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JUne 2013 N° 13

nuevas TRENZAS informs Body Policies and Sexual Rights of Young Rural Women: Trends in Public Policy and Development Reports

Carmen Yon Instituto Estudios Peruanos “Body policies” refer to those policies that focus on the body, sexuality and the reproductive capacity of women. This report aims at reviewing the main public policies, development programs and projects that target the collective of young rural women of Latin American in the fields of health and sexual and reproductive rights, as well as other fields related to body polices. General Trends in Public Policy and Development Programs in Young Rural Women’s Health and SexualRights Firstit must be noted that public policies and development programs have been especially designed for responding to young rural women’s specific agendas. Available information accounts for guidelines and interventions that comprise, in theory, this collective, such as policies and programs directed to poor rural women, teenagers and youth in general. In the first case, most of the efforts carried out over the last two decades have focused on maternal and infant health. The main strategies consist on prenatal control, institutionalized childbirth, as well as perinatal control and control of the healthy child. On the other hand, in most areas of the region’s countries policies and programs have been designed aiming at adolescents and youths. In a lesser measure, efforts have been undertaken for launching differentiated health services for teenagers. Their implementation, however, has been mostly poor, incomplete, and has had a low budget. Also, young rural women have been included in national programs for preventing and reporting violence against women that, as the programs targeting young people, have had many limitations for an effective implementation. Likewise, projects have been carried out for empowering women in certain urban and rural areas. The work of international organizations, local NGOs, and citizens who take on the role of leaders or promoters of interventions related to teachers’ training and awareness raising among health providers regarding teenager’s health, sexual and reproductive rights has been insufficient, particularly for achieving results in rural areas, where access is more difficult, interventions are more expensive, and require diverse and profound changes. Thus, sexual education and other programs focusing on young people’s health, sexual and reproductive rights face a series of obstacles for their implementation due to government passivity, and rural areas are the most affected. Strategies and Results of the Selected Policies and Programs An integral sexual education with a human rights approach and a scientific foundation is essential so young rural women be able to make informed decisions about their sexual lives and prevent unwanted pregnancies, STDs and HIV, sexual abuse, as well as, to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights in general. Next we will presenta series of programs that have focused in these topics in different Latin American countries.

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www.nuevastrenzas.org Integral sexual education is a strategy used by “The Sexual Education Project for Youth, Men and Women of Paraguay’s Rural Area” implemented by the NGO CECTEC (Paraguay) since 1995. This is one of the few interventions aiming at and conceivedspecifically and exclusively for working with rural youth in topic regarding sexual education in Latin America, and is mainly committed to a communitarian sexual education, which is defined as integral and based on the reflection on and the adaptation of language and methodology to the local rural reality. Along the same line, Municipal Homes of Nicaragua’s Adolescents and Youth promoted since 1998 are a case especially useful for analyzing the relationship between State and societyas well as processes of political decentralization in the field of health and youth and adolescents rights. Likewise they allow perceiving the importance of an inclusive space for young people that will act as a referent generating and articulating interventions with this population. Empowerment, understood as the expansion of the capacity of the power to decide and do, is related to young rural women’s health and sexual and reproductive rights interventions. In this sense, it is understood that the need for health and sexual and reproductive rights and the possibility of exercising one’s rights in this field are interrelated with the social and economic needs and rights to which young rural women have access since childhood and adolescence. According to this approach, these programs or projects propose an intersectoral work and strategies aiming at being the most integral possible regarding the diverse aspects in which inequalities that affect women since a very young age is are produced. The program “Opening Opportunities (Abriendooportunidades, in Spanish)” started in 2004 in Guatemala. It aims at narrowing the gaps regarding the access to health, education and opportunities for improvement that separate the country’s indigenous girls from the rest of the child and adolescent population. According to a recent evaluation, results are encouraging. However, as it has already been pointed out, it is difficult to evaluate empowerment processes in the measure that they usually take place in the medium to long term. The Inter-agency Program for adolescent women’s empowerment in El Salvador was carried out between 2002 and 2006. During this period, an of rural adolescent women’s needs were addressed under an integral approach in 13 municipalities. Early outcomes, resulting from empowerment, are reflected on participation processes, entrepreneurial abilities and productive initiatives, prevention of gender violence, life abilities, integral health care, and sexual and reproductive health. Another example of an effort for integrally defending and promoting women’s rights in the region is the creation of The Indigenous Women Advocacy Office (La Defensoría de la MujeresIndígenas, in Spanish) in Guatemalathat addresses both rural and urban indigenous women, and expresses the need for fighting against intertwined gender and ethnic inequalities. It is a public court, created for dealing with gender violence and promoting the rights of indigenous women. It emerged in 1999 after the demand of indigenous women and as part as the Peace Agreements in Guatemala, in the measure that these women, both in the countryside and the city, were the most affected by the consequences of the internal armed conflict, as well as by gender inequality, discrimination and racism, which also affect women in a greater measure. These factors affect all women, but mostly young women who have less social and symbolic capital in the community. Conclusiones Regarding these topics, the identification of the health and sexual and reproductive rights and the gender agenda of young rural women is still, atthe policy, program and project level, a very incipient process. This may be related to the little knowledge available about change and continuities in rural areas over the past decades, and their impact in gender relations and health and sexual and reproductive rights that rural areas gave gone through. This leads us to think about a lack of acknowledgement of young rural women as a differentiated and heterogeneous collective. On the other hand, while there are significant improvements at the Latin American and the Caribbean government’s institutional and legal framework level for addressing sexual and reproductive health, there has been a slow and scarce impro-

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www.nuevastrenzas.org vement in the formulation and implementation of public policies. Therefore, international agencies, NGOs and local social organizations have paved the way for starting to intervene in rural women´shealth and sexual and reproductive rights, and in the best case scenarios they have facilitated a greater intervention on the government’s side regarding the commitments made in this field. Health and sexual and reproductive rightsprojects and programs targeting rural youth need to plan sustained work with adults from within their own environment, especially in relation to the people with whom each young person has a relation of dependence, such as mothers, fathers and teachers, as well as with adults that influence life in the community, such as church leaders, social organizations’ leaders and local authorities. Also, adults need to be made aware and trained inboth young rural women’s sexual and reproductive rights and more democratic inter-generational and gender relationships. Finally, the reviewed projects, programs and policies show that sexual education can prevent sexual risks and promote the exercise of sexual and reproductive rights. In previous diagnoses or in the outcomes of the reviewed interventions, the need for working in coordination and in parallel within different fronts, including the access to proper healthcare services, prevention of and the fight against gender violence and other forms of structural violence that affect rural and indigenous women, as well as, overall processes of broadening of opportunities and “empowerment” of young rural women.

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Brief: Body Policies and Sexual Rights of Young Rural Women