The luscious green of Ometepe is not quite the paradise it seems. Extreme poverty means that many residents are living on survival mode day in, day out. The economic challenges have driven large numbers to alcoholism and substance abuse, which has in turn fuelled a rise in crime, violence, aggressive behaviour and the breakdown of families.
In this environment, young people are left hopeless and young girls in particular feel powerless and marginalised. The island struggles with early marriage, unplanned pregnancies, sexual violence and intra-family violence.
Rape cases are too often ignored and offenders are rarely convicted. The girls who manage to speak up and take their case to court are often faced with an under-resourced justice system, which leads to the collapse of many cases.
AMOJO gives girls and young women access to education, work, recreation and sport with an aim to pave the way for more gender equality in Ometepe. AMOJO has set up workshops on caring for the environment, violence prevention campaigns, and raised awareness about HIV/AIDS and early pregnancy.
AMOJO also uses football as a medium to keep girls engaged. It organises football tournaments and sports activities as a tool to empower the girls and young women.
Before AMOJO, sports were considered a male-only field. Today the girls say the tournaments have changed their lives. They report feeling more hopeful. Young pregnancies among the female soccer players have dropped to zero. Sports have given the girls an incentive to stay away from alcohol and drugs, giving them the confidence they need to build a healthy life for themselves.
Encouraged by the initiative’s success, the municipality has donated kits and equipment for the sports teams and the girls’ families are becoming increasingly supportive of their involvement in football and other sports, having witnessed the incredible transformation in their daughters.
Photos: Heydi Salarza