St. Pete-based NGO aids Nicaraguans in improving their lives

The Acahual Women's Center works with women who have suffered from domestic violence and prostitution, holding self-esteem workshops. They also treat women with uterine cancer, which Bonilla says has greatly affected her community because of the infections that derive from sexually transmitted diseases.

A year ago at a commission on the human rights situation of women in Nicaragua, it was reported that there were 940 cases of domestic violence every month in the country of approximately 6 million people. Of those instances, the Inter-American commission reported that 80 percent were committed by boyfriends, family members, stepfathers or fathers.

Bonilla herself is a survivor of both domestic violence and uterine cervical cancer. "When one has to have gone through something like this, you have a far greater awareness of trying to work with others," she told CL Monday afternoon, speaking through a translator.

She also talks about family planning at her facility, and said the goal of those who work at the Acahual Women's Center is to transmit knowledge to the community. "When people have the knowledge, they have the tools to be able to transform themselves and change."

ProNica's Lillian Hall says too many Americans live in a bubble when it comes to what's happening overseas. "I think if people learned what was going on in other countries, they would realize how privileged they are, and also realize how their lives are involved in other people's lives," she says. "We buy clothing made in sweatshops in Managua. We buy coffee grown in Nicaragua. We buy bananas grown in Nicaragua. We're linked to them, so we might as well learn something about the rest of the world, and realize that we have the ability to help people in really easy ways."

To learn more about ProNica and how you can help their cause if you're so inclined, check out their website here.

  • Maria Elena Bonilla & Lillian Hall with ProNica

Lillian Hall has a message for Americans concerned about a GOP war on women: Come to Nicaragua and see what it's like to live in a very religious and machismo land, which also happens to be the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

Hall is originally from Tucson, Arizona. She moved to Nicaragua in 1984 and thought she'd experience for a couple of years what it would be like to live in a country trying to build a new society, five years after the Somozo dictatorship was dethroned by the Sandanistas. She's been there for 28 years and counting, with no intention of moving back to the States.

Hall is with >ProNica, a small Quaker non-profit based in St. Petersburg that has been working in Nicaragua with grass-roots groups for the past 25 years on health, education and children's issues, as well as educating U.S. citizens about the relationship between the two nations.

Hall returns to the U.S. every year to give speeches and raise money and awareness for ProNica. She's been in the Tampa Bay area for the past week, joined by Maria Elena Bonilla, who works at the Acahual Women's Center based in the Nicaraguan capital of Managua.

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