Nicaragua is located in the Central American isthmus, bordered on the north by Honduras and to the south by Costa Rica. The country shares maritime boundaries with El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica and Colombia, and has shores on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America, and enjoys an enviable position in the American continent, where the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean are separated by only 140 miles (220 kilometers).

Nicaragua is a volcanic and tropical country, and contains two large lakes: Lake Managua (also known by its indigenous name, Xolotlan) and the Lake of Nicaragua (also known as Cocibolca or Lake Granada).

Nicaragua is divided into 15 departments and 2 autonomous regions, and has 153 municipalities. According to projections, the population of Nicaragua will have reached 6.1 million people in 2015, of whom 51% are women and 24% are persons under 18 years of age.

According to the Inter-American Development Bank, Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the region: 42.5% of its population lives below the poverty level and 14.6% live in extreme poverty.

Teen Pregnancy

Teen pregnancy is one of the issues that affect the younger population of the country. Nicaragua leads the list of early pregnancies with a 27% of women between the ages of 15 and 19 years of age already mothers (Informe de Población y Desarrollo Serie CEPAL 2012).

Twenty-five percent of pregnant women in Nicaragua are teenagers—out of every 4 pregnancies registered, one is to a girl under the age of 19 (Fecundidad adolescente en Nicaragua: tendencias, rasgos emergentes y orientaciones de política”, del Fondo de Población de las Naciones Unidas, 2007.).

According to statements by a representative of the United Nations Population Fund in Nicaragua (July 10, 2010) nearly 1,700 girls between 10 and 14 years of age become pregnant, almost all due to rape, with the assailants being men between 16 and 22 years of age.

Violence against Women

Violence against women in Nicaragua continues to be a serious problem, in spite of the fact that Law #779 (the law against violence toward women) has been in effect for three years. At the end of 2014, the organization, “Catholics for the Right to Decide” in its annual monitoring report, counted 51 femicides (murders committed against women), 45 of which occurred in Nicaragua, and 6 were Nicaraguan women killed abroad. In the first 6 months of 2015, there were already 39 femicides recorded, 36 of which occurred in Nicaragua and 3 abroad.

The Nicaraguan Demographic and Health Survey, ENDESA (INIDE, 2008) states that 21% of women in Nicaragua had already been victims of physical violence before reaching the age of 15, and another 19% after this age. Seventy-six percent of women who had suffered physical violence after reaching the age of 15 state that their assailants were their current partner/spouse and/or their ex-partner/spouse. This percentage rises to 84% in rural areas, particularly in the regions of the Caribbean Coast (87 %) and the South Caribbean Autonomous Region (92%).

ENDESA classifies sexual violence as forced sex and sexual abuse. According to this definition, 79% of women who have been victims of forced sex state that their attackers had been known to them prior to the rape, as do 87% of women who were victims of sexual abuse.

Among women who have been victims of forced sex, 25% were attacked before they reached the age of fifteen. In the case of victims of sexual abuse, 48.7 % were abused before they reached the age of fifteen.

These data are the foundation of our proposal at CANTERA to generate changes in behavior in families who experience violence to continue diminishing and breaking the chain that reproduces these cycles.

Socio-Cultural Patterns

The unequal distribution of power and unbalanced relationships promote violent practices and behaviors in the different realms of socialization. The family is the primary space where patriarchal demands exercise inequality and violence, where adolescent women suffer the most from the inequality and where youth fall into these cycles of violence and abusive behavior.

About 70% of women believe that problems within the family should only be dealt with among members of the same family and 49.5% of women believe that no one should intervene when a man abuses or mistreats his wife/partner. The majority of women, especially those from the rural areas, believe these perceptions. There about 60% of rural women who believe that “the wife should obey her husband/partner even though she does not agree with him,” or that “the man needs to show his wife/partner who is boss of the household.” (INIDE, 2008, pg. 369).

Education

Education is a way to overcome poverty from one generation to another. According to estimates from the beginning of this decade (ECLAC, 2000), 10 to 13 years of formal education or the full completion of secondary education is required in order to decrease the possibility of falling or staying a situation of poverty by 90%.

Forty-two percent of the Nicaraguan population is under the age of 19. Thirty-two percent of adolescents (13-19 years) were not in school in 2010. The National Human Development Report 2011, published by UNDP revealed that the main reasons why children and adolescents are not in school are because of child labor and the lack of resources that families have to send children to school.

Of every ten students who entered first grade in 2013, four were most likely not going to finish their elementary education. Half of those who began their first year of secondary school were most likely not going to graduate.

Education provides children and adolescents with the necessary tools, skills, and attitudes that will allow them to have greater control over their personal development and their future life plans. That is why in our youth development programs, we first promote the importance of education while also working with the other risk factors that are very common among our children, adolescents and youth.