dayanaraDayanara, a woman from Nicaragua, came out to her family as transgender when she was a teenager. Ostracized by her parents and siblings, and thrown out of her home, Dayanara became a sex worker to support herself financially.

She lived on the streets for years, developed a drug addiction and ended up in prison, where she was raped repeatedly.

When Dayanara was released, she learned about the Association for Transgender Nicaraguans (ANIT), an organization supported by AJWS that primarily advocates for the rights of trans women—people like Dayanara who have been viewed by society as men but understand themselves to be women. Many trans women in Nicaragua are HIV-positive and have faced relentless discrimination and bigotry from their families, schools, employers, health care providers and religious communities.

Dayanara connected with ANIT’s leaders who encouraged her to get tested for HIV. After learning that she tested positive, she made a commitment to turn her life around.

Now, at 29, Dayanara is finishing her high school degree and is one of ANIT’s community leaders. Together with other activists, she is working to increase access to legal justice for transgender people who have been victims of violence. She also conducts trainings with health providers and police officers to equip them with the knowledge and skills to end discrimination against LGBT Nicaraguans.

Supporting women like Dayanara is the goal of the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA), a piece of legislation recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. IVAWA would ensure that anti-violence programs meet the needs of vulnerable communities—including trans women—whose experiences of violence are often under-reported or rendered invisible.

Lastly, IVAWA would put the full force of the entire U.S. government behind Dayanara and women like her worldwide, by making it a top U.S. diplomatic priority to stop violence against women and girls.