Promoting Children’s Rights and Leadership Abilities in Nicaragua

EDUCO is a global organization that works across Latin America, Africa, and Asia. EDUCO started working in Nicaragua in 2004 and currently has more than 200 cooperative projects serving over 11,000 children and almost 5,000 adults. They work to protect childhood and children’s well-being in rural and urban areas through direct intervention and local partnerships.

One of EDUCO’s main efforts in Nicaragua is strengthening the capacity of children who are often absent from or out of school. Specifically, our projects promote the active inclusion of children and adolescents as agents of change in rural areas. We have partnered with 81 communities in the Northern part of Nicaragua to empower children to be leaders and to advocate for their right to continue their education. 

Our projects focus on helping children to advocate for their rights through protection, leadership, and participation. One example of a project we conducted in 2019 and 2020 in collaboration with Tuktan Sirpiwas Niñez Protagonista en la Promoción de Sus Derechos (Protagonist Children and the Promotion of their Rights), in which children learned about their human rights as established in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The project’s focus was on children’s authentic, active, protagonistic, and effective participation as a means to ensure other rights. Specifically, at the school level we work with children and adolescents ages 10-14 years old with support from one teacher per school and a parent. These children and adolescents participate in demanding the fulfillment of their rights through a social communication strategy in the Jinotega and San Sebastián de Yalí provinces. 

Another one of our projects was called Collaborative Learning for the Adequate Use of the Internet and Social Media. In this project, we worked to educate children on how to avoid potential risks associated with internet and social media usage. We created various groups who then researched communication elements as well as advantages and disadvantages of usage. Afterwards, participants conducted campaigns, murals, t-shirts with related messages, pamphlets and other resources to educate other children, as well as parents and teachers, about responsible internet and social media usage. Another program we held from 2015 to 2018, Niños Comunicadores (Children Communicators), focused on building children’s technical capacities with social communication and methods as a means to demand their rights. Below are a few images of these different projects in action:

Gender equity is also a key focus of our work, implementing a variety of projects which focus on girls’ leadership, empowerment, and education starting as early as ages 10. Often, traditions and community customs in the areas where we work dictate that girls stay home and start a family instead of transitioning from primary to secondary school. For example, some parents choose not to send girls to secondary school for fear of an engagement or teen pregnancy. While respecting a girl’s dream of starting a family, we also want to create safe spaces for them to achieve their goals and learn about their educational rights. We have also seen through our work that many youth decide to dropout in order to work and provide additional income to their families. An additional barrier children face is that in rural areas, the majority of secondary education is conducted on Saturdays at base schools, which creates security concerns for girls transporting from their communities to these larger schools located elsewhere. Based on our work over the last 16 years, we have seen many program participants graduate from secondary school — girls who now are dreaming of continuing their studies even further. 

Maykeling’s story provides one example of the impact of our work. She is 17 years old and is from Jinotega, Nicaragua. She started preschool in 2008 and has since graduated from secondary school. She participated in a variety of community projects, such as a communicator in our “Niñez comunicadora” project and as a leader at her school, where she was able to make an impact to improve children’s conditions and voice, as well as in her community. Maykeling faced many challenges as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. She had to stop studying and lost a full year of studying at the university level. At the beginning of 2021 however, she was able to start her degree in English. Maykeling serves as a role model in her community because of her strong communication skills and leadership, such as with adults as a promoter for the project “Comparte tu talento” (Share your talent) that was executed in 2020. Maykeling was inspired by her mother, who always wanted to continue studying and was supported by her own mother to do so, and is now working as a teacher. 

We have seen many changes in the rural communities where these projects are conducted, despite obstacles to gender equality in Nicaragua. Many mothers have shared about the differences they have seen in their daughters in terms of their independence, how they express their feelings, and their drive and ambition. We have also seen girls focusing on their roles as change agents within their communities. For example, one 12-year old girl we worked with shared that she wanted to study medicine because she realized that better health services were needed in her community. 

A key component of our program design model is to engage the community and particularly parents, because we have learned that they also need to be trained on empowerment and what rights their children have. We try to collaborate within an ecosystem of schools, parents, and children in order to enable children to put their lessons into practice and to support children’s wellbeing. We believe that parents should know about their children rights and be able to explain it clearly to their children. For example, in our Continuidad Educativa Un Derecho de la Niñez (Educational Continuity is a Child’s Right) project, we trained parents to strengthen their roles as educators for their children and active subjects in supporting their children with their goals and rights to participation. Acknowledging that this work must also extend beyond the direct communities where we work, we have also built partnerships with Ministries of Family and Education, private organizations, and civil society organizations to create spaces for children to share their thoughts engage in opportunities for meaningful participation, with the hope of promoting broader scale change. 

As you can see EDUCO has a wide array of projects, but three key pillars of our program design include considerations related to training, impact, and awareness: 

Training

  1. Training groups of girls, boys, and adolescents on participation, leadership, protagonist, planning, organization, and change making topics
  2. Training community actors about the rights of children and adolescents and the role of adults in their fulfillment

Impact

  1. Spaces to promote continual reflection in relation to children’s rights exercises
  2. Support for youth participation and organizational processes in the communities
  3. Sessions with adults to recognize and reconstruct ideas surrounding children and adolescents as social subjects with rights

Awareness

  1. Visits to contact and coordinate with communities
  2. On-boarding adult leaders to listen to children to help resolve their problems and concerns

We believe that combining these three aspects together make our work more effective and sustainable. We thank you for your interest in EDUCO and look forward to sharing more and building global collaborations and partnerships for educational leadership and equity.

To learn more about EDUCO Nicaragua’s work, please visit http://educo.org.ni/.  

And here is a short video:  https://youtu.be/Y8Zbm3y0zL4