From Terrified Teen to Adult Advocate

By Emma Halper, Program Assistant, Latin America & the Caribbean, PSI

Grethel got pregnant for the second time when she was 16 years old, and she was terrified. Kicked out of her home just one year earlier for getting pregnant, her mind raced. How would her family react when she told them that it had happened again?   In Nicaragua, where Grethel lives, there is much stigma around teen pregnancy, and young mothers often face discrimination. Twenty-eight percent of women who give birth in Nicaragua are under the age of 18 (UNFPA).  Expecting mothers are nearly always blamed for their unintended pregnancies, and Grethel knew that she would be too. She trembled with fear as she played out the scenarios in her head. She couldn’t fathom her family turning their backs on her again.

And that’s why she didn’t tell them.

One day, when Grethel was in class at her university, she felt something pass from her body into her underwear. She ran home to her bathroom and realized that she had miscarried. Grethel felt absolutely numb.  All she wanted was to be able to tell her mother about what had happened, to cry in her arms, but how could she? She still hadn’t told anyone she was pregnant. Not her mother, not her father, not her friends. She felt alone, terrified and ill.

It took a week for her to cope with what had happened to her and for her to garner the strength to dispose of the evidence of the miscarriage. Afterward, Grethel experienced health complications; her physical and emotional pain worsened.

“It took me a lot of time to assimilate having two consecutive miscarriages,” Grethel said.

Grethel relied on the support of her therapist to help her overcome the emotional implications of her second miscarriage and continued to visit her for long-term support. It was the one place she felt truly safe.  One day in the waiting room, Grethel was flipping through the vividly colored pamphlets and one immediately caught her eye. The back of the pamphlet showcased “Red Segura”—PSI’s network of socially franchised clinics in Central America—which offers primary care, gynecology and family planning services. The sight of this excited Grethel, especially since the national clinics in Nicaragua were known for being discriminatory towards young people for their sexual activity and desire to use family planning.

When a Red Segura clinic opened in the capital city of Managua, Grethel was thrilled and went in for a consultation. She was met with kindness, attention and a welcoming environment. She decided on an implant as her contraceptive method and has never looked back. Her positive experience at Red Segura got her thinking- how many girls resist getting a family planning method because they are afraid of discrimination? Or afraid of being labeled as promiscuous?  How many girls don’t have basic information about the methods available to them?

Ignited with a passion to help inform other girls and young women like her and to keep them from making the same mistakes, Grethel approached the Red Segura team and asked if she could take a few brochures home with her. The team loved her desire to promote the clinic and impact hard-to-reach populations. Grethel began to distribute the brochures at her mother’s clothing store and helped inform dozens of women about the clinic and the care and quality of services that she received.

The team was so thrilled by Grethel’s ambition that they offered her a position as a volunteer promoter for the clinic.

“We were impressed by her empathy and her commitment,” said Carlos Vargas, Teen Moms Adelante Project Coordinator for the Pan American Social Marketing Organization (PASMO).

Grethel now works at universities and health fairs distributing information about the clinic and the services provided, and guiding others towards youth-friendly services and support.

“My two miscarriages gave me a certain level of maturity. I am now motivated by my own experience to help change the behaviors in my country.”

Banner image: © 2016 Paul Treadwell, Courtesy of Photoshare

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