By Ellen Zoe Golden Photos courtesy CEPIA
With an initial donation of 1000 IUDs, small, flexible contraceptive devices that are inserted into the uterus, Proyecto Vida Mujer and CEPIA have been helping at-risk Costa Rican women who want to prevent unplanned pregnancies.
The IUDs were sent from the United States by Dr. Stephen Yu, who is part of the Paul Chester Foundation, a non-profit that supports medical campaigns in the developing world.
The project is overseen by CEPIA volunteer (and owner of Serendity Charters) Geneva Garcia Ellen and at this date has offered the IUD to 300 women in Huacas, and through funding that includes a gofundme page, is expanding nationally. “So many women in our area are having children that they can’t afford because getting access to reliable birth control is difficult and expensive,” explained Garcia Ellen.
“We knew with the IUD we could offer them safe, affordable and convenient birth control so they could decide when they were ready to have children. As abortion is illegal in Costa Rica, the consequences of an unplanned pregnancy are life changing here, especially when many of these women are already living in poverty.”
The project was created by Laetitia COMMUNITY I COMUNIDAD, founder of CEPIA in 2015, when she participated in the Aspen Institute leadership program, making that year an Action Pledge at the Action Forum of the Institute in Colorado. After an attempt to initiate tube ligation was deemed an ineffective way to meet the large need for birth control in Guanacaste, Dr. Yu made the IUD donations.
CEPIA was the logical choice to reach out to women interested in obtaining IUDs as the organization’s overall work is entrenched in the communities with poverty.
This access has positioned them to screen the constituents who need support. Additionally, Proyect Vida Mujer has doctors, clinics and volunteers who meet the women, do the simple procedure, translate and do follow-up calls to each patient three months after insertion. At these clinics, potential clients include a wide range of women, from young singles in university to those in their early 40s who already have children and are unable to physically or economically have more, to many others.
According to Garcia Ellen: “The vast majority of women have expressed extreme satisfaction and gratitude for now having reproductive freedom.” Among the successes of Proyect Vida Mujer are two women with vastly different life situations. García Ellen talked of meeting a terrified woman at the clinic who had to sneak out of her home with her three children to get her IUD.
“She told us how her husband made her have sex with him daily and did not allow her to use birth control,” she said. “For obvious reasons, she did not want any more children with him. The good thing about the IUD, is that it is very discreet and he won’t know that she has taken control of her own body. We were all so proud of her, yet worried about her safety. Fortunately, we were able to flag her case so that CEPIA could offer further care and counseling.” On the other end of the spectrum, was an 18-year-old who had been living independently for a couple of years and wanted to go back to school. As a sexually active young adult without reliable birth control, she feared the potential of becoming a teenage mother without a means of supporting her children.
Project Vida Mujer was able to help her before that happened, and she is now focusing on getting back into school. “We really have only been able to make this project happen with the support of the Paul Chester Foundation, The Beach Side Clinic, Hospital San Rafael Archangel, Dr Luis Villegas from the public Liberia Hospital, Clínica Integral en Santa Cruz, La Paz CAS students and all the other volunteers and organizations that have supported these campaigns,” García Ellen confirmed.
For donations, use the gofundme link: https:// www.gofundme.com/iud-project-proyectovida-mujer?member=2304640&fbclid=IwAR08AbzfkZAcRi1sJ8pNOgRxBbSjBv6ymDwI61BxQ7nOav9y0buwMXGGYGk