- Tracy WebsterTracy Webster is a graduate of Wesley High School. She has volunteered at Youth Enhancement Services (YES), which is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to empowering young women to lead independent, secure, and fulfilling lives through education, skills training, advocacy and outreach in Be...
GOJoven is dedicated to improving adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights programs, policies, and outcomes in Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and Quintana Roo, Mexico by developing the next generation of young leaders in the Mesoamerican region.
On #GivingTuesday, a day dedicated to inspiring people to improve their communities, give back in better and smarter ways and help create a better world, we are bringing awareness to the need for comprehensive sexual education in Central America and southern Mexico in order to reduce discrimination, gender-based violence and adolescent pregnancy and empower young people with the information they need to make healthy life choices.
Your gift to GOJoven on #GivingTuesday supports youth leaders who are advocating for comprehensive sexual education in secondary schools in Central America and southern Mexico.
To learn more about #GivingTuesday, click here.
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With international leaders currently gathered at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP19) in Warsaw, Poland to negotiate and develop policies and procedures to address climate change, it seemed the perfect time to explore the connection between the issues of reproductive health and environmental degradation and our Youth Leadership in Sexual and Reproductive Health Program’s (GOJoven) work to address both. Typically treated as separate fields of work, we believe that environmental degradation (ED) and lack of access to reproductive health (RH) education and services are actually interwoven issues that negatively impact each other and the health and well-being of the most marginalized populations in developing countries, including women, girls, youth and adolescents, and indigenous, poor and rural peoples.
Fellows of PHI’s GOJoven program are seeing firsthand how rapid population growth and lack of reproductive health are impacting the environments in their local communities. In her essay “Cancun: A Lost Paradise”, part of a larger anthology entitled A Pivotal Moment: Population, Justice & the Environmental Challenge, Adriana Varillas, a journalist and GOJoven fellow from Mexico, explains that the consequence of rapid population growth in Cancun is the destruction of natural resources to make way for development to respond to increased tourism and a growing population. Saúl Paau Maaz, a GOJoven fellow from Guatemala, tells a similar story to Varillas in an article on the impacts of population growth on his native Petén. According to Maaz, multinational companies and sprawling human settlements are destroying the forests. He calls the jungle where he was born a “disaster area” that’s been “plundered and exploited”, that every year, 100 to 150 square miles of forest are lost.
In both Cancun and Petén, Varillas and Maaz note that the local population lacks access to sexual education and resources to plan their pregnancies and the use of condoms and other contraceptive methods are still stigmatized. And as the population grows, so does the use of natural resources. And although population growth in these countries is not responsible for climate change, local population growth due to lack of access to sexual and reproductive health education and services can negatively affect the population’s ability to adapt to climate change or to mitigate it’s effects.
GOJoven’s Work to Address Reproductive Health and Environmental Protection
In 2010, at the 16th UN Climate Summit in Cancun, Mexico, PHI’s GOJoven program was one of 13 organizations, including the Sierra Club and the International Planned Parenthood Federation, that developed the COP16 Policy Statement, titled: Global Youth Support Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) for a Just and Sustainable World.
The statement, presented by GOJoven and the youth attending COP16 was based on the fact that at least 215 million women worldwide want to limit or space their births, but don’t have access to modern family planning methods. UNFPA estimates that this unmet need for family planning is twice as great for young people. It also demanded that an effective approach to climate change mitigation and adaptation must support young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), as doing so is essential for adaptation while contributing to reducing the impact of future climate change.
In addition to working side-by-side to develop the COP16 Policy Statement, GOJoven fellows helped facilitate the Council on Youth (COY) pre-conference to the COP 16 and actively participated in COP16. GOJoven has also worked for many years with the Sierra Club on the Sex and Environment Tours, with GOJoven fellows visiting college campuses throughout the US to engage US students on the topics of reproductive health and environmental protection. Sierra Club joined GOJoven in Guatemala to train additional youth leaders on the connections between population and the environment. See video here.
Currently, GOJoven fellows in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras are engaging youth and collaborating with community groups, local organizations and the media to see that young people in these countries, and globally, have access to sexual education and resources to plan their pregnancies. And the GOJoven Belize Alumni Association (GOBelize) has as core to it’s mission to prepare the next generation of leaders in sexual and reproductive health and rights and environmental conservation. GOJoven will continue to work to link these important issues, fighting to support youth SRH as an important strategy for climate change and mitigation. We look forward to joining COP20 in Peru in 2015!
To support the work of GOJoven fellows to continue to put reproductive health at the forefront of the climate change discussion, consider making a contribution by clicking on the donate button below.
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.
During a short visit to Public Health Institute’s office in Oakland today, Eva Burgos, General Coordinator for GOBelize and a GOJoven fellow from 2004, shared how GOBelize has reached 1,200 rural, out-of-school youth in Belize with HIV prevention training.
According to recent numbers, Belize has the highest prevalence of HIV in Central America with an estimated 3,100 people there living with HIV. During her presentation, entitled, “Youth Leading Youth: Reaching Rural and Out-of-School Youth with Sexual and Reproductive Health Education”, Eva shared how the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) approached GOBelize to train 15-24 year-old rural, out of school youth in HIV prevention.
Upon accepting the assignment, GOBelize did needs assessments and partnered with the Ministry of Health and the local city councils to get buy-in from the community and make sure the trainings were appropriate and acceptable for this demographic. Using the information they gathered during these assessments, Eva and her team adapted the GOJoven training curriculum.
In the rural areas where Eva and her team held trainings, some young people don’t attend school because they are working in the agricultural sector. Eva explained that it’s no easy feat to get these youth to miss two days of work and wages to attend their 2-day training. The only thing that will get them to miss work, Eva told today’s audience, is football (soccer). Realizing this, Eva and her team partnered with local soccer captains who agreed to encourage young men to attend the trainings.
One of the biggest successes of the trainings, aside from the number of youth who participated, Eva explained, was advocating to offer the training to a younger audience. Originally, UNDP stipulated that this project was to be for 15-24 year olds only. After a few trainings, Eva and her team saw that people as young as 11 and 12 were sexually active and/or getting pregnant. GOBelize successfully advocated to expand the reach of the project to include youth as young as 11 years old.
Eva’s visit to Oakland was her first time at the PHI office. When asked what the best part of her visit was, she said, “To be able to put a face to everyone involved and see the teamwork that gets put into these projects. Seeing that passion makes me want to do better. From the CEO to the contracts manager, these people are all linked to the program in different ways.”
We are proud of the work that Eva and her team at GOBelize have done to bring together government systems, local businesses and community leaders to address HIV in youth in Belize.
You can support the work of GOBelize and enable them to offer these trainings to more youth by making a contribution here.
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.
According to The United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) 2013 State of the World Population report, 20,000 girls under the age of 18 give birth every day. Of these births, 95 per cent occur among adolescents in developing countries. Annually, an estimated 70,000 adolescents die from complications from pregnancy and childbirth.
The report, aimed to help people and organizations understand the scope and impact of the issue as well as to understand what we can do to ensure that girls have a healthy and safe transition to adulthood.
Read the full report, here.
The Way Forward…
The way forward, the report says, is via a “new way of thinking”. According to the report, most programs to address adolescent pregnancy have historically aimed to change the behavior of the girl. While programs aimed at empowering girls to understand their rights, access birth control and get an education are helpful, they don’t address the underlying issues of adolescent pregnancy, issues like gender inequality, poverty, sexual violence and coercion, stereotypes, child marriage and the role of boys and men. The report goes on to say that governments, communities, schools, and families must see these underlying issues as the real challenges to addressing adolescent pregnancy.
The report then details eight ways to get us there. An all-encompassing solution will include:
1. Providing preventative measures for young girls (age 10-14), 2. Stopping child marriage, 3. Keeping girls on healthy and safe trajectories, 4. Protecting human rights, 5. Getting girls in school and enabling them to stay, 6. Involving men and boys to be part of the solution, 7. Expanding sexuality education and access to services, and 8. Building a post-MDG framework based on human rights, equality and stability.
GOJoven’s Work to Face the Challenge of Adolescent Pregnancy
The State of the World Population report points to the importance of youth having access to age-appropriate, comprehensive sexuality education and for investing in services to allow adolescents and young people to access contraceptives and information about their use.
Since 2004, GOJoven has worked to improve adolescent sexual and reproductive rights programs, policies, services and outcomes, including reducing adolescent pregnancy, in the Mesoamerican region through a yearlong youth leadership training which incorporates modules on sexual and reproductive health, program planning and leadership.
Since its inception, GOJoven has trained more than 170 youth leaders, male and female, and 400 local organizations and government institutions in Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and Quintana Roo, Mexico to improve SRHR. Youth leaders have been selected based on their commitment to advancing the field of adolescent sexual and reproductive health.
Once trained, GOJoven alumni have taken their leadership skills and knowledge and understanding of issues like family planning, sexually transmitted infections (STI), gender and sexuality, emergency contraception and sexual and reproductive health out into their communities through sexual education trainings and policy and advocacy work at the local, state and national levels. Some graduates have even opened their own youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health information centers, and others have created their own youth-led NGOs.
In the current phase of GOJoven, graduates from each country are developing a strategic plan and an independent organizational structure, mobilizing youth and organizations to create better youth and adolescent SRHR policies, services, programs and resources. Together with local, regional, and international organizations, GOJoven will contribute to the healthy and productive lives of youth and adolescents in the region.
Thank you to the United Nations Population Fund for the release of the 2013 State of the World Population report. We’re excited for GOJoven to be part of the solution to address the challenge of adolescent pregnancy. If you would like to support the work of our alumni, please Like us on Facebook or make a contribution.
Young leaders from all over Mexico, including GOJoven Mexico’s National Coordinator Sandybel Robaldino, gathered on October 25 and 26 to attend the first ever “One Million Youth for Mexico” Summit at the congress center in the city of Querétaro, Mexico.
“One Million Youth for Mexico” is a 100% citizen-led, independent and nonpartisan initiative that seeks to bring together Mexico’s youth to address pressing social issues. The summit sought to create a national network of youth leaders capable of engaging with the government and finding private solutions to public problems.
The inaugural event was led by José Calzada Rovirosa, Governor of Querétaro and was attended by José Manuel Romero Coello , IMJUVE holder, Spinolo Andrea Prieto, Youth Secretary of Queretaro, Regil Armando Velasco, President of “Million Youth for Mexico “, and Federico Quinzaños Rojas, Coordinator of International and Government Innovation.
The summit focused on the following themes:
- Democratic Security and Rule of Law
- Quality Education
- Economic Development and Sustainability
- Social Cohesion and Identity
- Governance, Democracy and Civil Society
For more information on the summit and the initiative, take a look at the following videos:
This video is a welcome message to “One Million Youth for Mexico” Summit attendees from Former United States President Bill Clinton.
This video is a compilation of images from the summit.
This video highlights some of the projects that have been selected as official “One Million Youth for Mexico” projects for various regions in Mexico. GOJoven Mexico has applied to be the official project in Quintana Roo, Mexico and are waiting to hear if they’ve been selected.
Last Friday, Josie Ramos, Program Manager of GOJoven and Gabriela Flores, Executive Director of GOJoven Honduras, joined leaders from business, philanthropy, government and civil society at the 2013 Central American Donors Forum held at the Inter-American Development Bank headquarters in Washington DC.
Organized by the Inter-American Development Bank and the Seattle International Foundation, the forum brought together donors and development experts working in Central America to discuss priority issues, successful models and opportunities for co-investment in Central America.
Gabriela Flores, a GOJoven graduate from 2006 who is now the Executive Director of GOJoven Honduras, was invited to present on the work that GOJoven Honduras does to address adolescent pregnancy. In her panel presentation, Gabriela spoke about how GOJoven youth leaders are helping youth access more information and education around their sexual and reproductive rights. In a country where talk of sexual and reproductive health is viewed as taboo, Gabriela and her fellow youth leaders are working with the Advocacy Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, comprised of 13 Honduran organizations and founded by participants of PHI’s AGALI program to help teachers, government leaders and members of the community to better implement comprehensive sex education curriculum on a national level.
With increasingly limited funding to sexual and reproductive health programs in Central America, Gabriela’s presentation highlighted the fact that adolescent pregnancy rates have steadily risen in Honduras from 22% in 2005, to 25% in 2011. This means that 1 in 4 teenage girls has been pregnant before they turned 19. Too often, decision makers ask how these high teenage pregnancy rates affect the development of the country. Gabriela turned the question on its head, asking how it is that poor development in Honduras affects the educational and employment options for young women.
Gabriela’s presentation was part of a series of presentations dedicated to highlighting programs investing in adolescent girls. To take a look at Gabriela’s presentation, click here. Other presentations at the forum, included: Opportunities for Collaboration with the Business Sector and Women’s Economic Empowerment.
While in DC, Gabriela and Josie had the opportunity to meet with representatives from the Department of State, USAID, International Development Bank, the Inter-American Foundation and Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s Office. Thank you to each of these offices for taking the time to meet with us.
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.
Today is United Nations Day! Today marks the 68th Anniversary of the ratification of the UN Charter.
In celebration of UN Day, we felt it important to reflect on the United Nations as an international organization committed to maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations and promoting social progress, better living standard and human rights.
That’s no small feat they’ve been tasked with.
In 2002, in an effort to meet their commitment to maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations and promoting social progress, better living standard and human rights, the United Nations adopted the Millennial Action Plan.
The plan detailed the Millennium Development Goals, eight ambitious goals to be achieved by 2015. In case you aren’t familiar with them, here they are:
- Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger
- Achieving universal primary education
- Promoting gender equality and empowering women
- Reducing child mortality rates
- Improving maternal health
- Combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
- Ensuring environmental sustainability
- Developing a global partnership for development
In celebration of the 68th Anniversary of the United Nations today, we took a moment to reflect on our commitment to helping the UN accomplish the Millennium Goals through our work at GOJoven.
The Youth Leadership in Sexual and Reproductive Health Program (GOJoven) develops the leadership capacity of young professionals in adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights (ASRHR) in Central America.
Our mission is to develop and support young leaders and their organizations to advance wellness, education, sustainable development, and civic participation across the globe.
Over the last 10 years, more than 170 youth leaders from Guatemala, Honduras, Belize and Quintana Roo, Mexico have graduated from GOJoven’s leadership training program. Once trained, our fellows have designed and implemented 39 Leadership Action Plans that have reached more than 10,000 young people and hundreds of organizations. In addition to training our fellows, GOJoven has trained more than 400 local organizations and government institutions to improve their understanding of SRHR and their ability to meet the needs of the youth and communities they serve.
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Population Reference Bureau (PRB), adolescents in Mexico and Central America face high risks of early pregnancy; sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV; intimate partner violence; unsafe abortions; and poor birth outcomes.
Through the GOJoven youth leadership training, youth participants (ages 18-30) spend a year learning about sexual and reproductive health, program planning and leadership. During the sexual and reproductive health section of training, youth learn about topics like: diversity, gender and power; gender and sexuality and family planning and HIV prevention.
Once graduated from the GOJoven program, many participants go on to offer training in a variety of topics throughout their communities. GOJoven graduates have trained youth and adults in local schools, NGOs, government agencies, and community centers; some graduates have even opened their own youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health information centers, and others have created their own youth-led NGOs.
An external evaluation of the GOJoven training indicated that our programs have had positive effects on our participants’ technical knowledge of HIV and family planning and ability to communicate with other youth about sexual and reproductive health. Seventy-one percent of participants surveyed have advocated for policies favorable to sexual and reproductive health at the local level.
To continue to impact policies at the local, state and national levels around sexual and reproductive health, our program participants in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Belize are hard at work developing strategic plans, advocacy and communications plans, and an internal organizational structure that fits the needs of their communities.
We are proud of the work that our Fellows have done following participation in the GOJoven youth leadership program, while recognizing there is still so much to do in terms of promoting gender equality and empowering women (Goal 3), improving maternal health (Goal 5) and combating HIV/AIDS (Goal 6).
Happy 68th Anniversary to the UN! We look forward to working alongside you as you work to accomplish the Millennial Goals by 2015.