Tag: sex ed


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.


Lucy and her baby boy

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!”

Lucy feeding baby during talkPersonally, 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.

Lucy at her home

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.

Fabiola 21, 3 children

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!”

Young mothers at WINGS' clinic

Young mothers at WINGS’ clinic

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.

Berta (19) and her 10-month-old son

Berta, 19, with her 10-month-old son

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.”

GUA MAY 2015 WINGS Santo Tomas, Isabela, 18, with son Andy 1

18-year-old mother Isabela breastfeeds her 1-year-old son Andy at one of WINGS’ mobile clinics


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.


A man nervously awaits results from his HIV test, administered by a national HIV screening organization at the large Guatemalan sugar plantation where he works.  He leans against the wall but, unable to find comfort in the hot sun, continues to pace in front of the makeshift clinic.  The sweat on his brow mixes with dirt kicked up by passing vehicles, causing him to take his handkerchief to his face.  After what seems like an eternity, a nurse comes forward with a slip of paper – his test results.

The man takes a deep breath before extending his hand to receive the information he has been agonizing over for the past 30 minutes.  Unfolding the paper, he looks down, and his hands begin trembling as he licks his dry lips.  He studies the sheet of paper for another minute or so, his eyes scanning left to right in repetition, before folding the paper up and putting it into his flannel shirt pocket.  He calmly walks over to his waiting motorcycle, slides on his helmet and throws his leg over the seat.  With a kick start and a cloud of dust, the man barrels down the only road into and out of the plantation.

“And then he just kills himself.  He shoots himself in the head.  He drove to the middle of nowhere and pulled the trigger.  He didn’t want to live anymore.  That’s the power of a positive,” notes Eduardo, 27, shielding his eyes from the sun as he talks to WINGS at our own free HIV-screening at San Diego Sugar Cane Plantation in Escuintla.

After his last statement, Eduardo takes some minutes to reflect.

“That’s why we don’t want to do this,” he continues.  “That’s why you see people passing by this clinic and just waving you off, because they don’t want that positive, man.  No one wants to hear they are positive.  I don’t even know why I am here, my heart is going crazy.”

The specter of the “Man with the Positive” haunts the minds of sugarcane workers in Guatemala, though it happened two years ago.  Because the Guatemalan Ministry of Health has largely failed to provide adequate education on how to prevent HIV, men like Eduardo are left with fear and avoidance of the issue.
Today, along with Eduardo, a row of workers on their lunch break lean against a bicycle rack nervously chatting and passing the time until their own results are ready.

The free screening, administered through a partnership between WINGS and seven other public health organizations and institutions, gives sugar plantation workers an opportunity not only to  learn of their HIV status, but also to receive education and counseling in HIV prevention to reduce their chances of contracting the virus or another STI.  In addition to education on prevention, adequate post-screening counseling and treatment are also emphasized.

Prevention education and access to condoms are inadequate throughout Guatemala, and both factors have contributed to Guatemala’s rising HIV rate.  In addition, public HIV testing services delivered by the Ministry of Health are accompanied by little to no counseling – so a repeat of the so-called “Man with the Positive” is very possible.  Government-provided treatment, including antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), is inconsistent, expensive due to the government’s refusal to permit low-cost generics, and often mismanaged.  As a result, Guatemala’s Ministry of Health faces a growing HIV/AIDS problem.

“After we heard the story here, man, everybody was freaked out.  We don’t know who has HIV.  We don’t.  I work with iron, and sometimes I cut myself doing my job.  I’ve had lots of unsafe sex, so sometimes, you know, after I hurt myself, I look at the blood and that story runs through my head.”

Eduardo’s throat tenses as he takes a breath to continue.

“I don’t want to die, especially not from HIV.  So I guess that’s why I’m here.  I don’t want to be scared of my blood no more.  I don’t want to be in the dark, you know, wondering if I am living clean or if I am dying.”

The nurse interrupts and calls Eduardo to a private counseling room.  He nods to his friends and walks in after her, shutting the door.  After post-screening counseling, Eduardo emerges from the room.  Holding the paper for everyone to see, he points at it with a laugh of relief.  “It’s negative!” he exclaims with a grin, exchanging congratulatory handshakes with his friends and co-workers. 

In that moment, Eduardo stepped out of the shadow “Man with the Positive,” a cautionary tale that will continue to scare others from confronting a growing health problem until Guatemala makes major improvements in prevention and treatment HIV and AIDS.

Eduardo flashes a smile and a negative test result

One of the core components of WINGS’ strategy, and a key to our success, is collaboration with like-minded organizations.   Our partnerships range all the way from a national and international level with prominent organizations like APROFAM and USAID to local level collaborations with municipal governments and schools, like El Instituto Mixto de Educación Básica in the small town of San Pedro Yepocapa, Chimaltenango.

Our program for adolescents, Youth WINGS, relies on support from schools like El Insituto to be able to reach young Guatemalans with reproductive health information.  In order to maximize the program’s effectiveness, WINGS counts on individual schools joining us in recognizing the importance of providing sex education to their students.  Erick Turcios, the director at El Instituto, is a champion for Guatemala’s education system initiating louder – and more frequent – conversations about sexual and reproductive health within its schools. At El Instituto, he has created an organization that attempts to bridge the gap between parents and their children by opening up discussions about sexuality.  Currently, Erick explains, “There is such a disconnect between kids and their parents here in Guatemala. Before our program, the topic of sexuality would never come up. It just wouldn’t be talked about. We want to close that gap, and help parents to be completely comfortable discussing their child’s sexual health.”

Erick Turcios of El Instituto Mixto de Educación Básica
There are nearly 500 children from Grade 1 to Grade 9 at Erick’s school, some of whom are training to be Peer Educators in the WINGS Youth program. As an enthusiastic supporter of the work that WINGS is doing, Erick has started personally driving his students from their homes to their Peer Educator trainings with WINGS in Chimaltenango, about 30 minutes away. Without the partnership of Erick and El Instituto Mixto de Educación Básica, WINGS would not be able to train these 10 youths from El Instituto, and in turn, roughly 1,400 of their peers would not hear the important information about family planning and reproductive health that they are being trained to share.

Erick adds, “If these kids continue to learn and be strong influences with other children their age, I have no doubt in my mind that Guatemala will be better off because of it.”

So from all of us at WINGS, a “Thank You!” to Erick, and to all of the other strong and brave community leaders, schools and organizations that have joined us along the way to help to strengthen Guatemalan families!

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.  

State Response
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.  

Civil Initiatives
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.    

As Guatemala’s fiercely contended presidential elections loom in September, the nation is being ravaged by escalating violence, exacerbated by narcotrafficking. Below Karina Obregon, WINGS’ Youth and Family Planning Educator in the Petén—Guatemala’s northernmost department where we partner with an environmental conservation NGO—talks about working in such a volatile region. Karina’s story exemplifies the many complex socio-cultural barriers WINGS’ field staff face every day as they bring family planning education and reproductive health services to neglected areas of the country.
After a 36-year long bloody internal conflict which ended in 1996, violence is nothing new here. But Guatemala’s new enemy, organized crime gangs fuelled by narcotrafficking, is fast becoming a malevolent force permeating every aspect of chapin life. This was gruesomely brought to international attention in May when 27 innocent farm laborers were killed in the worst massacre seen in Guatemala since the war. Those responsible – the militant Mexican drug cartel The Zetas – were most likely displaying their cruel power to lay claim to disputed territory. The massacre took place in Guatemala’s northern most department, the Peten, which makes up 1/3 of national territory and occupies valuable drug trafficking corridors across the Mexico-Guatemala border.
WINGS began work in the Petén in 2009 to get vital family planning education and reproductive health services to the many neglected, mostly Mayan communities scattered around the Sierra de La Candon national park. By collaborating with Defensores de la Naturaleza, an environmental conservation group in the area, WINGS has been able to marry family planning with environmental protection. Our Petén Educator, Karina, typically spends her time travelling around the jungle park with Defensores de la Naturaleza, visiting isolated communities to teach teenagers, teachers, women and men about family planning. Through educational outreach and house visits, she links the massive reproductive health benefits that family planning offers, with its impressive power to slow environmental degradation (fewer people = less deforestation, less firewood burned, less water contaminated, and a more certain future for communities in the area).
Karina talking Sex Ed at a school in the Peten
Karina was working in the Petén on the day of the massacre and says she received a chilling call to get out of the park urgently, “we drove out, afraid of every car we passed, not knowing what had happened.” It turned out that although she had never worked directly in the community where the massacre took place, she routinely travelled a few miles from it for her work with WINGS. As a precaution, WINGS suspended work in the region while the Guatemalan military initiated what has become an ongoing state of siege in the Petén to restore security. Although she was pleased with the initial respite, Karina was soon eager to get back to work and felt confident doing so. This is great news as WINGS’ Petén project is currently in its second of 5 years and only getting stronger. Karina has no reservations about continuing, “this is a personal fight between narcos, it is not against the communities, and definitely not against us. Long-term this won’t affect our work.”