Nicaragua, is one of the poorest countries in Latin America, and in urban areas, where the majority (58 percent), of the population resides, poverty has led to high levels of crime. The average Nicaraguan will only receive about five years of education due to a fragmented and inadequate educational system, and 40 percent of Nicaraguans are excluded from the public health care system. As a result, one in five children in Nicaragua suffers from stunting due to malnutrition.
For women in Nicaragua, the situation is even worse. A strong Roman Catholic and Evangelical presence in addition to pervasive violence and discrimination against women in society make access to sexual and reproductive health services a constant struggle.
In 2006, abortion in Nicaragua was banned under all circumstances, with no exceptions for cases of rape, incest, or life-threatening pregnancy. The ban severely limits the rights and jeopardizes the safety of women in Nicaragua who already live in a region with some of the highest abortion rates and strictest abortion laws in the world. As a result of these restrictions, many women turn to illegal abortion in often unsafe and unhygienic conditions that leave them susceptible to fatal complications. Teens in Nicaragua are especially vulnerable to unsafe abortion, as it is tied with Guatemala for having the second-highest teen birth rate in Central America (92 per 1,000 women aged 15-19).
Planned Parenthood Global in Nicaragua
Poor health status and limited access to services in Nicaragua often correlate to poverty. PlannedParenthood Global (PP Global) and its partner organizations reach out to marginalized populations in poor and rural areas throughout the country through peer education programs providing quality sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services.
Planned Parenthood Global works with partners to increase the availability of preventive SRH services and information for teens, and raises awareness about the need for these services. Planned Parenthood Global’s work in Nicaragua also focuses on decreasing the rate of maternal death and disability due to unsafe abortion by expanding access to affordable, quality sexual and reproductive health services for women, and supporting advocates who are working to advance sexual and reproductive rights.
Empowering the Next Generation: Working with Youth in Nicaragua
Planned Parenthood Global’s Nicaragua program works with AMNLAE, an organization that was originally linked to the Sandinista fighters during their struggle to establish democracy and a new national constitution in the late 1970s. Since 1977, however, AMNLAE has been working to create programs for young people, and for the past 10 years has worked with Planned Parenthood Global to promote sexuality education and contraceptive services for teens nationwide.
AMNLAE implements an Adolescent and Youth Project, designed to reduce unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among teens through peer education and the distribution of contraceptives. Youth peer providers work in 17 areas countrywide — some of which are extremely rural and remote — disseminating crucial SRH information to their friends, classmates, and neighbors on such topics as pregnancy, STIs including HIV/AIDS, and learning how to make safe and responsible choices about their sexual and reproductive health.
Youth peer providers also provide contraceptives to their peers, building a similar-aged client base. They are responsible for following up with their clients when they are in need of more supplies or additional SRH information, and when needed, referrals to place where they can access more comprehensive SRH services.
In 2013, educators reached nearly 12,000 young people in Nicaragua. The Adolescent and Youth Project model is self-sustaining on several levels, such as the continual outreach to potential new sites and the training of local technical assistance experts to train new local program managers throughout the country.
Advocacy in Nicaragua
In Nicaragua, our partners are working to build public support for therapeutic abortion. One such partner organization, Axayacatl, is a grassroots group based in the province of Masaya that focuses on gender issues. We are working with them to document the effects of pregnancy among girls nine to 14 years old. This advocacy-oriented research is designed to expose the crisis of widespread pregnancy among this age group, and call attention to the fact that the criminalization of therapeutic abortion forces these girls to carry pregnancies that can damage their physical and mental health and well-being.