Migration Realities of Girls, Adolescents and Young Women
Group: Group of Women, Adolescent and Youth Migrants from the Rivas Department (Grupo de Emigrantes Mujeres, Adolescentes y Jóvenes del Departamento de Rivas – GEMAJ)
Department: Rivas. Municipalities: Tola, Rivas and Belén.
From the voice of: Sheyla Reyes, coordinator.
Before we got together to create GEMAJ, as young women – just like many girls and adolescents from Rivas – we were migrants or had once been migrants. There were no organizations in our department that could provide us information or accompany us in rebuilding ourselves emotionally. This large gap motivated us seven years ago to organize and strengthen ourselves around migratory procedures and our rights, to provide psychological, legal and health attention and accompaniment to girls and young women as part of their emotional recovery from the impact of migration. We also wanted to carry out awareness-raising, training, monitoring, research and advocacy work.
The impact of migration in girls, adolescents and youth that stay behind
Our group mainly works with girls, adolescent and young women, as well as adult women but to a lesser degree. We carry out our work primarily in rural communities in the municipalities of Potosí, Belén, Rivas, Cárdenas and Tola. We work in these communities of origin because they have the highest rates of migration, principally among women. There are women who are single mothers that leave their children in the care of a second or third person. We are interested in working with this group, which are primarily 14 to 18 years old. There are also youth 19 to 25 years of age, and girls from 7 to 12. Girls are left under the care of their grandmothers or other family members, and in some cases of their parents’ friends.
This group of girls, adolescents and young women have scarce economic resources. Some are behind in school, and others drop out. In the case of youth, some are border workers that work on the border with Costa Rica. Our work is concentrated on these populations because they have been impacted psychologically as children of migrant parents.
Girls and adolescents are the most vulnerable sector. In addition to the psychological and economic consequences on their lives, they are further impacted by attachment issues, fear and a sense of abandonment. There are different types of emotions and feelings that they have towards their families. Some feel rejection, others feel hate; they express that they need communication with their parents, and that they are at risk of suffering sexual abuse, rape and labor exploitation.
Increased flow of migration
Previously there was an increase in migration among women, but with the recent situation in Nicaragua migration has become more even between women and men. The problem is that before girls had either their mother or their father with them, now both have left and there are some special cases where some of their older siblings have left as well.
This group of girls, adolescents and young women is unprotected. It is estimated that there are more than 62,000 Nicaraguan migrants in Costa Rica. These numbers are at the national level, but the department of Rivas has been particularly affected. For example, the municipality of Tola survived on tourism, but now with the situation in the country there is a tremendous lack of work. In other municipalities we survive on agriculture, but in the current context many of our crops have been lost. This has led to an increase in migration.
Our achievements, our struggles
We have achieved our message successfully reaching adolescent and young women that documented and safe migration improves their conditions and opportunities. We always say this: we can’t stop migration, much less with the context we are living in, but at least people should leave the country with their documentation in order. We think that this achievement was gained through our insistence, because from the beginning we have been clear about what documentation is needed to migrate, and we know that has left an imprint.
Another of our achievements is that the young women that participate in the group are leaders in their communities. They give workshops and trainings.
We have also developed good relationships with different civil society organizations. We are part of the Nicaraguan Civil Society Network on Migration (Red Nicaragüense de la Sociedad Civil para las Migraciones – RRCOM). We are also connected with the Masculinity Network (Red de Masculinidad), IPAS, Womens’s House (Casa de la Mujer), SOS Children’s Village (Aldeas SOS), International Organization for Migration (IOM), and other organizations.
What drives us every day
Seeing girls, adolescents and young women participating in this work gives us hope. We are pleased to see how they have raised their voices, and want to keep doing more. Even though we are short on resources, we have will, willingness, and commitment.