Hope Floats for Nicaraguan Youth


Photo © Juan David Granda Aranda 

Deyra navigated her family tour boat business to success with training from a Canadian-funded employment project benefiting 12,000 youth.

By Enmanuel Castro, Communications Manager at Children Believe Nicaragua

Deyra was a promising industrial engineering university student in Managua, Nicaragua’s capital, when her scholarship funding abruptly ended in 2019. Unable to continue her courses, Deyra shifted her focus to her family’s boat tour business in Granada — one of the country’s biggest tourist destinations — on the shores of Lake Nicaragua.

“I learned to drive boats, and guide tourists around the lake and the islets. That’s how I was earning an income to support my family and save for school,” says Deyra. “It was a challenge for me because, in my culture, this is considered men’s work. I knew I needed to make money but I was ashamed of my job.”

The business was struggling in March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic devastated tourism in Nicaragua. The number of foreign visitors dropped by more than 67 per cent, and tourism income fell by $315 million (61 per cent) between 2019 and 2020, according to a Central Bank of Nicaragua report.

With fewer tourists visiting the lake, Deyra knew she couldn’t save enough to go back to university any time soon. She had to find a way to improve her employment situation, but she faced difficulties. Youth in Nicaragua are affected by numerous barriers to employment, including skills deficits, a lack of knowledge, expertise and information about job opportunities, as well as discrimination based on social status, ethnicity and gender.

Fortunately, Deyra learned about Children Believe’s innovative youth employment project called EMPUJE, (“push” in Spanish.) Today, she is one of the 12,000 Nicaraguans aged 15 to 30 (including 7,200 women) who are being trained and prepared to find jobs and develop small businesses. As a result of the project, participants have established or expanded 115 small businesses in the last two years, including chicken farms, esthetician services, traditional fast food outlets and tourism services, like Deyra’s family boat tour company.

A five-year initiative funded by Global Affairs Canada, EMPUJE leverages local training, technology and trades. The project provides youth with business and life skills training, as well as technical vocational training, and it is implemented by Children Believe in collaboration with the Nicaraguan National Institute for Vocational Education, and other local partners. The tailored activities enable project participants to grow and thrive in their own communities, break gender stereotypes, create networks and connect with opportunities offered by local corporations and businesses.

nicaraguan youth
© Juan David Granda Aranda

“I found myself, thanks to the project,” says Deyra, who is now 26. “I learned that women can do any job. It definitely changed my perspective, and I started to enjoy my job at my family’s business. Now, I’m breaking gender stereotypes through the work I do.”

As part of the project, Children Believe created an online platform where participants can take free training from anywhere their computers or mobile phones have an internet connection. Leadership, assertive communication, time management and stress management are among the valuable topics covered in the 13 training modules offered.

EMPUJE will also soon launch Krezco (“I grow” in Spanish), an online platform set up for project participants where they can access exclusive employment opportunities with companies that support gender equality and inclusive policies for youth.

“Private companies want to be strategic partners for youth trained through EMPUJE, as these young people will be the next leaders, the next managers,” says Ulises Tapia, the manager of a popular restaurant that offers opportunities for EMPUJE participants. “We want to help them to gain experience in the labour market and better understand gender-inclusive policies. This kind of program prepares youth to build a better Nicaragua.”

Deyra is convinced that she now has the skills needed to grow her family’s small business. She plans to improve the boat garage, expand the tour operation and promote the business internationally.

“The biggest impact the project had on my life has been getting to know myself and my abilities,” says Deyra. “My parents are proud of me because they know that I don’t give up despite challenges. My story is an example for other young women that there are no gender limitations when you want to do a job.”

For more information about EMPUJE and Children Believe’s global work empowering young dreamers to access education, overcome barriers and be a voice for change, visit www.childrenbelieve.ca.

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Children Believe supports children around the world to overcome barriers and access education so they can be a voice for change.


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