Claudia Vanessa Siliezar Turcios
I have dedicated my youth and career to promote sexual health and rights information and family planning (FP) with women and youth of Honduras. In 2005 I collaborated with a group of local leaders to found a youth-lead NGO, the Unit for Comprehensive Women’s Development (UDIMUF) to provide SRHR and gender-based violence (GBV) information and advocacy in my home state. We have engaged the police, judges, journalists, nurses, and doctors to advocate for the inclusion of SRH and GBV to be incorporated into municipal-level youth and women’s offices. We also lead a campaign advocating for increased access to emergency contraception (EC) and FP at government health centers. As a Board Member of UDIMUF, I’m proud of our work and the bridges we have helped to build across sectors.
As a teenager, three of my best Friends, the smartest in my class, got pregnant accidentally. There was no clinic near us to go to for information and we had no one to ask about family planning. I then realized that we lived in a place with so little information about sex and family planning where sexual pleasure was completely taboo. .That experience motivated me to become an activist and a lawyer so that I can advocate for adolescent sexual health and rights in my country.
When as women we speak openly about FP and abortion in such fundamentalist and machista settings like Honduras, we expose ourselves in a society that is very influenced by the church. Changing the stereotypes of women exclusively as mothers and nurturers has been the biggest challenge. Working with a team that truly believes in the power of youth and is dedicated to changing our society has been the best way to meet these daily challenges in my life.
In Honduras the government does not recognize the SRHR of women. It does not offer CSE, so youth are still getting pregnant too soon, and their access to FP methods and information is very limited. The state is condemning tens of thousands of young women to poverty. We must educate youth about their sexual rights and FP so they no longer fear practicing their own sexuality and so they no longer associate sexuality with sin.
I will continue to fight so that EC is available in Honduras and we can avoid forcing motherhood on abused young women. I will keep fighting for CSE that includes information about FP and so that Congress decriminalizes abortion.I want to promote a lay state that s respectful of women’s SRHR. As a law professor, I will keep mentoring students and igniting their passion for human rights, especially for women, so that they too can come to see health, gender and sexuality as a human right.