By Rita Eliany Barralaga Guardado, Rise Up Leader since 2020, Honduras
Rita, a young Rise Up Leader in Honduras, is advocating for comprehensive sex education to help prevent child pregnancy so that adolescent girls and young women in her community can make their own decisions about their bodies and their lives.
I am from Jutiapa, Atlantida, Honduras. Adolescents and youth like me are the majority of the population in Honduras. As young people, we are greatly impacted by social issues and deeply committed to change.
Since I was a child, I have believed that we, as adolescent girls and young women, have the capabilities and potential to overcome what challenges us today. Currently, I am trying to solve the problem of child pregnancy in my community. Honduras has one the highest adolescent birth rates in the world. I was inspired to try to solve this because I have seen how child pregnancy correlates with poverty, gender inequality, violence, lack of education, and health risks for many adolescent girls around me.
When I became a Rise Up Leader, I learned that only by organizing ourselves can we create the changes that we hope for, and thus, I have changed. I have acquired a broader vision. I now believe that every challenge I have faced in my life has turned me into a more resilient and empowered person, developing my knowledge and ability to face the challenges that impact us most.
I am working together with the SILOE training center association to change the high rate of child pregnancies in the municipality of Jutiapa, which is getting higher each day — currently, 4 out of 100 girls become pregnant each year. So far I have been successful at presenting my proposal for comprehensive sexual education at the mayor’s office, the Ministry of Education, and the health department of my municipality. I will be even more successful when my project achieves the goal of bringing comprehensive sexual education to all public and private schools.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected my work by making it harder to go out and raise awareness among girls and adolescents about child pregnancy and help them to understand their sexual and reproductive rights. The pandemic has also increased the pregnancy rates among adolescent girls due to a lack of sexual education.
My hope for the future is that sexual education is freely discussed at all schools and colleges, that adolescent girls know their sexual and reproductive rights, and that we can make decisions about our own bodies. I dream of equality, inclusivity, justice, and most of all, respect.