STOP! (A story about ending gender-based violence)

Five hours and thirty minutes driving northwest from Managua (the capital of Nicaragua) you'll get to Waslala, a town with high temperatures, heavy breakfasts and one big issue: gender-based violence. I was told I was going to visit a project that's helping to eradicate violence against women, but what I wasn't told was the extent of the issue and this project, one that's being supported by the Italian NGO GVC and funded by the European Union.

The project PARA! Mujeres Libres de Violencia (STOP! Women free of violence) is being implemented by the Asociación de Mujeres Emprendedoras de Waslala (Association of Entrepreneur Women of Waslala, AMEWAS) a local NGO founded 20 years ago by a few brave women. Why brave? Because Nicaragua is a country where gender violence is pretty normal, and if Waslala is just another level.

María Elsa at the Waslala police station waiting for her the verdict related to her daughter's case after being kept away by her boyfriend's family.

During these 20 years, they've faced many threats and acts of violence directed toward their organization, which tells you something: they're pissing people off because they're doing the right job. Since founded, they've been providing legal and psychological assistance and shelter to abused women and girls. Like Maria Elsa's daughter, who visited her boyfriend and his family kept her at their place for weeks without allowing her to go back to her house. Maria Elsa tried to get her back by her own means but because of the lack of information about how to handle situations like this one, she couldn't do it. Luckily she then got referred to AMEWAS and as soon as she set foot in their office, she started receiving all the support and legal assistance she needed it. A few days later, she got her daughter back and I was lucky enough to be there moments before the verdict.

Another story that really shocked and marked me was the Gerónima told me about the relationship she used to have with her ex-husband.

Even though she stills find the courage to smile and tell her story, you can read her past in her eyes.

AMEWAS provided shelter, legal and psychological assistance for her while also teaching her how to be economically independent and today she has a shop where she sells fabrics, accessories and some fresh produce. This allows her to provide for herself and her son. Besides this success, they also got to take her ex-husband to trial, where he got convicted and is now totally away from them.

These are just two stories out of thousands. Each year they have approximately 1,700 cases. Which makes me remind the words of Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

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