In Nicaragua, rural women and girls face persistent structural constraints that prevent them from fully enjoying their human rights. Nevertheless, these women play a crucial role in supporting their families and communities, generating income and improving livelihoods and overall well-being.
Rafael Guerrero, director of the Dianova Nicaragua Foundation, takes stock of these difficulties before detailing, in another article, the solutions implemented by Dianova for and with these women.
Nicaragua has a population of approximately 6.036.000 persons out of which 3.055.000 are women, thus representing 50,6% of the total population. Urban women make 52.2% of the whole, while 48,6% of the women is in rural areas.
Besides the fact that women represent the majority of the population, development opportunities remail mostly confined to men. A gender-based discriminatory systems prevails: rural women aged between fifteen and eighteen are considered to be in the age to start a family, and in fact, at that age, the majority had an average of 2.4 children and one out of three women were victims of psychological, physical and sexual abuse.
Nicaraguan families are mostly dysfunctional. Three out of ten women raise their children alone, out of which two women work in the low productivity, informal sector due to the limited education and employment opportunities for women. On the whole, one out of five women aged over ten years is illiterate.
One of the main problems rural populations face is their lower accessibility to basic secondary education, or even worst, to technical education. In rural areas, this affects women and men equally.
Only 39% of rural women completed primary education, 7,4% completed secondary education, 0,3% finalized one year of higher technical education and 1,4% concluded at full academic year at the university. Young women in rural areas tend to have negative outcomes due to a lower level of education and a higher illiteracy rate, especially between 26 and 35 years of age. For the vast majority, education is confined to the primary level.
Gender inequalities create a growing gap between young rural women and rural men from the same generation, urban women, their grandmothers and their rural mothers. Moreover, there are differences between rural women depending on whether or not they have decent or poor living conditions.
Economy also entails inequalities. Rural women have lower incomes than men while the former are normally underpaid and face difficulties to access to paid work. Young girls of 26 years of age lack opportunities due to a low level of education and poor access to job vacancies, thus increasing rural exodus.
Rural women living in extreme poverty conditions have the lowest levels of human capital. Their harsh living conditions hamper their access to basic services while they remain highly dependent from agriculture-related incomes. Women’s yearly incomes are lower than men’s.
It is worth noting that, besides the hard context, the situation of rural women in the country has improved. Rural women are now in a better situation than their mothers and grandmothers; the illiteracy of previous generations has been overcome by the youngest generations, the majority of which are able to complete primary education. Furthermore, young women’s civil situations changed significantly, as many of them now have much less children than before, when rural fertility rate was 4.6 children per woman.
Despite improvements in access to education, women remain disadvantaged with respect to men in the economic sphere and in the family and sexual structure. Rural living conditions are difficult as women have a lower access to services, less contact with the state and poorer education outcomes. It is important to underline however that rural women are now better educated than they used to be.
Rural Women in Nicaragua (Spanish version)