27.08.2014

A healthy pregnancy in guatemala

With 25 percent of the country illiterate, Guatemala ranks 174th out of 194 countries in terms of literacy.
Of the 2 million Guatemalan children who do not attend school, indigenous girls, specifically Mayan, make up the majority. According to Justo Solorzano, an expert in child protection services for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the level of education among young girls must be increased in order to prevent pregnancy. Saul Interiano, director of Asociacion Coincidir, a children’s advocacy group in Guatemala, is adamant that adolescent pregnancy is more prevalent in certain communities, mainly rural areas.
Despite making up 50 percent of Guatemala’s population, the indigenous community only accounts for 25 percent of the country’s total income and consumption.
Historically, Guatemalan governments have shunned indigenous communities and excluded them from policies that would directly benefit them.[19] In the 1960s, social movements spread rapidly throughout Guatemala, demanding land and fair wages in the Mayan highlands and large farms in the southern part of the country. More than 100,000 women and young girls fell victim to the systematic rape by government forces, led by Rios Montt during the Guatemalan Civil War. Mayra Rodas, a psychologist coordinator for Doctors Without Borders in Guatemala, believes that most of the social problems created by the civil war in Guatemala have not been resolved and women are the ones most affected by it.
In recent years, social organizations have been active in providing health and education assistance to young girls to make up for the underfunding of the Guatemalan government.
The Family Welfare Association of Guatemala (APROFAM) has also been active in schools, showing teenagers of both sexes the practical characteristics of pregnancy and parenthood.
There are numerous organizations similar to Claudia’s “My Health, My Responsibility” and APROFAM that have taken this particular role and pressured the government to take action. The actions by Guatemala’s government in an attempt to decrease teen pregnancy and eradicate sexual violence should be commended; however, more work needs to be done for young girls to finally have an alternative to dropping out of school and becoming pregnant. In Guatemala’s machismo culture, girls are frequently denied birth control at health centers unless accompanied by a man.


In Guatemala, poverty disproportionally affects the indigenous and rural population more than the urban. The state responded with vicious counter-insurgency campaigns led by General Rios Montt, and what ensued was a militarization of the area during a 36-year civil war between the Guatemalan government and various leftist guerrilla groups, in which most of the indigenous communities found themselves caught in the crossfire. Mayra clarifies that one of the reasons for the sexual violence toward women could be the machismo and patriarchal society in Guatemala.
One example is “My Health, My Responsibility,” a youth education program founded in 2008 by Claudia Paredes, which aims to spread reproductive health education to boys and girls at high schools throughout rural Guatemala.
The organization is well known for using props, such as electronic babies and pregnancy simulators. In 2009, the Guatemalan legislature passed the Law Against Sexual Violence, Exploitation, and Trafficking of People, which criminalizes sexual relations with girls less than 14 years of age—the legal age to marry in the country. Agency for International Development (USAID), the average education level for a Guatemalan is four years and only a third of children graduate from the sixth grade. It is estimated that the Guatemalan Civil War caused 200,000 deaths, created 200,000 refugees in Mexico, and left 1 million people internally displaced—mostly at the hands of the military, police, and intelligence services.[20] The Civil War withered indigenous communities across the Western and Central Highlands, which today remain fragile from the ruthless violence. Her youth leaders travel to high schools in indigenous areas in Guatemala and talk to students about relationships, sex, and pregnancy. According to Cecilia Fajardo, a psychologist with APROFAM, “the pregnancy simulator is a strap-on garment with an enlarged bust and belly weighing 25 pounds, the average weight gain a woman experiences in pregnancy.” The simulator enables the teenagers to experience different signs and symptoms a woman goes through during a pregnancy. Part of the law stipulates that for every pregnant girl who enters a hospital and medical center, a report must be filed with the courts and the pregnancy would then go under investigation. The Guatemalan education system is second rate, particularly in rural areas, where the majority of classrooms do not have suitable schooling materials.
He took away my freedom and that really hurt me.”[26] According to UNICEF, in 2012 around 4,000 girls between the ages of 10 to 14 became pregnant.


Claudia understands that girls without proper education will be deprived of social and economic advancement and will likely become pregnant. The electronic baby has been another effective method that the organization has used to get their message across regarding pregnancy and teen parenthood. In 2010, the Healthy Maternity Act was approved, which requires authorities to provide basic services for women before, during, and after pregnancy.
There are fallacies within the law, however, particularly the unaccountability of pregnant teens who never enter the hospital. This is what our patients tell us.”[24] The legacy of sexual violence during the Civil War has left a mark on Guatemalan society. The Human Rights Ombudsman in Guatemala reported that of these 4,000 girls, 30 percent of them were raped by their own fathers.[27] Vasquez is one of many that have been sexually abused by either relatives or strangers.
It serves as a constant reminder of the sexual violence that young women are experiencing in Guatemala. Fajardo believes that exposing teenagers to these signs and symptoms of pregnancy and the responsibility of taking care of a newborn will raise awareness to the truths and consequences of pregnancy. However, the Guatemalan Constitutional Court overturned his sentence and ordered a new trial due to procedural errors.




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