Written by Erik Pocasangre & Annie Vanderboom
On September 21, 2018, SERniña was one of the leading organizers to help launch RIDAVS' first Sacatepéquez Youth Congress. Nearly 300 youth attended, representing the majority of cities and villages in the department. SERniña collaborated with WINGS Guatemala — recognized for their work in sexual and reproductive health — to lead an engaging workshop on affirmative consent and pregnancy prevention in adolescents.
Girl Leaders step up
SERniña Director of Operations and RIDAVS Liason Erik Pocasangre worked alongside the girls for two three-hour sessions to review key material and create their plan of action to diffuse information they'd learned about affirmative consent and pregnancy prevention to youth in their school community.
The girls decided that they would lead mini-workshops for their peers. The planning and implementation of the workshops was a learning experience in and of itself, as the five girls had to develop confidence in themselves and their voices and learn to trust their ability to be leaders of change.
During the planning sessions, the girls participated in activities to discover their truest selves and their strengths, uncover the vital force that self-love brings, recognize some of their fears, and face them with courage. They reflected on themselves and the collective feelings of youth.
Those hours of hard mental and creative work allowed the girls to recognize the power we all have to create, to form, to have intentions, feelings, and dreams and bring them to life. The girls' workshop preparation reaffirmed that their abilities are without a doubt powerful and wonderful.
The girls' planning culminated in a three-hour workshop for a group of 30 girls and boys in their school. It was the first time that the girls were in front of that many of their peers, articulating the importance of sexual health education and consent — topics that are still very taboo in Guatemalan society.
In Guatemala, it is not easy or common to speak about the body through a lens of freedom of expression and choice. It's hard and scary for almost any teenager to talk about self-love, sexuality, bodily autonomy, harassment, abuse prevention, healthy relationships — and even more so here.
Difficult but necessary conversations
For each of the girls, the drive to talk to their peers about consent and sexual safety was born of the concern they feel for their classmates. Their goal was to help other youth better understand and deal with the consequences of the decisions they make about their lives and their sexuality.
As a youth program, SERniña’s investing in the potential of youth is our driving force. We believe that the next generation will change Guatemala and the world.
Working with youth renews our hope in the future, while at the same time reminding us to recognize the capacity, wisdom, and strength that allow young people to begin to make decisions for their own autonomy and authenticity. Through our workshops and programs, we hope to give youth the tools to serve as empowered and brave community leaders.
The Ripple Effect
Beyond the crucial sexual health information they shared, the girls also showed their entire school community that girls, and youth in general, have a voice. They demonstrated by example that young people are able to lead others and create remarkable positive change.
We hope that not only do these five change-makers continue to thrive, but that their bravery also inspires other young girls around them to believe in themselves, use their voice, and know their powerful potential to become the change that our world needs!
2. OSAR Guatemala: https://osarguatemala.org/embarazos-y-registro-de-nacimientos-de-madres-adolescentes-ano-2019/