Teenage pregnancy in El Salvador is a major public health issue.
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in 2015 there was an average of 69 teenage pregnancies per day, or about three pregnancies an hour.
Fourteen-year-old Noelia lives with her mother and two sisters. She has four more brothers and sisters who have migrated to the United States seeking opportunity.
She became a Sexual Rights Champion after Plan International visited her community and encouraged students to attend a sexual and reproductive rights training.
“The project is important for my community because early pregnancy is one of the biggest problems in the area,” she said. “People don’t know enough about this topic. It is important for families to know about this so they can teach their children better.”
Plan has implemented a number of programs designed to inform children and young people about their sexual and reproductive rights, the risk factors, and how to protect themselves against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases like HIV.
The organization is encouraging young people to talk about and share their knowledge of sexual and reproductive rights through art contests, theater productions, movie screenings, interactive discussions, and workshops.
Noelia believes it is vital that the different generations work together to create the necessary changes to the community.
“I can now talk with my family about many things and discuss my goals and interests with them,” she said.
The schools have had a major impact on communities and the children and young people who attend them have become champions of their own rights. The Sexual Rights Champions use the information they have learned to teach their peers, teachers, and parents about their sexual and reproductive rights and work to reduce discrimination towards girls who are already pregnant.
Initially, Noelia’s mother didn’t agree with her daughter taking part in the project because the group met on Saturdays, which is when Noelia helped her sell fruit. However, she now understands the importance of the initiative and she respects her decision to attend the group meetings.
Thanks to the training, Noelia is more confident and feels free to express her ideas.
“Being part of this project has strengthened my wish to help my school and community,” she said. “I will continue to participate in projects like this one so more young people know about their sexual rights and how to prevent pregnancy.”