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Machismo Culture and Women’s Empowerment in Nicaragua

Nicaragua is a Central American country situated between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. It has gained popularity with tourists for its coastline and variety of landscapes but, its superficial beauty masks a larger problem with women’s equality — the machismo culture. Breaking a long-standing philosophy, such as a machismo culture, has been one of the largest barriers to women’s empowerment in Nicaragua.

Machismo Culture

In Nicaragua, machismo or “macho” is often coupled with a sexist connotation that describes “machistas” as men who objectify women. To overcome the strict gender roles established by a macho society, organizations like The Masculinity Network for Gender Equality (REDMAS), have established gender equality programs in Nicaragua to begin transforming men’s “machista” behaviors. The impact of Machismo culture takes on many forms, and changing machismo behaviors is just the beginning of supporting women’s empowerment in Nicaragua.

During a forum supported by the U.N. in Nicaragua, a member of the FEM (Fundación Entre Mujeres) noted, “money has been managed by men, the gender-based division of labor is absolutely an economic relationship because work for (women) doesn’t have the (monetary) value as it has for men.”

In some Nicaraguan households, women are expected to deposit their earnings to the family patriarch and the women make much less than men in similar positions. In these households, the machismo attitude spreads to affect economic equality for women and obstruct their financial freedom.

The Road to Female Empowerment

In 2012, to counter the machismo culture and enhance women’s empowerment, the Nicaraguan government passed a legislation that requires “50 percent of political party candidates to be women.” This legislation is a large reason Nicaragua is ranked 4th in the World Economic Forum’s political empowerment gender gap.

An article naming Nicaragua “The World’s Unlikely Champion of Gender Equality” states, women are also gaining greater access to higher paying jobs, “making up more than 40 percent of lawmakers, senior officials and managers.”

In consideration of women’s political empowerment, economic opportunity, educational attainment and health and survival, the World Economic Forum has appointed Nicaragua the 10th highest nation in the global gender gap index. The nation has made immense strides to close the gender gap and combat a machismo culture. The World Economic Forum reports that “since 2006, Nicaragua has closed approximately 19 percent of its overall gender gap—making it one of the fastest-improving countries in the world.”

Thankfully, violence against women in Nicaragua has decreased, and more women are finding higher-paying jobs. Nicaragua is also ranked higher than any other Central American country on the global gender index. Efforts to counter machismo behavior have brought more than 25,000 Nicaraguans to various gender equality programs.

Although the Machismo culture is still present, the future for women’s empowerment in Nicaragua is bright.

– Eliza Gresh

Photo: Flickr