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Victimized woman finds her voice serving community

Find out how Ana Marcela Gutiérrez transformed her life through leadership

By Giselle Alemán | CCFC communications manager, Nicaragua

Many Nicaraguan women form the pillar to a successful society by staying home and taking care of their family while living a life of anonymity.

That’s how things were for Ana Marcela Gutiérrez (pictured in yellow). Born to humble parents, she studied accounting but left her career when she married more than 20 years ago. “I became a mother of two boys, but the first few years of marriage weren’t as I had imagined,” she confesses. “I [experienced] domestic violence. Those years were very hard…. My world was reduced to the four walls of my house; my husband wouldn’t let me go out alone on the street or talk to anyone.”

The situation changed unexpectedly. “One day, [my husband] was selected as a community leader, and he made me accompany him to every meeting.... What he didn’t know was he was [securing] my freedom,” she recalls.

As work demands escalated, Gutiérrez’s husband asked her to attend meetings on his behalf. Gradually, the homemaker took on a more active role in the community, and people started asking for her help — a community leader was born.

Gutiérrez received CCFC’s support through Masaya-based Asociación Casa Ave María, a local partner. Through this network, eight committees representing eight communities coordinate responses to emergency situations with authorities and empower leaders to improve school infrastructure, address local sanitation issues and organize preventative health campaigns, among other duties.

That’s where Gutiérrez steps into the picture. The budding activist was trained and attended CCFC workshops. “The workshops addressed the problems at home, and my perspective completely changed,” she says. “My main problem had been lack of self- esteem. But once empowered, working for my community, undertaking projects and leading processes in the neighbourhood, I realized I was a valuable woman who had rights. So I began to demand to be treated with respect and dignity; I [invited] my husband to the training. Together we began to break the cycle of violence.”

Since becoming involved in her community 10 years ago, the leader has improved water and sanitation infrastructure, initiated street paving and promoted community clean-ups, among other initiatives. “The key to my success is seeking reconciliation in the community and keeping my word — that has made people trust me.”

But, perhaps the biggest benefit of becoming a community leader may be a more personal accomplishment. “Now I realize I’m worth it,” says Gutiérrez.

Family love: (above) Gutiérrez’s mother and son are part of her new larger community network

For more on this story...

From victimized housewife to community leader