Nicaragua NGO is breaking up gangs by shining a light on machismo


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Dominant culture promotes behaviors that contribute to gang activity

Machismo helps entrench violence and worsens its effects. Souped-up notions of masculinity are not uniquely Latin, but they are rife in the region, especially among poorly educated youths. Women suffer greatly; men do at least as much. The murder rate among men aged 15-29 in Mexico and Central America is more than four times the global average for that age group, according to the UN. More than 90% of victims in the region are men; globally the average is 79%. A 2011 study of murders in Ciudad Juárez, on Mexico’s border with the United States, contends that the sadistic humiliation of victims that marks these crimes arises from the region’s corrosive understanding of masculinity.

Solution: Shame machismo behaviors to break social norms

During 15 years CEPREV says it has broken up about 90 gangs in Nicaragua by focusing on young men’s exaggerated sense of masculinity and the violence that it leads to. In 2012-13 CEPREV spent six months working in a slum adjacent to Hialeah where crime was rife. Social workers counselled gang members on their lack of self-esteem, their concepts of machismo, their broken families and their pent-up anger. They also sought to educate the police about the dangers of machismo. Citing police statistics, CEPREV claims that crimes such as mugging, theft and sexual harassment more than halved after its intervention. In neighbouring Hialeah, where CEPREV had not yet entered, crime rose 16% during the same period.

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Category: Crime


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Article by: Dave

Dave Cannon is a Seattle-based entrepreneur and consultant to nonprofits and small businesses. He loves Thai food and takes terrible photographs. You can follow him on Linkedin.
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