“There are still many things I want to make. I have not yet seen the changes that I want, that I believe my community and my country needs”.
Edna has been engaged in activism with both young and not so young people of her country, Nicaragua. Her work has focused on advocacy issues and citizen participation, youth leadership, education, human rights, democracy and governance. At the same time she has been working on projects to get drinking water to rural communities. She shared that even if there are not the best conditions to do her work she is committed to keep working for her country until she grows old.
Her work in social causes began in 2004 , when she was part of a religious community and they conducted activities with a social reintegration program for children at the Zacarias Guerra Home. Here she gained awareness of the major deficiencies of the country and the needs for social inclusion work,
“I realized that even with small works or activities I could accompany and help underprivileged children”.
Edna tells how Nicaragua is the second poorest country in Central America and has a system of government that has been characterized by having an authoritarian and restrictive tone. This is different from the freedom to which people were used after the Nicaraguan Revolution,
“We started lacking basic civil liberties that promote the participation of citizens beyond only “receiving benefits as handouts”, this does not allow the citizen to be a transformer agent of the society.”
Movement for Nicaragua
In 2006 she joined Movement by Nicaragua (Movimiento por Nicaragua) with the conviction to fight for a country that respects human rights and guarantees equality as basic principles to achieve the country’s development and improve the quality of life of Nicaraguans.
The Movement’s work started in a context of political polarization where there were two parties, the Liberal Constitutionalist Party (PLC) and the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). These two parties did a “deal” to share power in state institutions, which led to the impairment of institutions and violations of the rule of law,
“Government institutions no longer work for the public or the common good, but for the interests of the ruling party.”
Movement for Nicaragua began doing demonstrations against this pact and served as a platform to express citizenship. They were the first “nonviolent citizen mobilizations”. After the war Nicaragua experienced mobilizations of trade organizations (students, transportation, unions) who had a violent connotation and presented clashes between protesters and the police.
She narrates that today, they keep working for the restitution of the institutions and governance, democracy and respect of citizens, but in a more restrictive environment as all the recent public demonstrations have been attacked by members of the ruling party in order to diminish the impact of these demonstrations,
“Work is now more complicated. To protest today in Nicaragua means risking your physical integrity and know that you are going to be exposed to a cop who is in favor of the ruling party, or a group of people paid by the government to attack you and they will go unpunished. We have also suffered personal threats, including to our families and other types of repression”.
She states that Movement for Nicaragua has had an important role in the sense that it is one of the biggest organizations that monitors and externalizes citizen demands. Movement for Nicaragua works in partnerships with various sectors in their efforts to change the current situation in the country. But they have also found decreased support, cooperation and expressed fear to persecution by government institutions,
“Everyone wants to avoid confrontation with the government for fear of reprisals.”
Their campaigns focus to requests to free and fair elections; In every election since Daniel Ortega has been in power there have been anomalies,
“We would like to see our will and the will of all the rest of citizens respected in a transparent and efficient way”.
On the executive board of the Movement she is the only one under 30 years and the only woman. The council is composed of individuals who have experience in the political life of the country. She started her work as part of the operational team, volunteer, until becoming part of the board. She feels that in this position she is able to contribute with her perspective,
“As a young woman I am please to share a space with people who have transcendental experience in different areas of the country (education, social, legal) and that they recognize my contribution. I know that once I entered the analysis and debate field I have to make proposals and express the concerns of the youth and this requires security. It is a challenge every day and I also consider that is a breakthrough for the organization”
According to Edna the Movement’s vision and mission are clear but for the same restrictions in which they operate, were promoting citizenship is increasingly difficult, they have to change their strategy and rethink ways to promote citizenship,
“We want a country where citizen participation is one of its pillars and everyone can build democracy through freedom. More than ever we want a better Nicaragua, but I think we will only achieve it through democratic change”.
Puente, education and political culture
Movimiento Puente or as its translation “Bridge Movement”, is a movement based on young people that “promote responsible citizenship”. She accepted the invitation in 2010 because it gave her the opportunity to be part of the decision-making body, that at the time she did not have in the other movement,
“They are a group of young people who share the same commitment that I have and I thought I could contribute with my experience at Movement for Nicaragua, but in a different scenario. I joined to have a closer relationship with other youths, and because I believe that from our common experiences we will be able to support that our generation does politics in a better way, not following patterns of war, with a peaceful conviction and constant and critical activism.”
Puente also suffered a natural transformation since it began as an organization of young activists who wanted to make their voice heard about the facts they considered that were wrong, but in their life cycle, their strategy was redefined. To have a stronger framework and fulfill their longing for a different political culture, they started making key activities through education,
“We begin to formalize our intervention strategies. Our idea was to give our generation tools to change the political culture (even in the midst of reigning apathy because we feel that we cannot influence political decisions), and from there on we started working with schools, having a deep analysis, revising the school curriculum, to find where the weaknesses are in the formation of citizens.
The education system does not give in their curriculum to nicaraguans what entails to be a citizens, how the state works, how can we transform our communities. That’s what we want to change, we are aiming to build citizenship through education for them to transform their reality. We do this from our own beings because we are all activists, but giving others the necessary tools to participate in the political life.”
On a different subject Edna also works to get drinking water for people in rural communities who lack access. In 2008, she started with donations to an international organization that did not work in Nicaragua. Currently she works with Waves for Water with a project that will assist in the second semester of 2014 rural communities in Nicaragua, two in el Viejo, Chinandega , one of the driest areas of the country, and three communities in Matagalpa (one is next to the landfill, another near the dump sewage in the city). In this organization she supports in the selection of communities and community organization to bring the filters,
“The water issue is a personal matter. It came to me as something I was going to be able to see, something tangible and that makes a major change in people’s life. Democracy and human rights are sometimes ephemeral and ethereal, and you are not able to see that many victories, sometimes I rather get discouraged.”
The project will provide filters that last up to five years for families to eliminate most of the bacteria of the water. The beneficiaries will still live with the same rudimentary system of collecting water, but the water will no longer contaminated. She stated that these are temporary solutions waiting for state entities to eventually give them access to safe water,
“The water issue has allowed me to approach and see how communities access to water transforms lives. It arises from the human values that we all have. Our support focuses on women who are the ones who supply water to the house, and this implies that they can not develop other aspects of their life, their personal development or studies and they are usually accompanied by their children who also have diseases from drinking contaminated water”.
When I asked her, what is next for you she told me that she does not believe in a life that does not support others or not being part of her community and that her professional development is not focused on wealth but in having the freedom to help others in the things that she considers are making a meaningful change,
“Being an activist is a personal choice and conviction that comes from inside of each person. Much remains to be done. There are still many things I want to make, I have not seen the changes that I want, my community and my country needs . Nicaragua is a challenge for me, where I will live all my life, I have a fairly high commitment not only political life, but to improving the quality of life of its inhabitants. Helping others is part of my personal growth and satisfaction, I will grow old doing this”.
To keep reading about Edna’s vision please check the Subversive Women Dictionary with terms asked to all the interviewees.
*In her day job Edna is currently coordinating two projects to promote
local economic development through tourism in communities of Granada , supporting the improvement of local infrastructure and promoting the preservation of local fauna with the completion of the First International Festival of Birds.