Silvia Cisneros

I grew up here in the neighborhood. Later I moved to Monseñor Lezcano where I live now, but I work here and go to church here too. I come from a small family. We are three children, a mother, and a father. I have a daughter who is 16 years old. Currently I am a single woman. I completed elementary school and high school and then I started working as a promoter about 14 years ago. In 2000 I graduated from the Univerity of Poli as a nurse.

As I woman I feel fulfilled. I had a stable relationship that lasted what it needed to. It helped me to understand the women to come to the Center with problems with their husbands. My husband and I have been separated for 7 years. The problems we had came from a lack of responsibility on his part. I would enforce the rules for our daughter and he would never help me. For this reason my daughter would often side with him. She understands our separation up to a certain point, but she still wishes that we were living together. 

My husband drives a taxi, and even though at times he earns more than me, he doesn’t help us very much with money. I can’t make him because he lies on his forms and there is no legal enforcement. For this reason I am trying to support my daughter and I on my own. I am blessed to live with my parents, so I don’t pay rent or utilities.

I don’t regret my decision to separate from my husband. Honestly I don’t miss him. When I was young I was under the control of my parents, and then when I lived with my husband I often had to compromise what I wanted for him. So I asked myself, “When am I going to give myself space for me?” I like making my own decisions. I told my husband that I had to choose between him and my work, and I chose my work. Also, I had the opportunity to go to college and he was seeing another woman.

Many women come with these same problems. In fact, theses are the problems of the majority of women who come to the Center for legal help.

I feel happy with my daughter even though adolescence is a difficult age. I never wanted a large family, but many women have a ton of children and with all of the poverty I don’t know how they do it. Milk is expensive.

I have never wanted to leave my country. I have never thought that way even though I know there may be more opportunities in other countries. What would happen if my parents were to get sick? And I also have my daughter to think of. I am pure Nicaraguan.

I began in the Center as a promoter and I took a course in nursing. They told me that at times there is no salary, but in that time I really didn’t want to be in my house. So I accepted, I fell in love with the Center, and here I am today.

In 2000 a donor gave us a scholarship so that one of the women could study, and the women decided that it should be me. Now they are suggesting that I study management too, so that might happen. Here each woman does a little bit of everything. Since there is no one to clean, Raquel and I do that. I am the nurse, but I also help Raquel with the archives, and I manage the cash register and the pharmacy, too.

Here we try to do everything we can for the women who come. If a women comes in tears without money to buy milk and beaten by her husband, we help her find resources for everything she needs. It is social work, really. We have all suffered a lot in our lives and this gives us a certain connection with the women who come here. There is also unity among the women who work here. We are like a family. For example, when Raquel needed surgery we all helped her out, even Lillian (of ProNica).

What are my aspirations for the future? To have the Center be three stories high! Or in other words, to have it be more complete. I wish we had all the services that we need right here so that we wouldn’t have to send people to other places where the services are more expensive.

Raquel Rodriguez

I grew up in Acahualinca. I can identify with the women who come to the Center because when I was 22 years old I was already a mother of three children and I took care of them by myself. Their father worked in Petronic and had to travel to far-away places. I had to work too to support my family. I began to get trained in empirical beauty (how to cut hair), taking classes from a nun in a library.

This nun told me that empirical beauty training would help me in a two-fold sense—I could eran money cutting people’s hair and I could also save money by not having to send my children to beauty salons to have their hair cut. In my free time I began to teach the skills I had learned from the nun to sex workers of my community.

Then I began to work with María Elena. We formed a small group of four women but in the end it was just the two of us. We made sheets with indigenous designs, roses, and checkered patterns. Cepac helped us buy two machines and we would work in our houses from 7 in the morning until 7 at night.

Later we enrolled ourselves in a class for promoters and began working as health promoters. At that time Norma and Silvia were working with one doctor named Saul who taught classes. María Elena and I went out into the neighborhood and delivered 100 coupons for free pap smears to women of the community. We continued with this work and we rented a place near the Preschool Pollitos where the pap smears were conducted. Later we had to leave that place and we rented another.

In 1992 we started working in the building where the Center is now but back then it only included the front portion, the clinical area. Little by little the other parts of the center were constructed. When sex workers would come to the center, they would bring their children and I noticed that their hair was very long. So I would teach the women how to cut their children’s hair over the sink with a pair of scissors and a fine comb.

But I wanted to give more formal classes and for this reason I decided in 1999 to finish high school. I received my high school degree in 2002 and then took a general beauty class in the Cultural Center of Batahola Norte, which I finished in 2003. After that I began to give formal beauty classes in the Center to mothers and daughters of sex workers and later to other portions of the population.  

Currently I am still giving beauty classes. It satifies me to know that some of the women have finished the class and now have other aspirations. I have seen their success, they tell me that they have people calling them to have their hair done and they go to their houses. They tell me, “Profesor, I have earned something, I know have a little more money, women come to look for me, and I visit their houses.” It satifies me to know that my class serves them in their futures.

In the future I want to continue to learn more in the area of beauty. I would like to take some specialized courses like hair-coloring. I would also like to take a computer class because I believe that knowing how to use a computer is important.