State Feminism in Ortega`s Nicaragua

 State Feminism in Ortega's Nicaragua
Raly Chakarova
Queen’s University
Abstract: The re-rise to power of the revolutionary Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN)
government in Nicaragua promised a shift in power relations that could advance the influential
women's movement agenda towards gender equality. However, instead of meaningful
participation, the centralization of power in the executive instituted a form of state feminism
directed at increasing women's political participation and poverty alleviation. Examining the
government's initiatives in these areas through mainly primary research in-country, this paper
concludes that the FSLN’s state feminism is conceptual, but not practical. The FSLN gender
policy was designed and promoted as a populist strategy meant to consolidate and expand an
electoral base and maintain political power, rather than challenge gender roles and power
relations between men and women.
The state is instrumental in the fight for gender equality due to its lawful authority to
dictate socially accepted behaviour, allocate resources, and privilege certain interest groups over
others. This is why the rise of the ‘new’ left or ‘pink tide’ in Latin America has captured the
attention of academics and feminists for its potential to produce progressive social
transformation and expand democratic representation in the region (Cameron & Hershberg,
2010; Levitsky & Roberts, 2011; Weyland, Madrid & Hunter, 2010). Its goal of social justice has
raised the hopes of women’s movements, since an increase in social programs disproportionately
alleviates women’s responsibilities, while its inference of a shift in power relations among social
actors could increase women’s formal and informal power over the state (Cameron & Hershberg,
2010; Levitsky & Roberts, 2011; Weyland, Madrid & Hunter, 2010).
These were the expectations of the influential women’s movement in Nicaragua when in
2006 Daniel Ortega and the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) won the presidency for
the first time since their revolutionary government in the 1980s. The FSLN was the foundation
for women’s mobilization and the expansion of women’s economic, political, and social rights in
the 1980s (Molyneaux, 1985; Randall, 1994; Isbester, 2001). The FSLN is now claiming back
important areas of state responsibility, such as the provision of basic services and new social
programs for the poor, a stark contrast from 16 years of neoliberal governments (Isbester, 2001).
As a populist leader, Ortega has engaged in the restructuring of state power, centralizing it in
himself, while hollowing out the independent power of horizontal institutions. This centralization
of power and strong statist vision has resulted in a gender policy of 'state feminism'. In this
paper, I assess FSLN’s state feminism in women's political participation and the government's
two pillar poverty reduction programs - Hambre Cero and Usura Cero. I argue that the FSLN's
state feminism is only conceptual and not practical, designed to legitimize the political discourse
of the government and secure votes, instead of meaningfully advance women’s rights.
Ultimately, these policies perpetuate systems that maintain women’s subordinate status and do
not address the biggest obstacle to women's empowerment - machismo.
The paper is based mainly on primary research through interviews, focus groups, TV and
newspaper analysis, and personal observations while residing in Nicaragua for a year. A total of
15 interviews in Spanish were conducted with actors in diverse aspects of social and political
life, which were chosen based on their knowledge or direct involvement with women’s rights
and politics. Those included the directors of leading women’s organizations in the country,
government officials at the local level, international NGOs, research institutes, and university
professors1. Four focus groups, two for each program, were also carried out with beneficiaries of
the programs Usura Cero and Hambre Cero on Ometepe Island. It is important to note that the
extreme political polarization along Sandinista and anti-Sandinista lines, and the more recent
division between Orteguismo and anti-Ortega, prejudiced the opinions of all Nicaraguan sources.
FSLN State ‘Feminism’
The state is in the best position to devote public resources to women’s needs and break
down the structural barriers of their subordination. I define state feminism as a government’s
strategy to introduce top-down programs that promote women’s rights and gender equality. This
is usually done through changes in the legal code and the passage of legislation, which are
essential for women’s status in society and their strategic interests. The government has the
ability to increase women’s political and economic opportunities and give access to state
services, such as health and education, to previously marginalized women. State feminism can be
seen as a contradictory concept, considering the view of many feminists that the state is
patriarchal. However, the state can also be viewed as a third party enforcer of gender equality
and a fundamental component in normalizing accepted social relations, and therefore gender
equality. In the case of Nicaragua, women’s increased opportunities were not complemented by
initiatives to address their institutionalized traditional roles or their sexual and reproductive
rights. Rather, the social programs initiated by the FSLN solidified gender relations and left
women precariously dependent on the state.
Details of interviews can be found in Appendix A. Some participants chose to remain anonymous, fearing government retaliation. The exclusion of women’s organizations from the policy making process and the
centralization of power in Ortega has allowed the FSLN government to advance its own gender
agenda, embodying a top-down state feminism that focuses mainly on women’s practical and not
strategic interests. Considering Ortega’s power over all government institutions, the presence of
political will to advance women’s rights could produce important benefits for women. Although
it lacks a clear gender policy, through its fiery rhetoric, the FSLN executive has committed itself
to achieving gender equality in Nicaragua. As an example of this dedication, Rosario Murillo
(Ortega's wife and First Lady of Nicaragua) always complements the masculine Spanish
language with feminine counterparts in all of her public speeches (e.g. ‘todos y todas’). The
FSLN executive, together with its ministries, has held hundreds of fairs, public demonstrations,
and marches, to show their commitment and educate women on their rights.
Women's Political Participation
The political participation of women is an important contributing factor towards gender
equality, since women can contribute to the policy discussion and advocate for policies and
programs that address women's needs. While there are no mandatory political quotas for women
in Nicaragua, each political party has established its own voluntary guidelines. The FSLN has a
30% quota for women, which was the result of pressure from now Movimiento Renovador
Sandinista (MRS) members in the mid-1990s. The MRS party has a 40% quota for women,
while the Partido Liberal Constitucionalista (PLC) has a combined quota for youth and women
at 40% (Quota Project, 2009). However, following his rise to power, Ortega promised to
introduce 50-50 division of political power between men and women in the FSLN at the national,
as well as the local level. Although, no reforms to the law or party statutes were made to
institutionalize this promise or make it obligatory for other political parties, the significant
increase of female representation in the 2011 elections surpassed that 50% commitment. Out of
the members elected under the FSLN banner, 33 of 62 were women, making them a majority at
53%. The total percentage of women in the National Assembly increased to 40.2% (European
Union Electoral Observation, 2011).
Since the 2006 election, women have also been appointed to important positions of
power, heading the traditional ‘feminine’ ministries, such as the Ministry of Education and the
Ministry of Health, but also typically ‘masculine’ ministries, such as the Ministry of the Interior,
Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Labour, and the Chief of Police. This impressive increase in
women’s descriptive representation at the national level is deeply contrasted to the stagnant
percentages for female mayors at the local level (Table 1). To improve female representation at
the municipal level and comply with his 50-50 commitment, Ortega has authorized that if an
elected FSLN mayor is male, then the vice-mayor should be female. While this is a form of
affirmative action, it questions democratic accountability and the legitimacy of those female
Table 1: Percentage of Women in the National Assembly
% of Women in the
National Assembly
% of Female
Source: CEPAL, 2011
While this important increase in women’s representation is commendable, descriptive
representation is necessary but not sufficient for gender-friendly state policies. What is
fundamental is substantive representation, which embodies the willingness and commitment of
women in power to meaningfully advance women’s rights. In the Ortega administration, this
type of representation is absent at best, and regressive for women at worst. One important reality
that is masked behind the statistics above is the high turnover of women in positions of power at
the national level. For example, in the first three months of Ortega’s first presidency, he removed
three cabinet ministers, all of which were women (Gooren, 2010). This use of Ortega’s
discretional power and centralization of control of the FSLN continued throughout his
presidency to assure partisan compliance. The Ministry of the Family, Adolescents and Children
and the Women’s Institute (INIM) both changed five different ministers, Nicaragua’s Cultural
Institute changed four different directors, and the Ministry of the Environment and Natural
Resources changed two different ministers (Alvarez, 2011). All of these officials, and others in
lower bureaucratic positions, were women who were removed and replaced by Ortega and, in a
few rare instances, quit as a show of defiance to Ortega’s militant control.
The high turnover for women in the FSLN government is an indication of Ortega’s
centralized control and the overall environment of obedience and conformity. The fear of
repression or expulsion from the party also makes it impossible to know how much power these
women really wield, although some examples demonstrate that it isn’t much. In interviews with
women’s NGOs, the women expressed their initial excitement when women with ties to civil
organizations were elected at the national level in 2006. That enthusiasm was quickly dampened
when those women were removed from their political positions or when they turned their backs
on the women’s movement and its demands. The women who remained in their positions were
criticized for “thinking like men” (Interview #1, 2, 4, 9). This meant that instead of women in the
National Assembly protecting and advancing women’s rights they sided with their male
counterparts, failing to provide needed political support for the proposals and demands of
women’s organizations. This is indicative of strict partisan politics, whereby the executive
dictates the opinions and stance of its politicians and severely restricts their ability to initiate bills
contrary to Ortega’s objectives. As Azahalea Solis from Movimiento Autónomo de Mujeres
(MAM) points out, the “women who are included in party posts and those who retain their
appointments are the ones that do not challenge the status quo and do not criticize the rules of the
game”. Sofia Montenegro further added that “one piece of paper doesn’t move without the
consent of the first lady [Rosario Murillo], everything has to be consulted with her, and everyone
is prohibited from speaking in public or you can talk but at your own risk”.
In this case, women's descriptive representation at the national level does little to advance
the goals of the women’s movement, since those in power are more willing to defend the party’s
interests over the strategic gender interests of women. An illustrative example is INIM, which is
the main government agency looking after women’s interests. It pledges to eradicate all forms of
gender-based discrimination, monitor the application of laws, policies, and programs and ensure
that they promote women’s interests and gender equality. However, INIM does not provide any
evaluations of government programs or laws, or follow-up on its own recommendations to
different departments. Even if links to progress reports are available on their website, those are
either broken or do not load. Furthermore, the institute’s lack of autonomy from the FSLN is
apparent in their bulletins and statements. INIM does not criticize the FSLN or suggest proposals
or improvements for gender policies. Instead, it supplies updates of government initiatives,
which are always presented in a favourable light. National women’s organizations also report
that the institute refuses to engage them in policy consultations or allocate funding. Therefore,
rather than being a meaningful check on the FSLN executive gender policy, INIM is a vehicle
for FSLN propaganda that aims to legitimize the government’s discourse.
Social Programs: Hambre Cero & Usura Cero
The FSLN’s strongest focus and largest financial contribution to its gender agenda is its
social programs directed exclusively to women, which also fit in the ‘new left’ redistributive
approach. Hambre Cero (Zero Hunger) and Usura Cero (Zero Usury) are the FSLN’s pillar
programs to combat poverty in both rural and urban areas respectively, through diversifying and
improving women’s economic opportunities. According to the FSLN, women are the drivers of
social change and development and these programs empower and help them to fulfill their
practical needs and improve the lives of their families.
Hambre Cero was originally designed and implemented in Brazil with great success in
eliminating poverty and reducing child malnutrition. With some changes, it was introduced in
Nicaragua in 2007 by the FSLN and it aims to help rural women and their families by providing
them with agricultural seeds, a cow, a pig, six chickens and a rooster, three months worth of feed
and medications, and construction materials to accommodate the animals. In total, each
‘productive bonus’ totals $1500 per beneficiary and is designed to provide them with a source of
income from selling animal offspring and by-products and garden produce. The program is also
complemented with agricultural training for the women and technical assistance from employees
of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAGFOR) who manage the program. The
requirements for beneficiaries is that they must be women in need, have at least one manzana2 of
land for the establishment of the garden and the animals, form a collective with the other
beneficiaries in the community, and save 20% of the value of the ‘productive bonus’ to develop
access to capital (Interview #13).
Usura Cero is a microcredit program financed by ALBA-Caruna and administered by the
Ministry of Development, Industry and Trade (MIFIC) to improve the access to credit for urban
women in need. Each woman can take out a loan of up to $240, which has to be paid in six to
eight months by the group as a whole. The interest rate is extremely low at 4% and the group acts
as collateral if one of the women cannot afford to repay. After they have been approved for the
Equivalent to 1.72 hectares loan, each group of five to ten women receives two days of training to develop their business
plan before receiving the money. Each loan is meant to be used to start a new business or expand
an existing one. Groups can receive subsequent loans after they have paid off the previous one
(Interview #14).
The concept of both programs is a good one, with the potential to significantly reduce
poverty and improve the lives of impoverished women. However, the reality and intentions
behind the programs’ implementation, monitoring and continuation are suspect. Civil society
organizations have denounced the programs as clientalistic, traditionalist, and simply as handouts to buy votes. The following evaluation of the programs suggests that these allegations are
accurate. A comprehensive analysis of the programs and their impact on a country-wide basis is
extremely difficult, since the government does not publish any of the evaluation reports it
allegedly carries out and because some of the beneficiaries of the program also benefit from
other NGO programs in their communities. The following assessment of the programs is based
on interviews, newspaper articles and four focus groups with beneficiaries of both programs on
Ometepe Island.
On a national level, the execution of Hambre Cero has been fraught with inconsistency,
instability, and controversy. In his presidential campaign, Ortega promised to deliver 100 000
‘productive bonuses’ to women beneficiaries and their families. However, by the end of 2010
only 48 053 families had benefited from the program. In 2011, coincidentally an election year,
33 300 families received a productive bonus (Table 2)3.
Table 2: Number of Families Beneficiaries by Hambre Cero
5 000
14 000
15 000
14 053
33 300
81 353
Source: IEEPP, 2011
In reality, MAGFOR as an institution is not equipped to manage the scope of this
program at the national level. It doesn’t have strong coverage and networks around the country,
or the sufficient number of qualified staff necessary to efficiently implement and monitor the
IEEPP is the only independent, holistic report available for the program programs. For example, by the middle of 2010 MAGFOR had spent only C$125 9094, from its
annual budget of C$180 million, a common trend each year (Figure 1). Paradoxically, at the
same time the program owed C$5.3 million to 45 small and medium poultry farmers from
purchases made the year before. This weak capacity to implement the program could be due, in
part, to the high turnover in MAGFOR’s administration. In the first two years of Hambre Cero
there were four different program directors and a high turnover of MAGFOR delegates at the
departmental level, further stalling the implementation of the program (Interview # 13). Another
likely reason is the FSLN’s tendency to disregard the experience of local NGOs and refuse their
cooperation in the program’s implementation (Interview # 2, 5, 11, 13).
Figure 1: The Difference between the Assigned Budget (dark blue)
and the Spent Budget (light blue) for Hambre Cero
Source: IEEPP, 2011
The quality of the program has also come into question. There are reports that many
women do not receive the full $1500 worth of the bonus but only a portion, estimated now at
around $500 (Figure 2). Sometimes the animals are delivered either sick or infertile, without the
proper medicine, or without the materials needed to construct their shelters. Combined with the
insufficient number of technical assistants who are unable to provide the comprehensive training,
monitoring and support needed, some beneficiaries end up consuming or selling the animals.
This would be considered a failure of the project, since those animals are meant to provide a new
economic opportunity for the women.
C$ indicates that the value is in Nicaraguan cordobas The land requirement makes it difficult for women in extreme poverty or those who do not have
title to their own land to meet the requirements of the program. FIDEG (2011) finds that in 2008
only 13.7% of women owned land, and 7.7% owned land as a couple. This contrasts starkly with
the 73.8% of land owned by men. Therefore, the ability of the program to reduce extreme
poverty is jeopardized, also leaving the essential problem of gendered land ownership
unaddressed. Although the program encourages women to sell their extra produce, no markets
are established to help facilitate that in the communities, so women are expected to cope with
this difficulty individually. Furthermore, feminist groups have criticized the nature of the
program as solidifying women’s traditional roles. Women are given an economic opportunity
that complements their household and child-caring responsibilities, and therefore further justifies
and consolidates their ‘place’ in the home.
Figure 2: Average Value of ‘Productive Bonus’ per Family
Source: IEEPP, 2011
The strongest criticism against the program is its clientalistic nature, as it is believed
beneficiaries of the program tend to be FSLN supporters. Following such initial criticisms, the
program was expanded to benefit people who support opposition parties, but the majority of
beneficiaries remain FSLN sympathizers. One of the discrete ways this is accomplished is
through the discretional documentation of the population. It was revealed that during election
time the Electoral Council (CSE) refused documentation, known as a cedula, to people who were
not recognized FSLN supporters. One of the requirements of Hambre Cero is that applicants
present documentation for official records. As a result, it is more likely that FSLN supporters
would be able to qualify for the program. Indicative of the clientalistc nature of the program is
the discrepancy in municipalities between their level of poverty and the number of ‘productive
bonuses’ delivered. As can be seen from Table 3, FSLN-headed municipalities with lower
percentage of poverty have received significantly higher number of bonuses than PLC-headed
municipalities with higher percentage of poverty (IEEPP, 2011).
Table 3: Discrepancy between Poverty Rates and ‘Productive Bonus’ Deliveries
‘Bonuses’ 2010
Poverty Rate
Party in
1 422
45.7 %
1 180
37.1 %
77 %
65.5 %
Source: IEEPP, 2011
The strongest indication of the program's clientalistic nature is that beneficiaries are
selected by the Citizens’ Power Councils (GPC) in each community. GPC is a parallel structure
to the elected municipal government that oversees social programs, participatory budgeting and
the distribution of government aid, answering directly to the FSLN executive rather than the
electorate. The membership of these councils tends to be primarily Sandinista, which politicizes
the distribution of material benefits, taking away the requirement of need and supplementing it
with political affiliation. This was evident in the focus groups with Hambre Cero beneficiaries,
all of which were FSLN supporters. From the 34 women who had benefited from the program,
one was the wife of the Ministry of Education delegate to the island, three were the wives of
GPC leaders, seven were GPC members, and five were employed in the mayor’s office or were
teachers. This indicates that almost half of the beneficiaries have direct ties to the FSLN
government and some do not meet the requirement of necessity since they have relatively wellpaid and stable jobs. Additionally, in terms of losing, consuming, or selling their animals, six
women no longer had the chickens, four no longer had their cow, and twelve no longer had their
pig. The most predominant reason given was the lack of food for the animals, which directly
competes with the supply of food for the family. Nevertheless, the beneficiaries systematically
praised the FSLN and Ortega, agreeing that no other government had addressed their needs and
vowed to always support the FSLN.
In terms of the Usura Cero program, there are even fewer studies and evaluations of its
implementation and management. This is partly because it is administered through ALBA, and
therefore Venezuelan funds, which do not enter the national budget and are spent discretionally
by Ortega. The program is not as plagued by a clientalistic strategy, because loans are given on a
collective basis. Therefore, it is harder for GPC, who again are the ones who select the
beneficiaries, to force women to be in a group with other women they do not trust to repay their
loans. Nevertheless, the program still suffers from important limitations and deficiencies. One is
the lack of repayment by beneficiaries. Because this program was introduced slightly after
Hambre Cero many women thought the loan was a gift from the government that did not need to
be paid back. Therefore, by the beginning of 2009 repayment of loans was less than half and the
program was suffering a C$7.2 million deficit. In this case the groups acted against their
collateral purpose, because they remained in solidarity but against paying the loan. After
engaging in an educational campaign to ensure that beneficiaries know their repayment
obligations, loan returns allegedly improved.
However, there are other reasons for non-payment that were reported by the departmental
office in Rivas. The employee interviewed revealed that sometimes women’s businesses
collapse, sometimes instead of investing in their business women buy things for the house or use
the money to repay other loans, and on few occasions the group leader, charged with repaying
the group loan, had simply kept the money. As well, there have been some corruption allegations
against GPC members and administrators in MIFIC for pocketing the money of women’s groups.
This is possible because of the unclear criteria established for repayment and the weak capability
of MIFIC to monitor beneficiaries and the process as a whole.
All the women in the two focus groups had started businesses selling cooked food, or
buying and reselling cosmetics, clothes, or groceries. All of these are extremely small-scale and
carry high risk of volatility in revenues, if not complete collapse of the business. These start-ups
are also done in women’s homes, so they induce the same traditionalist critique that Hambre
Cero does regarding women’s 'place' in the home. It was rare that members of the two
interviewed groups had a firm grasp of their business plan and how they would invest their loans
in order to most efficiently grow their investments. This was telling of the low level of training
they received before acquiring their loans. Most importantly, these businesses still marginalized
women to the informal sector, where women are disproportionately represented, and which has
grown considerably since 2005 (Table 4). The informal sector is characterized with precarious
employment, void of any labour rights and benefits.
Table 4: Informal Sector of Employment (National)
Source: FIDEG, 2011
Examining the FSLN’s two pillar social programs, the best financed portion of their
gender agenda, demonstrates that while some women have undeniably benefited, improvements
remain momentary and marginal. The scope of the programs is simply not large enough to
address the chronic problem of poverty in the country and improve economic opportunities. For
example, in a study by FIDEG (2011) only 23.7% of participants said they had benefitted from
any government programs, while 42.2% said they had lost their employment. Neither program is
sustainable because they are not institutionalized and they depend highly on who’s in power. To
a large degree, this explains Ortega’s landslide victory in 2011. Dependency on the FSLN is
further strengthened because the programs do little to change the structural conditions behind
poverty, such as high unemployment, precarious employment, weak social security, and
women’s subordinate status. Lastly, both of these programs are largely funded by Venezuelan
investment, making their continuation dependent on the political and economic climate of the
Venezuelan government.
Considering Machismo: Women’s Biggest Obstacle in Nicaragua
In Nicaragua, machismo is a sociocultural patriarchal system with no one specific
English word to describe it. Machismo represents an androcentric practice of systematic
subordination of women, which privileges masculinity while excluding and relegating female
experiences and perspectives. It is a form of hyper-masculinity that idolizes women’s bodies and
identities as wives and mothers, but also reduces women to sexual objects and property that can
be controlled. While it emphasizes positive characteristics in males such as honour, dignity,
strength, and responsibility to provide for the family, it also positions women as vulnerable, and
in need of protection and a spouse. Therefore, machismo locks both men and women in static
gender roles and power relations not only in the family, but also in acceptable types of
employment and decision-making positions. Machismo tends to be more pronounced in rural
areas, or where women have low economic power and education. The machista perception of
women as property implies that they can be controlled and that they don’t need to be consulted,
taking away their agency to make decisions regarding their bodies and lives. The criminalization
of therapeutic abortion in 2006 is the best example of the institutionalization of this view at the
state level (Kampwirth, 2006; Kane, 2008).
What makes machismo so static and embedded in Nicaraguan culture is that it is present
in both individual behaviour and manifested and reproduced in political, judicial, and social
institutions. These institutional structures are responsible for creating and promoting public
policies and laws which allows them to shape and dictate gender, power, and state-society
relations. The FSLN has largely maintained this system of oppression, secluding women to the
private sphere and encouraging their traditional roles as mothers and guardians of the family
unit. All women interviewed identified machismo as the biggest or one of the biggest obstacles
to women’s emancipation and advancement.
Ortega’s populist style of governance erodes the relative autonomy of the state and
embeds it into society. The more the state penetrates society, the more likely it would be to
perpetuate machista attitudes. This is likely one of the reasons why it is uncommon for female
mayors to be elected at the local level where state and society are most intertwined in everyday
life and where machisa views are strongest. On the contrary, a state that is institutionally stronger
and autonomous from social relations will have more power to act upon society to change such
corrosive social conceptions. It is important to acknowledge that machismo is not a static system,
but it manifests itself differently throughout time and space, and the level of its influence varies
depending on the variables present.
Instead of challenging gender roles and power relations between men and women, the
FSLN has perpetuated a culture of machismo through its policies, marginalizing women to the
private sphere and emphasizes their roles as wives and mothers. This familist strategy
subordinates women’s individual interests and demands to the conservation and protection of the
family unit and allows economic activity that is compatible and secondary to women’s primary
household responsibilities. The FSLN’s two pillar social programs for women exhibit this
conservative ideology and reduce women’s emancipation to economic reductionism. Even if they
do satisfy women’s practical needs, an imperative with the high rate of poverty in Nicaragua,
these programs are paternalistic and unsustainable, creating dependency on the government and
voter deadlock. Instead, a policy approach is needed that recognizes poverty as multifaceted,
especially allowing for women’s control over their own bodies, decision making, and life. The
FSLN initiatives seem to be designed and promoted as a populist strategy meant to consolidate
and expand an electoral base and maintain political power. The FSLN’s state ‘feminism’ is
conceptual, but not practical.
Although Nicaragua is the second poorest country in Latin America, financial restraints
cannot justify the FSLN’s poor gender performance. The presence of sufficient finances is clear
from the budgets of Hambre Cero and Usura Cero. What is needed is better allocation of those
resources and the partnering with civil organizations to take advantage of their expertise and
experience and eliminate the duplication of efforts. Social programs and policies should be
designed with the goal of expanding women’s rights, strengthening institutions, and
deconstructing social systems of oppression, such as machismo. However, a focus on structural
changes is not as visible to voters as material hand-outs. So, those initiatives might be genderfriendly, but they are not voter-friendly. Another necessary requirement is the opening up of the
political system and the nourishment of a secular democracy, which would meaningfully
incorporate women’s voices and reflect their needs and demands. Ortega and the FSLN’s gender
policy could be evaluated on the ‘better than nothing’ criteria, but that would mask the perverse
lack of political will in the face of resources, strong civil society, and a favourable international
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Appendix A
List of Interviews
Position & Organization
Interview # 1
Lawyer and social worker at AMNLAE (Asociación de Mujeres
Nicaragüenses ‘Luisa Amanda Espinoza’)
Interview # 2
Professor at UCA (Universidad Centroamericana)
Interview # 3
Ana Margarita Vijil, lawyer and member of MRS (Movimiento Renovador
Interview # 4
Employee at FEV (Fundación Entre Volcanes)
Interview # 5
Azahalea Solis, vice-president of MAM (Movimiento Autónomo de Mujeres)
Interview # 6
Economist & sociologist at FIDEG (Fundación Internacional para el
Desafió Económico Global)
Interview # 7
Vice Mayor & Director of GPC (Gabinete del Poder Ciudadano)
Interview # 8
Sofia Montenegro, journalist and director of CINCO (Centro de
Investigación de la Comunicación)
Interview # 9
Maria Joseta Rivera, Director of MEC (Movimiento de Trabajadoras y
Desempleadas ‘María Elena Cuadra’)
Interview # 10
Maria Elena Dominguez, Lawyer and member of RMCV
(Red de Mujeres Contra la Violencia)
Interview # 11
Program Director, Oxfam Intermon
Interview # 12
Deborah Grandison, Procuradora Especial de la Mujer
Interview # 13
Employee at MAGFOR, Ometepe (Ministerio Agropecuario y Forestal)
Interview # 14
Employee at Caruna, Rivas
Interview # 15
Tabatha Parker, Executive Director of NDI (Natural Doctors International)
Focus Group #1
Beneficiaries of Hambre Cero, Balgue
Focus Group #2
Beneficiaries of Hambre Cero, Santa Cruz
Focus Group #3
Beneficiaries of Usura Cero, Moyogalpa
Focus Group #4
Beneficiaries of Usura Cero, Altagracia