A Feminist Goal to Raise Our Voices
Group: Lidia Espinoza Young Women’s Movement (Movimiento de Mujeres Jóvenes Lidia Espinoza)
Department: Matagalpa, northern Nicaragua.
From the voice of: Alba Nidia López, founder.
Lidia Espinoza is a movement of young women in the northern region of Nicaragua formed by 10 women’s community groups that include small agricultural producers, domestic workers, survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence, and feminist activists, that uses soccer as a strategy for organizing, empowerment and strengthening leadership to have a greater local impact in favor of our rights.
Domestic violence and sexual abuse
We work in very conservative rural communities with high levels of domestic violence and sexual abuse of adolescents and young women. Nevertheless, in these communities, there is no culture of reporting these crimes and women do not talk about the problem for fear of reprisal, of criticism, and being discriminated against by a society where silence prevails in order to avoid family conflicts and maintain an image that keeps with stereoptypes and traditional gender norms.
Working with adolescents and youth has allowed us to make progress on the problems that they live through. Some become pregnant at a young age as a result of rapes perpetrated by their own family members. Hearing the girls say that they are having their uncle’s baby gives me chills.
In the case of sexual abuse, we have worked on personal self-defense. This has been really important for speaking out, for not being so afraid and walking with more self-assurance. We have also accompanied girls in the process of reporting crimes.
Having an impact on and off the field
Before, girls’ soccer was not acknowledged in the communities. They looked at us like tomboys, like we wanted to be just like men. Men would heckle us on the soccer field, and it’s not like that anymore. The boys acknowledge the girls and say that we are capable of playing, and that motivates us and they come to support us. We have had a positive impact and even though we still confront machista attitudes, and the mocking and insults of some people that don’t accept that women have the right to the public spaces designated traditionally for men, we have increased our confidence and self-esteem, and we have found the collective strength to confront this harassment.
Now we are not only recognized in communities but at the organizational level, too. We have brought about solutions to the problems that women experience and we have also seen the personal changes in their lives. Girls are more open, they walk more freely, and they have more ownership of their lives and their sexuality.
In 2018 we were working on self-care and feminist self-defense. I feel these are very powerful and fundamental tools for sports, because we can no longer have girls in rural areas that can’t speak up, that can’t move safely through their lives.
Relating to one another through sisterhood
Soccer has been the spark that has ignited and transformed timid girls that in the past did not relate to others, nor amongst themselves. Organizing and uniting through sports to confront the problems in our lives has had an enormous impact.
When we started playing soccer the girls would compete a lot between themselves, and rivalry was the norm in women’s relationships. That is why we decided to work on this problem and now it’s different. The girls are more aware that they are going to play friendly games, to get out of the house and also achieve personal growth. They themselves has said that when playing soccer, “I kick the ball to release rage and everything I live through in my house.” Now the girls see one another as equals, they have stopped the rivalry, and it’s not all just about medals.
Lidia Espinoza Young Women’s Movement also carries out gatherings, workshops, study circles, and courses, as well as other actions for internal strengthening and community advocacy.