Women, the State and Labour Rights Activism: The Role of Women's Organisations in Improving Labour Standards in Nicaragua
Publisher: Central American Women’s Network
Publication Date: Jan 2005
Maria Elena Cuadra (MEC) is an NGO set up in 1994 by leaders of the Women's Secretariat of the Sandinista Workers' Central (CST) trade union in Nicaragua. MEC was established in the light of the failure of the union to take women's concerns into account. As MEC is an NGO not a union, they were initially excluded from formal labour negotiations. However, the author of this article argues that MEC has been able to seize opportunities for dialogue and negotiation that may not be open to unions due to the fact that employers and the state find NGOs less threatening. Since 1994 MEC has successfully negotiated an increase in the minimum wage and conducted training for 700 human rights promoters and 300 sexual and reproductive health promoters. It also successfully lobbied for the adoption of an Ethical Code by the Ministry of Labour and Free Trade Zone (FTZ) employers. This article recommends greater mutual support between women's organisations and unions, and finding ways for women workers to negotiate more effectively with the state.