I support youth development in rural and indigenous communities in Guatemala through workshops on sexual and reproductive rights and health. The youth then pass this information along to their peers in order to improve their access to reproductive health services, especially among vulnerable adolescents. My goal is to prevent teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. We combat myths that currently exist in Guatemala and focus on modern contraception so that the youth understand their reproductive rights and make well-informed decisions. I also train community promoters to provide balanced counseling, contraception, and youth-friendly services.
I’m from Guatemala, a country with widespread poverty and one of the highest chronic malnutrition rates in the world. The difficult realities Guatemalan women face have always moved me: a 35 year old mother with 11 children or 12 year old girls giving birth instead of completing elementary school. Their experiences and their struggle to give their children better opportunities has sparked my passion in family planning as key to fighting inequality, malnutrition and poverty.
The biggest challenge I have faced is resistance to family planning in Guatemala. Many people in the rural areas believe contraceptive use is a sin and it is therefore highly stigmatized - in some communities you can be lynched for talking about family planning. But I have dedicated my career to speaking to people in communities, fighting the misconceptions, and working with educational institutions and health centers so that we understand how family planning works and its benefits.
The Ministry of Health does not have enough contraception to meet the demand which results in a high rate of unintended pregnancies. These pregnancies often occur in situations of poverty. This problem could be solved if family planning laws were actually enforced in Guatemala. However, they are not and it is therefore imperative to promote local solutions; guarantee that accurate information and family planning and reproductive health services are provided in communities.
I want to create as much awareness as possible about the importance of family planning. I want to continue informing people about their rights and I want to influence them in a positive way so that they will join our efforts in both the private and public sectors. I want to continue with the work that I am currently doing and reach as many people as I can, so that equitable development can follow in Guatemala.