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Fostering Feminism in Nicaragua

Colleen Hotchkiss ’11 remembers when the power went out during her second day on the job at Grupo Venancia, a nonprofit that seeks to advance women’s rights in Matagalpa, Nicaragua. Unable to use the computer, she followed another volunteer’s suggestion to sit in on a workshop about female sexuality. At the workshop, while she was preparing a skit in which a radio host answered questions about sex, she glimpsed the full scope of Grupo Venancia’s mission to empower women. “I was able to share my opinions in a completely open atmosphere and hear about the types of issues facing women in the area,” she says.

A Spanish major with a concentration in gender and sexuality studies, Hotchkiss interned with Grupo Venancia courtesy of the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship this summer. By reaching out to local women through education, Grupo Venancia unites Nicaraguan women in dismantling gender inequality.

“What attracted me to Grupo Venancia was their self-identification as a popular feminist organization,” she says. The organization’s goals include empowering women, building social networks, encouraging female autonomy, and educating both men and women in Matagalpa.

Hotchkiss helped Grupo Venancia work towards gender equality in Matagalpa and beyond by creating an online archive of many of the nonprofit’s publications. “My project will make the information that Venancia provides more widely available,” Hotchkiss says. Website visitors will now have access to guides for workshops and pamphlets about women’s rights, health, and safe sex.

Even though this project, along with helping to finish Grupo Venancia’s new website, kept her behind her computer during much of the day, Hotchkiss also helped out on the organization’s many social events. In addition to workshops on themes ranging from democracy and citizenship to sexuality to meditation, Grupo Venancia stages Friday night movie screenings, Saturday night concerts, and, most recently, two gay pride events.

Hotchkiss says her work in Nicaragua has helped her understand what it means to be a feminist activist in another part of the world and has inspired her to dedicate “not only a summer, but perhaps my entire life” to women’s rights.

—Nicole Gervasio, BMC ’10

The path that leads to the Gardner Integrated Athletic Center and Whitehead Campus Center. The GIAC opened in 2006.

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