The project Vida Mujer strives to give women power over their own sexual reproduction. Our goal is to give women in Costa Rica access to an Intrauterine Device (IUD/Copper T) which will provide safe and non-hormonal birth control for 10 years with little-to-no follow-up treatment or care. We also strive to educate them about responsible and healthy sexuality, consensual sex, and sexually transmitted diseases (STD). These are issues that are rarely discussed in Costa Rican culture and public policies.
Sadly, we see many women having children that they did not plan for, cannot afford nor have a support network to help them raise. By allowing women to decide when, and if, they get pregnant, they will be able improve their lives and our community. Giving women the power to decide when they want to have children is a powerful factor in their life. Planning their family through contraception provides women with these benefits: starting or continuing their education; caring adequately for the children they already have and being able to leave unhappy or unhealthy relationships. Providing women with access to contraception empowers them to stop the cycle of poverty and increase their own happiness.
Over 500 women have received an IUD through our clinics that we organize all over Costa Rica. We are committed to helping these women even after they receive the IUD. Should an issue arise due to the IUD or any other STD, we provide options for them to receive medical attention even if they have no access to health care (which many do not). We conduct follow-up interviews with all the women three months after their insertion. The vast majority report being very happy with the IUD and report feeling more empowered and more hopeful about their future.
These clinics have been warmly received by communities all around Costa Rica. Rural Costa Rican communities especially need these clinics. Women who live in remote and rural communities have little access to and education about reproductive rights. Many times, there is no Ebais (local public health clinic) or if there is one, it is overwhelmed with patients needing urgent care. Women in rural communities do not have access to gynecological services.
Would you like to be involved in the program?
We always have a need for volunteers before, during and after our clinics. No medical experience is necessary, however, those with medical experience are a huge asset to our team.
This program is very low-cost, and the cost benefit is huge. We calculate that for $40 we can provide a woman with 10 years of birth control and a pap smear (which for many this is the only opportunity they may have in their lifetime of receiving these important screenings. We can also provide education, support, and post-care to those who need it. We are seeking donors to help us with the $16,000 needed to finish inserting the 400 IUDs that our program currently has.
The funds pay for the expenses associated with the clinics (STD medication, speculums, pregnancy tests, sterilizing solutions, disinfection agents, and other medical supplies), The pap smear kits and lab work, post-care treatment for women (including but not limited to ultrasounds and medication), a stipend for the coordinator of the program, travel expenses when necessary and other administrative expenses.
We deeply thank the Paul Chester Foundation, Dr. Bill Chester, and Dr. Steve Yu who donated 1000 IUDs to the women of Costa Rica, and the many other doctors from the United States, especially Dr. Cara Simmons, Dr. Sheri Hamersley, Glenette Bianchi who have helped us with this program.
We have received tremendous support from local doctors that have not only donated their clinics but their time to help with the insertions and/or give women post-care when necessary. A special thanks go out to Dra. Andrea Messeguer of Beach Side Clinic, Dr. Jimenez from the Clinica Integral in Santa Cruz, Dr. Velma Jimenez from Fundameco, Dr. Walbin of hospital San Rafael Arcangel in Liberia, Dra. Jennifer from the Centro Medico Nosara, Dr. Villegas from the public hospital in Liberia, Dr. Paer from Mediplaza Escazu.
We also have two wonderful nurses, Karen Ortiz and Janis Zloto, and a host of volunteers that are consistent and hard-working such as Julie Peart, Jimena Marchena, Nathasa and Alexa Avrith and Jo Ellen Nott of the Nosara Food Bank, Alexandra and Sybly Zepeda as well as local businesses such as Serendipity Charters. Without their support and medical space, we would never have been able to run these clinics.
The future for women in Costa Rica
Our co-founder Laetitia Deweer is bringing the results of this project to the central costarican government with the hope of changing some governmental policies. Our research shows that the women respond physically and psychologically very well to the IUD and that many of them prefer not to use hormones. Additionally, a 10 year- IUD is the cheapest birth control method on the market and can be placed fast, easily, and safely by a general doctor.
Currently international agreements and national laws say that every woman in Costa Rica should have access to birth control, independently of their economic resources. In reality, these agreements are not being translated into real access and many underprivileged women are still excluded from birth control and female health care.
Until policy change takes effect, we hope to continue to reach more women in Costa Rica and offer them a safe and effective form of birth control.
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