Nicaragua: Victims of sexual violence advocate on behalf of other victims

Ligia Canales- from victim of domestic violence to  civil servant
Ligia Canales - from victim of domestic violence to champion of women and non-violence. Photo: Glomara Iglesias/ UNDP Nicaragua

Ligia Canales, a mother of three living in Managua, was once a victim of domestic violence:  

"My former companion used to get drunk, beat me up, kick me out of the house and threaten to kill me. I was really scared, and yet I decided seek help: One day I reported him to the police," she says.

After a few visits to the women's police unit, Ligia was invited to become a Promotora Voluntaria y Solidaria (Promoter and Solidarity Volunteer), and she enthusiastically accepted. She now learns about domestic violence, studies law and gathers information about HIV/AIDS, knowledge which she then shares with other people in her community. Most importantly, she has realized she had the skills to communicate with other victims.

"I am not ashamed to speak of this because I want to be an example for other women who experience this kind of abuse, and show it is possible to overcome it."


  • The US$ 2 million project aims to raise awareness and improve access to justice for victims of domestic and sexual violence in Nicaragua.
  • Around 880 civil servants were trained on prevention and care for the victims, and close to 150 women's police units were created by the government.
  • Forums on gender-sensitive and self-help processes for women were held throughout the country.

In addition to Ligia, around 880 civil servants have been trained in sharing knowledge on prevention and care for victims, through a US$ 2 million project funded by the Swiss Cooperation for Central America and Norway. Launched in 2012, the project aims to raise awareness and improve access to justice for women victims of domestic and sexual violence. It is implemented by UNDP in coordination with the National Police, the Ministry of the Family, the Central American University and other state and private agencies.

As part of the programme, close to 150 women's police units are supported throughout the country and 350 forums have been held on methods of conflict resolution and self-help processes aimed at researchers and advocates. Classes on communication and gender were offered to journalists, and around 320 people including teachers, students, mothers, heads of families, and public officials were trained in gender-responsive mediation. In turn, the Institute of Forensic Medicine (Instituto de Medicina Legal) has trained 100 officals in statistics and forensic psychotraumatology.

Ligia, for her part, intends to defend women who, like her, have been victims of violence when she finishes studying law in Saturday classes. In the meantime, she still runs her business, a small traditional restaurant located in a well-known market of Managua, and does not let her past hold her back. "Violence must be eradicated so that we can live in peace," she says.

— Glomara Iglesias

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