Labour Rights in Nicaragua’s Free Trade Zones

Promoting women’s defense of their labour rights within Free Trade Zones in Nicaragua.


Maria Elena Cuadra Working and Unemployed Women’s Movement (MEC).


Managua, Nicaragua


Violence Against Women

Project Duration:

Jan, 2017 - Dec, 2018

Project Summary


In Nicaragua's Free Trade Zones, where the maquila factories are located, women represent 85% of the workforce, with 60% of female workers between the ages of 16 and 20. Women working in these zones are more at risk to be negatively impacted in the workplace because of the precariousness of the positions themselves, unequal treatment based on gender, and a complete disregard for minimal labour protections. Many female maquila workers are victims of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse by their peers and employer.

Horizons and the Maria Elena Cuadra Women’s Movement (MEC), an organization dedicated to supporting Indigenous women and those working in the free trade zones in eight departments of Nicaragua, have partnered to address the unjust treatment against female workers who work in Managua’s notorious maquila factories. Together with MEC, we also support female maquila workers who have been victims of employers and coworkers abuse access justice and legal support. Our goal is to uncover the failure of the maquila sector to fulfill its promise of equitable economic and labor rights. 

Key Achievements

  • Educating 150 young women on the United Nations’ principles of labour and economic rights, and their rights to health and job security.
  • Providing legal support and access to case workers such as lawyers and paralegals to over 1,000 maquila workers whose rights have been violated.
  • Launching the “YES to work, but with Dignity!” media campaign to reach 10,000 Nicaraguans and highlight the daily struggle faced by female workers,
  • Hosting yearly municipal and national exchanges, which provide 600 young women with a safe space to exchange and discuss lived work experiences.