16-year-old Emily is one of 22 young women and men serving as WINGS’ Youth Leaders in and around the Antigua area. Through a variety of activities, informal talks, health fairs, and in-school talks, they provide their peers and youth in their communities with important, accurate information concerning sexual and reproductive health. They also provide referrals to WINGS’ youth-friendly clinic for private counseling and services with our Youth Program Coordinators and team of nurses.
Emily visited our Antigua office the other day and we took the opportunity to ask her a few questions.
Before joining WINGS Youth Program, what was your knowledge of sexual and reproductive health? Did you talk about the topic at school, with your family, with your friends?
I think maybe we were embarrassed. For me talking even a little bit about this with my friends or family, was embarrassing. Also, where I go to school, it is run by nuns. So they don’t talk about these things. But here [at WINGS] we have learned that trust is really important and we need to work on good communication. Learning about these topics helps us feel secure and more confident so we can talk with other people.
Why do you think adolescent pregnancy is so common in Guatemala? Is there a reason young people don’t use contraceptives?
Because people don’t talk about it, there is no guidance. There are also places where people don’t know contraceptive methods exist. There is a lack of trust and information. Maybe as well people lack the resources to buy and use methods.
What do you hope to change by being part of this program?
Through this program I can guide those close to me, give them information and bring them to the WINGS’ office so they can learn and receive the same guidance I have received. They can learn about the different options available. I can encourage them to seek counseling and services. Also, other youth trust us, we can talk to them about these topics and they feel comfortable, safer, able to ask the questions they have, that they wouldn’t ask an adult. Because we are the same age as our peers, we understand better what they’re thinking and feeling.
What are your plans for the future?
I am just finishing middle school and next year will start my career training. I plan on going on to college. I would like to travel and see different countries. I’d like a job where I learn many skills and where I can also keep helping and volunteering my time.
Anything else you’d like to share about your experience?
My experience, I’ve liked my time with WINGS because I feel more confident and self-aware. There are things I didn’t know before and now I do know. I like going to the different communities with Ana Lucia (Youth Program Coordinator) and providing youth information. I really like doing this work.
Through WINGS’ Youth Program, Emily has had the opportunity to learn about contraception and sexual and reproductive health.Through developing youth leadership and expanding access to information and services, we seek to create a new generation of informed young women and men who are shifting gender norms and advocating for their rights at the community level. Unfortunately, there are still too many young girls in Guatemala, particularly in remote, rural, indigenous communities, who do not have access to this information. As a consequence many become pregnant at an early age and less than 30% get to attend secondary school.
We want to change this and we’re asking YOU to step in today.
This is the moment for girls – with your help, we can reach more vulnerable girls and empower them to make their own decisions about their futures, just like Emily. Support our emergency campaign culminating on October 11th, the International Day of the Girl Child. Please hurry – there are only 4 days left!
Each donation made will be matched by a generous anonymous donor so your impact for girls in Guatemala will double!
When we think of adolescence, we tend to associate it with a period of discovery and change: growing closer to certain friends, becoming interested in different hobbies, hitting puberty, and transitioning from childhood to adulthood. In Guatemala however, the reality for many teenage girls is sadly very different. Due to lack of sexual education, sociocultural norms, and limited access to birth control, 22% of girls in Guatemala give birth before the age of 18, forcing them into adulthood too quickly. Guatemala has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Latin America and the Caribbean and is the only country in Central America where teenage pregnancy is actually on the rise.
Through its Youth Program, WINGS seeks to prevent teenage pregnancies in Guatemala and enable girls and boys to decide about their health and futures. Our program combines youth led sexual education with free sexual and reproductive health services in remote communities.
In a recent mobile clinic in San Francisco Zapotitlán, on the country’s Pacific coast, we met 21-year-old Fabiola.
Born in San Francisco Zapotitlán, Fabiola is one of seven siblings. Her mother sold vegetables and fruit in the local market to provide for her children. While her mother was working, Fabiola was in charge of the house, taking care of her younger brothers and sisters, despite being a child herself. As in many Guatemalan families, nobody ever told Fabiola about birth control. When she was 18, Fabiola had her first child. She struggled because on top of looking out for her younger siblings, she now had her own baby to take care of. At 19, Fabiola had her second child. Today, Fabiola is 21 years old and has three children. Raising her three children has not been easy: “Being a mother is a beautiful thing, but sometimes I feel like I can barely manage. I can’t afford to provide my children with everything I’d like to give them, and when they get sick, I can’t sleep because I’m worried about their well-being”.
Days before the mobile clinic, our Field Supervisor Mylin visited women in San Francisco Zapotitlán to talk about their family planning options and encourage them to attend our mobile clinic. Although Fabiola showed up, she was very scared about using birth control. In San Francisco as in many Guatemalan communities, birth control is highly stigmatized. While she was afraid that her community would judge her, Fabiola knew that she could not afford to have more children. After discussing which contraceptive options we could offer her, Fabiola chose the subdermal hormonal implant, which provides up to 5 years of protection. Fabiola said she is grateful to WINGS because now she does not have to worry about becoming pregnant again and she is ready to dedicate all her time to raising her three boys. “WINGS is one of the few organizations that has reached out to women in my community. Many of us do not have enough money to go to a big hospital and pay for expensive services. Once I told the nurses I did not have enough money for the implant, they gave it to me for free!”
During the mobile clinic, we also met Berta, a 19-year-old girl who carried her 10-month-old baby in her arms. Berta too had never learned about birth control – not even in school where teachers are legally required to provide sexual education. When Berta was 5 years old, her mother passed away. She was raised by her aunts and her father. Her family is very religious, and she was not allowed to ask any questions related to sexuality. She was very surprised when she got pregnant, as was all her family. A friend of her late mother told Berta about the mobile clinic, so Berta came in to get a subdermal hormonal implant. Berta may want to have one other child in the future, but she is happy that she now gets to choose when she is ready for that.
When asked whether she was excited about Mother’s Day, Berta’s face lit up and a huge smile spread across her face. “Yes! You know, once my own mother died, I lost all hope of ever being able to say ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ again. But now, for the first time in my life, people will be saying that to me. Even though I didn’t plan to be a mother this early, I love my son and I want to be the best mother in the world for him.”
This Mother’s Day, you can support women like Fabiola and Berta by donating to WINGS. Give a meaningful gift to a special mom today and save lives!
Visit www.wingsguate.org/mothers-day-2016 to learn more about our Mother’s Day Campaign.
For World Humanitarian Day 2015, WINGS is celebrating one of our dedicated team members. A true humanitarian who provides reproductive health education to thousands of youth, women, and men in some of the most underserved communities in Guatemala, and never loses her enthusiasm and motivation! We don’t know what we’d do without her and we know that countless families throughout Guatemala feel the same.
Meet Ana Lucia…
How did you start working with WINGS?
I started volunteering with WINGS in 2007 after having participated in a reproductive health workshop. I was so inspired by what I learned that I joined WINGS to teach other young people about sexual and reproductive health. I accepted a formal position as a Youth Educator in 2011 and since 2013, I have supervised our promoter network as a Family Planning Educator.
Tell us about the work of WINGS in Guatemala.
WINGS works to improve the lives of Guatemalan families through sexual and reproductive health education and services. We strive to reach the most remote and underserved areas, helping women decide on the number of children they want and giving them the tools to space pregnancies, with the goals of alleviating poverty and reducing maternal and infant mortality.
What are the biggest challenges facing Guatemala with regards to reproductive health?
Sexual health is still a taboo here: religion is barrier to accessing services and the education system does not help – reproductive health and family planning are not given enough attention within the education system.
What do you enjoy most about working for WINGS?
I love seeing a woman leave our clinics with the contraceptive method of her choice. It might seem like a small thing, but behind her ability to choose is a lot of effort. Our team provides information and education across the country, enabling women to make informed decisions about their own bodies; we raise funds so that we can buy and provide subsidized contraception; we work with municipal leaders and decision makers to organize numerous clinics in the communities and our team of nurses, educators, drivers, and volunteers provide their services to make these clinics a reality.
When I see women happily leaving our clinics , knowing that they can now take control of their lives and give their families a better future, this makes me really happy and proud of the work we’re doing.
And the most important part of your job…
Helping Guatemalan women. I love visiting communities, understanding the needs of women living there and then being able to help them to improve their lives through family planning. I think the most important part of my work is understanding that women have the right to freely decide if/how many children they want to have and then ensuring that they are able to make their own decisions about their reproductive health.
Why are the reproductive health services that WINGS provides so important in Guatemala?
They are important because women are dying. They are dying because they are having many children, they are not spacing their pregnancies, and have very limited access to health services. It is crucial that we continue to provide education and services and work towards a better Guatemala and a better life for future generations.
Do YOU have a question for Ana Lucía? Just ask in a comment, she will be very happy to respond!
To help Ana Lucía and WINGS reach more underserved women, men and youth and provide reproductive health education and services, please make sure you spread the word about our work with your friends and family.
To donate, follow this link: www.wingsguate.org/donate