumulative. On the other hand, youth or environmental organizations in the case of Lebanon, succeed in attracting young women and men, as they offer alternatives that would meet youth’s needs (intellectual, social and relational), such as participation in workshops, seminars, camps, networking and communication with other young people around the country, organizing social gatherings, offering transportation allowances, etc… however, young men’s participation and voluntary activism in those sectors are more blatant and visible than young women. Hence, gender segregation of young people’s involvement in social activism is worth noting. Certain sectors tend to attract young men rather than young women, like youth political participation for instance.

    There might be multiple factors leading to the undermining of youth engagement in voluntary work, not the least of which is the following:
    1. Political affair issues succeed in attracting young people mainly young men to get involved or even become affiliated to political parties. This is mainly due to the specificity of the Lebanese society, and the dominance of clientism and political and religious sectarianism. Hence, this system offers alternatives and opportunities that NGOs are not able to offer.
    2. Absence of volunteerism culture in Lebanon, where young people face the challenge of getting mainstreamed in the work force, thus making voluntary work a least priority, or else an entry point to facilitate finding a job offer.
    3. NGOs tend to deal with volunteers as non-core elements in the association, and this is mainly due to both parties: the volunteer and the organization. The later would not invest in the volunteer, and the volunteer rarely get fully committed to the broader perspectives of the NGOs work. Hence, the available opportunities might not be attractive or catchy to the volunteer’s interests.
    4. The rapid consumer lifestyles of today’s world, makes young men and women fully absorbed by the system, and few are those who have public awareness or can respond to the broader needs of the community. Thus the first and foremost concern is to focus on finding and securing livelihood opportunities.
    5. Lack of knowledge among young people (at school age) of the availability of such volunteering opportunities at CSO sector; and in case few schools succeeded in integrating such activities in their curriculum, youth tend to deal with it as mere duty, or obligation.

    2. What can we do to increase young people’s interest and involvement in women’s movements around the world?
    Some ideas related to increasing young people’s interests and involvement in the women’s movements:
    – Linking women’s movements with the current needs, concerns and problems facing young people especially young women.
    – Promoting the real notion of gender to remove confusion about gender being ‘women issues’, so that it becomes a more comprehensive concept that affects both men and women in communities. This can be achieved through interactive workshops and seminars, etc…
    – Fostering networking among young people and young women from various parts of the world, through creating forums and spaces for them to share their concerns, issues of interests, etc
    – Focusing on young people’s and young women’s strategic needs from gender perspective, so that young men and women identify themselves with the needs of feminist movements.
    – Raising young men and women’s personal and public awareness through introducing them to the social and public issues that are related to and have effect on their lives. Also introduce young women to their rights, and initiate debates as to why women have unequal rights, and unequal opportunities, how to address the underlying reason, and how to face them. This can be done through organizing active campaigns in schools and universities.

  11. Rebecca Says:

    First, i think youths are less involved in Activism because of a little both apathy and lack of opportunities. From my experiences with young women in Nigeria, a lot of girls don’t want to be ‘labelled’ as feminist because of our society’s view of ‘feminism’. Our society ostracise feminist and make women activist look like ‘blood hungry vampires’. Young people want to ‘belong’ and be cool and trust me, femisism is not seen as a cool thing. So youths just dont want to be bothered with this notion that seem to add nothing to them.

    There’s also the ‘what’s in it for me’ syndrome. Volunteering? Why? Of what use will that be? Those are the questions people ask themselves.

    However, young women who have gone through gender awareness and equality programs see this differently but cannot really be active because there are very limited opportunities for young women. For example, there aren’t a lot of organization like BAOBAB in Nigeria, and realistically, how many young women can BAOBAB alone reach? How many volunteers can they take annually?

    Also, no one promotes social responsibility. Volunteering is almost non-existent in Nigeria except NGOs that take young people into their organisatioms for a few months, as volunteers.

    I don’t think all hope is lost though. I think young women can be made to become more interested in activism & feminism through the following measures

    – Make Activism, social responnsibility and Feminism ‘Hip’. Make it the in-thing. Turn something really serious into something which young people will want to identify with. For example, there was a time in Nigeria when it was believed that Abstinence messages couldn’t be effective, a campaign called ‘Zip-up’ changed that notion. After a period of intensive, convincing, fun and trendy campaign, Zip-up was on everybody’s lips backed up with action.

    – Options! That must always be there when dealing with young people. Young people do not like to be told what to do. We like to make our choices. I remember that when i first came accross the word femisism in a BAOBAB workshop, i was skeptical. But when we were told that we could be any kind of activist we wanted to be, either radical or subtle, we all visibly relaxed. Young people do not want to be placed in a box. So there’s a need to clearly state that there are different ways to be a feminist or activist. You don’t have to be antagonistic to make changes happen.

    – Lastly, Results. Young people need to understand why they should be involved. They need to be aware of results and victories that have been won by older feminist both home and abroad. They need to be told why activism is important if any tangible and long-lasting change can be made. And they need to know how important it is to be part of changes that will affect them and their future children positively or pain that not speaking out will cause in the long run

  12. Calley Says:

    Graciela,
    I am interested in volunteering my time. I currently live in Granada, but will be moving to the Caribbean of Nicaragua at the end of the year. What can I do to help bring awareness/education/an end to violence against women, especially in Nicaragua?

    also, do you think that the use of “la” when people speak about women signifies women as property? I wonder if it is an unnoticed submission of being ‘less-then.’ Because I noticed that no one says, “cuando el Juan regresa…” when speaking of a man!

    Thank you!

  13. Graciela Says:

    Hi Calley,
    Right now I am working in a Microfinance Institution that offers integral Services, but we don´t have any programs in the Caribbean of Nicaragua. What I could do for you is find out what Programs are being develop in that area and if you could help out.

    I guess the use of ¨la¨ could be related to the view of Women as things, but now it has become a custom. I think Spanish is a very sexist language. For example have you noticed when a group is composed mainly by Woman, but there is one man, people say ¨nosotrOS¨ even when the majority is female.
    The thing is, most people don´t see the use of discussing these issues.
    Let me tell you that most of the time I do this mistake too (when talking for example about you saying la Callie).

    How can we exchange our e-mail addresses?

2 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. Young Feminist Wire » Young Women and Feminism in Nicaragua: Passive Generation? Says:

    […] Source: Women’s Learning Partnership […]

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    […] has the same generational aches and growing pains as the women’s movement in the US but some young Nica women are actively working to make the label “feminist” a positive one. Women’s rights […]

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