My work is really incredible. Natik has projects that empower women and other projects that focus on education. These two subjects are so intermixed that sometimes the overlap makes my job a little bit confusing. So never, and I mean NEVER, did I think I would be participating in a family planning workshop with a group of teenagers. But that is exactly what I did this past week.
While helping with the strategic plan for our group of scholarship students, Dolores and Candelaria brought up their desire to have a workshop on family planning (or in other words, safe sex), and I told them that Caitlin studied public health and would be perfect for that. But then I forgot that Caitlin's Spanish hasn't reached the level necessary to instruct a room full of students about safe sex, so the planning fell on her, and the delivery fell on me.
A lot of people in Santiago (like 95%) are extremely traditional. So much so, that some families have between 10 and 15 children. A while back, when the health clinic started offering free condoms and birth control pills, the father at the church rebuked it as sinful and condemned anyone who went there. So this was a tricky subject to teach.
I started the workshop by talking about why they were studying and what they desired in their future. They had some great answers and all seemed really desirious to have better opportunities. I then asked them how those dreams would change if they found out they or their girlfriends were pregnant. Then I introduced the topic, joking around, and teaching them about the numbers of baby making. Basically, if you have one child in Guatemala (on average) you cut your income by 1/4 - and continue cutting your income by the same amount with every subsequent child. To counter that - you would have to buy 2,000 condoms each year in order to equal the equivalent of what one child would cost. Many people do not want to go to the clinic or even buy condoms because the rumors would get around that they had bought them... but I told them that the rumors would spread even more quickly if they had a baby growing inside of them - that is something they couldn't hide.
We then separated into groups to discuss some of the negatives/positives of family planning, some cultural taboos that are associated with family planning, and what a good reason that counters family planning. I was surprised with a lot of the answers - especially because many students associated family planning with divorce and contention in marriages.
On the other hand, more than half of the students seemed VERY interested in what we were saying - and a few of them had some good questions that I'm sure they would have never asked their parents.
We finished the session by demonstrating how to use a condom, and two volunteers, a boy and girl, helped us by putting condoms on a banana and carrot. I feel like it went really well, and I was able to debrief with Dolores and Candelaria afterward to see how they feel it went. Hopefully the students will be smart since they all have such bright futures and having a child (although it's a beautiful miracle - in it's proper time) would deter them from reaching their dreams. Hopefully this workshop made an impact.