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Securing Rights and Safety for Girls in Nicaragua

Some of the women traveled for days before they arrived. On foot or in small boats, they came from 115 different communities, traversing remote areas of Nicaragua's North Atlantic Coast. They were all headed to the same place, a forum held each October since 2008 for Indigenous women community organizers. They were driven to make the journey by the urgent need to come together to fight the biggest threats that they and their daughters face: violence and trafficking.

This year, these women achieved a breakthrough, one that promises to save the lives of girls across the region.

Indigenous communities on Nicaragua's northern border with Honduras endure poverty and extreme hunger. These fragile communities also face environmental degradation from mining, timber and fishing corporations. They confront disastrous, climate change-fueled storms. Now, sex-traffickers linked to drug cartels prey on their need to survive by offering cash for their daughters. These girls are trafficked into a life of forced prostitution and abuse.

Our local partners are a grassroots Indigenous group called Wangki Tangni. They saw how violence and trafficking was devastating these women and girls in their communities, and they took action.

They brought the attention of the Nicaraguan National Police to their communities, giving survivors of violence the chance at legal recourse. And MADRE and Wangki Tangni successfully advocated for the passage of the new Nicaraguan Law 779, strengthening justice for women who have experienced violence.

And they launched a dialogue with local traditional judges, or Wihtas. These Wihtas hold influential and well-respected positions within their communities. Through this on-going dialogue, Wangki Tangni helped open their eyes to the importance of protecting the human rights of women and girls.

When the women arrived at the Forum in October, they were riding on the momentum for action that they had already created. Their organizing and their power in numbers had finally made local leaders sit up and take notice. With the Wihtas present, women testified to the violence they endured. They shared their dreams of a safer life for their daughters.

The moment of breakthrough arrived. At this convening, the Wihtas took a monumental stand. They pledged publicly, for the first time, to uphold national laws outlawing the sale of young girls.

This new alliance between local traditional judges and women's rights activists will build a stronger community of resistance to rights violations. It will create a network of safety for girls at risk of trafficking, as the Wihtas' public declaration reverberates through the region, permeating community discussions and lending new legitimacy to the demands of women's human rights activists.


A group of Wihtas at the Forum listen to the testimonies of Indigenous women.

The women and children's division of the national police has partnered with Wangki Tangni to train promoters on how to provide information and gather evidence on violence against women.