- Alex GarciaAlex Garcia graduated from Galen University in 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing. His professional experience includes working as a Senior Accountant at Scotia Bank, Belize City Branch, which is one of the largest international banks worldwide. With the bank’s volunteering programs, Alex ha...
In December, I had the opportunity to travel to Trinidad and Tobago together with Stephen Diaz of the GOJoven Belize Alumni Association and Amber Pitts of the Department of Youth Service to participate in the High Level Consultation to reduce adolescent pregnancy in the Caribbean Region. All of my expenses were covered by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
The meeting was attended by 10 Ministers of Governments from across our region, other government officials, representatives from civil society, the private sector, youth organizations like GOJoven, the United Nations and other international development partners.
On our first day, we were briefed on what would be covered at the consultation and how we would participate. At that meeting Amber and I agreed to share our individual stories as to how adolescent pregnancy had impacted our lives personally. Amber shared her story from the perspective of being a mother in her adolescent years and I shared my story as being the child of an adolescent mother. It was a unique moment for me because young men rarely have the opportunity to share how they too can be affected by an adolescent pregnancy. What I hoped to convey as a young man is how men are also involved in the problem of adolescent pregnancy. This also means they are part of the solution to reduce and eventually end adolescent pregnancy in our region.
Also during the first day, we had the opportunity to view and comment on the regional framework to reduce adolescent pregnancy drafted by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). We saw a lot of it that we weren’t in agreement with and worked all afternoon rectifying “errors” and inserting proposed ideas to the draft. It was a success, and at the end we turned in the revised draft in to the organizers. Dr Babatunde, Executive Director for UNFPA said he was glad for our effort.
On the second day, youth in our region had the opportunity to have a discussion and share our ideas with Dr. Babatunde. One of the ideas we proposed was the creation of a Youth Task Force to help with the implementation of the Integrated Framework to Reduce Adolescent Pregnancy in the Caribbean. Dr. Babatunde was supportive of this idea.
After spending the rest of that day working on the draft Integrated Framework to Reduce Adolescent Pregnancy, we attended a reception where we were entertained by two violinists.
At the reception, I spoke with the Honourable Herman Longsworth, Minister of Youth and Sports of Belize, about a possible follow-up to the consultation. He agreed that he would support activities we’d like to make as follow up to the consultation.
All-in-all the mission was rather productive and successful! I am looking forward to the follow-up meeting scheduled for the end of the month in Belmopan City, Belize. Thank you UNFPA/UNDP for the opportunity to participate. I am sure that smart investment in sex education and access to sexual and reproductive health services for young women in the Caribbean can bring about a big change, not only for the development of women in the region, but for society in general.
From October 18-21, 2013, more than a dozen youth leaders gathered at the Banana Bank Lodge in Belmopan, Belize, to learn, brainstorm and ultimately develop an advocacy plan to promote and protect sexual and reproductive rights (SRR) in Belize.
Over the four days of training, attendees gained an in-depth understanding of advocacy, including: identifying potential allies and opposition to their work, understanding the political system in Belize and hearing best practices on SRR advocacy from organizations like Belize Family Life Association and National AIDS Commission.
In Belize, there are currently few non-governmental organizations addressing ASRH, HIV prevention and youth development, while Belize has the highest prevalence of HIV in Central America. The majority of those living with HIV are between the ages of 20-29.
GOJoven Belize, established by Alumni of the GOJoven program, is a first-of-its-kind nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing attention to and addressing issues around adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH). Formed in 2011, the organization is already receiving recognition and requests to partner with governmental and non-governmental organizations to lead efforts to improve ASRH.
The advocacy plan developed over the course of the training will be part of GOJoven Belize’s organizational strategy guiding youth leaders in their work to promote and protect sexual and reproductive rights in Belize.
Following the training President of the GOBelize Executive Board Nancy Leiva said, “I am energized and feel more passionate than ever before to change the future of our country.”
To learn more about GOBelize, click here.
GOJoven Fellow Elmer Cornejo has been selected to attend the Iberoamerican Conference 2013 in Panama
Elmer Cornejo (Belize, 2009) has been invited to participate in the Iberoamerican Conference 2013 in Panama (Vanguardia Iberoaméricana 2013 Panamá “Iberoámerica: Alianza para nuevos paradigmas”) this October 13th-16th. The conference recruits youth, community leaders, college students, and representatives of social and civic organizations that have worked in social causes in their communities. This year, over 200 young people of 22 countries will brainstorm and share their proposed solutions in addressing a variety of social, political, economic, and environmental issues in their countries. The proposed solutions will be shared at the inauguration of the XXIII Summit of Head of State and Governments of Latin America (XXIII Cumbre de Jefes de Estado y de Govierno de Iberoamérica) which will take place in Panama October 18th and 19th.
The GOJoven team congratulates Elmer for his participation in this conference and looks forward to hearing more about his experiences in Panama this year.
GOJoven Belize has released the second issue of their bulletin. Click to download the July 2013 GOJoven Bulletin and stay up to date with news and events from our GOJoven Belize family!
Please enjoy reading the GOBelize News Bulletin! Subscribe to the bulletin (instructions on page 4) to keep up to date with events, announcements, and important achievements from the GOBelize Alumni Association. Click to download the April 2013 GOBelize bulletin (PDF).
In late May, 2013, three GOJoven Fellows attended the Women Deliver Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on full competitive scholarships furnished by Women Deliver. The conference brought together advocates from around the world to call for action to improve the health and well-being of girls and women. Public Health Institute and GOJoven would like to congratulate Elmer Cornejo, Errol Longsworth, and Iris Reyes, all from Belize, on winning the scholarships and participating in such a successful global event!
The European Commission awarded Elmer Cornejo an additional scholarship to attend the 100 Young Leaders Pre-Conference, a workshop that brought together 100 young leaders from 68 different countries. Elmer reported that the event provided attendees with tools to carry out advocacy activities and communicate effectively with potential donors:
“Investment in sex education and access to sexual and reproductive health services for young women were the issues that were raised emphatically by Latin-American and Caribbean participants [of the 100 Young Leaders Pre-Conference]. I highlighted that both areas could bring about a big change, not only for the development of women in the region, but for society in general.” - Elmer Cornejo, on the Pre-Conference
One thing that stood out to Elmer was the moment when Jill Sheffield, Founder and President of Women Deliver, said in the opening plenary that the past three years have seen tremendous momentum for the health and empowerment of girls and women worldwide. Sheffield said, “Maternal deaths have declined by nearly 50 percent since 1990, proving that our goals are within reach.” Elmer said that this statement gave him goose bumps, and marked the beginning of a three-day whirlwind that ended in an action plan for ensuring that girls and women are prioritized in the new development framework that will replace the Millennium Development Goals after 2015.
Errol Longsworth represented GOJoven at the Women Deliver Cinema Corner, a space for filmmakers to share their work surrounding maternal and child health. Women Deliver selected the GOJoven Digital Story “Where are you…/Dónde estás…” created by Roberto Morales (2005 Guatemala fellow) to be screened at the Cinema Corner, and Errol Longsworth presented the film on behalf of Roberto. Errol said the experience was “life-changing,” and that the audience was intensely moved by Roberto’s story.
In an unexpected turn of events, the audience and the Cinema Corner moderator encouraged Errol to show his own Digital Story, “The Mirror/El Espejo,” after screening Roberto’s story. The audience congratulated Errol for his courage and willingness to share his story on such short notice.
Errol welcomed the challenge of choosing which breakout sessions to attend at the conference. He said that the agenda was packed with a wide range of topics all revolving around Millennium Development Goal number 5, Improve Maternal Health. At times he found himself dashing from one to room to another, and wished he could attend multiple sessions at once. Errol said that attending the conference was an incredibly meaningful experience:
“I am very grateful for the opportunity of partaking in this conference. It was a life-changing event and the experience and knowledge gained is not only beneficial for me, but for my organization. I plan to share the information that I have learned and brought back home to my work and my community. This was also beneficial for my country to have had a presence on a global level to help promote the country for further development.” – Errol Longsworth, on bringing the experience home to Belize
Iris Reyes was pleased to see the conference’s emphasis on women’s leadership. She said that in Belize, it’s rare to see women in high-level leadership positions in government and business. Women face numerous barriers to political and financial success, including lack of access to education and contraceptive methods, and a cultural attitude that women can or should not be in positions of power. As a Business teacher and entrepreneur, Iris noted the connection between poor access to contraceptives and failed distribution models; she said that if we treated contraceptives as we treat any other product or material good, we could harness the power of international distribution networks and increase access to family planning methods across the globe. For Iris, attending the conference allowed her to exercise her own leadership:
“I really appreciate the opportunity given to me to be part of the conference. I am very privileged to have been invited. I learned so much, with so many people from different countries and backgrounds, all there for the same reason: to improve the lives of women, girls, and youth. When I left the conference, I made a commitment to advocate, to be the change I wish to see in the world.” – Iris Reyes, on what the Women Deliver conference means to her
We are proud to call Elmer, Errol, and Iris members of the GOJoven family. Keep up the great work, fellows!
To view photos, watch videos, and see the full agenda for the 3rd Global Women Deliver Conference, click here.
Stephen Daniel Diaz started his career in the field of sexual and reproductive health response in 2006, working with the Pan American Social Marketing Organization (PASMO) as their Youth MSM representative, also collaborating with The United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM), CNET+ (Collaborative Network of Persons Living with HIV in Belize, (BFLA) Belize Family Life Association, (REDCA+) Regional Network of Persons Living with HIV in Central America, and the National AIDS Commission Belize. Stephen has served as the executive president of a newly inaugurated NGO for youth in difficult circumstances, working with YLGBTI, Young Sex Workers, documented and undocumented migrants, YPLHIV, Incarcerated youths, disabled young persons, and young girls. His passion motivates him to be a dynamic youth leader in his community as he progresses toward positive outcomes in Belizean society. His mantra in life is “To be able is to be capable and be capable with reason.”
Shanese Pitzold was an honor student in the Natural Resource Management program at the University of Belize. She has received a certificate of distinction from The Associated Board of Royal Schools of Music in London, and her professional experience includes working as an office assistant at NEMO and at the Ministry of Education as a secretary. Shanese has volunteered at Dorothy Menzies Children Home, StellaMarisPrimary School, the CamaloteVillage, and was a youth teacher for Maranatha Seventh Day Youth. Shanese believes she is a positive force in her community when it comes to protecting the environment, as she has been involved in clean up and recycling campaigns. Her greatest passion is to educate youth about HIV/STI Protection.
Shaimir Jacobs has completed coursework at the Baptist School of Adult Continuing Education (B.S.A.C.E) and has worked as an office assistant for the Public Service department in the City of Belmopan. He aspires to become a successful and exemplary youth leader and provide young people with knowledge and information in sexual health, which he believes will be a step forward in assisting young Belizeans in making healthy sexual and reproductive health decisions. Shaimir is generous, compassionate and enjoys supporting others.
Renita Pop attended the Toledo Community College (TCC) and graduated in 2007 at the age of 16, with a diploma in Science. She later attended The University of Belize in pursuit of a Nursing Degree. In 2009 she obtained a certificate in Practical Nursing, was a Magna Cum Laude honor student, earned her license as a Practical Nurse and in June 2013 received her Bachelor’s Degree in the Nursing Field. Renita has volunteered at the Belize Red Cross Belmopan Branch and has served as the Youth Representative on the executive committee. She is a certified member of the NIT (National Intervention Team), a First Aid Instructor, and a National Trainer for the Together We Can Program. Renita is a passionate, self empowered and determined youth leader who believes in honesty, hard work and success. She plans on having an impact on many young people’s lives, particularly in sexual and reproductive health, and hopes to see a decrease in teenage pregnancy in her community.