Feminist International Radio Endeavour- fire

November 2006


Nobel Women’s Initiative:  
Statement on Women and the Nicaraguan Elections

November 5, 2006

( Jody Williams, on behalf of Nobel Women´s Iniciative, given to Feminist International Radio Endeavour)


As women Nobel Laureates we have been observing the electoral  process with serious concern for what has unfolded for Nicaraguan women.  Women representing the majority of Nicaragua’s citizens and voters,  their basic rights are vital to the wellbeing of families and communities, and thus, are a critical issue for everyone in this election.  

Nicaraguans have suffered more than their share of injustice, natural disaster, conflict and economic insecurity during the last 15 years. In fact, enduring such problems seems part of Nicaragua´s history --as does, unfortunately, endemic political corruption. Campaing tactics suggest that rather than seeking to represent women citizens fairly and responsively, women´s rights have been cynically traded for electoral grandstanding and partisan gain.    

Like many others in the international human rights community, we were shocked by the 11th hour political maneuver to ban therapeutic abortion -- making it illegal to interrupt pregnancy even when the mother’s life is endangered or the pregnancy is the result of incest or rape.  A decision was rushed through without debate, and in the face of loud protests from women, the medical establishment, and human rights leaders. The ban reverses a law that has been part of Nicaragua’s penal code for more than 100 years.  

This decision has dire consequences not only for women’s health and maternal mortality.  Carried out at the behest and in close alliance with conservative religious institutions, it sets a dangerous precedent in blurring the line between church and state that is so vital to the health of any democracy; it also undermines the rule of law and negatively impacts on women’s rights as citizens. 

Women’s rights are also under assault because of the corruption in the political system - a central electoral issue. Corruption has affected all branches of government, particularly the criminal justice system, has dire consequences for women.  A stark indication is the high incidence of domestic and sexual violence, and the absence of prosecutions of the perpetrators.  

Population -based surveys in Nicaragua have estimated that between 30% and 53% of adult women have been physically abused by a partner at some point in their lives. A minimal percentage of cases brought to the police stations reach the courts, and only a fraction of these result in jail sentences, usually only a few months long at most. This kind of life- threatening impunity and by product of corruption is evident in a number of well- publicized cases where wealthy or politically influential men have been able  to escape criminal charges for domestic violence and sexual battery.

The clear disregard for women´s basic rights and health are priority questions on the ballot today for Nicaragua´s women and girls --if not for all citizens as they should be. We urge international electoral observers,  to take these critical issues affecting the rights of nicaraguan women into account in determining the degree to which these elections can produce a democratic and legitimate government.  We express our deep solidarity and support for our Nicaraguan sisters and all Nicaraguan citizens who face this difficult moment, and hope that the outcome may somehow redirect the country toward the desperately needed path of human rights, peace and development.  (end)


Who We Are

The Nobel Women's Initiative was established in 2006 by sister Nobel Peace Laureates Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Wangari Maathai, Rigoberta Menchú Tum and Betty Williams. We five women -- representing North and South America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa -- have decided to bring together our extraordinary experiences in a united effort for peace with justice and equality.

Only 12 women in its more than 100 year history have been recognized with the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Peace Prize is a great honor, but it is also a great responsiblity. It is this sense of responsibility that has compelled us to create the Nobel Women’s Initiative to help strengthen work being done in support of women's rights around the world - work often carried out in the shadows with little recognition.

We believe that peace is much more than the absence of armed conflict. Peace is the commitment to equality and justice; a democratic world free of physical, economic, cultural, political, religious, sexual and environmental violence and the constant threat of these forms of violence against women – indeed against all of humanity.

It is the heartfelt mission of the Nobel Women’s Initiative to address and work to prevent the root causes of violence by spotlighting and promoting the efforts of women’s rights activists, researchers and organizations working to advance peace, justice and equality. By sharing a platform with these women, the NWI will spotlight their tireless work to prevent violence against women. By helping to advance the cause of women, we believe we advance all of humanity.

United by our desire to combat all forms of violence against women in all circumstances, we also recognize that specific issues for women vary around the world. One element of our work will be to sponsor international meetings of women every two years -- in a different region of the world -- to highlight issues of concern to women there. The objective of these meetings is to underscore our commonalities and differences by providing inclusive and energizing forums that ensure meaningful dialogue and networking by women’s rights activists around the world -- but with a view to action.

It is our commitment to action that brings us together. Therefore, our meetings will be linked with concrete work in the target region leading up to the conference, along with post-conference plans of action to address the issues addressed at the conference. In this way, the Nobel Women’s Initiative will support meaningful work on the ground.

We believe profoundly in the sharing of information and ideas. By networking and working together rather than in competition, we enhance the work of all. The Nobel Women’s Initiative is committed to supplementing and enhancing existing work and is determined to avoid duplicating the work of others. We want to open new ground for discussion, debate and change.

We hope you share our excitement about the potential of the Nobel Women’s Initiative to meaningfully contribute to building peace with justice and equality by working together with women around the world.


Nobel Women's Initiative
151 Slater Street, Suite 408
Ottawa, ON K1P5H3
Tel: +1 613 569 8400
Fax: +1 613 563 0682


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