CAFOD partner Mary Barreda Association is providing a special protection programme for girls who are vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation in the city of León, Nicaragua. Additionally, Mary Barreda is running sessions with the local community to help raise awareness about HIV and AIDS and tackle domestic violence.
The combination of poverty, mistreatment of women and family breakdown in Nicaragua has led to increasing numbers of women and young girls engaging in commercial sex work. León is Nicaragua’s second largest city and is a hub for the trafficking of women and children.
In this challenging context, CPL Aromas has been supporting Mary Barreda’s important work since 2011. During this time, our partner has been able to enrol 73 girls vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation onto its special protection programme. The girls have been given one-to-one therapy as well as group activity sessions, encouraging them to recognise their self-worth, feel empowered, reconnect with their families and find alternative ways to earn a living.
Silvia’s story is 20 years old and a graduate of the Mary Barreda programme.
‘It has meant a lot because my self-esteem was really low, I shut people out. When I came to the project I learnt many things...I had stopped studying, but through the programme they helped us to fight for our dreams and set our goals. They helped me to get back to school, to understand my rights as a woman, as a person. They helped me to get to where I am today, with a job. One of my goals was to get a stable job, which I have now. Another goal was to have my own home, and now I have my land, I just need to build the house. Another goal was to help my mum build her house. The only goal I have yet to achieve is to continue my studies.’