Recently, two very talented colleagues and female friends of mine wrote two great blogs about feminism and the status of women in both Ghana and Nicaragua. The combination of these blogs, an inspiring conversation and living in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, have enhanced my view on women's rights and their importance for Nicaraguans. I can't help but do so, the passion here is palpable.
Little did I know before returning to Nicaragua, that the organization I would be working for is more of a feminist organization, than it is an environmental one. The environment and the protection of natural resources is ANIDES's main focus, with women's rights inherent in this issue. Furthermore, there are a plethora of feminist organizations in Matagalpa...I was amazed upon arriving how many I noticed: Pro Woman, CARE, The Nicaraguan Communal Movement, and Grupo Venancia; A group of women who work in solidarity to promote the rights of women through a variety of means including educational workshops, cultural programs, popular campaigns and even a radio show.
The sight of these organizations and working for ANIDES got me to thinking. I have always had my opinions about feminism, one being that so many radical feminists never appeared, to me, to seek true equality. As I perceived them, radical feminists believed women should become the more powerful gender, economically, socially and politically. Sort of like the rise of the underdog. After taking a variety of gender studies courses throughout my university career, I was always left with a bad taste in my mouth when learning about radical feminism. We were taught equality meant a perfect equilibrium, socially, politically and economically between men and women, so then why would a group of feminists, fighting for such a concept, want to "bring men down," as it appeared to me? The more I learn, however, the more insight I gain and the more inspired I become.
It was not until I came back to Nicaragua this year, and observed this country that is going through a great evolution ( Nicaragua is one of the only countries in the world with a complete ban on abortion, with many a feminist group speaking against this) , that I have begun to understand what the feminist fight is all about. As I write this I feel slightly ignorant. I am after all , an educated woman who has taken a variety of courses on this subject and yet I am just coming to form somewhat of a clear opinion on the rights of my own gender. Everything has its time, I suppose.
I came to some of my realizations last week-end, among a group of girlfriends. We were a divided group, geographically, half from Canada, half from Finland. The local Spanish school, a hub for foreigners alike to come and learn and practice their Spanish, only hires women. Myself and others have spoken up to what I perceive as a discriminating act. Apparently the school has had "issues" in the past with every man they have hired and so ceased to do so. The school has a very strong and clear feminist mandate which I support but still could not understand why they didn't hire men if they claimed to believe in true equality? I made a comment to one of my Canadian friends and colleagues, Hannah, in our conversation last week-end, "If it is a feminist school, then why don't they hire men??" I said, totally perplexed. Hannah replied something along the lines of , and I paraphrase, "Well, it is an extreme stance yes, but it is also an evolution. They are going through an evolution." One simple comment and in that moment, an epiphany came upon me. "You are right, you are so right," I said, a light bulb had gone off.
Just like so many societies, Nicaragua is going through its own evolution and evolution is messy and complicated. Humans go through change just like societies do and in order to find our balance as beings, we sometimes need to go off the deep end, go to the extreme, just to get to the other side where everything seems a little bit clearer and we find our equilibrium, whatever that looks like. Evolution takes time. If anything, change does not happen overnight.
How we converse about women's rights in Canada has progressed in leaps and strides. The dialogue surrounding rape education given to women has greatly changed. We have come to a greater understanding of the responsibility of the perpetrator and educating men, the actual threat, rather than providing one patronizing speech after the other to women, preaching how they need to avoid being raped. This kind of dialogue is more and more present. Just like Nicaragua, however, Canada has gone through an evolution in opinions and dialogue. Our consciousness is evolving.
All of the bother, frustration and misunderstanding I had for feminists who appeared so radical, cleared. That conversation with Hannah still resonates with me and in the last week I have come to find a great peace in my heart. I feel more proud and more empowered than ever before to be a woman. I feel stronger than ever as well, to fight for my and every woman's rights.
|These decals are spray painted all over the walls of Matagalpa. The feminist energy here is enough to inspire anyone.|
As I looked around at the spray-painted decals on the outside of people's homes that say, "In this house, we are against sexual abuse," and at the pro-choice marches down the main street of Matagalpa, I always stood in shock and discomfort ; this seems so radical I thought, there must be some major problems here in Nicaragua," and "Women seem so passionate and demanding, so much so they march around screaming for their rights."
All women have the same rights and the same need for coming together in solidarity, we are in this movement together, wherever it may lead us. We are all one. Perhaps we will find the equality we all so passionately demand one day, but for now let us rejoice in what we have accomplished today and take comfort in the fact that nothing is permanent, change is bound to come.