Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest began working in Ecuador in 2001, partnering with the Centro Médico de Orientación y Planificación Familiar (Medical Center for Counseling and Family Planning or CEMOPLAF), a nation-wide family planning organization that wanted us to provide them with peer education training. Using funds from three consecutive Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) Global Partners program grants, PPGNW provided training and technical assistance to CEMOPLAF over the course of the next four years; PPGNW staff and volunteers also had the opportunity to learn about and become advocates for international family planning.
Our collaboration with CEMOPLAF began with a life-changing exchange between PPGNW's Teen Council program and CEMOPLAF peer educators in early 2001. Six Teen Council (TC) members traveled to Ecuador, and several months later, six CEMOPLAF peer educators came to Washington State. The teens learned about peer education programs on the other side of the equator and realized that, while many things were very different about their lives, their desire to help their peers was universal. They also learned about the reality of international family planning programs, as illustrated in the following two quotes:
“I expected that a clinic in a country with far less resources and funding than ours would struggle to adequately train their peer educators, and I was completely wrong.” – PPGNW Teen Council member
“Overall, my time in Ecuador opened me up to many different views on International Family Planning. I have a much better sense of what efforts are made every day by people who have dedicated their lives to fostering open discussions of all the things involved in being human and how they affect the rest of the world.” – PPGNW Teen Council member
Under a second grant, a total of seven PPGNW educators traveled to Ecuador to offer trainings to CEMOPLAF educators on recruitment, training and supporting peer educators. Three week-long Training of Trainers (TOTs) were offered in November 2002, March 2003 and October 2004 to the 16 Educators from across the country who would implement the peer education program. Three educators from CEMOPLAF also traveled to Washington for education and training. During their visit, they observed PPGNW’s Teen Council model in action; they participated in Teen Council retreats, and, upon their return to Ecuador, integrated retreats into their program. As of 2010, CEMOPLAF reported that they were still using materials and techniques from these trainings.
A third grant focused on advocacy, and a theater troupe of five adults led by a PPGNW educator traveled to Ecuador to interview women and men about family planning and sexuality in their culture. In early 2005, the troupe brought the stories to life in 30 presentations throughout Washington State, creating awareness about the importance of international family planning. PPGNW created a video, “The Face of Family Planning,” using footage from these performances.
“The Face of Family Planning” was used a variety of ways to engage community members and encourage them to take action. It was shown to community leaders including representatives from international health organizations and Planned Parenthood affiliates as well as local politicians. Additionally, the video facilitated a partnership between PPGNW, the Sierra Club and One by One, a Seattle-based organization working to prevent and mitigate the impact of obstetric fistula on women in the developing world. Together with these organizations, PPGNW presented at five local colleges and one other community venue, focusing on the link between sexual and reproductive health education and environmental conservation. Both the theater troupe and video presentations inspired participants to engage in the Planned Parenthood Action Network and the local and national discussion of international family planning issues.