Last week marked the one-year anniversary of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean’s (ECLAC) first intergovernmental conference on population and development held in Montevideo, Uruguay. The outcome document from that meeting, known as the Montevideo Consensus, has been hailed as one of the most progressive documents on sexual and reproductive rights ever agreed to at any diplomatic negotiation. Today concludes our series of profiles on a few of the women who IWHC supported to participate in the Montevideo negotiation; we’re reporting on what they’ve been doing to hold their governments accountable to this landmark agreement.
When it comes to family planning and access to reproductive health services, Guatemala lags behind its regional neighbors. Only 44 percent of Guatemalan women use modern contraceptives—the lowest among all Latin American countries. A recent study found an additional 27.6 percent of women report they want to use contraception, but lack access. This lack of access contributes to the high adolescent pregnancy rate in Guatemala, where one out of five births are to girls between the ages of 10 and 19. The young people of Guatemala clearly have a pressing need for sexual and reproductive health information, but are unaware of their rights to this information and related services.
Young activists such as Ingrid Galvez have stepped in fill this information vacuum. With a grant from IWHC, Ingrid Galvez and her organization, GOJoven Guatemala, is training five young advocates to use the Montevideo Consensus to press their local government officials to enact policies and programs that protect the health and rights of adolescents. The five activists are also creating newsletters, hand-outs, short videos, and radio spots in indigenous languages and Spanish to distribute in the communities, so citizens are educated about their rights outlined in the Consensus.
Although the project will not be complete until this fall, Ingrid and her GOJoven colleagues say they have already made significant gains. They have been able to meet with the Ministries of Health and Education to advocate for the priorities outlined in the Consensus, especially regarding comprehensive sexuality education, adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights, and gender equality.
Since 2004, GOJoven Guatemala has been active in 11 of the country’s 22 regions, reaching more than 9,000 youth and adolescents with workshops and information on preventing and reducing adolescent pregnancy, HIV transmission, and sexually transmitted infections. GOJoven Guatemala was the only youth organization invited to participate in the country’s recent review of sexual and reproductive rights, organized by UNFPA. And thanks to Ingrid’s work with the Guatemalan delegation in Montevideo and more recently in New York for the UN’s 47th Commission on Population and Development (CPD), GOJoven has been able to work closely with the federal government on several youth-related issues, including implementation of the National Youth Policy, which will govern several issues related to youth rights, including education, employment, and gender equality.
Even while coordinating much of GOJoven’s country advocacy, Ingrid is actively involved in the Post-2015 process, which will determine the next development agenda after the expiration of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015. Ingrid is proud of her achievements at the 47th CPD in New York: “As a result of my participation in Montevideo and the 47th CPD, many strategic key spaces have opened for me, giving me the chance to represent my country!”
Mirta, Tania, and Ingrid exemplify how activists can continue to use their advocacy skills and training for global-level meetings to hold their governments accountable even after negotiations have ended. They also clearly demonstrate how IWHC partners effectively link local and national issues and priorities to global development agendas, and then relay global and regional agreements back to their communities.
We have no doubt that these amazing young women will continue to be tireless advocates for sexual and reproductive health and rights through the Post-2015 process and beyond.