STORY INLINE POST
On Sept. 4 and 5, Mexico commemorated Sexual Health Day and Indigenous Women's Day. These dates underscore the importance of addressing a crucial and often overlooked issue: the sexual health and reproductive rights of the most vulnerable individuals in the country.
Despite the widespread recognition of reproductive health in today's society, we rarely grasp the profound implications this has on the self-determination of women in remote communities to make crucial decisions about their bodies, their sexual life, and motherhood.
In the context of our nation, where teenage pregnancy is an alarming and persistent problem, women face unique challenges that require urgent attention. Mexico ranks first in teenage pregnancies among member nations of the Organization for Economic Development (OECD), putting us at a significant disadvantage in our personal and professional development and, consequently, in our quality of life.
Indigenous girls and young women often face stigmatization when seeking medical care or trying to exercise their reproductive rights. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Survey (Ensanut) indicate that 35% of Indigenous adolescent girls in the country do not know any contraceptive methods, and 17% of young people aged 12 to 19 claim to have experienced discrimination in medical services, such as doctor's offices, clinics, or hospitals.
This distinction based on their ethnic and cultural background is a deeply rooted problem with serious consequences. Lacking the necessary information and resources puts them at greater risk of unplanned pregnancies, which affect their educational and career prospects and increase the dangers to their overall health and well-being.
Overcoming these barriers is a critical challenge in the fight for justice and equality. Therefore, it is essential that we explore this concept in depth and recognize that reproductive health goes far beyond being a mere medical notion: it is a fundamental human right.
To address this inequality, it is imperative that we work together as a society to ensure that everyone, regardless of their geographical location or socioeconomic background, has equal access to reproductive healthcare. This involves providing appropriate medical services and breaking down the cultural and social barriers that limit the ability to make informed decisions about health and motherhood.
The Role of Businesses and Civil Society
Amid this inequality, it is crucial to acknowledge the role that businesses and civil organizations can play in promoting sexual and reproductive health in vulnerable communities. There are many examples, but I would like to mention two that contribute significantly to providing as much information as possible to these communities.
The first of these is the Bayer to the Community project, through which the German company provides educational materials on reproductive health in 10 different Indigenous languages, with the aim of promoting gender equity by empowering women, training them in family planning methods, and preventing unplanned pregnancies in young people, thus contributing to breaking the cycle of poverty.
This initiative has had a significant impact, reaching more than 300,000 beneficiaries from its inception until the end of 2022. This would not be possible without the management of healthcare specialists. Therefore, they work hand in hand with healthcare institutions to provide continuous medical education to personnel from major organizations such as IMSS, ISSSTE, and SSA at the central level, in terms of legal frameworks for contraception, informed consent, contraceptive counseling, and modern methods.
Similarly, in collaboration with MEXFAM, Bayer promotes informative caravans that offer advice and guidance to women, directing them to the nearest IMSS clinics so that they can effectively access the contraceptive method of their choice.
This initiative is present in the following languages and states of the republic: Purépecha (Michoacan), Rarámuri (Sierra Tarahumara de Chihuahua), Totonaca (Puebla and Veracruz), Náhuatl (Puebla, Guerrero, and Veracruz), Huichol (Jalisco, Nayarit, and Michoacan), Mayos (Sonora and Sinaloa), Otomí (Guanajuato and State of Mexico), Zapoteco (Oaxaca), Tzetzal (Chiapas), Maya (Yucatan), and Tzotzil (Chiapas).
Another successful initiative is Experiencing Our Sexual Rights in the Community, with the active collaboration of the Simone de Beauvoir Leadership Institute (ILSB) and state networks composed of young and Indigenous women. This project consists of creating short micro-stories in the form of radio capsules or podcasts, available in nine native languages. These narratives, each lasting one to two minutes, are produced by young people, specifically targeting a young audience.
The languages initially included in these works are: ayuuk, diidxazá, and ombeayiüts from Oaxaca; tzotzil and tzeltal from Chiapas; Maya from the Yucatan Peninsula, Mixteco (tu´nsavi), Tlapaneca (me´phaa), Náhuatl from Guerrero, and Spanish.
What More Can We Do?
Addressing the obstacles affecting the sexual and reproductive health of iIndigenous women in Mexico is an essential challenge in the pursuit of justice and equity. Therefore, to prevent unplanned pregnancies, it is essential to adopt the following suggestions:
Promote Dialogue: Foster open and respectful dialogue within communities about sexual and reproductive health. This includes the participation of community leaders in discussions and the elimination of taboos and stigmas associated with these topics.
Resources in Indigenous Languages: Develop and distribute educational materials and resources in Indigenous languages to ensure access to information in their native language.
Community Participation: Involve communities in the planning and implementation of sexual and reproductive health programs. This includes training community leaders and close collaboration with local organizations.
Human Rights Education: Provide human rights training to healthcare professionals and government officials to ensure dignified and discrimination-free treatment for those seeking healthcare services.
Monitoring and Evaluation: Establish monitoring and evaluation systems to measure the impact of initiatives on sexual and reproductive health and make necessary adjustments.
Intersectoral Partnerships: Promote alliances and collaborations between the government, nongovernmental organizations, businesses, and civil society to comprehensively address challenges in sexual and reproductive health.
It is our duty as a society to work together to overcome the cultural, social, and access barriers faced by the most vulnerable women. By doing so, we will be promoting gender equality and, at the same time, improving their quality of life and contributing to the sustainable development of our communities.
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