The Autonomous Women’s Movement Makes 10 Demands on the Government
The Nicaraguan autonomous women’s movement has placed itself in the front line of many struggles, including the recent fight against corruption. It presented the following document
to the government on March 8, International Women’s Day.
Over five decades have passed since the Nicaraguan autonomous women’s movement started building to fight for political and social democracy without any form of exclusion.
It fell to us to fight for women’s suffrage and our rights to education and paid work. We were part of the fight against the Somoza dictatorship and participated in the revolutionary transformations of Nicaraguan society. We then became critical of the Sandinista Front due to its lack of commitment and political will regarding respect for women’s rights, and maintained a pro-active attitude and openness to dialogue during the only government in our country’s history to have been headed by a woman. We have made progress in consolidating an autonomous social movement with its own identity and the capacity for self-convocation and self-representation. Ours is a plural and inclusive movement with proposals reflecting both the interests of the nation as a whole and the historic demands of the 51% of the population made up of women.
In drawing up an historical balance sheet of the Nicaraguan women’s movement, we can state that we, as different women’s organizations with a presence throughout the country, have contributed not only to shaping a new legal and institutional framework that transcends legalized discrimination against women, but also to developing multiple initiatives that nourish solidarity in the face of the progressive weakening of the state and of public policies on behalf of the most dispossessed sectors of the population. The model of society imposed by the state and other hegemonic groups from our society has generated profound inequalities. In the extreme case of women these are expressed, among other ways, by the increasing exploitation of paid and non-paid work; the increase in maternal mortality rates; the increased cruelty of the violence exercised by men against women; the growing impoverishment of women, who in a great number of cases are the only ones responsible for sustaining themselves and their families; and the exclusion of women from decision-making processes at all levels.
Among the concrete facts this situation generates are that the female-headed households in a situation of extreme poverty are the majority; that women with access to land have a smaller area, less credit and fewer possibilities of receiving training; that we occupy inferior posts in the teaching hierarchy; that one in every five women suffers violence; that there is evident deterioration in women’s health throughout their life cycle; and that there is limited female representation among the highest governmental leadership posts.
Despite the efforts of the autonomous women’s movement both nationally and internationally, we have not succeeded in getting the Nicaraguan state to embrace a comprehensive and long-term vision aimed at overcoming the structural causes of the subordination and discrimination suffered by women, albeit on different levels.
The Nicaraguan state has neither the public policies nor expeditious mechanisms to promote and protect women’s rights, both the universal rights we share with all of the citizenry and those aimed at transcending the subordination and discrimination we suffer as a result of our sex. On the contrary, it has been marked by its failure to honor them and, more recently, for allying with backward-looking forces to roll back the potential successes represented by international agreements.
The Nicaraguan state has consistently lacked the political will to use its legitimate forms of representation to be accountable to women for the role it has played in constructing a model of society that impoverishes and divides the Nicaraguan population and particularly discriminates against women.
On International Women’s Day, aware that what is good for democracy is good for women, the autonomous women’s movement reiterates its historic political proposals to the state and to Nicaraguan society through the following demands:
First: The observation of strict respect for the constitutional precept of the state’s lay nature and thus abstention from any religious bias in public policy formulation. Said policies should not be influenced by the religious conceptions of public officials.
Second: The establishment of political and institutional foundations that favor the construction of a state aimed at guaranteeing the full exercise and enjoyment of the rights of all citizens, excluding no one.
Third: The urgency of honestly and transparently reexamining the changes needed to substantially transform the current system of state organization, which is based on a privileged and corrupt sharing that gives important quotas of power to the top party leaders and allows impunity.
Fourth: The creation, regulation and provision of feedback to arenas of political dialogue with the different sectors of civil society, including the legitimate participation of the autonomous women’s movement.
Fifth: The attainment of coherence between the different international agreements signed by the Nicaraguan state and national legislation. In this sense, we reiterate our demand that the Action Program of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Action Platform of the Fourth World Women’s Conference, respectively signed by the Nicaraguan government in 1994 and 1995, be taken up.
Sixth: The signing of the Facultative Protocol of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and of the International Criminal Court, providing the means to protect women’s rights in the exercise of human rights and in the context of armed conflicts.
Seventh: The modernization, expansion and strengthening of the current institutional mechanisms to promote and protect women’s rights. We reiterate our demand for the creation of a Women’s Ministry or the assigning of the Nicaraguan Women’s Institute to the Presidency of the Republic. We also demand the strengthening of the Special Office of Ombudsperson for Women.
Eighth: The establishment by the National Assembly commissions of clear mechanisms of dialogue with the autonomous women’s movement.
Ninth: The reformulation of the Republic’s general budget, assigning specific financial resources for attention to women’s demands deriving from their condition of subordination and as victims of discrimination.
Tenth: The regulation of and control over national and foreign capital in accord with the state’s role as the main guarantor of the universal rights of men and women, with the aim of preserving the human and environmental resources that belong to the whole of society.
The autonomous women’s movement reiterates its demand to be represented in all arenas of dialogue and consultation promoted by the Nicaraguan state, particularly the National Economic and Social Planning Council (CONPES), with the same level of representation as the representatives convoked by the government from private business and the unions.