I’m 20 years old and currently studying for a degree in philosophy at the Universidad del Valle. I’ve been involved with Si Mujer since I was 15, and it’s helped me grow so much as a person. Si Mujer is a feminist sexual and reproductive health care provider in Cali, Colombia, where I live.
At school we didn’t get very good sex education.
When I joined Si Mujer it was a space for young people to gather and share our concerns. We were all growing and learning. We all went through a 40 hour training programme on issues related to sexual and reproductive health and rights. When I met the other young women involved I thought they seemed really powerful compared to how I saw myself as a woman. For example, they went to the shopping centre alone, but I always went with my partner because I was afraid. When I came to this space, I was able to understand that as a woman I was no different from a man. I didn’t have to feel that emotional dependence to feel complete. And I didn’t have to have a partner to feel like a woman.
This new kind of thinking changed my life completely and really made me grow as a person.
When I first started at Si Mujer I was very shy. I don’t consider myself to be good at talking to people in public, and when I did it made my hands shake. The first thing I did was a campaign in a school, and I was really nervous. I felt smaller than the other students. Some were older than me, and I really didn’t know how to start a conversation without sounding annoying. But the training and tools I’ve been given have helped me to communicate better.
When people come to you for advice or information, first you provide empathy. Then you do a lot of listening, and accompaniment to the clinic if they need sexual health services.
Before the Si Mujer training I didn’t understand anything about abortion. For me it was bad, because it’s a common saying that abortion is like murder. But when I learned what abortion actually is, I felt differently. Firstly, I came to realise that the law is not as restrictive as I thought. We learnt that health is not only a physical state, but also someone’s emotional and social wellbeing.
Starting to see all these things made me become more empathetic. The fact that a woman has an abortion doesn’t mean that she’s a bad person.
In my own life I see barriers with other reproductive health services, not just abortion. I was recently thinking about having a sterilisation and the first thing the doctor said to me was: “If you don’t have a child already you can’t have it done”. But if I already have the number of children I want to have, which is zero, then why do I have to wait?
Si Mujer is a SAAF grantee partner.