By Olga Moraga “I’m here because of my good decisions,” she says. “What do you mean ‘good decisions’?” I ask her. “For two years now I’ve been out of prison where I served time for a homicide I committed when I was 16 and now I’m trying to behave myself,” she explains. “I’ve taken up studying again and I’m in third year of secondary education in Bluefields.”
The girl I’m talking to is Yoriko (a fictitious name to protect her identity), who comes from Chontales and is the descendent of a Japanese great grandmother. She is one of the two girls who participated along with 33 adolescent boys with behavioural problems in a workshop on masculinity and the prevention of violence with the aim of working on self-esteem, gender equity and violence prevention.
“All of my companions in this workshop justified their macho sexism at the beginning because according to them all men are like that,” she recalls. “It’s their way of demonstrating their manhood. Now it’s clear to me that machismo generates violence.”
There are 17 juvenile penal courts in Nicaragua that are responsible for examining the cases of adolescent offenders judged through the juvenile penal justice defined in the third chapter of the Legal Code for Children and Adolescents. Yoriko received the maximum sentence contemplated by the law for the crime she committed.
“They say I was the first adolescent girl imprisoned for the homicide of another adolescent girl,” she explains. “I didn’t want to kill her; I lost my head and stabbed her with the same knife she used to do this to me.” Yoriko shows me a scar on her forearm.
“It’s hard for me, particularly because I live in the same neighbourhood,” she says. “But people have seen that I’ve changed. I’m a different person now and I have the right to rebuild my life. I’m studying in the third year of secondary school. At school, nobody knew about my past until a girl from the neighbourhood started spreading the word. I was called to the school management and they asked if it was true. I told the director the truth but said they couldn’t throw me out of school for that because I had the right to study as well. At the end of the talk he told me I was right and didn’t make me leave.”
The masculinity and violence prevention workshop was developed by the Juvenile Penal System’s Technical Follow-Up Office (OTSSPA), the Juvenile Penal Court and the National Police’s Juvenile Affairs Directorate. The three-day activity was held in the National Police’s Young for Change centre in the city of Bluefields in Nicaragua’s Southern Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region.
UNICEF is supporting these workshops as part of the regional End Violence programme through the Supreme Court of Justice and the National Police’s Juvenile Affairs Directorate. The idea is to reflect with adolescents with behavioural problems on issues such as gender equity, new masculinities and peaceful conflict resolution and encourage them to change their behavior, which will have an impact on their own lives, their families and their communities.