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Girls Invest in Their Futures in Nicaragua

In a community in Nicaragua close to the border of Honduras, many girls work from a young age selling produce and products to people crossing the border. Poverty forces them to earn a living to provide for their families and pay school fees.

But by working on the streets, they are exposed to risks like exploitation, harassment, prostitution, and human trafficking.

Plan International has implemented a program called Successful and Protected to help girls working as street venders. The program equips girls from 10 different communities with the knowledge and tools they need to protect themselves from violence.

It also provides entrepreneurship and business management training, giving the girls an opportunity to start their own businesses away from the streets—allowing them to have a safer and more empowered future.

Meet some of the girls who are turning their lives around.

Salva: We learn how to protect ourselves as women

Salva has learned how to protect herself and her business.

“Mainly the program is about child protection and how to protect ourselves as women, so we are not suffering violence or being mistreated. After we learn about protection, then we learn about business management. That way we become empowered girls. We feel safe now and are sure that no one is going to abuse us.

When I was 17, I started selling beauty products. I used to go to the surrounding communities and some people would take advantage of me and didn’t pay. Now I feel better, more confident, because I’m still selling, but people don’t take advantage of me anymore. Because, if someone doesn’t want to pay for the products I tell them: I have my rights and you’re not going to steal from me!

Thanks to this project, we will do our best to make our businesses grow and use the money we make for things that are productive. Every time we came to the meetings, we came at 7 a.m. and we come with a purpose. We got up at 5 in the morning in order to be there on time. Some girls don’t want to be part of the project because you have to get up too early, but for the ones who make the effort, we have vision, it is something that’s going to help our lives and our future.

What I want for other girls is for them to be valued, taken seriously, and respected by men.”

Tumara: Our rights are not for sale

Tumara is using the proceeds earned through her business to pay for her tuition.

“Our business is selling food. We wanted to do this because we like cooking and we live on the border, so we have a lot of customers because many people cross the border each day.

I faced quite a few difficulties as a child. I had to sell products to people in the community to continue studying. I didn’t have my parents’ support, so my situation was hard. They couldn’t afford to pay for my bus fare, or for my brothers to go to school. So I started selling to pay for my own bus fare to school.

Now I feel different because I don’t sell for other people. I am going to have my own business one day and keep studying and maybe become someone important.

To be in this program is a great opportunity. Before, I had a little knowledge on how to protect myself but now I have learned more.

I have set up my business with my cousins. We are thinking that we can give the same opportunity to other young girls so they can also stop selling on the streets. For us, it’s been a great help because now we know how to look after ourselves, we know that we have rights and those rights are not for sale.”

Jennifer: The profits will pay for my schooling

Jennifer’s business profits are being used to reinvest in her business, pay her tuition, and help her family.

“I am going to set up a business with three other girls and we’re going to sell clothes. The name of our business is Fountain of Life and Hope. One girl will do the administration and the others will take care of the investment and production.

This business gives us a great opportunity because with the profits we can pay for schooling and to go to college. That way we will be able to help our families and get ahead.

Before we started learning about business management, we were taught how to protect ourselves against violence, how to prevent human trafficking, and about gender and sexuality. Everything we learned was for our own protection.

I feel more empowered because now I know how to protect myself. I feel very proud and glad about this project. I think we will be successful and protected thanks to the knowledge we have. I am very grateful for this project.

We hope our business grows and will support each other.”

Secret: This project is going to change my future

Secret hopes that Plan International’s program will empower other girls to realize their rights.

“Our business is a grocery store: a shop where you can buy goods. With this business, we hope to make enough money to pay for our schooling. I want to finish high school and then I want to pursue a career.

My mother died when I was a child. My father works from 4 a.m. to 6 p.m., so my sister and I only see him at night when he comes home. I used to go to work with my aunt selling vegetables. I also worked as a house maid so I could help my father. Those were hard moments.

Personally, I have a lot of difficulties in life. Sometimes I get bullied because I’m short. But, when I started learning about self-esteem then I began to understand more. Now I have better self-esteem and I feel good about myself, and we should all feel like that. It’s important.

I think this project is going to change my future, my life, just the fact that I’m going to have a business, it’s giving me a chance to grow. I’m very happy, and very enthusiastic.

My hope is not for myself, but for other girls who may have been exploited. I hope these other girls will open their eyes like we have and can get out of the situation they are in.”

Jacksa: Now we can teach other girls

Salva, a program participant, is staring her own food production business.

“We used to get information about human trafficking but it wasn’t the same as when we joined this project. Now I feel like we could help the other girls who are in the community and who have been exploited. Now we could teach them about all the things we have learned about our rights and gender equality.

We were taken for a trip to San Juan del Sur, where we learned from other girls who had been part of this project, and have already started their own business. That way we learned about the problems they had with their businesses. They shared ideas with us and advised us to think about who we should be partners with, how to identify which people to trust, and to be really careful if we work with credit.

We are three cousins so we get on really well. Our business will be on food production because we have good cooking abilities. It will be a nice experience to start our own business. We feel proud of it. We want to invest the profits in the business so we can grow and expand it, but we also want to keep studying. That way we can learn more skills.”

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