At WINGS, we believe the key to creating lasting change is empowering people at the local, community level. For this reason, we established our Voluntary Family Planning Promoter network back in 2006. Volunteer promoters are men and women who distribute low-cost short-term contraceptives and provide quality counseling and referrals to WINGS for additional services. As our promoters are locals, they have an intimate linguistic and cultural knowledge of the communities they serve. Currently, 60 women and men serve as WINGS´ volunteer promoters throughout 11 departments.
Lucy, 24 years old, was born in Santa María Cauqué, a small village located in southern Guatemala. She is one of five siblings, and her mother is a midwife. In Lucy´s community, health services are scarce, and as a result she helped with her first delivery when she was only 7. Though Lucy was exposed to reproductive health issues at a very early age, her family and teachers never taught her about her own reproductive and sexual health. When Lucy was sixteen, she had her first baby. She shared with us that at the time she felt like she was still a child herself, not ready to have a child of her own. With little to no money, Lucy worked hard as a farmer so she could make ends meet.
One day a staff member from WINGS came to Lucy’s village to offer counseling and sexual education talks. “It is like she came into my life like a mother, to talk to me about all the things I had never learned”. From there, Lucy became very interested in working with WINGS, and was trained to become a family planning promoter. She said at first only her cousin came to her for a contraceptive method, but slowly, word traveled throughout the community and more women started to arrive. Now, Lucy has been with WINGS for six years and provides counseling and contraceptives to more than 250 women each month.
Lucy explains that her role in her community is crucial to many poor people who cannot afford health care in a private health facility. Many pregnancies in her community are the result of lack of means to pay for contraception. When discussing her role, Lucy mentions that she sees about 60 women per week. She has a form that she fills out for each of the women, to keep track of when they are due for their contraceptive method.
“Without even reading my forms, I always know when each of my patients needs her contraceptive method. I know all the ladies by name!”
Personally, family planning has been challenging for Lucy. When she started working with WINGS, her husband and mother-in-law refused to accept that she only wanted to have two children. Her husband was raised in a family of many siblings, and he told her his mother had many kids, so she should do the same. At some point Lucy’s husband even told her that contraceptives were poisonous and that he would not give her permission to use them. Lucy’s mother-in-law said, “You are a woman; you have to keep as many children as God sends you”. Lucy bravely chose to use a Jadelle subdermal implant without her family knowing. She recalls what she felt making such a big decision; “I did it because I did not want to have the same life that my parents had, and for that I am proud. I can now say that I am in a much different situation than my parents were. There used to be so much ignorance, and now I feel like I’ve reached a very successful point.”
Lucy sees the change and successes in her community. Women never used to talk about family planning. Now, the majority of women ask Lucy when she’s coordinating the next mobile clinic, or when they can stop by for counseling. Now, many want to use long-acting reversible contraception, such as the IUD or the subdermal hormonal implant, which would have been unthinkable in the past.
When asked how working with WINGS has impacted her life, Lucy shared that before, she and her husband would not have been able to afford the most basic things such as water and electricity. That thanks to WINGS, she has an income of her own, which has empowered her in many ways. Together with her husband, she has saved up money to invest in the future of their children. Lucy is humbled by the trust her community places in her, but is most shocked by the change in her husband’s attitude. For a long time, he was reticent about anything that had to do with WINGS. Lucy shared with us that her husband apologized; “I am so sorry, because when you first wanted my support, I didn’t give you that. Now, you have been able to help yourself. You are free; you should do whatever you want to do. Support whomever you want to support. Fight.”
After six years with WINGS, Lucy is extremely happy to be making such a positive impact in her community and hopes to continue for years to come.
by Caroline Webb
Estela was born in 1994, one year my senior, and chose to undergo the surgical process of an elective tubal sterilization provided by WINGS. Already the mother of three children, Estela could not fathom having another pregnancy, birth, or child to feed, clothe, educate, and love.
As I sat by Estela’s side outside a pop-up surgical operations clinic in Chimaltenango, she breathed heavily through the nausea, a side effect of the voluntary surgical contraception (VSC), and I was humbled by her strength in the face of her decision to make a free, informed choice about her fertility and family.
Though the two of us have been circling the sun for roughly the same amount of time, our lives and responsibilities are miles apart; I have never known the weight of such a permanent, life altering choice, and due to the privileged world into which I was fortunate to be born, probably never will. Allow me to draw a comparison: as I face decisions of undergraduate majors at my fancy private school, consider potential careers, revise my resumé, or rationalize decisions because they build character and do things “for the experience,” Estela – and many of the women with whom WINGS works in Guatemala – faces decisions that ultimately determine her family’s future and reproductive path.
During my time interning with WINGS, I have been exposed to shocking truths and realities of many strong women like Estela. These will forever inspire and humble me.
As a Development Intern with WINGS, I worked primarily in the Antigua office, but was also able to assist in the field: I accompanied the incredible unidad movil to assist in a pop-up mobile cervical cancer screening/STI testing/method distribution clinic in a rural highland community, the VSC operations clinic where I met Estela, and a women’s health conference at a community hospital in Mazatenango. I assisted WINGS’ youth educator in a taller at a local school presenting to male adolescents the reality of pregnancy (complete with realistic pregnancy simulators!) and the misconceptions of gender roles. Another field experience took me to Escuintla, a region in Guatemala with high rates of AIDS and HIV, to assist in a unique charla with female sex workers, teaching about cervical cancer, HPV, different methods of contraception, and the accessibility of these options through WINGS’ services.
During these trips – replete with rutted rural roads, sunrise departures, surprise traffic obstacles (a camioneta accident ahead is not a valid excuse to arrive late to meet women waiting to take control of their reproductive health), and mara extortion – I met incredible women working toward a better future for themselves, their families and Guatemala, and witnessed firsthand the incredibly valiant yet tiring work the empathetic nurses, promotoras, and educators do to manifest WINGS’ mission.
WINGS’ vision of creating a future where all Guatemalans are capable of exercising their sexual and reproductive rights is already becoming a reality. One by one, with each IUD or subdermal implant distributed, cervical cancer screening or tubal ligation performed, and each woman, man, and youth learning and talking about sexual health and their reproductive rights, WINGS enables individuals to be their own agents of change.
Estela, like so many women I have had the privilege of knowing through WINGS, inspires me through exercising her agency to choose her fate, plan her family, and be the dueña of her body. By taking advantage of WINGS’ tubal ligation service, Estela will never again need to consider contraceptives nor worry about an expanding family to support. Thanks to WINGS’ services, Estela’s three young children may now have a better chance of transcending the vicious cycle of poverty by having access to more education, nourishing meals, better resources and special attention from their mother.
The 4th Women Deliver Conference took place in Copenhagen, Denmark, from May 16th to19th, 2016. The world’s largest international conference on girls and women’s health, rights and well-being, this year was attended by over 5,500 young people, world leaders, researchers, advocates and policymakers from 169 countries.Two members of the WINGS’ team, Youth Coordinator Ana Lucía Gonzalez and Communications Coordinator Anna Zatonow, had the opportunity to participate in the conference thanks to a scholarship and an invitation from Women Deliver to present WINGS’ documentary, Blessed Fruit of the Womb, which was selected to be screened at the Art and Cinema Corner of the conference. We’re excited to be sharing our experiences with you!
When the World Invests in Girls and Women, Everybody Wins!
The main focus of this year’s conference was making the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) work for girls and women. This broad focus meant the plenaries and activities during the 4 days of the conference revolved around a variety of issues, including expanding women’s life choices through access to family planning, successfully engaging youth, the importance of gathering and collecting data on women and girls, involving men, tackling new challenges (like the Zika virus) and moving from commitment to action for girls and women.
The conference opened with a call to put girls and women at the forefront of development.
“We all share a common conviction – that girls and women are the key to building healthy, prosperous and sustainable societies and communities,” Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark said at the opening ceremony. “And the evidence is sound – when we invest in girls and women, society as a whole benefits.”
On the 2nd day of the conference Melinda Gates stressed the importance of collecting data on the contribution women and girls make to society and the barriers they face in fulfilling their potential.
On behalf of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Melinda Gates announced committing $80mill to help plug the gaps in data on women and girls that is needed to meet the UN target of achieving gender equality by 2030.
Later in the afternoon we introduced and screened our documentary to the audience of the Arts and Cinema Corner. We were thrilled to be part of this exciting project and to be able to share WINGS’ story at this historic conference.
The conference offered more than 200 sessions and special events to choose from and with the huge number of inspiring speakers from all over the world, it was at times a challenge to plan our schedules! We had a chance to listen to Tawakkol Karman, Muhammad Yunus, Kate Gilmore, Babatunde Osotimehin, Toyin Saraki, Margaret Chan, to name just a few speakers we were impressed by. Singer and activist Annie Lennox called for men’s involvement in the fight for women’s equality and actress Jessica Biel stressed the importance of removing the stigma around sex and sexuality.
For videos, virtual conferences and inspiring quotes from Women Deliver 2016, go to WD Live.
Ana Lucía participates as a Youth Scholar
From 5,000 applicants, our Youth Coordinator Ana Lucía was one of the 700 young people selected for a scholarship from Women Deliver to attend the event. Ana Lucía was incredibly excited to have an opportunity to meet and work with young people from around the world, share experiences and learn from each other. Click on the image below to watch a short video interview with Ana Lucía:
The time to act is NOW.
Women Deliver provided a vital platform for sharing and exchanging ideas, methodologies and solutions. Now is the time to keep the momentum going and put the interrelated challenges faced daily by women and girls at the center of our work. We look forward to developing new ideas and partnerships and implementing what we learned and experienced during the conference in our own programs.
While there is still a long road ahead to implementing the SDGs so they matter most for girls and women, we are excited to translate commitments made at Women Deliver into action!
“I’m so happy! Participating in the conference was a wonderful opportunity to learn from people from many different countries who face the same problems that we face in Guatemala. I can’t wait to use what learned in my work with youth, so that they have more opportunities to make the right choices for their futures.” – Ana Lucía
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.
In Guatemala, cervical cancer is the number one cause of cancer-related deaths among Guatemalan women. While the disease is preventable and highly treatable if detected early, in countries like Guatemala where healthcare is largely inaccessible, it’s a grim story.
Inadequate health centers, lack of knowledge, and geographic barriers make it difficult for women to get screened for cervical cancer in Guatemala. Ten years ago, WINGS developed its Cervical Cancer Prevention Program to overcome these challenges by providing visual inspection with acetic acid and immediate cryotherapy treatment for pre-cancerous cells. We continue to offer these life-saving services in stationary clinics in Sololá, Cobán and Antigua, and through our mobile clinics, which travel to the most remote areas of the country to reach underserved women. We have provided lifesaving services to improve the lives of thousands of women in Guatemala, even within our own team!
41 year old WINGS’ Nurse Rosy was born in a rural community in San Cristobal, located in northern Guatemala. Rosy travels every month with our mobile team to provide family planning information and contraceptives to the most remote areas of the country.
Like many of the girls and women we serve, Rosy has faced many challenges in her life. When she was only 15 years old, her family forced her to marry a man who turned out to be abusive. Sadly, in Guatemala it is very common for young girls to be married off without their consent. Rosy suffered through her marriage because, similar to many women in her situation, she didn’t have a say in any decisions. Although Rosy was finally able to separate from her husband, the difficulties persisted. As a single mother, Rosy had to figure out how to make ends meet so she could feed her four children and send them to school. Luckily, her former father-in-law was very supportive and encouraged her to go back to school.
Rosy and her family had never received any information about reproductive health and prior to resuming her studies, she knew very little about her own health in general. As a child, she lost her mom and aunt to cervical cancer. Neither had ever been screened and Rosy was terrified that the she would face the same health burden.
However, as an Assistant Nurse providing these important services throughout Northern Guatemala, Rosy decided to undergo a screening with our team. Unfortunately, our staff discovered abnormal cell growth which could lead to cancer, but our team treated Rosy immediately.
As Rosy shared with our team that day, “I am truly grateful to WINGS for supporting me and allowing me to keep being a mother to my children. I now have my nursing diploma and I am so proud to be able to help people who need it. I am thankful for the opportunity to work with WINGS; I love every part of my job. I give educational talks to different communities in my native Mayan language; I provide different birth control methods; and I screen women to help prevent cervical cancer. This work is so important and I hope that I can keep doing it forever.”
Like Rosy’s aunt and mother, there are thousands of women in Guatemala who do not know about the causes of cervical cancer and how to prevent it. WINGS has worked endlessly to change this and provide information and reproductive health services to Guatemalan women in need. In 2015, we surpassed our cervical cancer screening projection by 141%, ensuring that 3,062 women were able to undergo preventive screenings. And in the first three months of 2016 alone, we have already provided 496 cervical cancer screenings. Moving forward, we will continue providing these imperative services, thanks to your unwavering support.
To support women like Rosy, make a donation to WINGS today.
“Cervical cancer is a problem that not only affects women, but the entire family. There is a lot of emphasis on reducing maternal deaths, that is to say, pregnancy related deaths. But what happens to those women who die from cervical cancer? They also leave behind family, children left without a mother now even more vulnerable to violence, poverty, and malnutrition, among other things.” –Michelle Dubon, WINGS´ Medical Director
In many countries, the incidence of cervical cancer is kept low by regular screening. In Guatemala, where an effective countrywide screening program is lacking, cervical cancer is responsible for 60% of female cancer cases attended by the INCAP Cancer Institute in Guatemala City.
In fact, cervical cancer is the number one cause of cancer-related death among Guatemalan women. Risk factors such as multiple births with little spacing between pregnancies and becoming sexually active at a young age put women in greater danger of developing cervical abnormalities.
“The sad fact is that this cancer does not appear overnight; the natural course of this disease takes up to 20 years. That is why no woman should die of cervical cancer; there are so many methods to detect and treat it in time, which is why our efforts and resources should be focused on helping these women.” –Michelle Dubon, WINGS´ Medical Director
Where screening programs exist, cervical cancer mortality has been reduced by 90%.
WINGS has been providing cervical cancer detection and treatment services since 2001. Beginning with 840 Pap smears in 2001, the program has grown fivefold and now provides up to 4,000 screening tests annually, as well as needed follow-up treatment. Over the course of 15 years, WINGS has screened over 50,000 women for cervical cancer.
Through our Cervical Cancer Program, WINGS ensures that Guatemalan women living in hard-to- reach and often forgotten rural areas receive vital information, cervical cancer screenings, and follow-up treatment when problems are detected.
In 2006, WINGS started to use an alternative method of detection and treatment called VIA/Cryo or “see and treat”. This method involves using acetic acid to visually inspect the cervix and the provision of cryotherapy treatment all in one visit (VIA/Cryo). It is a very effective, low-cost technique, which allows for immediate detection of cell abnormalities and treatment if necessary, eliminating the need for women to return for results or a follow up treatment. It also presents fewer logistical and technical constraints than the Pap smear.
In 2015, Veronica, 21 years old and a mother of two, came to a WINGS clinic to get a long-term method. After listening to the information talk given by WINGS nurses, she also decided to be screened for cervical cancer. She was nervous to get screened and afterwards shared, “Before today, I didn’t know this kind of cancer existed. I had my first child at 18, so I was nervous to get tested because I learned that being sexually active at a young age is a risk factor for cervical cancer. Thankfully, my result came back negative.”
And most recently, this year 87-year-old Maria had her first screening ever. A mother of 12, she encouraged her daughters and daughter-in-laws to attend as well. In her own words, Maria “wanted to be a good example.”
As reproductive health is considered a taboo topic in Guatemala, many women are uncomfortable learning and talking about cervical cancer. During an informational talk given by our nurses in Quiché, a province in northern Guatemala, women immediately lowered their heads and stared at the ground when the nurses showed photos of a cervix with cancer and a cervix without cancer; this made them very uncomfortable. One brave woman explained that most women were not interested in getting a screening because they had heard it involved their cervix being taken out, and they were very afraid of the pain. Our nurses thoroughly explained the actual process of a cervical cancer screening and why it is so important and in the end many of the women agreed to get screened.
On the other hand, women shared with WINGS nurses during a clinic last week in Santo Tomás Milpas Altas, that they understood the importance of being screened and had in fact gone to their local health center to get screened, but three months later they are still waiting for results. Every time the women call, the health center staff say that “the results aren’t ready yet”. Sadly they are used to this; the health center is continuously behind in their work, and in the end never provide the women with the help they need. During the same clinic, a few women mentioned that when they went to get a screening in the health center near their village, they were given a toothbrush and some form of liquid, and were told to insert the toothbrush themselves. That was the extent of information and instructions they were given. Thankfully WINGS was able to provide these women with accurate information about the screening process and immediate results after using VIA/Cryo.
How can you help? Support WINGS, and your donation will allow us to reach even more women in these remote communities with cervical cancer information, screenings, and immediate cryotherapy treatment.
Your donation of $100 provides 12 women in Guatemala with a cervical cancer screening, saving lives! YOU can help us reach over 3,500 women just this year with vital cervical cancer screenings.
Elma grew up in Chiqueleu, a rural village in the highlands of Guatemala. Having grown up in a remote location with scarce access to education or health services, Elma never learned about contraceptive methods or reproductive health.
She became pregnant at a young age. It came to Elma as a big surprise, mainly because she didn’t understand how one becomes pregnant. She shared that in her community no one ever talks about sex or family planning. Even though 69% of the population in Guatemala is less than 30 years old, sexual education still hasn’t reached most public schools, and HIV prevention programs have been focused on sexual abstinence and delaying first sexual intercourse.
When Elma told her boyfriend that she was pregnant, he said that the baby wasn’t his, and disappeared from her life, never to be seen or heard from again. Elma was devastated. Sadly, this is a common occurrence in patriarchal countries where gender roles are still very traditional. Guatemala is one of the most gender unequal countries in the world. Men are not typically held accountable and many people believe that solely women are responsible for their pregnancies. In Elma’s case, most of her community and family shunned her, launching her deeper into depression.
“Once I saw the results, I couldn’t stop crying, plus my boyfriend had just left me completely alone. I honestly came close to committing suicide because I could not find a solution. Luckily, I made the right decision and I’m still here.”
Elma says that 4 years ago, nobody in Chiqueleu had access to or knowledge about contraceptive methods. Now, WINGS has impacted her community tremendously by making contraceptive methods available and providing reproductive health education. Thanks to this, Elma has had the opportunity to further her education; she only has 2 more semesters left to finish nursing school! “I am going to continue seeking advice from the WINGS volunteer promoter so that I can continue to plan my life, finish my studies and move forward”.
Did you know that 1 in 3 indigenous women in Guatemala have no access to health and family planning services? Along with that, only 14% of indigenous girls in rural areas complete primary school. Guatemala has the highest fertility rate in Latin America and the Caribbean, it has among the highest rates of adolescent pregnancies, and one of the highest rates of unmet contraceptive need. Twenty-two percent of women give birth before the age of 18. One big issue is that once adolescent girls become mothers, they are far less likely to re- enter the education system. In fact, 40% of adolescent mothers in Central America never finish their education.
Education is positively associated with contraceptive use by increasing awareness, acceptability, and utilization of family planning services. It is critical that people learn about contraceptives so they can choose if, when, and how many children to have. It is equally as important to raise awareness and increase acceptability to sexual health so that these topics stop being a taboo in Guatemala. This will result in people not being afraid or embarrassed to seek counseling and information regarding their reproductive health. Reproductive health services are important so that all Guatemalans have the opportunity to complete their education, pursue their goals, and break the cycle of poverty in this country.
To support women’s empowerment and to break the cycle of poverty, WINGS has various different programs that have a direct, cost effective impact on education, poverty, health, and gender inequality.
Though we have stationary clinics in Antigua, Cobán and Sololá, we are aware that there are many women in need who are living in very remote areas of the country. For this reason, we also have mobile clinics that go out to those areas, to provide both short-term and long-acting reversible contraception, cervical cancer screenings, and treatment for the most commonly occurring STIs. We do cervical cancer screenings and same-day cryotherapy treatment for pre-cancerous cells that may lead to cervical cancer. We also offer affordable tubal ligations and vasectomies; the donation cost is typically Q50, roughly $6, but we cover the costs for those who cannot afford it.
We offer community-based counselling and distribution of low-cost short-term methods through our network of volunteer family planning promoters, who have an intimate linguistic and cultural knowledge of the communities they serve. They provide quality counselling, low-cost contraceptive methods and referrals to WINGS for additional services.
We also train young women and men (ages 14 to 19) as Youth Leaders who provide accurate reproductive health information and service referrals to their peers through community-based activities. We improve the quality of information and services by training staff members of women’s rights and youth organizations, public health service providers, and partner organizations.
In Elma’s words, “Here in my community, we had no contraceptive methods in the past. Women here have wanted access to these methods for a long time now. It was very hard for me to tell you my story, but I thank you so much for visiting me, for the advice you have given me, and for strengthening our families through reproductive health.”
Sue Patterson, Founder of WINGS, was recently interviewed by the Chicago Policy Review on topics ranging from her involvement in WINGS and the future of family planning in Guatemala.
“Over the past last seven years, WINGS’ staff has grown from 11 to 44 full-time employees, and our budget has tripled. Our programmatic scope has grown commensurately with this expansion. We now have educational programs targeted at women, men, and adolescents, as well as large subsidies for all contraceptive methods.”
Read the rest of the article here:
Seeing a room full of children openly talking about sexual and reproductive health in Guatemala is a rare sight. Nevertheless, WINGS’ Youth program, which met last week, challenges youth to be educators and role models in their own communities by taking the reproductive health information they learn in WINGS-led trainings back to their peers. Last week’s training, in which nearly 50 adolescent girls and boys took part in a day filled with educational presentations and games, was the youth’s final one before being asked to commit to actively participating as Peer Educators in the Youth WINGS program over the upcoming year. After signing up with the Youth WINGS program, the teens will continue to develop their skills in leading peer discussion groups about sexual and reproductive health. Over the course of a year, each of the Peer Educators will give informational talks to nearly 150 peers.
Here are some pictures from the day’s activities:
|The students read messages with inspirational messages on them, drawn at random from a box|
|Byron listens intently as instructions for the next game are given|
|Each particpant in WINGS Youth program receives a notebook and pen to record the day’s lectures|
|Claudia and her team of five brainstorm the negative consequences of being a young parent|
|During one of the games, Oscar’s face shows his enjoyment|
|Each student learns to speak comfortably about sexual and reproductive health by presenting to their peers|
The following is an article written (translated from Spanish) by CIMAC Noticias, a Mexican organization.
By Patricia Alicia and Ana Silvia Monzón
The 2011 has been a year of contrasts on issues related to sexual and reproductive rights. While progress has been made as strengthening the public audit work through the Reproductive Health Observatory, the Network of Indigenous Women for Reproductive Health and Multidisciplinary Group for the Defense of Sexual and Reproductive Rights, among others, the dominant discourses in the election campaign that lasted several months and that was won at a former military-were permeated by ignorance, prejudice and indifference to the human dramas that implies a lack of education, prevention and care issues associated with human sexuality.
In Guatemala sexual and reproductive rights of women are severely limited by gender and ethnic inequalities that put girls and women, especially indigenous and rural areas at a disadvantage compared to their partners, limiting their autonomy to decide their sexuality and motherhood. The State does not guarantee social conditions favorable to assume the pregnancy, including relevant information, proper nutrition, prenatal and delivery care. So a good percentage of pregnant women facing pregnancy and motherhood in poor condition and high vulnerability.
In this context, reproductive health concern presents a profile observed in the indicators of teen pregnancy and maternal mortality. In 2011 there were more than 47, 000 cases teen pregnancy between 10 to 17 years old who, many times, see dashed their chances for personal development. Many of these pregnancies are the result of abuse and rape, according to the follow-up made by the Centre in Reproductive Health. This violence is also one of the main causes that lead to abortion practiced in unsanitary conditions that threaten the lives of women, as it is still classified as a crime under national law.
Maternal deaths remain high in the country, according to the National Maternal Mortality Study, 2007, submitted in December 2011, which states that there were 137 maternal deaths in 2007, which represented a reduction while 8.7 percent the period (2000-2007), with an average drop of 1.24 percent per year, still place the country with one of the highest rates in Latin America, according to Dr. Miriam Betancourt, coordinator of the National Reproductive Health Program. This are the latest official data, which shows the difficulties of having updated information on a sensitive issue.
The figures yielded by the study indicate that nine departments with concentrations of maternal deaths, six of them have a high percentage of indigenous population. In fact, the maternal mortality rate is significantly higher among indigenous women, 163.0, 77.7 Ladino than women. Furthermore, the incidence in rural areas is much higher with 66.3 percent of cases, compared to urban area recorded 33.7 percent.
Other conditions, such as schooling and high fertility, they also expose women to die during or after childbirth. According to the report cited by the Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Planning and Programming of the Presidency, 88 percent of deaths occur in women with no or little schooling, and cases are more common among women who have had more than four sons and daughters.
It should be noted that maternal deaths are still due to several factors: cultural order associated with machismo at home because, often, is the husband who decides when to move the mother, economic, lack of resources to pay transportation or specialized care when high-risk cases. Also, the lack of adequate services, and nearby Mayan languages makes the difference between life or death of a woman who, in the twenty-first century, risks his life to the time of delivery.
This picture must be added the progression of HIV-AIDS epidemic, especially in women aged 20 to 24 years and restrictions on access to family planning methods, particularly in populations with low education and living in distant parts of the network of health.
Although Congress passed the Safe Motherhood in 2010, it still lacks a regulation and resources for their implementation. Among the recommendations of the Study on Maternal Mortality already mentioned, it was decided to develop a national policy on Safe Motherhood and ensure food security and nutrition of pregnant women, provision of vitamin boosters and access to immunizations. Also to provide universal coverage and access to maternal health services – Neonatal-quality, gender and multiculturalism. And very important, as is to perform actions on reproductive health education in all educational levels and through national media social
In that vein, the Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Education launched a pilot sex education in the departments with the highest rates of maternal mortality and teenage pregnancies. To comply with these commitments the Presidential Secretariat for Women (SEPREM) is closely monitoring this process and actively participated in the second seminar “Prevention through Education”, held in December 2011.
The plight of sexual and reproductive rights organizations mobilized women, feminists and civil society to influence the performance of sexual and reproductive rights of women.
As part of the actions that the organization Tierra Viva, for more than a decade promoting the campaign against fundamentalism, as a means to legalize abortion and continues with a media monitoring sexual and reproductive rights. In a matching line, work the Multidisciplinary Group for the Defense of Sexual and Reproductive Rights. While CERIGUA News Agency highlighted in the news coverage and treatment of sexual and reproductive rights, generated particularly at departmental level.
The Centre for Reproductive Health (Dare) continued to organize meetings of Midwives and supporting situational socialization rooms provided by the National Sexual and Reproductive Health at the departmental level, and advocacy in both the Congress and to the State health authorities.
The National Alliance of Indigenous Women’s Organizations for Reproductive Health, Nutrition and Education (Redmisar) achieved the inclusion of an article in the 2012 Budget Act to purchase contraceptive supplies at affordable costs with specialized international organizations in the field. This action is joined the National Birth Control Assurance (CNAA).
Feersigua Association and the mechanism of indigenous research Oxlajuj Tz’ikin presented “Indigenous women sex workers in Chimaltenango: social, sexual and reproductive rights,” which addresses a topic that has been considered taboo in indigenous communities.
The Association for Family Welfare (APROFAM) promoted the collective organization of Youth without Censorship for Comprehensive Sexuality Education and a virtual page of information, consultation and expert advice on sex education for young people.
As Uxil Association, based in Petén, produces the show “Sex tips radio” and the drama “Roulette” as well as creative sex education campaigns aimed at young people, particularly the northern region.
This year also launched the National Campaign for Sexuality Education, sponsored by 10 organizations, with the aim of adolescents and young people to demand the implementation of sex education in public and private schools and health services, and compliance of the Law of Universal and Equitable Access to Family Planning Services.
Cultural and religious patterns, lack of resources in the health system, neglect and violence are factors that still prevent women from exercising their rights to decide over her own body, to have scientific and secular sexual information and care quality in relation to their sexuality and reproductive lives. In 2011 there were ups and downs, those working on sexual and reproductive rights hope that the new officials take office on January 14, continue to have good practices and strategic compass rights as women.