This post originally appeared as a PHI Blog entry here.
Adolescents in Honduras face serious challenges obtaining comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information and services. Almost 40% of girls are married by 18 and the birth rate among girls 15-19 is among the highest in Latin America.
The Public Health Institute’s GOJoven (or Youth Leadership in Sexual and Reproductive Health) program trains young leaders across Latin America to advocate for policies and programs to improve adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH) in their countries. In Honduras, GOJoven fellows are mobilizing and raising their voices – and the Honduran President is listening.
Honduran President, Porfirio Lobo Sosa, came to know of GOJoven alumnus Wendy Aguilar, from the Center for the Investigation and Promotion of Human Rights, after she successfully advocated for a presidential mandate that would obligate cabinet members to follow specific guidelines to prevent violence against children and youth. To follow up on this new mandate, he called on Wendy to organize youth organizations and youth stakeholders to present their needs to him and his cabinet during a cabinet meeting in late 2012.
Enter GOJoven Honduras, a youth-led network of highly skilled, highly committed experts in ASRH, trained by PHI GOJoven staff to promote change at the local, regional and national levels. At the cabinet meeting GOJoven Honduras alumni Gabriela Flores, Antonio Barahona and Licda Alvarez urged the Honduran government to invest in preventing adolescent pregnancy and violence against women, and to support sexual education and young people’s access to emergency contraception.
As a result of the cabinet meeting, there has been ongoing communication between GOJoven Honduras and the Ministries of Health and Youth. Gabriela Flores (the GOJoven Honduras National Coordinator) has now been appointed to the national Technical Committee of Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention, which consists of 20 civil society organizations, corporations and government organizations committed to creating multisectoral alliances to push forward the Honduran National Strategy to Prevent Adolescent Pregnancy (ENAPREAH) launched in late 2012.
In coordination with the Advocacy Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, comprised of 13 Honduran organizations and founded by participants of PHI’s AGALI program, GOJoven Honduras is in negotiations with the Vice Minister of Education to fund and train teachers to implement the new sex education manual throughout Honduras. In May 2013, Gabriela Flores and other members of the Advocacy Coalition met with several NGO leaders and the educational director of a large high school in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, to negotiate the inclusion of a new sex education class in local teacher-training schools. The group also discussed the need to adequately train teachers who use the sex education manual in public schools.
Also in May 2013, Gabriela Flores met with the technical director of the Honduran government’s Youth Institute to discuss collaborative opportunities with the Youth Institute’s local committees across the country.
With GOJoven Honduras fellows and alumni active in nearly all of the country’s regions, the possibilities for far-reaching change are looking more and more attainable.