Marie Stopes Bolivia: A focus on youth
Marie Stopes Bolivia goes the extra mile to reach young women and men in need of sexual and reproductive health services.
The outlook for young women in Latin America trying to navigating their sexual and reproductive health is dire. According to the Guttmacher Institute’s recent report entitled Adding it Up: Costs and Benefits of Meeting the Contraceptive Needs of Adolescents, one in three teenage girls (15-19 years of age) in Latin America have an unmet need for modern contraception.
In Bolivia, the need for education and access to contraception is particularly acute. According to the National Demographic and Health Survey (ENDSA 2008), about 18% of young women between the ages of 15 and 19 are pregnant or already mothers. Nearly 250 babies are born to women under the age of 20 every day in Bolivia, totaling an estimated 90,000 teen pregnancies each year. Of these pregnancies, a staggering 70% were unplanned.
Marie Stopes Bolivia has become a leader in meeting the needs of young people through several youth-focused programs:
- In partnership with the University of Franz Tomayo, MS Bolivia held a contest for university students to use art to educate their peers on the risks of teenage pregnancy and violence in relationships. The contest accepted art of all kinds- photographs, illustrations, audio pieces and video pieces. 80 students participated, and their works were displayed at a ceremony attended by University officials and faculty, students, and the MS Bolivia Team.
- MS Bolivia focused its social outreach efforts to different carnival celebrations, highly attended by young people. An estimated total of 10,000 male condoms were distributed at carnival celebrations in three different locations (Oruro, Santa Cruz, La Paz). MS Bolivia was also able to promote its unique family planning video game phone app, Experminator.
- MS Bolivia developed a unique and educational family planning game, suited for smart phones, called Seeking to reach more young people, MS Bolivia recruited young software developers to build the game, in which the main character attempts to zap invading sperm before they reach fertile eggs. If the player loses, a crying baby appears, reminding the player of the consequences of an unplanned pregnancy. The game, released in January of this year, has already been downloaded over 4,000 times. MS Bolivia is also finding that it’s not only young people who are downloading Experminator, but their parents too!
The need for sexual and reproductive health care will continue to grow in Bolivia; young people between the ages of 10 and 19 account for nearly one-fourth of the total population in Bolivia, and this number continues to grow. MS Bolivia recognizes this challenge, and will continue to focus on this population of high need through innovation, dedication, and leadership.