Promoting and protecting women’s rights
MEC is a social movement bringing together poor women of all ages. Its intersectional approach can be seen in that it works on women’s rights and non-discrimination in a holistic way: taking actions to support women on a personal level, in the workplace and in their communities.

MEC has been effective in influencing government policy and its proposals have been accepted and turned into legislation to support women’s rights, such as on labour legislation and equal opportunities. MEC has also raised issues on women’s labour rights, sexual and reproductive rights, and the legalisation of therapeutic abortions for public debate. It has carried out consultations and been effective in getting wide support for these issues in the community.

Work on Violence Against Women (VAW)
One of MEC’s strategic objectives is to fight for the eradication of family and sexual violence. It does this by focussing on making visible the impact of VAW on the productivity of women workers and the cost to the economy of violence against them, while providing evidence of VAW as a mechanism of oppression against women.

Economic rights
In the current economic downturn multinational factories are looking to cut their labour costs by closing down in Nicaragua and moving to Asia where it is cheaper to operate. MEC has a number of programmes to promote, protect and defend the human, labour and gender rights of working and unemployed women, and also to support MEC members who have migrated to Costa Rica in search of work.

MEC is taking various actions to fight against discrimination and VAW in the context of globalisation.

Prevention
MEC has strengthened alliances with 15 women’s organisations in Nicaragua in order to defend women’s rights. They worked together to draw up a Women’s Economic Agenda, which they developed as a tool for political lobbying to push for a gender equity focus in the plans, programmes and policies of local and regional authorities and the national government.

Protection
MEC has a training centre and runs a number of courses for its members in order to raise women’s confidence and empower them with new knowledge and skills. The courses cover topics such as women’s human rights; gender; self-esteem; non violence; economic literacy; labour rights; production and the environment; sexual and reproductive rights; leadership skills; negotiation techniques; mediation and conflict resolution; and developing women’s capacities to manage economic initiatives and new skills in non-traditional occupations.

MEC also carries out a range of advocacy initiatives with the State (different Ministries and the Judiciary) on women’s rights to ensure that existing legislation and policies are implemented. MEC’s awareness-raising activities through the media are aimed at making visible women’s contribution to the economy, and the violence, inequality and discrimination that women face on a daily basis in different aspects of their lives.

Provision
MEC is implementing its strategy to give practical support to women living with violence and threatened by femicides. These include:

  • Support and friendly services for women victims of violence: in the first half of 2010, 321 women were given legal advice and 423 psychological counselling.
  • Self-help groups: by the end of 2010, 83 groups had been set up, providing educational talks, group therapy and individual support.
  • Self-defence training: 247 women have benefited from this.
  • MEC women leaders participate in commissions on women and children in their municipalities and in the Ministry of the Family.

Promotion
MEC has worked with a network of women’s organisations to draw up and present a draft bill that aims to take actions against VAW and to guarantee women a life free from violence and femicide. This draft bill followed a national consultation with 2,500 women leaders and survivors of violence, and is backed up by 21,421 signatures. It is being discussed by the Justice Commission and the Commission on Women, Children and Youth in the National Assembly.

Since 2009 MEC has run an awareness-raising campaign called: ‘For a life free from violence…change attitudes’ which is widely publicised through the radio, TV and in cinemas.

Lessons, obstacles, challenges and strengths
The MEC promoters play a fundamental role in helping the organisation to grow as a social movement by bringing in new members. They organise and inspire other women in their communities and workplace and tell them about their rights in order to motivate them to participate in local activities. They organise consultations to find out what changes their neighbours want to see and draw up proposals to present to the local council. One of their most important roles is to share their knowledge and provide support to other women, and to create networks of local women.

MEC promoters are better prepared to participate in their local authorities as a result of economic literacy training courses run by MEC (and supported by CAWN 2005–2008). The promoters are recognised by local authorities as leaders; they have direct access to local councillors and are actively engaging in municipal working groups. They have also developed good relations with the media and obtain space in the local press and radio to express their concerns.

MEC highlights the following good practice activities among its achievements:

  • Awareness of rights: closing the knowledge gap of women workers about their rights and transforming this knowledge into action. MEC measures this by the substantial increase in legal actions and demands for labour mediation put forward by workers.
  • Advocacy initiatives targeting and winning the support of the First Secretary of the National Assembly for a draft bill on violence against women and femicide, and lobbying deputies to gain their support for the measure.
  • Making alliances: working closely with other women’s organisations in joint efforts to prevent, support and eradicate VAW, and with the Women and Children’s Commission in different municipalities and the legal departments of the Public Ministry to support legal actions in cases of violence.
  • Communication: MEC has built up a network of supportive journalists and provides them with training covering issues such as how to deal sensitively with information on family violence in the media. The aim is to get more ethical reporting on cases of violence and to give publicity to the delays in getting justice for women survivors of violence.
A story of self defence

I always went to the chats they gave at MEC and had counselling with the psychologist because I was living with domestic violence. Thanks to MEC I started taking self-defence classes in Tai Kwondo. These helped me to feel well prepared to defend myself against any aggression at home or in the street.

I took the decision to stop the violence at home because it was affecting my daughter so I separated from my partner but he wouldn’t accept it. One night he attacked me while I was asleep. I woke up and, thanks to the self-defence classes, I was able to react quickly and defend myself and had a lucky escape.

If I hadn’t known how to physically defend myself I would have lost my life. Today, thanks to those classes, I am alive to tell the tale and am very grateful for all the help I have received.

Resources
Report: Diagnóstico Impacto de la Crisis Económica en la vida de las mujeres de la Zona Franca de Nicaragua
Report: Agenda Económica Concertada desde las mujeres nicaragüenses
Report: Agenda Económica desde las mujeres
Report: Anteproyecto de Ley contra la violencia hacia las mujeres

Website: www.mec.org.ni

globalisation and the feminisation of poverty globalising women's poverty and migration

MEC began in 1994 and today has a membership of 70,000 women in seven Departments of Nicaragua, who are workers in the maquila factories in the free trade zones, domestic workers, small entrepreneurs, rural women and unemployed women. MEC works to improve the quality of life of working and unemployed women in the poorest sectors of Nicaragua and fights for women's equality and in defence of their rights as women, workers and mothers.
MEC has a national assembly and a council of elected leaders and 3 thousand voluntary promoters and community leaders.

MEC holds annual dialogues with the participation of up to 1500 women workers where they debate topics concerned with the labour rights of maquila workers, such as on national labour policy from a gender perspective, equal opportunities and occupational health, and security of employment. They also discuss macro-economic issues such as the EU Association Agreement with Central America and its implications for women workers and human rights in Nicaragua in the era of global economic crisis.

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