Four years of hard work and frustration eventually paid off for the Maria Elena Cuadra (MEC) Movement of Working and Unemployed Women of Nicaragua. In February 1998, 25 companies from the maquiladora industry operating at Las Mercedes Zona Franca (free trade zone) of Nicaragua signed a Ministerial Accord to adopt the Code of Ethics. The maquiladora companies agreed to guarantee and maintain respect for human and labour rights.
From the moment the free trade zone was established in Nicaragua in 1990, women maquila workers have endured physical and psychological violence. Due to legislative reforms that guaranteed protection for the maquiladora companies, there were serious violations of the country's labour code. Pregnant women were routinely fired and severance and overtime pay was frequently not paid.
Women of the Maquiladoras
Since 1994 the MEC has worked on labour issues and human rights for women workers in Nicaragua's free trade zones. Given that 85 percent of the country's 15,000 maquila workers were women, the maquiladoras became a logical place for the MEC to be active. Most of the workers were between the ages of 15 and 28. Forty-eight percent were single mothers with an average of four to five children. Most had low levels of education with limited technical skills. …