In Ecuador, as in many countries around the world, the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people can be a controversial topic, surrounded by misinformation and stigma.
However, silence may put them at risk of violations of their rights, such as gender violence and unwanted pregnancy, two important challenges in Ecuador.
About 65 out of every 100 Ecuadorian girls were reported in 2019 to have suffered gender-based violence in their lifetime, and in 2022 an average of five girls (aged 10 to 14) and 108 teenagers Adolescents (ages 15 to 19) report lightness every day.
This situation is exacerbated in the coastal and border province of Esmeraldas, one of the poorest regions in Ecuador, where women and girls face a high risk of gender violence and teenage pregnancy.
Janny Caicedo Corozo is a young leader who fights misinformation, taboos and stigma by training other young people to know their sexual health rights.
To do the job
From Limones, a town in Esmeraldas, is the youth leader Janny Caicedo Corozo. Limones is an island in the Pacific Ocean, with beautiful beaches and the largest population concentration of Afro descent in Ecuador.
Caicedo describes his home as “small and full of love,” although not without difficulties, because like many societies with large communities of Afro descent, the effects of racism and discrimination have caused inequality and social, economic and health gaps.
Teenage pregnancies have decreased in my community and women have more freedom of speech.
With the desire to help and with the intention of reducing fears and breaking myths about reproductive and sexual health, Caicedo wants to change the way sexuality is discussed in his community. The opportunity to do this arose after joining the project RuranKapak, which is supported by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
RuranKapak, which translates as “Doing it” in the Amazonian Kichwa language, is a comprehensive approach to sexuality education launched in Ecuador in 2012.
By means of RuranKapak, Young people participate in information sessions, which are supported by teachers, health personnel and rights advocates, and which address topics such as self-care and nutrition, gender violence, health of menstruation, contraception and sexuality.
After participating in a session of RuranKapak In 2018, Caicedo was invited to a training to become a trainer in this method. Since then, he has been a facilitator of the project, leading several briefings over the past five years. And the results are visible.
Reduction in teenage pregnancy
“The methodology has produced wonderful results,” he said. “Teenage pregnancies have decreased in my community and girls have more freedom of speech; they come to health centers with their families to access contraceptive methods and more.”
In the last decade, almost 1,200 teenagers and young adults have been trained RuranKapak and more than 38,000 participants received information through the sessions.
Although Ecuador’s maternal mortality rate has dropped significantly since 2000, pregnancy and childbirth still pose deadly risks to the country’s young women. Girls and adolescents under 19 years of age account for 8% of maternal deaths in 2021. This means that comprehensive sexuality education can literally save lives.
The question is how to end preventable maternal deaths? The UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem has the answer:
- Increasing access to a variety of quality contraceptives of a woman’s choice
- Invest in professional midwives so that all women have access to the high-quality care they need during pregnancy, during and after childbirth
- promote comprehensive sexual education for young people to prevent teenage pregnancy, one of the leading causes of death among teenagers
Adolescence is a time of change. Makes sense, then, that RuranKapak regularly updated to ensure that teenagers continue to connect with this method.
Its application in many rural, border and hard-to-access regions of Ecuador has had a lasting impact. For many, it serves as gateway to the legal profession and defense of human rights; Some of those who started speeding as teenagers now work in organizations whose purpose is to protect sexual and reproductive health and rights and combat gender-based violence.
Caicedo has many dreams and works hard to achieve them. He is currently studying medicine at the University of Guayaquil, but hopes to return to his island and contribute to its development by creating an educational institution so that young people from the community can help their families.
He said that he will always dedicate part of his life to activism and that his learning from the project supported by UNFPA is his greatest ally: RuranKapak “Changes lives and addresses sexual and reproductive rights in a unique way, without restrictions or discrimination.”
This report was prepared by Ruth Quiñónez and Gina Montaño, from the UNFPA office in Ecuador.