Gloria*, 17, is disabled and needs support to move, eat, wash and dress. She dropped out of school after her teachers and classmates made fun of her disability.
She was sexually assaulted while alone at a relative’s house. “I don’t know who it was,” says Gloria. “Someone grabbed me and covered my face with a piece of cloth. He pushed me on the floor and raped me.”
Girls at risk of abuse
Gloria is an indigenous Miskito girl from a deprived, rural community in Nicaragua’s North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region (RACCN) which is affected by drug addiction, human trafficking and sexual violence. As a result of the problems in the region, girls are at risk and have little support. Gloria’s disability makes her even more vulnerable.
I don’t know how I will manage being a mother when I can’t even look after myself
Orphaned at 11, Gloria was adopted by her stepfather. However, her uncle insisted she live with him. “It was hell. My uncle’s wife treated me very badly. One day my uncle was going away with his family and left me .That’s when I was raped,” she says. Although she told her family what had happened, they made little effort to find the perpetrator.
After being admitted to hospital, Gloria was referred to a shelter for victims of abuse.
“When Gloria arrived she was in such a distressed state. It took her weeks to recover,” says Shira Miguel of Nidia White, a local partner of Plan International that runs the shelter. With help from the shelter and local authorities Gloria is back under the care of her stepfather.
Invisible girls need support
Plan International’s ‘Counting the Invisible’ report shows that girls like Gloria will continue to face inequality and abuse until governments collect better statistics showing the realities they face. Better information will help force the authorities to take note and act.
Gloria’s disability and associated vulnerabilities, for example, are not captured in any statistics relating to school dropouts, sexual violence, or access to healthcare. This makes all girls like Gloria more vulnerable to violations of their rights.
Gloria is due to give birth soon and is contemplating the additional challenge of caring for her child. “I don’t know how I will manage being a mother when I can’t even look after myself,” she says. “I want my child to study and get an education. This is my best hope for the future.”
*Name has been changed to protect identity