Haitian Child

Haitian Child

Friday, January 6, 2012

Poverty, Child Labor, Child Prostitution

Poverty in Nicaragua is a serious obstacle to social progress.

During 2002 to 2007, only half of the children who started grade one finished primary school. Children did not finish school because of school fees the family could not pay or because the child quit to work and help support the family. Farms and mines regularly use child labor. Since Ortega was re-elected in 2006, the school fees have been free, so hopefully this will improve.

About half of the adult households in Nicaragua do not have an adult male present. Marriage is not an expected outcome for relationships.

During my first trip to Nicaragua in October 2010 I rented a residence and the owner provided a woman to cook and a man to care for the grounds.

The woman was in her mid-twenties, good looking, spoke much better English than I spoke Spanish, and her cooking was terrific. I was interested to learn about the country and asked her a lot of questions. She was not married but she had three children, each with a different father. One father was Nicaraguan, one was German, and one was American. The German had stayed in Nicaragua for a year or so. The American was a GI who had visited the country. The mother was not embarrassed to explain about three fathers and three children. She was pleased about the two foreign fathers because both sent money to provide support for their illegitimate child. The youngest child was a 13 month old infant and the mother was planning to send the child on an airplane to the US to spend a month with the single father who was still living in the home of his parents. Presumably the paternal Grandma was the designated care person. A non-related Nicaraguan who was traveling to the US accepted the responsibility to care for the in-transit infant. I was appalled, but the mother didn't blink an eye as she told me this story. I wondered if perhaps she expected, or perhaps hoped that the baby might remain in the US? The German and American fathers provided dollars and Euros and this was what was important. After the first few days in Nicaragua, I realized that the woman was flirting a bit with me and I wondered if I had been identified as potential father and supporter number four?

This mother's values were very different than mine, but I realized I should not judge her by my standards.  She was part of an emerging Nicaragua middle class. She was bilingual. She was self supporting. Her children were well fed and clothed and the oldest attended school. Perhaps the baby will be raised up in the US? I am fairly sure her children will be more successful for her efforts.

Other mothers sell their children into prostitution to earn money. Which is better? Should the mother prostitute herself for her children, or should the mother sell her children into prostitution?

Daniel Ortega, the President of Nicaragua, is a known philanderer, apparently with the full knowledge of Rosario Murillo, his partner of four decades. Worse, he has been accused of sexual abuse by his wife's daughter, who in 1998 accused Ortega of molestation and rape from the time she was 11 years old. Amazingly, her mother supported Ortega and she continues to support him notwithstanding these allegations. The support implies tacit approval of Ortega's actions, which no one apparently doubts. In Nicaragua, men sometimes claim sexual rights over a daughter from a previous relationship. When the leader of the country models this behaviour, what can we reasonably expect from the men of the country?

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