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!
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.
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.”
Use the arrows above to look through the image gallery from WINGS Youth Leaders’ training.
WINGS’ Youth Leaders program trains young men and women from ages 14 to 19 so they can provide accurate reproductive health information and service referrals to their peers through community-based activities. Our methodology incorporates the topics of gender equality and power.
In Guatemala, many children do not finish their education; most only go up to third grade and then start working in order to support their families. Some sell fruits and vegetables in “mercados”, some work with crops in the fields, and others shine shoes for a living. In this environment with scarce opportunities or access to schooling, children grow up knowing little about their own rights and their health. For children who do continue their education in the public school system, the picture does not get much better. Though Guatemalan legislation states that public schools must teach family planning and reproductive health topics, the culture remains very conservative and sexual health is still taboo, hence in most schools, these topics are not even mentioned. Not knowing much about reproductive health or contraception options, many girls become pregnant at 15 or earlier.
Additionally, Guatemala is a very patriarchal society where women’s voices are frequently silenced, especially in rural areas, where traditional gender roles are still very prevalent. Sadly, violence against girls and women is common. There are many pregnancies that happen as a result of rape, sometimes by girls’ own relatives.
At WINGS we believe in promoting equal rights and we know it is imperative for youth to receive an education. Unintended adolescent pregnancies can be avoided through reproductive health education and access to contraceptive methods. By informing youth about their reproductive rights, we can reduce teen pregnancies, increasing girls likelihood to continue their education, and pursue their future goals.
Just in January, we have already held two Youth Leader training sessions, one in Cobán and the other in our Antigua office. In total, we trained sixty young men and women. Both sessions were a huge success; the adolescents asked great questions, gave important feedback, and were willing to participate in all our fun activities. Even those who were shy at first warmed up to the topics and to their peers. WINGS’ staff taught the youth about the contraceptive methods we offer. To make sure that the youth understood, they got into smaller groups to make presentations about each method, with banners and demonstrations about how to use each. To keep the activities fun and dynamic, we held rallies so that the youth could run outside and play while learning. In addition to talking about contraceptive methods and how to use them, we also talked about reproductive rights, gender equality, and sexual orientation. We are aware that Guatemala is still a very traditional society, so it is important that from a very young age, our youth learn to respect all types of diversity. It was great to see that despite having been brought up in a conservative culture, the youth readily accepted these topics.
This past year, we noticed some very important numbers. Out of all the 14-19 year old adolescents we work with, 81% chose short term contraception, while only 19% choose LARCs (long-acting reversible contraception), even though the latter are the most effective.
This year we implemented the LARCs First methodology. We explain all available birth control methods in terms of efficacy: beginning with the most effective (IUD and subdermal implant) and ending with the least effective method (condom). There are numerous misconceptions about LARCs in Guatemala: it is believed that they are only meant to be used by married women or women who have already had children, some think that they can make women infertile, or that they are permanent methods. For this reason, during our training program we strongly emphasize these contraceptive methods can be used by women regardless of whether they have had kids or not, and that they can be removed after 5 years (in case of the implant) or 10 (IUD), or earlier if the person decides to.
Our Youth Leaders program is made up of many intelligent, determined youth who bring such positive energy and hope to the work WINGS does.
* Click on the “CC” button to watch with English subtitles
Here is an interview with one of our newest Youth Leaders, Samuel. Samuel talks about why youth are embarrassed to talk about sex, why adolescent pregnancies are so frequent in Guatemala, and what his dreams for the future are.
It is thanks to your support that WINGS Youth Leaders Program became reality. Please continue empowering youth in Guatemala by making a tax-deductible contribution to WINGS.
In January 2015, WINGS launched a pilot of its youth peer education program (#WINGS4YOUTH). 144 young men and women from rural villages in the Alta Verapaz province received training in reproductive health and rights and are now active leaders in their communities.
Last month, with support from our partner organizations, we organized a 3-day leadership camp to celebrate the accomplishments of our bright, young leaders. Through games, team-building activities, and thematic workshops, the 50 attending youth leaders demonstrated their sexual health knowledge, strengthened their leadership skills, and boosted their self-confidence.
During the camp, our youth leaders also had a chance to experience parenting – by looking after electronic babies! The electronically simulated babies which cry when they need to be held, changed, or fed, eventually calm down and coo when their needs are met. Nevertheless, their spontaneous crying day and night was a challenging experience for our youth leaders! Here’s what the parents for one day had to say:
On the last day of the camp, after having received their ‘diplomas’, our wonderful group of youth leaders posed for a photo:
We were thrilled to hear how happy the youth leaders are to be part of our program. For many of these young men and women, this has truly been a life-changing experience. They admit that their newly acquired knowledge of sexual and reproductive health and rights has not only impacted how they think about their personal lives, but has also had an important impact on the lives of their peers and community members. They feel proud and empowered to continue helping other young people avoid teenage pregnancies and build a healthier and stronger Guatemala.
To support WINGS’ youth program, please consider making a donation to WINGS.
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!
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:
|Erick Turcios of El Instituto Mixto de Educación Básica|
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|