We are thrilled to share a blog post written for CAMY and WINGS by our Youth Specialist in Cobán, Alta Verapaz, 23-year-old Fidelia Chub. Read on to learn about WINGS’ work with youth and the fight to engage local authorities in protecting young people and their rights.
To support WINGS’ work with youth, make a tax-deductible contribution to our #WINGS4YOUTH year-end campaign and change young lives!
On October 5th, Emily Barcklow, Central America & Mexico Youth Fund (CAMY) Program Officer and Gloria Diaz Jaso, CAMY Scholarship Recipient, joined WINGS on a visit to San José, a semi- urban community 10 minutes outside Cobán, Alta Verapaz. They were able to attend an informational talk for youth in the community given by Byron de La Cruz, a WINGS’ Youth leader. Byron began volunteering earlier this year as Youth Leader in our project supported by CAMY due to his desire to help his peers avoid teenage pregnancies.
By the time we arrived, 11 young women and men had showed up to listen to Byron’s talk. The topic for the workshop was, “Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention, Reproductive Risk and Family Planning.” Byron had asked a local family if he could host the talk in their backyard and they were more than happy to let the youth use the space. During the talk, the youth who arrived were very active and participative, asking questions when they had doubts.
Upon returning to the WINGS office, Emily, Gloria and I talked about several areas of improvement and plans to continue with the current project. Something that we recognized was the diversity of young people in the area because the ones who attended to the talk that day were completely different from the girls from a Tanchí village that CAMY visited in March: the girls from the village were timid and had trouble expressing themselves. We concluded that when you are close to the municipal capital, you have greater opportunities to receive information which makes youth in those areas more active. Thus, it’s necessary to make sure the same information and services exist at the community level to promote development not just for one group, but for all people.
We also talked about other project activities completed in the last few months. For example, in August and September we organized advocacy activities in various municipalities to celebrate International Youth Day and the Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Day.
In August, we also participated in the regional meeting for youth and teenagers called “Advocating for My Rights” in partnership with Plan International, the Network of Youth Organizations of Alta Verapaz (ROJAV), Youth Bureau of Cobán, Paz Jóven, and Social Cooperation Institute (ICOS). Several youth from the participating institutions joined WINGS’ youth leaders in the meeting. This two day event included a rally, artistic activities, and a forum with the local authorities and aspiring congressional deputies, to motivate young people and the invitees.
During the meeting, two forums were hosted – the first one with Ministry of Health and Municipal Youth Office representatives, and the second with four deputies participating in the October election. The youth were very engaged and asked the various representatives and aspiring politicians, “what have you done to prevent teenage pregnancies?” and “what will you do to support youth if you are elected to the Congress?” This was a productive space for the youth to advocate for their rights in front of local authorities and future congressional figures.
©Photo by CAMY Fund
Similarly, during September and October we hosted a roundtable discussion in San Cristobal Verapaz with local authorities. Although we had organized roundtable discussions in Santa Cruz Chisec, the local authorities did not arrive. Seeing the lack of interest from local authorities was extremely discouraging to the youth and teachers participating in the roundtables.
Some of our Youth Leaders expressed disappointment because some local leaders do not have any interest in young people and do not want to invest in youth. We realize how important it is to continue informing and sensitizing young people about the rights and existing laws that protect them. We agreed that next year, we will continue implement advocacy activities to show the authorities that now young people are demanding their rights.
Thanks to Nicole A. Otis and Clara Avila for helping with the translation!
Don’t forget to visit #WINGS4YOUTH campaign page and give a gift that gives back!
|Many families here survive on a few tortillas a day|
Although there are numerous structural, cultural and environmental obstacles that must be addressed to end malnutrition in Guatemala, family planning has been identified as a critical tool the government can use to prevent its increase. The equation is simple: fewer mouths to feed = more food to go around, even in the most desperate of circumstances.
Here Lester R. Brown of IPPF (International Planned Parenthood Foundation) highlights the urgent need to address the global community’s rapid growth in population. WINGS provides reproductive education and access to family planning services in Guatemala to allow families to chose the number of children they wish to have and when. This not only empowers individual families and communities, but significantly alleviates the strain on already stretched state and environmental resources.
When it comes to population growth, the United Nations has three primary projections. The medium projection, the one most commonly used, has world population reaching 9.2 billion by 2050. The high one reaches 10.5 billion. The low projection, which assumes that the world will quickly move below replacement-level fertility, has population peaking at eight billion in 2042 and then declining.
If the goal is to eradicate poverty, hunger, and illiteracy, then we have little choice but to strive for the lower projection.
Slowing world population growth means ensuring that all women who want to plan their families have access to family planning information and services.
Unfortunately, this is currently not the case for 215 million women, 59 per cent of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian subcontinent.
These women and their families represent roughly one billion of the earth’s poorest residents, for whom unintended pregnancies and unwanted births are an enormous burden.
Former U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) official J. Joseph Speidel notes that “if you ask anthropologists who live and work with poor people at the village level…they often say that women live in fear of their next pregnancy. They just do not want to get pregnant.”
The United Nations Population Fund and the Guttmacher Institute estimate that meeting the needs of these 215 million women who lack reproductive health care and effective contraception could each year prevent 53 million unwanted pregnancies, 24 million induced abortions, and 1.6 million infant deaths.
Along with the provision of additional condoms needed to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, a universal family planning and reproductive health programme would cost an additional 21 billion dollars in funding from industrial and developing countries.
Shifting to smaller families brings generous economic dividends. In Bangladesh, for example, analysts concluded that 62 dollars spent by the government to prevent an unwanted birth saved 615 dollars in expenditures on other social services. For donor countries, ensuring that men and women everywhere have access to the services they need would yield strong social returns in improved education and health care.
Slowing population growth brings with it what economists call the demographic bonus. When countries move quickly to smaller families, growth in the number of young dependents – those who need nurturing and educating – declines relative to the number of working adults.
At the individual level, removing the financial burden of large families allows more people to escape from poverty. At the national level, the demographic bonus causes savings and investment to climb, productivity to surge, and economic growth to accelerate.
Japan, which cut its population growth in half between 1951 and 1958, was one of the first countries to benefit from the demographic bonus. South Korea and Taiwan followed, and more recently China, Thailand, and Viet Nam have been helped by earlier sharp reductions in birth rates.
Although this effect lasts for only a few decades, it is usually enough to launch a country into the modern era. Indeed, except for a few oil-rich countries, no developing country has successfully modernized without slowing population growth.
Though many developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America were successful in quickly reducing their fertility within a generation or so after public health and medical gains lowered their mortality rates, many others did not follow this path and have been caught in the demographic trap – including Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Yemen.
(Large families are a greater financial burden on both parents and governments, and more impoverished people and societies tend to produce larger families. Thus they become “trapped” in a cycle of poverty and high fertility.)
Countries that do not succeed in reducing fertility early on face the compounding of three percent growth per year or 20- fold per century. Such rapid population growth can easily strain limited land and water resources. With large “youth bulges” outrunning job creation, the growing number of unemployed young men increases the risk of conflict. This also raises the odds of becoming a failing state.
Put simply, the costs to society of not filling the family planning gap may be greater than we can afford.
The good news is that governments can help couples reduce family size very quickly when they commit to doing so. My colleague Janet Larsen writes that in just one decade Iran dropped its near-record population growth rate to one of the lowest in the developing world.
When Ayatollah Khomeini assumed leadership in Iran in 1979 and launched the Islamic revolution, he immediately dismantled the well-established family planning programmes and instead advocated large families. At war with Iraq between 1980 and 1988, Khomeini wanted to increase the ranks of soldiers for Islam. His goal was an army of 20 million.
Fertility levels climbed in response to his pleas, pushing Iran’s annual population growth to a peak of 4.2 percent in the early 1980s, a level approaching the biological maximum. As this enormous growth began to burden the economy and the environment, the country’s leaders realised that overcrowding, environmental degradation, and unemployment were undermining Iran’s future.
In 1989 the government did an about-face and restored its family planning programme. In May 1993, a national family planning law was passed. The resources of several government ministries, including education, culture, and health, were mobilised to encourage smaller families.
Iran Broadcasting was given responsibility for raising awareness of population issues and of the availability of family planning services. Television was used to disseminate information on family planning throughout the country, taking advantage of the 70 percent of rural households with TV sets. Religious leaders were directly involved in what amounted to a crusade for smaller families.
Some 15,000 “health houses” or clinics were established to provide rural populations with health and family planning services. Iran introduced a full panoply of contraceptive measures, including the option of vasectomy – a first among Muslim countries. All forms of birth control, including the pill and sterilisation, were free of charge. Iran even became the only country to require couples to take a course on modern contraception before receiving a marriage license.
In addition to the direct health care interventions, Iran also launched a broad-based effort to raise female literacy, boosting it from 25 percent in 1970 to more than 70 percent in 2000. Female school enrollment increased from 60 to 90 percent. Women and girls with more schooling are likely to have fewer children, making their education a smart investment.
As a result of this initiative, family size in Iran dropped from seven children to fewer than three. From 1987 to 1994, Iran cut its population growth rate by half, an impressive achievement.
The bad news is that in July 2010 Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared the country’s family planning programme ungodly and announced a new pronatalist policy. The government would pay couples to have children, depositing money in each child’s bank account until age 18. The effect of this new programme on Iran’s population growth remains to be seen.
Nevertheless, Iran’s history shows how a full-scale mobilisation of society that incorporates public outreach, access to family planning resources, and gender equality in education can accelerate the shift to smaller families.
Source: Lester R. Brown, Interpress service, 12 April 2011
A huge thank you to all those who came to our 10th Anniversary party here in Antigua a couple of weeks ago. The night was a great success and marked a warm celebration of WINGS’ achievements over the past 10 years in providing Guatemalan families with access to family planning education and reproductive health services. It is a prime time for all of us to reflect not only on how far WINGS has come, but the challenges that lie ahead in meeting the growing demand for our vital services.
As part of this time of reflection, I asked WINGS’ Executive Director, Janeen Simon, for her thoughts on WINGS’ development and future:
“It all starts with family planning… I am not just talking about using birth control methods. In facing the multitude of social crises that exist today it is imperative to carefully plan our futures and safeguard what is most near and dear to us. The team at WINGS has carefully designed a holistic approach to help the Guatemalan society take control of one of the most important aspects in everyone’s lives – their families. After 10 years of practice and the combined efforts of an incredibly talented team, I feel that WINGS can offer our beneficiaries the information and tools that they need to make responsible decisions that will allow their families to thrive and have the opportunities that healthy, well-educated children normally have. I am proud of what we have accomplished and feel WINGS is perfectly positioned to continue supporting Guatemalan families to ensure that all pregnancies are planned and rejoiced, and that all people of reproductive age are healthy and making wise choices for themselves. Please take a moment to celebrate these past 10 incredible years and to wish us bon voyage during the next phase of our journey!”
We hope that supporters like you will be inspired by her words and will take time out this year to celebrate WINGS. In particular, we hope you will consider holding an event in honor of WINGS to raise awareness of the importance of family planning and reproductive health in tackling a multitude of global issues.
We have posted an event planning guide and other support materials on our website at http://wingsguate.org/en/getinvolved/10thanniversary and are here to help support you every step of the way. Please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
Luciana, a 38 year-old housewife, lives in a remote Guatemalan village with her husband and their 5 children. Scarce jobs and limited access to farm land in their region make it a daily struggle to put food on the table; any more children would prove an impossible strain. Luciana had not been able to access family planning services until a WINGS nurse came to her community to give a reproductive health and family planning charla, or talk. There, for the first time, Luciana learned about the importance of family planning and the types of methods available. Afterward, she spoke privately with the WINGS nurse to discuss her options and understood that because of her age any more pregnancies could prove dangerous