Ana has focused her talents in the nonprofit sector, spending a decade working for her family’s foundation. As Regional Director, she built partnerships and designed programs to provide academic scholarships and school supplies for children. Her passion is investing in projects that empower girls and women, particularly those who have experienced gender-based violence.
El Salvador has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in Latin America. When pregnant girls seek healthcare for themselves and their babies, they are often judged and stigmatized by their health providers.
Almost half of all girls in El Salvador have their first child before they turn 17 years old. These young mothers are much more likely to have a repeat pregnancy within two years when compared with older mothers, which prevents them from finishing school and traps them in a cycle of poverty. The reasons behind so many teen pregnancies are complex, which include intimate partner and inter-family violence, harmful gender and social norms, lack of family support, and a lack of information and access to contraceptives. The stigma, judgment and alienation that teen mothers experience in their families and communities often permeates the health system as well, which places them in greater danger of medical, psychological, and social complications.
Teen mothers are a forgotten population in most health programs, which tend to focus on either older women or preventing the first pregnancy. This project will demonstrate how postponing a second pregnancy and engaging male partners can improve teen mothers’ lives.
PSI aims to give first-time young mothers and their partners a social support network to overcome their isolation and tackle harmful cultural stereotypes and stigma. Trained mentors will facilitate group sessions with young mothers and fathers on topics such as life skills, goal-setting, healthy decision-making, gender equality, handling conflict in the home, reproductive health and rights, and positive parenting skills. PSI is also establishing a youth-friendly model clinic that will provide a range of health services tailored to the needs of young mothers and their children. The clinic will serve as a center of excellence to train other health care providers in the private and public sectors on how to best meet the needs of young mothers and fathers.
By developing a model tailored to first-time teen mothers and and their male partners, there is an opportunity to improve the health and rights of girls across Central America.
If successful, the model clinic will operate as a long-standing center of excellence providing essential services to young mothers in the community and training health care providers throughout El Salvador and potentially the wider region. The evidence generated in the pilot will also inform future programs for teen mothers, contributing to a broader understanding of how to engage men effectively and shift entrenched cultural norms.