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Young women find strength amidst challenges in Nicaragua

POSTED November 30, 2020

Young women find strength amidst challenges in Nicaragua

Find out how one of our projects is providing hope and opportunity

By María Isabel López, country director, Nicaragua

Country director stands with teen outside home

As I walked through the alley leading to Judy’s house — in one of the most violent neighbourhoods in Managua, Nicaragua — I was looking forward to meeting the 19-year-old and learning more about how she was going to create opportunity for herself, her parents and her siblings.

Living in a marginalized community is not easy for anyone, much less a young woman like Judy. She’s the middle child in a family of three siblings and spends much of her time babysitting her little brother to help her parents — her mom is a maid, her dad, a bricklayer.

The good news is, Judy has been sponsored since she was eight, sparking the fearless confidence she has to reach her dreams. And, as we sat in her small family home, I saw something special; this girl was clever. “I learned make-up skills by watching YouTube tutorials,” she told me, adding, “One day, a neighbour asked me to do her make-up, and she gave me money (around US$3); that day I realized that I could use my art for a living.”

Despite the support, poverty as well as difficulties securing a university education or a job, have made it hard to get ahead. “Last year, I worked in a gas station, then in a house as a maid, but I was exploited in both jobs. Many times I did not get paid, or the salary was below the minimum,” she recalls.

COVID-19 made the situation even more difficult. “My dad lost his job,” explained Judy. With limited resources, he planned to migrate irregularly to find better job opportunities. But, Judy convinced him to stay, recalling what she’d learned during the past four years from one of our projects, Preventing Irregular Child Migration in Central America (PICMCA). Supported by the Government of Canada, it addresses the root causes of irregular migration.

Girl smiles at camera while applying makeup to client

Through the project, Judy learned entrepreneurial skills, and she realized it was time to use what she learned to start a small venture. She submitted her business plan into a seed-fund contest and won US$1,200 toward the purchase of supplies to open a make-up studio.

But this is just the beginning. Judy has bigger plans for her future. “I want to become an architect…. become a professional and provide my family with a better [life],” she told me. “I want to go to university, and my small-business venture will help me achieve that.” She smiled while holding her little brother on her lap; I could see the determination in her eyes.

When I got back to the office, I was reminded of the power we as women own, power to turn our hard realities into opportunities — I say “we,” because I’ve lived through hardships, too.

The Spanish writer Rosa Montero says that many times, “we crush coals with our bare hands and sometimes make them look like diamonds.” Indeed, I believe inner strength has the power to change lives.

At Children Believe’s Nicaragua office, we’re grateful to help youth like Judy. She’s proud to help, too. She’s done that as part of our regional “My Nation Is In My Heart” campaign for the PICMCA project (photo, above). It gave her a voice to tell her peers about how they can stay safe at home rather than migrate irregularly and unsafely. We’re grateful for donors who make this possible.

Although 2020 has been a complicated year, youth still believe they can achieve the extraordinary, and we believe it, too. More than ever, our work is helping children and communities overcome barriers holding them back from reaching their dreams. Join us on this journey.

To learn more about our work in Nicaragua, visit

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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.

Preventing Irregular Child Migration in Central America (PICMCA):

Children Believe is leading a $15.2-million regional project in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua, designed to improve the well-being of children and youth who are at risk of irregular migration. The Government of Canada is contributing $12.6 million to the four-year project. The initiative addresses a number of the root causes that fuel irregular migration — from high levels of crime and violence, limited employment and educational opportunities, to social exclusion and a lack of information on the inherent dangers of migrating without following the normal immigration procedures. For this project, Children Believe is partnering with two non-governmental organizations: ChildFund International-USA and Educo.

About ChildFund Alliance:

A member of ChildFund Alliance, Children Believe is part of a global network of 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 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.

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