During the week culminating on October 11th, the International Day of the Girl Child, we ran a special emergency campaign focused on raising funds to empower girls in Guatemala and give them control of their futures. A generous donor offered to match all donations up to $5,000.
We received 28 donations through Generosity platform and numerous checks from supporters who wanted to contribute to the campaign.
We are thrilled to share that after adding up all donations we received through Generosity and checks that were posted to us towards the campaign, we have reached a total of $5,097!!!
After adding the matching funds, we raised $10,097 through this emergency campaign – these funds will help WINGS reach many vulnerable girls in Guatemala and help them take control of their futures.
HUGE thanks to everyone who supported this campaign – you invested in girls in Guatemala and their futures and this is an investment in the society as a whole!
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!
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
The invisible girl lives in rural areas, seldom attends secondary school, marries early and has little control over how often she becomes pregnant and how many children she has. She escapes national data because she is hard to reach and expensive to serve. Yet, she is expected to raise her children free of malnutrition, stay healthy, and contribute to the overall well-being of her community. She appears in brochures to fundraise or promote tourism, provided she’s smiling.
This girl exists to the State up to the age of two, when she’s taken for vaccination. She reappears at the age of six or seven, or whenever she gets a chance to attend elementary school. Once she completes sixth grade, she would only be counted if there is a census, or as a member of a household in one of the national surveys. She will again be eligible for a State-run program when she becomes pregnant. Sometimes the gap between leaving school and marriage is a year; sometimes it is a bit more. In the meantime, she will work at home, collaborate in agricultural production or help her family sell these products. She will be courted and will marry and move to her husband’s family home.
This persistent pattern is often labeled “inevitable” or “part of the culture” and thus relegated in the list of official priorities. Yet, we cannot claim that girls “choose” to marry and bear children early if they are not aware of other alternatives. Racism and ethnocentrism play an important role in keeping these girls invisible, and therefore irrelevant. Ignoring their needs is equivalent to planning poverty.
THE COST OF INVISIBILITY
Programs that target these girls have demonstrated that well contextualized, girl-centered planning works. Girls respond well to programs that focus on building self-esteem and skills, are rights-based and focus on their health and family planning decisions as part of a process that remains girl-centered. Girls recognize the challenges of marrying early and the hardship of having little control over their fertility. Attending school and skills-based programs constitute a protective factor that allows them to postpone their transition to adulthood.
Guatemala will not change overnight but working to make girls visible is a step in the right direction of reaching them. However, there is an ongoing bias in favor of in-school, urban youth. In Guatemala, it is easy to make a case for almost every segment of the population and rural girls have historically “lost” when programs make choices based on cost and accessibility. Today, ⅓ of rural adolescents aged eighteen and younger are pregnant or already mothers. There are services that, if minimal, are available to them. The other two thirds are home, working for little or no pay, most likely in the informal sector. Fewer than 15% will be enrolled in high school. Their chances of participating in programs, governmental or not, will decrease once they are married and have children. There is not much choice in this.
Alejandra Colom is a Senior Program Director with the Population Council, managing program activities in Guatemala, and a WINGS’ board member. You can learn more about her and her work at the Population Council.