To Be Born a Woman in Nicaragua: A Look at the Realities

In Nicaragua, feminists and human rights advocates can’t hold marches to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, because since September 2018 the regime of Daniel Ortega has prohibited all demonstrations.

Being a woman in Nicaragua means living as a prisoner in your own space; living with fear, in silence, with your mind and hands tied.

By Gloria Chamorro (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – How can we know if someone needs help? When do we notice that something isn’t right? How can we differentiate behaviors to be able to intervene through mediation, dialogue and transformation?

All people are different, and all of us are vulnerable. It’s that very vulnerability that unites us, and leads us to build relationships based on trust, appreciation, empathy, and love, when we risk exposure and decide to become part of an environment and a context. However, exposing oneself brings risks. If the system and the factors meant to sustain us fail, and the ones who should be protecting us harm us instead, then previously unknown emotions arise. In some cases, these become our strengths; more often though they wound, injure, and leave their mark. They leave us with traumas.

To be a woman, to be born in Nicaragua, with our individual life experience serving as the best social construct, means rising above the challenges we face due to our early conditioning. In doing so, these elements form our conscious view of ourselves and the world that surrounds us.

Our individual history and the way we experience it becomes a social act when we share it and comment on the road we’ve traveled. When that happens, the meanings are shared with someone outside ourselves. For that reason, I’d like to approach the topic of the social construct of the Nicaraguan woman from a personal point of view, because “there’s nothing more universal than the individual,” as Miguel de Unamuno said.

I’m Gloria Chamorro, a Mental Health specialist with a Masters’ in Conflict Transformation and Peace. I’m a young woman leader and a political exile who fights for the defense of youth and women’s human rights. I also demand the right to provide spaces for dialogue, leadership, and deconstruction of violence via trauma recovery. I myself suffered physical, sexual, and psychological abuse from a very young age, specifically as a child.

From the time I was little, I was taught not to speak up, not to say anything about the abuse, but to maintain silence about it, because the shame of abuse falls on the victim. I suffered more social stigma than the abusers themselves, when I spoke up about it, since our machista society always protects the abusers and blames the victim. Abuse within the family is a trauma very difficult to overcome, and its repercussions are reflected in behaviors that have no obvious explanation for the victim.

First of all, to be born in Nicaragua, the second poorest country in Latin America, means growing up in a place where multiple vulnerabilities come to a head, bringing profound disadvantages in terms of the quality of life and access to basic goods and services. It means a life where constant scarcities keep the individual in a state of mere survival, distant from personal realization.

Adding to this geographical fatalism are class differences and the classism you feel upon coming of age in a highly polarized and highly violent society. Being a woman becomes a torture: living as a prisoner in your own space, living with fear, in silence, with mind and body tied. To be a woman in Nicaragua is to be a survivor of a patriarchal system, where you’re assigned roles from the moment of your birth, according to your biological sex. Women and girls grow up in a system that dictates what they should do for the rest of their lives. To be a woman in Nicaragua is to remain silent about the truths, the wounds, the hurts you can’t speak of. To be a woman in Nicaragua is to live in a silence that calls out for justice.

From my own experience, I can comment full-throated about the difficulties that come with living and developing under the modern concepts of gender and other intersectional configurations that rule our lives in a wounded Latin America. Being designated female, born a woman, comes with its own conditions and statutes, mandated by a patriarchal society of the first order. The machista society in which I was shaped, stamped its pseudo-scientific discourse about men’s biological superiority on my brain. For many years of my life, I acted according to that indoctrination and to the collective suggestion inherited from a traumatized and overprotective society, where going with the flow and maintaining appearances is the simplest way to live and carry on; a society where silent suffering and public laughter was construed as happiness.

It’s from that set of initial conditions that I understand and live the construct of gender and intersectionality, because it’s not just the biological designation of roles, but also race, class, religious belief and ideology that gives or takes away privileges. We have allowed white hetero-patriarchism to dictate the rhythm of life as we know it today, making it nearly impossible to imagine another world. This creates a sense of impotence that brings you to self-flagellate and to regress as a human being, maintaining ourselves in a continuous state of collective depression.

This situation is similar to what those bodies designated as women, and who identify as such, suffer on a global level. The female individuals who perpetuate the system are victims who haven’t yet begun a healing process, and thus can’t distinguish between good and bad in their actions. They are still blinded by trauma. The processes of healing are long and tortuous, but living in emotional ignorance is worse.

The simple fact of beginning to accept the abuse, recognizing the imbalance in the game of power, is so revealing that it allows an inner voice to lift and speak with authority of the world’s injustices. This same action, extrapolated on a global level, could be one of the most important weapons for the rehabilitation of nations. Simply accepting the traumatic event – machismo, abuse of power, and the imposition of the hetero-patriarchal discourse.

For that reason, from my perception and experience, it’s fundamental that we focus on reconstructing the Nicaraguan social tissue with an eye towards the abused minds and bodies that are still living in denial. We must begin a process of deconstructing the violence and recovering from the trauma. It’s not merely identifying the patriarchy as the source of all evils, but also casting an empathetic glance over all those victims abused throughout history, and pointing out other intersectional forces at work, such as white supremacy, savage capitalism, Eurocentrism, and dictatorships.

However, while extending that compassionate glance, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my own road of overcoming abuse it’s that hate, revenge, war or violent protests are useless. These behaviors lead us to nullify the other person, and block dialogue. Today more than ever, it’s essential that we continue making feminism a political movement, working from a manifesto that sets the foundations for a sustainable society, totally reconstructed, inciting and encouraging acceptance and recognition of trauma in all of society’s victims. Balancing the voices and quieting the theoretical and fundamentalist views on gender that abound among the erudite in Western society, towards the concept of a world that is still living with huge fractures and all too evident tangible regressions.

I know we’re capable of transforming ourselves, and that together we’re capable of transforming the world into one that’s more humane, more peaceful, more inclusive, where human rights are respected and guaranteed to all the beings that live here. For that, however, we need more valiant cultures, braver leaders; we need the participation of all sectors of society and a more democratic, more transparent, more positive leadership. But there’s also a great need to change the rampant mentality of savage competition, of annihilation, of justifying actions by their results. We need to transform our concepts of success, development, and humanity. Constructing this edifice from our courage, our values, our principles, and leaving behind that violent terrain of authoritarian leaders, of abuses and impositions of power, we can learn to live in freedom, in true peace, with ourselves and others.

Given all that, what I can conclude is that the principal insights I’ve managed to obtain though my personal and professional work in trauma recovery and the transformation of conflicts have been the deconstruction of gender-based violence, and the clarity, compassion and empowerment of a voice that struggles for the restoration and healing of a free, democratic and non-violent Nicaragua, where success and happiness are defined as the quality of life that comes with respect, justice and truth with all that surround us.

*The author is a mental health specialist, with a Master’s in Transformation of Conflicts and Peace.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times