Stories of Girls’ Resistance
Denisse, Nicaragua


“The resistance should be a resistance because it allows us to realise that we must be alert, we must be united, we must continue fighting, we must practice sorority, we must be resilient but we must also take care of ourselves and not leave our lives in resistance but also knowing how to choose our fighting spaces to really be able to move forward and achieve things.”

Denisse’s Story

With emotion and connection, Denisse spoke about the pañuelo morado (purple scarf) that her sister gifted her, and the way it connects feminists worldwide  and makes us feel accompanied as we know we walk together in this effort of making a better world for each other. Her words made me feel proud. I began the same journey a few years back.

However, I also felt heaviness in my stomach when she refers to the scarf like this; “With the scarf, we take the streets, we raise our voices, and we do our activism. It has acquired a fundamental relevance and importance in an environment where they prohibit us from using our flag colours: white and blue. So, the purple scarf became the symbol of our fight. It is my symbol and it always is by my side.”

I suddenly realised the difference in our contexts. She lives under a dictatorship. Since 2018 up to this day, there has not been any safe space fr her activism. In the past, there was a fight to legalize abortion.  Back then, we suffered a lot of repression and persecution.  Today, the government can take women out of their houses and hold us under their custody.

While I listened to them talk about the topic during our meal, I couldn’t avoid asking them: What can we do to keep going, to not lose our hope, and share with other women and girls the importance of fighting for a free Nicaragua? Immediately Denisse spoke: “I was able to resist because I was accompanied by very important women in my life, and I grew side by side with them. They gave me light and hope. I was also able to continue because I had a profound wish to not be the weak one, to become someone who can face many challenges. That’s why we need to tell girls that education is fundamental, and is one of the things that they are not allowed to quit. We need to tell them that even if the current situation is difficult, they need to stick together and support each other.  They need to look for women who are organising and they need to trust completely in each other and the feminist movement.  We need to tell the girls that they are not alone. That they need to try to organise themselves in every possible space, always ensuring their safety. But without stopping their creativity. They need to find books, read a lot, manage networks so they can organise, those are the most important things to tell them.”

After listening to Denisse’s wisdom, who was several years younger than me, I felt so much admiration and curiosity to find out how her life was and how she became a  feminist.  At some point during our meal, I went behind her when I saw her leave for the patio to answer a phone call. I took my cigarettes from my purse, which gave me the perfect reason to talk to her casually.

Later that day, I confessed to her my plan to casually engage in a conversation. She made fun of me, saying that we were in a safe space where I could have asked in front of the rest and that I didn’t need to contaminate my lungs. She was so generous by sharing a part of her history.

Denisse was born in Jinotepe, Carazo, San José district, and raised with her five sisters,  mother, and father. Her mother had to migrate when Denisse was little. She remembers that she was only one year old when her mom left for the USA for the first time. Her grandmother took her under her care to the capital during the early years of her childhood. Upon returning to Jinotepe, her older sister would be the one to play her mentor’s role.

Because her mother was absent from the country and her father worked, she had too much freedom. She grew up under traditional education, expected to meet specific standards such as being good students, but enjoyed liberties related to authority figures. This allowed her to find her path. Denisse and Alondra, who is her older sister by two years, were very close from a young age. Alondra played a significant role in Denisse’s life as they participated in many spaces, took care of each other, had similar friendships, and discovered the world together.  By sharing about their realities with each other and their friends, they were able to recognise how other girls face more hardships. This antecedent helped them build a sense of conscience about their reality and need to contribute to change.

Her sister’s relationship was the first step to building a vast network with other girls, teenagers,  and women, who are now a part of her chosen family. One of them is María Martha. With her, she attended a communication workshop focused on children’s communicators at the Jinotepe MILAVF3 (Luis Alfonso  Velásquez Flores Children’s Movement). There, she participated in an audition to lead the show “We are today” that focused on talking about children’s rights. Maria and Denisse were both selected. Besides the organisation and transmission of the programs, they would have the opportunity to participate in events, reaching children from all over the country.

Denisse was involved in this process until she reached her adolescence and joined the work Desafíos Foundation. Unfortunately, she left the organisation when she turned 17 because the organisation’s Director kissed her. She recognises how, initially, she was baffled and asked herself if the action was just an affectionate gesture or if it was wrong. In the end, she was brave enough. She decided to make the situation public, letting the  Director know that she felt uncomfortable.

Cristina and Mayte, two good friends who worked at organisation, encouraged her to report the situation and make it public. Without a doubt, this was a considerable act of resistance. The Director faced a penalty and condemnation from the community. Also, Denisse’s accusation encouraged other girls to talk about sexual abuse and harassment from the Director and other men who worked at the organisation.

Leaving the Foundation left Denisse with some uncertainty as she was leading a lot of her activism from that place, but Cristina and Mayte invited her to join La Corriente. There, she met Teresa Blandon, who was in charge of the formation cycles at the feminist organisation and, later on, became her first mentor in the feminist movement.

When she joined the formation cycles, Denisse and other girls, her same age, launched self-organised collectives. One of them is the  Feminist Young Trend, a space where they could learn about women’s movements and other advocacy spaces. They would also learn about the work done by other women on different topics, such as food sovereignty.

She also mentions that learning about those realities totally changed her perspectives. She had to rethink and reimage her activism. Although Dennise’s activities were designed for the urban youth, most of the girls who attended were from rural or semi-rural areas.

Currently, Denisse is a part of Miso network, a space where she can accompany women to have safe pregnancy interruptions. Due to the current situation in their country, they had to create a contingency plan to maintain the accompaniment of women without compromising their safety and security. For example, they use technology through apps to avoid and mitigate risk. She understands the importance of accompanying women in accessing abortion because we are the ones who can make a  difference in each other’s lives.

Suddenly, once again, she is right. Maybe if it wasn’t for the support of other women, like Mayte and Cristina, Alondra and María Martha, and the learnings shared from Tere, Denisse’s history and life would be different.  Fortunately, we are not alone. Fortunately, we have each other!