Down to Zero Nicaragua

The Down to Zero (DtZ) program includes preventative and protective measures that focus on actual child victims and children at risk of commercial sexual exploitation. Commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) is a fundamental violation of children's rights. It consists of child prostitution, child pornography, and child trafficking for sexual purposes. The DtZ program is carried out in four countries in Latin America.

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In Nicaragua the DtZ program runs in the municipalities of San Rafael del Sur, Managua Department and Masachapa, Pochomil and Madro���������������������������������������������al, coast rural areas in the Pacific.

Poverty and violence:

Nicaragua is a small country in Central America with 5.2 million inhabitants. 30% of the population lives below the national poverty line, from which 14,6% live in extreme poverty. Nicaragua is supposedly the most secure country in the region, however, violence towards children and adolescents is increasing. The figures speak for themselves: every 4 minutes the police register a new possible criminal prosecution and every hour a sex crime. And yet many crimes are not reported or do not lead to a conviction of the offenders.

Disturbing data:

According to data of the Legal Institute of Medicine (2012), 88% of the reports on sexual violence concerne persons with an age below 18 and most of them are women. Often victims of CSEC are recruited in rural or border areas and are from indigenous or African-descendant communities. In 43% of the cases, violence took place in their own home and 24% in the house of the aggressor.


In the DtZ program we aim at teaching at-risk children and adolescents and other victims to speak out, advocate, and seek protection against sexual exploitation. Personal development plans are an important tool in the program. We motivate children and adolescents to get organized in youth let organizations that access specialized services that protect them, help them rehabilitate, reintegrate, and reduce their vulnerability to sexual exploitation.

Government and stakeholders:

We make private sector stakeholders in the tourism, mining, cement, sugar and the transportation sector aware of their role in fighting child abuse and exploitation, and make sure they amend their practices and/or business models based on ethical principles and values to actively protect children. Last but not least, the government, at all levels and in all fields, is urged to take action.
Down to Zero Nicaragua

Target group

- Children: We support at-risk children, mostly urban, including boys and girls, and child victims. The age spectrum ranges from 11-18 years.

- Communities: The Latin American region is divided in four countries, in which the municipalities are divided into communities with different political or administrative denomination depending on the size of their population.

- Government: Executive government institutions and law enforcement agencies on different levels (national and subnational, considering the existing decentralized and autonomous political organizations) are addressed through advocacy and strengthening institutional capacities and law enforcement.

- Private sector: Industries of tourism and extractive industry such as mining are addressed to collaborate with the communities and government in fighting commercial sexual exploitation of children.


All groups; children, communities, governments and the private sector are key players in the fight against commercial sexual exploitation of children and are equally important. The government ought to take more responsibility in protecting the children. Part of the project is that we lobby to make funds available by the government. In addition, communities are more aware that they should teach their children how they can protect themselves The private sector forbids sexual exploitation of children in their work areas. All these elements are likely to have a long-term impact.

Goals overview

- Political space (Outcome)
- Other (Other)

Mariana (13 years old) is a Nicaraguan girl that lives in Masachapa, a coastal town located 2 hours away from Managua, the economy of which relies on tourism and fishing. 

When she was 11, manipulated and deceived by her boyfriend, she was a victim of pornography. Because of this, she lefts school, felt shame and began to have suicidal thoughts. A story full of family violence, alcohol abuse by her father, abandonment, poverty and little social support, caused Mariana to fall into a situation of sexual commercial exploitation. 

Masachapa a beach city rife with brothels, bars, drugs and alcohol. A vulnerable zone with a deficit of basic services (water, electricity and sewage). There, Mariana lived for more than a year being sexually exploited by local fishermen, national and foreign tourists, before the tolerant and accomplice silence of the community that sees these situations as part of the “normal” dynamic in the area.

"What happened to me (CSEC) was because I was naive, but I also needed to feel supported. I have improved, but there are days I still feel very bad and dirty".

In November of 2016, the teachers of the community school connect Mariana with TESIS, nicaraguan organization that is part of the alliance DOWN TO ZERO. Since then, Mariana started to receive psychological attention from TESIS´s specialized team in order to face the problem of depression and sexual exploitation she was suffering. The psychological follow-up is carried out every day on Mariana and her family and it consists in designing with her a life project, starting with concrete actions, such as going back to school and selecting better friends. But, above all, bolstering her self-esteem and leaving behind the feelings of guilt.

One year later, TESIS states that the work with Mariana has started to give results. She returned to school and has been able to strengthen her family ties, especially to her mother, who she helps sell food to generate family income.

“Little by little, my life is changing. Now I have returned home, I used to be with my uncles but I don't trust very much. Since I started the meetings with the psychologist, i understood that it is good for me to study. I want to be better, I went back to school and get together with girls like me on Saturdays. Now, I have more friends."

Interested in partnering up or donoting for this project?

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Regional Office Nicaragua

(505) 2227-0722 Send us an email
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