On November 29th, eleven new youth leaders graduated from the year-long GOBelize leadership development program in sexual and reproductive health. Thanks to this newest graduating cohort, local youth in Belize now know where to go to access sexual and reproductive health services in their communities and will soon have the opportunity to learn about sexually transmitted infections (STI) and how to communicate about this sensitive topic with their families.
These two youth-led initiatives are the result of two separate Leadership Action Plans (LAPs) developed by the program participants during the program; giving the youth leaders the opportunity to apply the concepts they learned through trainings and gain direct experience in program design and implementation.
The LAPs are just one facet of the program. Over the course of a year, youth participants received in-depth training covering a range of topics related to sexual and reproductive health, program planning and leadership, including: the specific needs of youth related to sexual and reproductive health resources, family planning, evidence-based sexual education, budgets and financial planning and public speaking and presentation skills.
The graduation ceremony, which came at the end of the fourth and final training for the year, recognized the dedication of these youth to improving adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights programs, policies and outcomes in Belize. These newest graduates will now be part of the larger network of over 40 Belizean youth who are known as GOBelize Fellows. When fellow Jenna Hoare was asked what she gained from her participation in the GOJoven program, she said “Respect for other persons’ personal values and beliefs”.
Congratulations to this group of amazing youth adolescent sexual and reproductive health leaders!
Members of the GOJoven Reaching Our Youth (ROY) Dangriga 2012 Team expanded their reach and sparked the interest of potential new leaders at the Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) Radio Outreach Day. At SRH Radio Outreach Day, more than 100 people visited the GOJoven ROY booth to engage in conversation and ask questions about their work. Many adolescents expressed interest in joining the team’s efforts. As a result of this interest, the GOJoven ROY team organized a small training for youth in the community and now has nine new volunteers. Five of these new volunteers joined the team at a booth at the annual Benguche Community Fair.
We at GOJoven are very proud of the team for responding to the interest that these young people showed in the ROY Team’s activities. The ROY Team showed great leadership by being flexible and willing to engage in a new activity that fits the needs of local youth.
GOJoven Director, Esther Tahrir and GOBelize General Coordinator, Eva Burgos, recently represented GOJoven at this year’s American Public Health Association’s (APHA) 141st Annual Meeting and Exposition in Boston, MA. APHA’s Annual Meeting is the largest public health gathering in the world bringing together some of the most influential health advocates, researchers, practitioners and other specialists.
Centered on the theme “Think Global, Act Local,” the meeting focused on the best public health practices from around the world, highlighting population health interventions and outcomes in communities across the globe. More than 12,500 public health professionals from across the country and around the world came together to present the latest research and explore new strategies to address today’s leading health challenges during more than 1,000 scientific sessions and at roughly 600 exhibit booths showcasing emerging public health research and leading advocacy efforts.
Esther and Eva showcased GOJoven on two panel presentations to over 150 professionals. Health professionals from across the US and the world attended the GOJoven presentations and showed real interest in the methodologies, strategies and model that GOJoven has developed and the impact that GOJoven Fellows are having in Belize and throughout Mesoamerica.
Esther joined four other women on a panel titled “Exploring Sexual and Reproductive Health Issues among Teens, Adolescents and Young Adults”. Her presentation, “Youth Leadership in Practice: Addressing Teen Sexual and Reproductive Health”, highlighted the importance of investing in youth leadership development to improve adolescent sexual and reproductive health programs, policies and services and ultimately reducing unwanted adolescent pregnancy. Click here to read the abstract of her presentation.
Ms. Eva Burgos, General Coordinator of GOBelize and a 2004 GOJoven Fellow, joined women from Rwanda, the Philippines and Angola on a panel titled “Reproductive Health and Family Planning”. During her presentation “Youth Leading Youth: Reaching Rural and Out of School Youth with Sexual and Reproductive Health Education”, she discussed how GOJoven alumni founded GOBelize and their work educating rural adolescents in Belize on sexual and reproductive health and HIV prevention with UNDP funding. Learn more here.
After the meeting, Eva Burgos said that “What really satisfied me was to see the amount of research being done, such as baseline assessments, to measure impact. It’s important, especially in developing countries, to consider the needs of young people—once we empower youth in SRH [sexual and reproductive health] we have to be sure that they can actually access SRH services.”
Eva and Esther found themselves among globally inspiring leaders such as internationally acclaimed epidemiologist Michael Marmot and attorney Sarah Weddington. Both called for increased leadership and bravery in tackling public health problems and reducing health disparities and inequities. Attorney Sarah Weddington was only 26 when she successfully argued the Roe v. Wade case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court more than 40 years ago. Check out this inspiring video of her speaking at the Opening Session where she reminded the audience that “leadership is the ability and the willingness to leave your thumbprint.” To see the video of these inspiring and famous opening session speakers link to APHA’s YouTube Channel.
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.
Elianne Magaña has completed coursework in the Marine Biology program at the University of Belize and has volunteered with the Environmental Research Institute (ERI). Her volunteer work includes data collection, monitoring and data analysis of the marine environment along the Turneffe Atoll. She considers her work as a volunteer researcher to be vital in protecting the environment. Elianne has also worked at the Belmopan Medical Center as an Ob/Gyn assistant, providing postnatal care for patients. Her long term goal is to become the Minister of Natural Resources of Belize and work for the best interest of all citizens while maintaining a balanced ecosystem. Elianne was born in Havana, Cuba, and moved to Belize at the age of 3; her son’s name is Samer.
Christopher Vincent Reid is a public servant whose professional experience includes working at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture as an Assistant Land’s Officer. He has attended countless peer education sessions on various topics ranging from stigma and discrimination to safe sexual practices, and has been inspired to further build his capacity in the field. He is a founding member of the Belize Youth Empowerment for Change (BYEC), an NGO dedicated to improving the quality of life for young people. He is certified by REDCA+ in primary, secondary and home care for PLHIV, and is particularly passionate about doing his part in reversing the escalating HIV prevalence in Belize through peer education in vulnerable groups.
Jazmine Lino is always on the go and describes herself as being an active youth in her community. She was a participant in the UNDP/GOBelize Out of School Youth outreach program, where she became interested in sexual health. She enjoys writing, drawing, reading, cooking and farm living. Jazmine is a strong and confident individual as she continues to overcome obstacles and celebrate life and the experiences it has to offer. Her goal is to go back to school and study to become a counselor and assist teen single moms and other at-risk youth in her community.