POSTED April 26, 2021
Empowering youth, especially young women, to realize their dreams
Our country director in Nicaragua shares how her team is creating a Centre of Excellence, which will help young people reach their full potential
By María Isabel López, country director, Nicaragua
When I first came to Children Believe (then Christian Children’s Fund of Canada) more than three years ago, I couldn’t imagine the journey I was about to begin. Many things have changed since then. And, last month, when we were launching Children Believe’s Centre of Excellence in Nicaragua, I was reminded how important change and transformation is to our work.
That’s exactly why we’ve been working with more intention through our Centre of Excellence, which empowers youth through gender equality.
Many people have asked ‘What is a Centre of Excellence, and why is it important to have one in Nicaragua?’ The answer is simple: our work in the country has allowed us to reach and change the lives of thousands of children and their families, especially girls, and now we want to build our knowledge while also sharing what we have learned during the last 25 years to create a safer world for children, adolescents and youth.
We’ve already had success through the following initiatives and practices…
- Prevention of irregular child migration: we protect children, adolescents, youth and their families from the risks of irregular migration.
- Peer networks: girls’ networks, youth networks and networks for moms empowering young people to learn their rights, surround themselves with mentors and make positive change.
- Training to boost employability: we support youth with training so they can find a job and contribute to closing the gender gap in youth employability in Nicaragua.
- Mental health support: we support children and youth with psychosocial support during emergencies so they can thrive and grow to be healthy adults.
Children Believe sees the issue of empowering youth through gender equality as a process whereby youth, particularly young women, gain the skills, ability and confidence to make informed decisions and implement changes in their own lives and in their communities.
Earlier this year, I heard testimonies from girls working with us through an initiative focused on closing the gender gap in youth employability in Nicaragua. This project is important, because social norms in the country lead many to think it’s better to hire a man whom they believe is less likely to get sick or take parental leave. The women who do make it into the market may face sexual harassment or discrimination. We’re seeking to break those barriers for girls, one of whom told me she fears her weight kept her from landing a job.
We need to examine social norms and make changes to realize gender equality in Nicaragua. Of course men and women have the same universal human rights, but they’re not always exercised the same, due to discrimination and exclusion. Our approach is about digging deeper to learn more about the root causes of inequality, so we can find solutions and understand how to achieve positive change.
That’s why our Centre of Excellence is building knowledge on the issues that affect children, adolescents, youth and their families and especially girls and young women.
We’ve created a platform to join efforts and disseminate best practices about youth empowerment with local partners, the private sector, peer organizations and more, because this needs to be a collaborative, global approach.
Yahoska, a 22-year-old who participated in the virtual launch of our Centre of Excellence, has benefited from our work. “Over more than 15 years, the organization has transformed my life,” she told us. “Thank you for giving me access to workshops about preventing violence, preventing adolescent pregnancies as well as promoting gender equality, equal education and the protection of children.”
Like Yahoska (pictured), thousands of young people have benefited from Children Believe Nicaragua programs. This is good news since transformation can only occur when social norms and individual behaviours promote equality for all.
ABOUT CHILDREN BELIEVE (formerly Christian Children's Fund of Canada):
Children Believe works globally to empower children to dream fearlessly, stand up for what they believe in — and be heard. For 60 years, we’ve brought together brave young dreamers, caring supporters and partners, and unabashed idealists. Together, we’re driven by a common belief: creating access to education — inside and outside of classrooms — is the most powerful tool children can use to change their world.
About ChildFund Alliance:
A member of ChildFund Alliance, Children Believe is part of a global network of 12 child-focused development organizations working to create opportunities for children and youth, their families and communities. ChildFund helps nearly 23-million children and their families in more than 70 countries overcome poverty and underlying conditions that prevent children from achieving their full potential. We work to end violence against children; provide expertise in emergencies and disasters to ease the harmful impact on children and their communities; and engage children and youth to create lasting change and elevate their voices in decisions that affect their lives.