(WOMENSENEWS)–A 70-year-old California nurse-midwife, now emerged from hiding, says she plans to reopen her rural clinic, despite continuing government efforts to deport her. In a case that sparked an outpouring of international interest, health-care activist Dorothy Granada fled to avoid arrest by an enraged Nicaraguan government.
“This case has given women motivation, and a spark of hope that all is not lost,” Granada said in a recent telephone interview from Managua, after emerging from two months of hiding to evade government arrest.
“We are getting back some of the revolutionary hope,” she added.
Granada, director of the Mulukuku women’s clinic for 10 years, said she plans to reopen it in about two weeks. It was closed after she disappeared from view more than two months ago after armed police tried to arrest and expel her from the country.
The government, facing national elections next year, has accused Granada of illegally taking part in political activities to undermine the government and promote the return of the opposition Sandinistas. She denies assisting the Sandinistas but her clinic serves an impoverished area where many support the opposition movement.
Anti-government activities by a foreign is grounds for expulsion.
Granada said she hopes her case has been the impetus for change. She recounted being on a Managua television show last week when one man called up and said, “I am a liberal, and I am ashamed.”
With the spotlight on her case, the reopening of the clinic and prospects for a national election next year, she said positive change and more freedom may come to Nicaragua.
Granada’s case generated an outpouring of domestic and international support, including a protest letter to President Arnoldo Aleman from 32 members of the U.S. Congress. Thousands of Nicaraguans took to the streets to support Granada and denounce the deportation effort.
Anemia, Cervical, Uterine Cancer Take the Lives of Many
“Our main goal is to make an impact on the large number of women who are dying for lack of reproductive health care,” Granada said. She explained that many poor women have a child every year and suffer serious anemia. Many also suffer from cervical and uterine cancer from lack of reproductive health care. Her clinic provides women’s services, as well as general medical care to the population. It also gives financial assistance and legal advice, helps in cases of domestic abuse, arranges housing and even runs a literacy program.
After a federal appeals court ruled that the government had denied her rights to due process and hence could not deport her, the government desisted from trying to track her down.
But the anti-choice Aleman government has not giving up trying to rid itself of the high-profile woman who has been a thorn in its side. Granada has attracted international support and financial backing for the clinic, while embarrassing the government.
The government is appealing the case to the Nicaraguan Supreme Court. This time, Granada is expected to receive a hearing for the first time, although a hearing is required by deportation procedures.
Whatever happens in court, Granada does not expect the government to renew her visa after it expires on Sept. 9. She said she plans to return to the United States and continue to raise money for the clinic.
Foreign Donations Critical To Finance Women’s Health Care
“Poor women will never be able to pay for their health care programs or illness protection,” Granada said, so they must rely on funding by a network of individuals, women’s clinics, nurses and foreign delegations. “Basically, we fly by the seat of our pants,” she said. Granada said that though the clinic needs foreign resources, “in terms of running the clinic, the clinic runs beautifully.” One campesina is currently in medical school and another is in nursing school. Both of them plan to return to Mulukuku to work in the clinic.
The government accuses Granada of performing abortions, which are illegal in Nicaragua. She denies this. She was investigated, but no evidence was found and she was never charged.
Trying To Help Women To Lead Lives of Dignity, Equality
Granada has successfully encouraged many women, including prostitutes, whom she calls sex workers, to insist that their partners wear condoms. “It’s all part of women rising up and claiming their right to be dignified,” she said.
“We’re trying to accommodate the campesinas so that they can have a life of dignity and realize that they are equal members of society and of the planet with men,” Granada said.
Life is hard, pregnancies are frequent, health care is minimimal. Dying at age 30 is not uncommon for a Nicaraguan campesina, Granada said.
Uterine cancer and cervical cancer are serious problems. Many women have the human papiloma virus, known as HPV, which may develop into cervical cancer. The staff monitors the virus with pap smears. Previously, the clinic only could remove early stage cancerous cells with frozen nitrogen. The clinic often sees tired, undernourished and too-often-pregnant women who stay anemic. Some lack the strength to expel a placenta. Many bleed to death.
The attention the clinic has received has resulted in additional financial support so that when it reopens, the Mulukuku clinic will have new instruments to treat advanced stages of cancer, an air-conditioned prefabricated room with one operating table and two recovery beds. Volunteer surgeons will visit the clinic to perform a range of surgeries, including eye surgery.
Stacey Kramer is a journalist based in New York.
To read earlier WEnews articles on Dorothy Granada:
U.S. Nurse-Midwife Now Hiding in Nicaragua:
U.S. Nurse-Midwife Comes Out of Hiding in Nicaragua: