Today was a perfect example of Fenix’s effectiveness and success. Two of the Fenix girls, in nursing school, led workshop on Family Planning and sexual health. There were about ten Fenix girls who attended, along with boyfriends, siblings, volunteers and some others (perhaps students or potential Fenix beneficiaries?).
The workshop started with basic female and male sexual anatomy. It was a great feeling to be learning along with the other girls. My “elite, privileged” liberal arts education did not make me any more knowledgeable than the some of the girls around me who have had disrupted education due to abuse, displacement, prostitution etc. My interest in the subject also reassured me a bit more about medschool since this is really the only type of human anatomy study I have done in a long time (aya!).
We discussed contraception and I learned about the Norplant. I had never heard about this contraception and was so happy to discover D’s (a Fenix girl training to be an orthodontist’s assistant) experience with it. The Norplant is a form of contraception that looks like two matchsticks and is implanted under the skin on the upper, inner arm. It works from 3 to 5 years (secreting reproductive hormones) before it needs to be replaced. D. walked around the room and let us all feel it (it feels sort of like a small scar), while we all asked questions and scribbled down notes excitedly about this option.
The Norplant (and other contraceptives like birth control) is absolutely free in Colombia. Timothy read the state-written law declaring the Norplant free for Colombians (not sure if this includes minors or not…). Apparently, some employees refuse to offer it for free since it is costly for the hospital. The reading was a way to show the girls that they need to assert their rights to health. In the case where they might be refused the contraception, Timothy encouraged them have a copy of the law with them to pressure the employee and threaten to press charges. The workshop synchronized the key aspects of sustainable outreach: Health, Education, Rights (HER!).
We also reviewed the various abuelita myths about contraception methods. Some of them, like the “Billing test,” I had never heard of. It is said that when you are most fertile, your discharge is more sticky and can be stretched like a bubble or mucus between two fingers. Of course this is a MYTH, but it is strange/interesting (for some reason this often means the same thing to me…) to think that decades ago, and still people today, might test their discharge and say “OH! We probably shouldn’t do it today honey unless you want to have a baby.” Another one was the idea that when your temperature rises by 1 degree centigrade when you are most fertile. I wondered how many of these girls had heard these stories or if they had tried these tricks before. The myths were a great way to lighten up the workshop with humor.
After it was over, one of the girls told my director Timothy and fellow Fenix volunteer Rosie that she didn’t want to leave. She lives with her “aburrido/abusivo” boyfriend because she has no other home…it was a bitter sweet comment that only heightened the importance of the workshop, but also showed its limitations. Effective family planning requires a positive relationship with a partner…how could she apply what she learned if her boyfriend refused to listen? And might she be afraid that he would throw her out if she tried to assert herself? Her only solution seems to be to move out, but for this, she needs plata…