Through my work at IPPF/WHR I am responsible for implementing programs to increase young people's access to sexual and reproductive Youth-Friendly Health Services (YFHS), Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE), as well as supporting youth participation in program development and governance in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC).
I have authored journal articles on the reach of CSE in Nigeria and YFHS in Colombia with the World Health Organization. I implemented a sexual and reproductive health (SRH) program for young people in rural areas of La Paz, Bolivia while working for Save the Children (SCh),
My passion for family planning (FP) and improving the SRH of young people started in medical school. I saw the realities young pregnant women faced and how services were not friendly due to health providers/staff in clinics' stigma around adolescent pregnancy and limited access to comprehensive SRH services. I immediately learned that to improve the SRH of young people it is important to work at two levels: improving health systems and empowering young people with CSE.
One of the main challenges I have faced is the financial sustainability of SRH programs for young people. Through IPPF/WHR I directly work with local NGOs whose -in most of the cases, SRH programs and services for young people have external funding. Sadly, once their funding is finished those services are also finished affecting directly young people. To overcome this, I encourage NGO's to include an institutional policy for working with young people and institutionalize youth SRH programs.
In LAC these challenges are: socio-cultural beliefs on adolescent pregnancy, as if it would be the main choice for many young women-particularly in rural areas; a conservative and religious society, which negatively influences people's believes on FP and access to SRH services; conservative laws around FP; and huge socio-economic inequalities, which means that even if SRH services are available only some groups can afford them.
I want to see changes in the LAC health system; thus strong, sustainable, and quality of YFHS are available in the public and private sectors. I also want to see countries with strong gender and rights based CSE curriculum in place. For this to happen I want to be that SRH champion who leads the change, works in partnership with governments, NGOs, and young people to develop, implement and scale up YFHS and CSE in a sustainable way, and empowers young people to be SRH leaders and advocates.