Machismo and the oppression of women are still topics that have not been entirely overcome in our modern world. There are still cases of women whose rights are violated daily, exposing their lives to any type of dangers, including the acquisition of HIV.
Sandra Mejía, for instance, tells that her mother gave birth to 10 children because her husband “never allowed her to plan”. At Sandra’s house, on the other hand, they talk about sexuality like referring to the harvest of cocoa; with naturalness. “I talk about sexuality as I speak of other things.” said Mrs. Mejía.
Sandra is 41 years old, has 5 children and, like her mother, she is also a rural woman. Sandra supports a small and silent campaign that could change the future of other women and their families. Sandra joined this campaign as something more in her life. She is part of this new effort while she takes care of her home, the cocoa harvest and farm animals. This is how this humble woman passes on contraception to women in her community from her kitchen.
She is one out of nine women volunteers in which the office of the United Nations Population Fund entrusted to educate on the use of the female condom in their community, as part of a pilot plan to distribute this type of method at a national level.
A previous study by the UN Population Fund indicates that women would use this type of contraception, which besides, has advantages other than the male condom. For example, it can be used by people allergic to latex, since it is made of synthetic nitrile. It can be placed with more time before sexual intercourse, and it also covers the external genitalia of women.
“The female condom is a first step to change women’s lives. Women now have full autonomy; I can take the decision to take care of myself”. Said Mrs. Mejía.
During the study of acceptability of the method, women reported that the first times of use they often had discomfort; however, with repeated use, those feelings disappeared.
In Costa Rica, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INEC), teen pregnancy (between 12 and 19 years) accounts for 20% of the total number of pregnancies. In absolute terms, during 2009, this represented 14.666 pregnancies. While in other age ranges fertility has dropped. The percentage figure in adolescents has remained static.
Like any change, this revolution starts from the houses of the volunteers. All women have agreed that their husbands have changed. Women said their husbands changed from typical “machos” into more perceptive men, who talk with their daughters, dealing with things in their houses, and motivating them to get involved within their community.
“Many women get embarrassed when it comes to touch their body. They have the impression that it is bad. I encourage my daughter to explore her body, to touch it, to feel it. I have told her to use a mirror to see how it is”, said Marisol, one of the volunteers.
According to the results of the pilot study, more than 1.300 women used the female condom during the process, and about 15% of them requested to be resupplied.
UNFPA argues that the use of the female condom is even better compared to the data obtained from the use of the male condom at a national level.