A Spotlight on Profamilia

For this month’s spotlight, the Self-Care Trailblazer Group is focusing on Profamilia, Colombia’s longest-standing, non-governmental organization that provides, protects, and advocates for sexual and reproductive rights and services. Learn more from Marta Royo, Executive Director, and find them on Twitter at @ProfamiliaCol

 

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR ORGANIZATION! 

Marta Royo, Executive Director of Profamilia: Profamilia is a private non-profit organization that, for more than five decades, has been promoting and defending the exercise of Sexual and Reproductive Rights of the population in Colombia so that they can make free, safe and informed decisions about their sexuality, without discrimination, coercion or violence.  

Through its five strategic lines of action, Profamilia achieves national coverage by offering sexual and reproductive health products and services benefiting the most vulnerable population. To date, Profamilia has more than 40 clinics in Colombia, making it the largest private institution nationally and the second largest in developing countries guaranteeing access to health, with an emphasis on sexual and reproductive health. 

We have five Strategic Action Lines:

  • Profamilia IPS: With more than 40 clinics nationwide, Profamilia is the leading provider of sexual and reproductive health services in Colombia: contraception, prevention of sexually transmitted infections – STIs, safe abortion, gynecology, and urology services, among others, are part of the services offered. 

  • Profamilia Farma: Profamilia Farma offers a wide portfolio of products for the full, safe and pleasurable experience of sexuality such as contraceptives, pregnancy tests, condoms, and lubricants.  Profamilia Farma has a national marketing reach with the highest quality standards. 

  • Profamilia Social Projects and Research: Profamilia is a strategic partner for the execution of high social impact projects. Through strategic alliances with public and private organizations and international cooperation agreements, it works to guarantee the Sexual and Reproductive Rights of people in Colombia. In addition, it researches, analyzes, and documents phenomena related to sexual and reproductive health in the world, with emphasis on the Colombian context. Thus, it contributes to the generation of scientific information and knowledge about Sexual and Reproductive Rights. 

  • Profamilia Educa: We offer innovative and easily accessible educational experiences that support knowledge management and respond to the demand for education and training for the enjoyment of a responsible, safe and happy sexuality. 

  • Profamilia Advocacy: We contribute to the construction and strengthening of public policies through the impact on institutions, organizations, and decision-makers, seeking progress and avoiding setbacks in the guarantee of Human Rights, Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Colombia. 

WHY DOES PROFAMILIA CONSIDER SELF-CARE TO BE A VITAL PART OF HEALTH CARE SYSTEMS?  

MR: Health workers and health experts have been promoting and encouraging this self-care approach for decades. However, new approaches to health, technologies, and increasing barriers to accessing sexual and reproductive services during COVID-19 have reminded us of the importance of joining forces and resources in our efforts to promote self-care.  

Broadly speaking, self-care encompasses “the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.” When it comes to abortion self-care, IPPF has understood it as the right of women and girls to direct some or all of their abortion process with or without support from health care providers.  

At Profamilia we love this definition for two reasons that I want to draw your attention to. 

First, it speaks to the possibility of having self-care with or without health providers. In many spaces, self-care is understood as something opposed to the work of providers, as a replacement. At Profamilia, we believe that self-care and provider care are complementary actions that when articulated can better serve girls and women.  

Second, it reflects the powerful change that self-care brings to our actions as health system organizations. Self-care is not just about self-management of medical procedures. It is about girls and women leading their sexual and reproductive circumstances. 

We want to grow as allies of grassroots movements in collective care initiatives. Under the idea that all social actors can be part of a self-care ecosystem, providers and organizations can have many roles that support self-care and collective care initiatives coming from social movements. Some of them could be: 

  • Being channels of communication between social actors: many organizations and institutions have the possibility to create conversations and articulations between social movements, pharmacies, families and others related to self-care practices, helping them to improve their relationships and join forces.  
  • Be co-creators of knowledge about self-care: people such as girls, women and trans people have empirical and historical knowledge about their own health and care needs. It is time to recognize them as producers of knowledge and for other organizations to recognize this and help make this knowledge visible and valid for the community. 
  • Support with resources and capacity building: many social movement initiatives lack the organizational or administrative capacity to receive resources. Some organizations can directly or indirectly support these initiatives financially by helping community actors build their knowledge with technical skills or concepts from disciplines such as law, medicine, public health, advocacy, economics or others to advance their collective care initiatives.  

HOW DOES PROFAMILIA BELIEVE SELF-CARE CAN REDUCE INEQUITABLE ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE FOR WOMEN AND GIRLS? 

MR: Profamilia strongly believes that self-care can reduce inequality in access to health care for women and girls. This approach reflects a powerful shift in the way we deliver and design health services, but it is not just about self-management of medical procedures. It is about girls and women taking the lead in their sexual and reproductive circumstances. Under this notion, self-care goes beyond people deciding whether or not they want to undergo a procedure, but when and how they want to live their sexuality and reproduction. Women and girls are at the center of all systems of care. In some ways, we can move from focusing on access to services to refocusing on the life experiences behind those services. It’s not just about self-management, but about a holistic experience that includes information, social and alternative care, and mental health.  

Profamilia believes that this concept has been better understood in maternal health than in other discussions about sexuality and reproduction. In maternal health, we are not just talking about access to prenatal care and delivery services, but also about birth plans, doula support, cultural adaptation of health facilities, and the possibility for women to make decisions at every stage of their pregnancy experience.  From this perspective, we can think of a world in which women and girls can make decisions at every stage of their contraceptive or abortion processes.