After three and a half months of pace, preparation, conversation, and growth in six different regions of the world, the World Contraception Day (WCD) Ambassadors Project has come to a close! Looking back, exhilarating is an understatement - as this project brought with it a wealth of diverse experiences.
The planning and development phase went smoothly, with the Women Deliver team providing us with a comprehensive grounding in digital media and storytelling. Then came the tough stuff. Armed with an iPad in hand, each Ambassador set back to their respective regions and got into the complicated work of documenting young people’s stories about their sexual and reproductive health, specifically about contraceptives. My region, Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), is a vast and diverse region, featuring a multiplicity of ethnicities, language, cultures, races, and class backgrounds. As such, conceptualizing this project itself was a challenge as I aimed to capture a spectrum of voices while focusing specifically on underrepresented youth voices from rural communities and the LGBTQI community. In an attempt to capture at least a glimpse of the region’s diversity, I intended to speak with young people in three different territories – Belize, St. Lucia, and my home country of Trinidad and Tobago. However, as the project developed, the scope was adjusted to communities in my home country as well as in Belize.
There were more than a few highlights of the project and definitely more than I can put in this single blog post. Suffice it to say, this project gave me an unprecedented opportunity to communicate with young people about their personal stories on their own terms and in situations where they were open, honest, and personal. From chatting with Kevin, a young LGBTQI youth advocate from Belize about his early experiences with contraceptives, to listening to Kate and Brendon from Trinidad and Tobago speak candidly about their first-hand encounters when accessing health services, this project was an meaningful exercise in open, honest communication with young people about subjects that are often regarded as taboo. Being afforded the privilege to listen and document the stories of these brave, inspiring, and articulate young people has been my most significant personal highlight thus far.
To have completed these three months with a canon of more than 15 vivid and insightful youth stories is, to me, the biggest success story of the project. Although we hail from six different regions, one common denominator of many of the Ambassadors’ projects was the difficulty of finding young people who were willing and comfortable to discuss their personal sex lives, and even fewer who were willing to speak on camera. These problems were compounded given that my project’s main demographic was young people from rural communities and the LGBTQI community. Harassment due to strong homophobic sentiments in their communities and fear of discrimination were among the key reasons many young people declined to participate. In light of this, I was incredibly impressed with the young people who, in the face of these challenges, still shared their stories. In doing so, they allowed me to present at least a small glimpse of the diverse experiences of young people in the LAC region.
Overall, I have learned countless lessons from my participation in the WCD Ambassadors project. From capacity building and project management skills to improved advocacy and communication skills, I have ended the project on surer footing. I have learned how to adjust to different circumstances in order to best create an inviting and comfortable environment, but more importantly, I have learned how critical it is to listen carefully. I have emerged from this project not only with a wealth of knowledge about the experiences of young people in LAC, but with a reinvigorated respect for young people's agency. I move excitedly into new advocacy initiatives with a strong sense of kinship and understanding. I look forward to the projects of my fellow Ambassadors and I encourage everyone to stay posted for the big reveal of my own. I promise, it will be worth the wait!
About World Contraception Day:
In support of World Contraception Day and Women Deliver’s Young Leaders Program, Women Deliver and Bayer will work in partnership on a three-year World Contraception Day (WCD) Ambassadors Project. The project equips young people with the skills they need to collect and share digital stories about young people’s SRHR and access to contraception in their home countries. The project includes a storytelling and digital media training, a seed grant, and advocacy opportunities for the Ambassadors to showcase their work at the international level.