In 2009, the Dominican Republic adopted a new constitution that rolled back gains on comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services. Given the relationship between unsafe abortion and maternal mortality, the new constitution was a serious blow to women’s health and rights. Within an already challenging landscape, it created new barriers for women — particularly young women — who sought to access sexual and reproductive health care.
It was in the midst of these challenges that IPPF/WHR’s Member Association in the Dominican Republic, Profamilia, joined the Voices project. Since then, Profamilia has been working to secure political and public support for reducing teenage pregnancy and ensuring access to youth-friendly health services and education. In the Dominican Republic, high rates of adolescent fertility and maternal mortality have attracted the attention of national authorities and civil society organizations.
In a culture where there is little civil society participation in government decision-making, Profamilia’s progress has been significant. The organization conducted an analysis of the country’s public budget — with a focus on reproductive health — and submitted their recommendations to the health authorities. Profamilia then conducted another study aimed at identifying risk factors for teenage pregnancy in the Dominican Republic. The results provided a solid foundation for Profamilia to discuss the need for a government policy to address teenage pregnancy.
Profamilia was invited to join a government committee that advocates for the incorporation of a gender perspective into the health policies developed by the various government agencies. It quickly assumed an active advocacy role and included maternal health and preventing unwanted teenage pregnancy as a priority for the group’s objectives. As a result of these efforts, the government worked with Profamilia to develop a new policy and plan to reduce teenage pregnancy.
Myrna Flores, the Voices Project Coordinator at Profamilia, stated, “The Voices project gives us tools to build citizenship. We have learned to solicit concrete answers from governments, and the importance of translating the specific needs of communities into projects, programs, and budgets.” Profamilia continues to partner with government authorities as they implement the Plan to Reduce Teenage Pregnancy nationwide this year.