In Ecuador, 16.9% of teenage girls aged 15 to 19, are mothers. Although teenage pregnancy is widespread, it is just one of the risks to which children and adolescents are exposed if they are not aware of how to deal with such situations. In Manabí, 69% of girls have suffered some kind of gender-based violence, especially sexual, which often ends up in an unwanted pregnancy at a very early age.
Maria, aged 10, is proof that it is possible to grow up in an environment where nobody hides anything. When someone approaches this young girl from Puerto Loor, also in Manabí, she squarely says that she wants “to see an end to the mistreatment by some adults because, when we are playing with boys, they tell us off and sometimes call us 'machonas'". The confidence with which Maria speaks is a result of her involvement with our “Education for Sexuality” project.
Plan International has encouraged the active participation of girls and boys through different workshops and fairs. At these events we explain in a light-hearted, fun way what sexuality is and how to identify situations of abuse or violence, as well as how to make decisions so that the girls, boys and adolescents of Manabí can make the plans for their lives a reality.
Violence, sexual abuse and discrimination are rife and without attending the project activities, it would have been impossible for fathers such as José, aged 38, from Montecristi, to acknowledge that “a lot of us live with the wrong idea, thinking that the best way for our sons to start their sex life is by taking them to a brothel, without realizing the negative consequences for them”.
Through this initiative, girls like Maria will not be forced to give up their dreams because of an unwanted pregnancy. They will not allow any mistreatment or sexual abuse because they will know what to do if they come up against any such case. They will be free to decide, free to think and free to act.
“Machona” is a derogatory term to refer to women who do activities that should only be done by men.