- - -
stories

Stories

Latest stories from IPPF

Spotlight

A selection of stories from across the Federation

barbadoa

Barbados

Story

“At BFPA, we don’t turn away anyone”

11 August 2021

In Barbados, the age of consent is 16 but “there is still the issue of the age of access versus the age of consent.” Keriann explained that there’s no legal framework that prevents young people between 16 and 18 from accessing SRH services; there is the cultural “assumption that they must bring parent/guardian to be seen by a medical professional.”

Filter our stories by:

Christan Levene JFPA YAM
story

| 10 February 2021

“There are still certain sensitive topics that still present an issue when trying to bring it forward in certain spaces."

Christan Levene is committed to helping develop young people as advocates for change. Levene, 26, joined the Jamaica Family Planning Association (JFPA) Youth Advocacy Movement (YAM) in 2017 by virtue of being employed by the Association with YAM duties forming part of the job’s terms of reference. Levene, now the executive assistant and youth officer with the Association based at the administrative headquarters at the Lenworth Jacobs Clinic YAM complements each other in terms of helping to foster the transitioning and development of youth into -confident adults. “FAMPLAN provides the space or capacity for young people who they engage on a regular basis to grow — whether through outreach, rap sessions, educational sessions. The organization provides them with an opportunity to grow and build their capacity as it relates to advocating for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) amongst their other peers,” she said. Though Levene is no longer a member of the group, she remains connected to YAM and ensures she leads by example. Social connectedness “When you have young adults who are part of the organization, who lobby and advocate for the rights of other adults like themselves, then, on the other hand, you are going to have young people like Mario, Candice, and Fiona who advocate for people within their age cohort,” she said. She added, “Transitioning out of the group and working alongside these young folks, I feel as if I can still share some of the realities they share, have one-on-one conversations with them, help them along their journey and also help myself as well, because social connectedness is an important part of your mental health. This group is very, very, very dear to me.” With regards to its impact on her life, Levene said YAM helped her to become more of an extrovert and shaped her confidence. “I was more of an introvert and now I can get up (and) do a wide presentation and engage other people without feeling like I do not have the capacity or expertise to bring across certain issues,” she said. However, Levene shared that there is still a lot of sensitivity around SRHR topics, which limits the conversations YAM is able to have and at times may generate fear among some of the group members. “There are still certain sensitive topics that still present an issue when trying to bring it forward in certain spaces. Other challenges they [YAM members] may face are personal reservations. Although we provide them with the skillset, certain persons are still more reserved and are not able to be engaging in certain spaces. Sometimes they just want to stay in the back and issue flyers or something behind the scenes rather than being upfront,” she said. But as the main aim of the movement is to develop advocates out of members, Levene’s conviction is helping to strengthen YAMs capacity in this regard. “To advocate you must be able to get up, stand up and speak for the persons who we classify as the voiceless or persons who are vulnerable and marginalised. I think that is one of the limitations as well… Going out and doing an HIV test and having counselling is OK, but as it relates to really standing up and advocating, being able to write a piece and send it to Parliament, being able to make certain submissions like editorial pieces. That needs to be strengthened,” Levene said.

Christan Levene JFPA YAM
story

| 23 June 2022

“There are still certain sensitive topics that still present an issue when trying to bring it forward in certain spaces."

Christan Levene is committed to helping develop young people as advocates for change. Levene, 26, joined the Jamaica Family Planning Association (JFPA) Youth Advocacy Movement (YAM) in 2017 by virtue of being employed by the Association with YAM duties forming part of the job’s terms of reference. Levene, now the executive assistant and youth officer with the Association based at the administrative headquarters at the Lenworth Jacobs Clinic YAM complements each other in terms of helping to foster the transitioning and development of youth into -confident adults. “FAMPLAN provides the space or capacity for young people who they engage on a regular basis to grow — whether through outreach, rap sessions, educational sessions. The organization provides them with an opportunity to grow and build their capacity as it relates to advocating for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) amongst their other peers,” she said. Though Levene is no longer a member of the group, she remains connected to YAM and ensures she leads by example. Social connectedness “When you have young adults who are part of the organization, who lobby and advocate for the rights of other adults like themselves, then, on the other hand, you are going to have young people like Mario, Candice, and Fiona who advocate for people within their age cohort,” she said. She added, “Transitioning out of the group and working alongside these young folks, I feel as if I can still share some of the realities they share, have one-on-one conversations with them, help them along their journey and also help myself as well, because social connectedness is an important part of your mental health. This group is very, very, very dear to me.” With regards to its impact on her life, Levene said YAM helped her to become more of an extrovert and shaped her confidence. “I was more of an introvert and now I can get up (and) do a wide presentation and engage other people without feeling like I do not have the capacity or expertise to bring across certain issues,” she said. However, Levene shared that there is still a lot of sensitivity around SRHR topics, which limits the conversations YAM is able to have and at times may generate fear among some of the group members. “There are still certain sensitive topics that still present an issue when trying to bring it forward in certain spaces. Other challenges they [YAM members] may face are personal reservations. Although we provide them with the skillset, certain persons are still more reserved and are not able to be engaging in certain spaces. Sometimes they just want to stay in the back and issue flyers or something behind the scenes rather than being upfront,” she said. But as the main aim of the movement is to develop advocates out of members, Levene’s conviction is helping to strengthen YAMs capacity in this regard. “To advocate you must be able to get up, stand up and speak for the persons who we classify as the voiceless or persons who are vulnerable and marginalised. I think that is one of the limitations as well… Going out and doing an HIV test and having counselling is OK, but as it relates to really standing up and advocating, being able to write a piece and send it to Parliament, being able to make certain submissions like editorial pieces. That needs to be strengthened,” Levene said.

Dr. Stewart McKoy, sitting outside of the Beth Jacobs Family Clinic
story

| 08 February 2021

"We had to go out more to meet people, educate them teach them the importance of sexual and reproductive health”

Dr. Stewart McKoy has dedicated his life to ensuring the needs of both men and women are equally represented in the provision of healthcare at the Jamaica Family Planning Association (JFPA). When Dr. McKoy returned to Jamaica from overseas medical studies in the 1980s, the frustration at the failure of many Jamaican males to use contraception was a continuing concern. This led to him making a strong case for vasectomies to be offered as part of JFPA’s contraceptive options. Whilst the initial response from local males was disheartening, Dr. McKoy took the grassroots approach to get the buy-in of males to consider contraception use. Getting men on board “Someone once said it’s only by varied reiteration that unfamiliar truths can be introduced to reluctant minds. We used to go out into the countryside and give talks. In those times, I came down heavily on men. I remember after one talk, when I was finished, the driver of the JFPA van said they [men] didn’t like what I was saying. I saw a bar outside and went, carried them in, and said drinks on me. By the second round they opened up and were receptive,” he said. The reception would form the catalyst he needed to ensure that men, too, benefitted from sexual and reproductive healthcare. Men were choosing vasectomies if they already had children and didn’t plan to have any more. In addition, Dr. McKoy was an instrumental voice in the Men’s Clinic that was formerly operated by JFPA and also encouraged the inclusion of women at the meetings, in order to increase male participation and uptake of healthcare. “When we as men get sick with our prostate it is women who are going to look after us. But we have to put interest in our own self to offset it before it puts us in that situation where we can’t help yourself. It came down to that and the males eventually started coming. The health education got out and men started confiding more in health services,” he said.   It could be a matter of life or death McKoy said it is important that women use contraception and take their sexual and reproductive health seriously. If neglected, Dr McKoy said it could be a matter of life or death. He refers to a case of a young mother who was complacent towards having pap smears and ended up dying a preventable death as a result of cervical cancer. “Over the years I saw the opportunity to do pap smears out of the clinic. The mobile unit gave us access to so many patients. We had persons who neglected to do it. One patient in particular - she was not yet 30 years old. She had three children and after every delivery, she was told by the hospital to do a pap smear. She didn’t do it and eventually got cervical cancer. When she was to do the pap smear, she didn’t come. One morning they brought her and had to lift her up out of the car. At that time doctors said they couldn’t do anything for her,” Dr. McKoy said while fighting back tears. “It wasn’t necessary. We had to go out more to meet people, educate them teach them the importance of sexual and reproductive health.” That experience was his driving force to continue the work in sexual and reproductive healthcare. Dr. McKoy said the message about family planning, sexual and reproductive health must be continued through education in community outreach projects.

Dr. Stewart McKoy, sitting outside of the Beth Jacobs Family Clinic
story

| 23 June 2022

"We had to go out more to meet people, educate them teach them the importance of sexual and reproductive health”

Dr. Stewart McKoy has dedicated his life to ensuring the needs of both men and women are equally represented in the provision of healthcare at the Jamaica Family Planning Association (JFPA). When Dr. McKoy returned to Jamaica from overseas medical studies in the 1980s, the frustration at the failure of many Jamaican males to use contraception was a continuing concern. This led to him making a strong case for vasectomies to be offered as part of JFPA’s contraceptive options. Whilst the initial response from local males was disheartening, Dr. McKoy took the grassroots approach to get the buy-in of males to consider contraception use. Getting men on board “Someone once said it’s only by varied reiteration that unfamiliar truths can be introduced to reluctant minds. We used to go out into the countryside and give talks. In those times, I came down heavily on men. I remember after one talk, when I was finished, the driver of the JFPA van said they [men] didn’t like what I was saying. I saw a bar outside and went, carried them in, and said drinks on me. By the second round they opened up and were receptive,” he said. The reception would form the catalyst he needed to ensure that men, too, benefitted from sexual and reproductive healthcare. Men were choosing vasectomies if they already had children and didn’t plan to have any more. In addition, Dr. McKoy was an instrumental voice in the Men’s Clinic that was formerly operated by JFPA and also encouraged the inclusion of women at the meetings, in order to increase male participation and uptake of healthcare. “When we as men get sick with our prostate it is women who are going to look after us. But we have to put interest in our own self to offset it before it puts us in that situation where we can’t help yourself. It came down to that and the males eventually started coming. The health education got out and men started confiding more in health services,” he said.   It could be a matter of life or death McKoy said it is important that women use contraception and take their sexual and reproductive health seriously. If neglected, Dr McKoy said it could be a matter of life or death. He refers to a case of a young mother who was complacent towards having pap smears and ended up dying a preventable death as a result of cervical cancer. “Over the years I saw the opportunity to do pap smears out of the clinic. The mobile unit gave us access to so many patients. We had persons who neglected to do it. One patient in particular - she was not yet 30 years old. She had three children and after every delivery, she was told by the hospital to do a pap smear. She didn’t do it and eventually got cervical cancer. When she was to do the pap smear, she didn’t come. One morning they brought her and had to lift her up out of the car. At that time doctors said they couldn’t do anything for her,” Dr. McKoy said while fighting back tears. “It wasn’t necessary. We had to go out more to meet people, educate them teach them the importance of sexual and reproductive health.” That experience was his driving force to continue the work in sexual and reproductive healthcare. Dr. McKoy said the message about family planning, sexual and reproductive health must be continued through education in community outreach projects.

Fiona Francis
story

| 01 February 2021

“They don’t know the consequences or the sickness and potential diseases that can come as a result of unprotected sex”

There is an age-old stigma that surrounds sexual and reproductive health and rights in Jamaica. But for youth officer Fiona Francis, her work in the area is making an impact, one person at a time. I will leave here better than I came Francis, 28, joined the Jamaica Family Planning Association (JFPA) in 2017 as a volunteer at the Lenworth Jacobs Clinic. This was made possible through a one-year internship with the Jamaica Social Investment Fund. “I was placed to be a youth officer, which I never had any knowledge of. Upon getting the role I knew there would be challenges. I was not happy. I wanted a place in the food and beverage industry. I thought to myself, ‘what am I doing here? This has nothing to do with my qualifications’. It was ‘baby mother’ business at the clinic, and I can’t manage the drama,” Francis said. But Francis’ perception of JFPA quickly changed when she was introduced to its Youth Advocacy Movement (YAM) and began recruiting members from her own community to join. “I quickly learnt new skills such as social media marketing, logistics skills and administrative skills. In fact, the only thing I can’t do is administer the vaccines. They have provided me with a lot of training here. Right now, I have a Provider Initiative Training and Counselling certificate. I am an HIV tester and counsellor. I volunteer at health fairs and special functions. I will leave here better than I came,” Francis said. Despite the location of the Lenworth Jacobs Clinic being in a challenging area, Francis is adamant her work is to be done, and believes the youth are the vanguards for change. Men feel entitled to their bodies “It’s a volatile area so some clients you have to take a deep breath to deal with them as humans. I am no stranger to the ghetto. I grew up there. The young people will come, and they’ll talk openly about sex. They’ll mention multiple partners. You have to tell them choose two [barrier and hormonal contraception] to be safe, you encourage them to protect themselves,” she said. Many young girls in the community are at risk of sexual grooming, underaged pregnancy, self-harm, and depression. “Sometimes men may lurk after them. There is sexual grooming where men feel entitled to their bodies. A lot are just having sex. They don’t know the consequences or the sickness and potential diseases that can come as a result of unprotected sex.  Many don’t know there are options- like contraceptives. Some don’t know the dangers of multiple sex partners. The challenges are their lifestyle, poverty level, environment, and sex are often transactional to deal with economic struggles,” Francis explained. However, she said YAM has provided a safe space for many young people to learn about, and discuss issues like consent, sexual health and rights, and sexuality to make informed choices But there is a need for more youth volunteers and learned adults to carry the mandate of the JFPA forward. “We need more young people and we definitely need an adult group. Teens can carry the message, but you’re likely to hear parents say, ‘I’ve been through it already’ and not listen. They also need the education YAMs have access to, so they can deal with their children, grandchildren, and educate them about sexual and reproductive health rights. For my first community intervention, a lot of kids came out and had questions to ask. Questions that needed answers. I had to get my colleagues to come and answer,” Francis said. “There’s a lot going through these teenagers’ minds. Through YAM I have developed relationships and become their confidante, so they can call me for anything. The movement is impacting. It helped me with my life and now I can pass it down. YAM can go a long way with the right persons. Whatever we do we do it with fun and education – edutainment,” she said.

Fiona Francis
story

| 22 June 2022

“They don’t know the consequences or the sickness and potential diseases that can come as a result of unprotected sex”

There is an age-old stigma that surrounds sexual and reproductive health and rights in Jamaica. But for youth officer Fiona Francis, her work in the area is making an impact, one person at a time. I will leave here better than I came Francis, 28, joined the Jamaica Family Planning Association (JFPA) in 2017 as a volunteer at the Lenworth Jacobs Clinic. This was made possible through a one-year internship with the Jamaica Social Investment Fund. “I was placed to be a youth officer, which I never had any knowledge of. Upon getting the role I knew there would be challenges. I was not happy. I wanted a place in the food and beverage industry. I thought to myself, ‘what am I doing here? This has nothing to do with my qualifications’. It was ‘baby mother’ business at the clinic, and I can’t manage the drama,” Francis said. But Francis’ perception of JFPA quickly changed when she was introduced to its Youth Advocacy Movement (YAM) and began recruiting members from her own community to join. “I quickly learnt new skills such as social media marketing, logistics skills and administrative skills. In fact, the only thing I can’t do is administer the vaccines. They have provided me with a lot of training here. Right now, I have a Provider Initiative Training and Counselling certificate. I am an HIV tester and counsellor. I volunteer at health fairs and special functions. I will leave here better than I came,” Francis said. Despite the location of the Lenworth Jacobs Clinic being in a challenging area, Francis is adamant her work is to be done, and believes the youth are the vanguards for change. Men feel entitled to their bodies “It’s a volatile area so some clients you have to take a deep breath to deal with them as humans. I am no stranger to the ghetto. I grew up there. The young people will come, and they’ll talk openly about sex. They’ll mention multiple partners. You have to tell them choose two [barrier and hormonal contraception] to be safe, you encourage them to protect themselves,” she said. Many young girls in the community are at risk of sexual grooming, underaged pregnancy, self-harm, and depression. “Sometimes men may lurk after them. There is sexual grooming where men feel entitled to their bodies. A lot are just having sex. They don’t know the consequences or the sickness and potential diseases that can come as a result of unprotected sex.  Many don’t know there are options- like contraceptives. Some don’t know the dangers of multiple sex partners. The challenges are their lifestyle, poverty level, environment, and sex are often transactional to deal with economic struggles,” Francis explained. However, she said YAM has provided a safe space for many young people to learn about, and discuss issues like consent, sexual health and rights, and sexuality to make informed choices But there is a need for more youth volunteers and learned adults to carry the mandate of the JFPA forward. “We need more young people and we definitely need an adult group. Teens can carry the message, but you’re likely to hear parents say, ‘I’ve been through it already’ and not listen. They also need the education YAMs have access to, so they can deal with their children, grandchildren, and educate them about sexual and reproductive health rights. For my first community intervention, a lot of kids came out and had questions to ask. Questions that needed answers. I had to get my colleagues to come and answer,” Francis said. “There’s a lot going through these teenagers’ minds. Through YAM I have developed relationships and become their confidante, so they can call me for anything. The movement is impacting. It helped me with my life and now I can pass it down. YAM can go a long way with the right persons. Whatever we do we do it with fun and education – edutainment,” she said.

Mario Boothe
story

| 21 January 2021

“The biggest issue is misinformation”

‘Are you interested in advocacy and reproductive health and rights?’ These were the words which caught Mario Boothe’s attention and prompted him to sign up to be part of the Jamaica Family Planning Association (JFPA) Youth Advocacy Movement (YAM) five years ago. At the time, Boothe was 22 and fresh out of college, searching for opportunities to gain experience. It’s so much more than sex and condoms “I was on Facebook looking at different things young people can do, and it popped up. I had just left college with an Associate Degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management. I was unemployed and I just wanted to be active, give myself the opportunity to learn and find something I can give my time to and gain from it,” Boothe said. Being no stranger to volunteerism and having a desire to do advocacy, Boothe decided to sign up for YAM to get a new experience and broaden his knowledge base. “It’s so much more than sex and condoms. It’s really human rights and integrated in everything we do. Reproductive health affects the population, it affects your income, your family planning, how people have access to rights. It cuts across men, women, LGBT people and encompasses everything. My love for working with YAM and being an advocate for sexual and reproductive health rights deepened and I could expand further in my outreach,” he said. Now, Boothe has no regrets with his decision as he has gained a second family and a safe space, he can call home. Additionally, YAM has equipped him with skills and given him opportunities he would otherwise not have. “I have done public speaking which has opened lots of doors for me. I have traveled and met with other Caribbean people about issues [around SRHR]. There’s an appreciation for diversity as you deal with lots of people when you go out into communities, so you learn to break down walls and you learn how to communicate with different people,” Boothe said. With YAM, Boothe has delivered projects, presentations with schools and churches, and training sessions in condom use and addressing other sexual health issues. Reluctance to talk about sex But, the greatest challenge to his advocacy is people’s reluctance to talk about sex. “Once they hear sex it’s kind of a behind the door situation with everybody, but they are interested in getting condoms,” he said. “When it comes to that it is breaking taboo in people’s minds and it might not be something people readily accept at the time. LGBT rights, access to condoms and access to reproductive health for young people at a certain age — many people don’t appreciate those things in Jamaica.” Other challenges regarding sexual and reproductive health and rights, Boothe said, include access and misinformation. “Within the framework of the family and giving youth individual rights to access their own reproductive health. So, can they go to a doctor, nurse without worrying if they are old enough or if the doctor or nurse will talk back to the parents? Access is about giving them the knowledge and empowering them to go for what they need. “The stigma is the misinformation. If you’re going to the clinic people automatically assume, you’re doing an HIV/AIDS test or abortion. [So] after the community empowerment, because of the stigma maybe 15 per cent will respond and come to the clinic. The biggest issue is misinformation,” Boothe said, adding that diversification of the content and how messages are shaped could possibly help. To address these issues Boothe wants to see more young people involved in advocacy and helping to push the message of JFPA in a diversified way. “It is a satisfying thing to do both for your own self development and community development. You’re building a network. If you put yourself out there you don’t know what can happen,” he said.

Mario Boothe
story

| 22 June 2022

“The biggest issue is misinformation”

‘Are you interested in advocacy and reproductive health and rights?’ These were the words which caught Mario Boothe’s attention and prompted him to sign up to be part of the Jamaica Family Planning Association (JFPA) Youth Advocacy Movement (YAM) five years ago. At the time, Boothe was 22 and fresh out of college, searching for opportunities to gain experience. It’s so much more than sex and condoms “I was on Facebook looking at different things young people can do, and it popped up. I had just left college with an Associate Degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management. I was unemployed and I just wanted to be active, give myself the opportunity to learn and find something I can give my time to and gain from it,” Boothe said. Being no stranger to volunteerism and having a desire to do advocacy, Boothe decided to sign up for YAM to get a new experience and broaden his knowledge base. “It’s so much more than sex and condoms. It’s really human rights and integrated in everything we do. Reproductive health affects the population, it affects your income, your family planning, how people have access to rights. It cuts across men, women, LGBT people and encompasses everything. My love for working with YAM and being an advocate for sexual and reproductive health rights deepened and I could expand further in my outreach,” he said. Now, Boothe has no regrets with his decision as he has gained a second family and a safe space, he can call home. Additionally, YAM has equipped him with skills and given him opportunities he would otherwise not have. “I have done public speaking which has opened lots of doors for me. I have traveled and met with other Caribbean people about issues [around SRHR]. There’s an appreciation for diversity as you deal with lots of people when you go out into communities, so you learn to break down walls and you learn how to communicate with different people,” Boothe said. With YAM, Boothe has delivered projects, presentations with schools and churches, and training sessions in condom use and addressing other sexual health issues. Reluctance to talk about sex But, the greatest challenge to his advocacy is people’s reluctance to talk about sex. “Once they hear sex it’s kind of a behind the door situation with everybody, but they are interested in getting condoms,” he said. “When it comes to that it is breaking taboo in people’s minds and it might not be something people readily accept at the time. LGBT rights, access to condoms and access to reproductive health for young people at a certain age — many people don’t appreciate those things in Jamaica.” Other challenges regarding sexual and reproductive health and rights, Boothe said, include access and misinformation. “Within the framework of the family and giving youth individual rights to access their own reproductive health. So, can they go to a doctor, nurse without worrying if they are old enough or if the doctor or nurse will talk back to the parents? Access is about giving them the knowledge and empowering them to go for what they need. “The stigma is the misinformation. If you’re going to the clinic people automatically assume, you’re doing an HIV/AIDS test or abortion. [So] after the community empowerment, because of the stigma maybe 15 per cent will respond and come to the clinic. The biggest issue is misinformation,” Boothe said, adding that diversification of the content and how messages are shaped could possibly help. To address these issues Boothe wants to see more young people involved in advocacy and helping to push the message of JFPA in a diversified way. “It is a satisfying thing to do both for your own self development and community development. You’re building a network. If you put yourself out there you don’t know what can happen,” he said.

Midwife Dorothy Boyd-Brown, Jamaica
story

| 18 January 2021

“I remember some time ago a lady beat her daughter the first time she had her period”

From their inception, cultural barriers and stigma have threatened the work of the Jamaica Family Planning Association (JFPA). Although some myths around family planning are still prevalent, according to one senior healthcare provider at the Beth Jacobs Clinic in St Ann,  there have been some positive shifts. Registered midwife Dorothy Boyd-Brown who first began working with the Association in 1973, said the organization has made its mark and reduced barriers and stigmatizing behavior towards family planning and sexual and reproductive health and rights. Boyd-Brown, head of maternal and child-care/sexual and reproductive healthcare at the Beth Jacobs Clinic said cultural barriers were often seen in families lacking basic knowledge about sexual health. “I remember some time ago a lady beat her daughter the first time she had her period as she believed the only way, she could see her period, is if a man had gone there [if the child was sexually active]. I had to send for her [mother] and have a session with both her and the child as to how a period works. “She apologized to her daughter and said she was sorry. She never had the knowledge and she was happy for places like these where she could come and learn – both parent and child,” Boyd-Brown said. Information sharing is important She also highlights that religious groups once perpetuated stigma, so much so that women feared even walking near the FAMPLAN clinic. “Churchwomen would hide and come, tell their husbands, partners or friend they are going to the doctor as they have a pain in their foot, which nuh guh suh [was not true]. Every minute you would see them looking to see if any church brother or sister came on the premises to see them as they would go back and tell the Minister because they don’t support family planning. But that was in the 90s,” Boyd Brown said. Boyd-Brown says things have changed and the church participates in training sessions about family planning encouraging members to be informed about contraceptive care and their sexual and reproductive health and rights. But despite the wealth of information and forward-thinking of the communities the Beth Jacobs Clinic serves, Boyd-Brown said there are some prevailing myths, which if left unaddressed threaten to repeal the work of the Association. “Information sharing is important, and we try to have brochures on various STIs, and issues around sexual reproductive health and rights. But there are people who still believe ‘sex with a virgin cures’ HIV, plus there are myths around contraceptive use too. We encourage reading. Back in the 70s, 80s, 90s we had a good library where we encouraged people to read, get books, get brochures. That is not so much now,” Boyd-Brown said. Boyd-Brown also faces the challenge of ensuring women continue to access healthcare. “I saw a lady in the market who told me from the last day I did her pap smear she hasn’t done another one. That was five years ago. I had one recently - no pap smear for 14 years. I delivered her last child,” Boyd-Brown said. Despite the challenge, she remains dedicated to the task and shares that her commitment also helps to improve women’s choices. It is Boyd-Brown’s hopes that the once active Mobile Unit with community-based distributors will be reintegrated into JFPA’s healthcare delivery to be able to reach under-served communities.  Boyd-Brown added, “JFPA has made its mark. It will never leave Jamaica or die.”

Midwife Dorothy Boyd-Brown, Jamaica
story

| 22 June 2022

“I remember some time ago a lady beat her daughter the first time she had her period”

From their inception, cultural barriers and stigma have threatened the work of the Jamaica Family Planning Association (JFPA). Although some myths around family planning are still prevalent, according to one senior healthcare provider at the Beth Jacobs Clinic in St Ann,  there have been some positive shifts. Registered midwife Dorothy Boyd-Brown who first began working with the Association in 1973, said the organization has made its mark and reduced barriers and stigmatizing behavior towards family planning and sexual and reproductive health and rights. Boyd-Brown, head of maternal and child-care/sexual and reproductive healthcare at the Beth Jacobs Clinic said cultural barriers were often seen in families lacking basic knowledge about sexual health. “I remember some time ago a lady beat her daughter the first time she had her period as she believed the only way, she could see her period, is if a man had gone there [if the child was sexually active]. I had to send for her [mother] and have a session with both her and the child as to how a period works. “She apologized to her daughter and said she was sorry. She never had the knowledge and she was happy for places like these where she could come and learn – both parent and child,” Boyd-Brown said. Information sharing is important She also highlights that religious groups once perpetuated stigma, so much so that women feared even walking near the FAMPLAN clinic. “Churchwomen would hide and come, tell their husbands, partners or friend they are going to the doctor as they have a pain in their foot, which nuh guh suh [was not true]. Every minute you would see them looking to see if any church brother or sister came on the premises to see them as they would go back and tell the Minister because they don’t support family planning. But that was in the 90s,” Boyd Brown said. Boyd-Brown says things have changed and the church participates in training sessions about family planning encouraging members to be informed about contraceptive care and their sexual and reproductive health and rights. But despite the wealth of information and forward-thinking of the communities the Beth Jacobs Clinic serves, Boyd-Brown said there are some prevailing myths, which if left unaddressed threaten to repeal the work of the Association. “Information sharing is important, and we try to have brochures on various STIs, and issues around sexual reproductive health and rights. But there are people who still believe ‘sex with a virgin cures’ HIV, plus there are myths around contraceptive use too. We encourage reading. Back in the 70s, 80s, 90s we had a good library where we encouraged people to read, get books, get brochures. That is not so much now,” Boyd-Brown said. Boyd-Brown also faces the challenge of ensuring women continue to access healthcare. “I saw a lady in the market who told me from the last day I did her pap smear she hasn’t done another one. That was five years ago. I had one recently - no pap smear for 14 years. I delivered her last child,” Boyd-Brown said. Despite the challenge, she remains dedicated to the task and shares that her commitment also helps to improve women’s choices. It is Boyd-Brown’s hopes that the once active Mobile Unit with community-based distributors will be reintegrated into JFPA’s healthcare delivery to be able to reach under-served communities.  Boyd-Brown added, “JFPA has made its mark. It will never leave Jamaica or die.”

Christan Levene JFPA YAM
story

| 10 February 2021

“There are still certain sensitive topics that still present an issue when trying to bring it forward in certain spaces."

Christan Levene is committed to helping develop young people as advocates for change. Levene, 26, joined the Jamaica Family Planning Association (JFPA) Youth Advocacy Movement (YAM) in 2017 by virtue of being employed by the Association with YAM duties forming part of the job’s terms of reference. Levene, now the executive assistant and youth officer with the Association based at the administrative headquarters at the Lenworth Jacobs Clinic YAM complements each other in terms of helping to foster the transitioning and development of youth into -confident adults. “FAMPLAN provides the space or capacity for young people who they engage on a regular basis to grow — whether through outreach, rap sessions, educational sessions. The organization provides them with an opportunity to grow and build their capacity as it relates to advocating for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) amongst their other peers,” she said. Though Levene is no longer a member of the group, she remains connected to YAM and ensures she leads by example. Social connectedness “When you have young adults who are part of the organization, who lobby and advocate for the rights of other adults like themselves, then, on the other hand, you are going to have young people like Mario, Candice, and Fiona who advocate for people within their age cohort,” she said. She added, “Transitioning out of the group and working alongside these young folks, I feel as if I can still share some of the realities they share, have one-on-one conversations with them, help them along their journey and also help myself as well, because social connectedness is an important part of your mental health. This group is very, very, very dear to me.” With regards to its impact on her life, Levene said YAM helped her to become more of an extrovert and shaped her confidence. “I was more of an introvert and now I can get up (and) do a wide presentation and engage other people without feeling like I do not have the capacity or expertise to bring across certain issues,” she said. However, Levene shared that there is still a lot of sensitivity around SRHR topics, which limits the conversations YAM is able to have and at times may generate fear among some of the group members. “There are still certain sensitive topics that still present an issue when trying to bring it forward in certain spaces. Other challenges they [YAM members] may face are personal reservations. Although we provide them with the skillset, certain persons are still more reserved and are not able to be engaging in certain spaces. Sometimes they just want to stay in the back and issue flyers or something behind the scenes rather than being upfront,” she said. But as the main aim of the movement is to develop advocates out of members, Levene’s conviction is helping to strengthen YAMs capacity in this regard. “To advocate you must be able to get up, stand up and speak for the persons who we classify as the voiceless or persons who are vulnerable and marginalised. I think that is one of the limitations as well… Going out and doing an HIV test and having counselling is OK, but as it relates to really standing up and advocating, being able to write a piece and send it to Parliament, being able to make certain submissions like editorial pieces. That needs to be strengthened,” Levene said.

Christan Levene JFPA YAM
story

| 23 June 2022

“There are still certain sensitive topics that still present an issue when trying to bring it forward in certain spaces."

Christan Levene is committed to helping develop young people as advocates for change. Levene, 26, joined the Jamaica Family Planning Association (JFPA) Youth Advocacy Movement (YAM) in 2017 by virtue of being employed by the Association with YAM duties forming part of the job’s terms of reference. Levene, now the executive assistant and youth officer with the Association based at the administrative headquarters at the Lenworth Jacobs Clinic YAM complements each other in terms of helping to foster the transitioning and development of youth into -confident adults. “FAMPLAN provides the space or capacity for young people who they engage on a regular basis to grow — whether through outreach, rap sessions, educational sessions. The organization provides them with an opportunity to grow and build their capacity as it relates to advocating for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) amongst their other peers,” she said. Though Levene is no longer a member of the group, she remains connected to YAM and ensures she leads by example. Social connectedness “When you have young adults who are part of the organization, who lobby and advocate for the rights of other adults like themselves, then, on the other hand, you are going to have young people like Mario, Candice, and Fiona who advocate for people within their age cohort,” she said. She added, “Transitioning out of the group and working alongside these young folks, I feel as if I can still share some of the realities they share, have one-on-one conversations with them, help them along their journey and also help myself as well, because social connectedness is an important part of your mental health. This group is very, very, very dear to me.” With regards to its impact on her life, Levene said YAM helped her to become more of an extrovert and shaped her confidence. “I was more of an introvert and now I can get up (and) do a wide presentation and engage other people without feeling like I do not have the capacity or expertise to bring across certain issues,” she said. However, Levene shared that there is still a lot of sensitivity around SRHR topics, which limits the conversations YAM is able to have and at times may generate fear among some of the group members. “There are still certain sensitive topics that still present an issue when trying to bring it forward in certain spaces. Other challenges they [YAM members] may face are personal reservations. Although we provide them with the skillset, certain persons are still more reserved and are not able to be engaging in certain spaces. Sometimes they just want to stay in the back and issue flyers or something behind the scenes rather than being upfront,” she said. But as the main aim of the movement is to develop advocates out of members, Levene’s conviction is helping to strengthen YAMs capacity in this regard. “To advocate you must be able to get up, stand up and speak for the persons who we classify as the voiceless or persons who are vulnerable and marginalised. I think that is one of the limitations as well… Going out and doing an HIV test and having counselling is OK, but as it relates to really standing up and advocating, being able to write a piece and send it to Parliament, being able to make certain submissions like editorial pieces. That needs to be strengthened,” Levene said.

Dr. Stewart McKoy, sitting outside of the Beth Jacobs Family Clinic
story

| 08 February 2021

"We had to go out more to meet people, educate them teach them the importance of sexual and reproductive health”

Dr. Stewart McKoy has dedicated his life to ensuring the needs of both men and women are equally represented in the provision of healthcare at the Jamaica Family Planning Association (JFPA). When Dr. McKoy returned to Jamaica from overseas medical studies in the 1980s, the frustration at the failure of many Jamaican males to use contraception was a continuing concern. This led to him making a strong case for vasectomies to be offered as part of JFPA’s contraceptive options. Whilst the initial response from local males was disheartening, Dr. McKoy took the grassroots approach to get the buy-in of males to consider contraception use. Getting men on board “Someone once said it’s only by varied reiteration that unfamiliar truths can be introduced to reluctant minds. We used to go out into the countryside and give talks. In those times, I came down heavily on men. I remember after one talk, when I was finished, the driver of the JFPA van said they [men] didn’t like what I was saying. I saw a bar outside and went, carried them in, and said drinks on me. By the second round they opened up and were receptive,” he said. The reception would form the catalyst he needed to ensure that men, too, benefitted from sexual and reproductive healthcare. Men were choosing vasectomies if they already had children and didn’t plan to have any more. In addition, Dr. McKoy was an instrumental voice in the Men’s Clinic that was formerly operated by JFPA and also encouraged the inclusion of women at the meetings, in order to increase male participation and uptake of healthcare. “When we as men get sick with our prostate it is women who are going to look after us. But we have to put interest in our own self to offset it before it puts us in that situation where we can’t help yourself. It came down to that and the males eventually started coming. The health education got out and men started confiding more in health services,” he said.   It could be a matter of life or death McKoy said it is important that women use contraception and take their sexual and reproductive health seriously. If neglected, Dr McKoy said it could be a matter of life or death. He refers to a case of a young mother who was complacent towards having pap smears and ended up dying a preventable death as a result of cervical cancer. “Over the years I saw the opportunity to do pap smears out of the clinic. The mobile unit gave us access to so many patients. We had persons who neglected to do it. One patient in particular - she was not yet 30 years old. She had three children and after every delivery, she was told by the hospital to do a pap smear. She didn’t do it and eventually got cervical cancer. When she was to do the pap smear, she didn’t come. One morning they brought her and had to lift her up out of the car. At that time doctors said they couldn’t do anything for her,” Dr. McKoy said while fighting back tears. “It wasn’t necessary. We had to go out more to meet people, educate them teach them the importance of sexual and reproductive health.” That experience was his driving force to continue the work in sexual and reproductive healthcare. Dr. McKoy said the message about family planning, sexual and reproductive health must be continued through education in community outreach projects.

Dr. Stewart McKoy, sitting outside of the Beth Jacobs Family Clinic
story

| 23 June 2022

"We had to go out more to meet people, educate them teach them the importance of sexual and reproductive health”

Dr. Stewart McKoy has dedicated his life to ensuring the needs of both men and women are equally represented in the provision of healthcare at the Jamaica Family Planning Association (JFPA). When Dr. McKoy returned to Jamaica from overseas medical studies in the 1980s, the frustration at the failure of many Jamaican males to use contraception was a continuing concern. This led to him making a strong case for vasectomies to be offered as part of JFPA’s contraceptive options. Whilst the initial response from local males was disheartening, Dr. McKoy took the grassroots approach to get the buy-in of males to consider contraception use. Getting men on board “Someone once said it’s only by varied reiteration that unfamiliar truths can be introduced to reluctant minds. We used to go out into the countryside and give talks. In those times, I came down heavily on men. I remember after one talk, when I was finished, the driver of the JFPA van said they [men] didn’t like what I was saying. I saw a bar outside and went, carried them in, and said drinks on me. By the second round they opened up and were receptive,” he said. The reception would form the catalyst he needed to ensure that men, too, benefitted from sexual and reproductive healthcare. Men were choosing vasectomies if they already had children and didn’t plan to have any more. In addition, Dr. McKoy was an instrumental voice in the Men’s Clinic that was formerly operated by JFPA and also encouraged the inclusion of women at the meetings, in order to increase male participation and uptake of healthcare. “When we as men get sick with our prostate it is women who are going to look after us. But we have to put interest in our own self to offset it before it puts us in that situation where we can’t help yourself. It came down to that and the males eventually started coming. The health education got out and men started confiding more in health services,” he said.   It could be a matter of life or death McKoy said it is important that women use contraception and take their sexual and reproductive health seriously. If neglected, Dr McKoy said it could be a matter of life or death. He refers to a case of a young mother who was complacent towards having pap smears and ended up dying a preventable death as a result of cervical cancer. “Over the years I saw the opportunity to do pap smears out of the clinic. The mobile unit gave us access to so many patients. We had persons who neglected to do it. One patient in particular - she was not yet 30 years old. She had three children and after every delivery, she was told by the hospital to do a pap smear. She didn’t do it and eventually got cervical cancer. When she was to do the pap smear, she didn’t come. One morning they brought her and had to lift her up out of the car. At that time doctors said they couldn’t do anything for her,” Dr. McKoy said while fighting back tears. “It wasn’t necessary. We had to go out more to meet people, educate them teach them the importance of sexual and reproductive health.” That experience was his driving force to continue the work in sexual and reproductive healthcare. Dr. McKoy said the message about family planning, sexual and reproductive health must be continued through education in community outreach projects.

Fiona Francis
story

| 01 February 2021

“They don’t know the consequences or the sickness and potential diseases that can come as a result of unprotected sex”

There is an age-old stigma that surrounds sexual and reproductive health and rights in Jamaica. But for youth officer Fiona Francis, her work in the area is making an impact, one person at a time. I will leave here better than I came Francis, 28, joined the Jamaica Family Planning Association (JFPA) in 2017 as a volunteer at the Lenworth Jacobs Clinic. This was made possible through a one-year internship with the Jamaica Social Investment Fund. “I was placed to be a youth officer, which I never had any knowledge of. Upon getting the role I knew there would be challenges. I was not happy. I wanted a place in the food and beverage industry. I thought to myself, ‘what am I doing here? This has nothing to do with my qualifications’. It was ‘baby mother’ business at the clinic, and I can’t manage the drama,” Francis said. But Francis’ perception of JFPA quickly changed when she was introduced to its Youth Advocacy Movement (YAM) and began recruiting members from her own community to join. “I quickly learnt new skills such as social media marketing, logistics skills and administrative skills. In fact, the only thing I can’t do is administer the vaccines. They have provided me with a lot of training here. Right now, I have a Provider Initiative Training and Counselling certificate. I am an HIV tester and counsellor. I volunteer at health fairs and special functions. I will leave here better than I came,” Francis said. Despite the location of the Lenworth Jacobs Clinic being in a challenging area, Francis is adamant her work is to be done, and believes the youth are the vanguards for change. Men feel entitled to their bodies “It’s a volatile area so some clients you have to take a deep breath to deal with them as humans. I am no stranger to the ghetto. I grew up there. The young people will come, and they’ll talk openly about sex. They’ll mention multiple partners. You have to tell them choose two [barrier and hormonal contraception] to be safe, you encourage them to protect themselves,” she said. Many young girls in the community are at risk of sexual grooming, underaged pregnancy, self-harm, and depression. “Sometimes men may lurk after them. There is sexual grooming where men feel entitled to their bodies. A lot are just having sex. They don’t know the consequences or the sickness and potential diseases that can come as a result of unprotected sex.  Many don’t know there are options- like contraceptives. Some don’t know the dangers of multiple sex partners. The challenges are their lifestyle, poverty level, environment, and sex are often transactional to deal with economic struggles,” Francis explained. However, she said YAM has provided a safe space for many young people to learn about, and discuss issues like consent, sexual health and rights, and sexuality to make informed choices But there is a need for more youth volunteers and learned adults to carry the mandate of the JFPA forward. “We need more young people and we definitely need an adult group. Teens can carry the message, but you’re likely to hear parents say, ‘I’ve been through it already’ and not listen. They also need the education YAMs have access to, so they can deal with their children, grandchildren, and educate them about sexual and reproductive health rights. For my first community intervention, a lot of kids came out and had questions to ask. Questions that needed answers. I had to get my colleagues to come and answer,” Francis said. “There’s a lot going through these teenagers’ minds. Through YAM I have developed relationships and become their confidante, so they can call me for anything. The movement is impacting. It helped me with my life and now I can pass it down. YAM can go a long way with the right persons. Whatever we do we do it with fun and education – edutainment,” she said.

Fiona Francis
story

| 22 June 2022

“They don’t know the consequences or the sickness and potential diseases that can come as a result of unprotected sex”

There is an age-old stigma that surrounds sexual and reproductive health and rights in Jamaica. But for youth officer Fiona Francis, her work in the area is making an impact, one person at a time. I will leave here better than I came Francis, 28, joined the Jamaica Family Planning Association (JFPA) in 2017 as a volunteer at the Lenworth Jacobs Clinic. This was made possible through a one-year internship with the Jamaica Social Investment Fund. “I was placed to be a youth officer, which I never had any knowledge of. Upon getting the role I knew there would be challenges. I was not happy. I wanted a place in the food and beverage industry. I thought to myself, ‘what am I doing here? This has nothing to do with my qualifications’. It was ‘baby mother’ business at the clinic, and I can’t manage the drama,” Francis said. But Francis’ perception of JFPA quickly changed when she was introduced to its Youth Advocacy Movement (YAM) and began recruiting members from her own community to join. “I quickly learnt new skills such as social media marketing, logistics skills and administrative skills. In fact, the only thing I can’t do is administer the vaccines. They have provided me with a lot of training here. Right now, I have a Provider Initiative Training and Counselling certificate. I am an HIV tester and counsellor. I volunteer at health fairs and special functions. I will leave here better than I came,” Francis said. Despite the location of the Lenworth Jacobs Clinic being in a challenging area, Francis is adamant her work is to be done, and believes the youth are the vanguards for change. Men feel entitled to their bodies “It’s a volatile area so some clients you have to take a deep breath to deal with them as humans. I am no stranger to the ghetto. I grew up there. The young people will come, and they’ll talk openly about sex. They’ll mention multiple partners. You have to tell them choose two [barrier and hormonal contraception] to be safe, you encourage them to protect themselves,” she said. Many young girls in the community are at risk of sexual grooming, underaged pregnancy, self-harm, and depression. “Sometimes men may lurk after them. There is sexual grooming where men feel entitled to their bodies. A lot are just having sex. They don’t know the consequences or the sickness and potential diseases that can come as a result of unprotected sex.  Many don’t know there are options- like contraceptives. Some don’t know the dangers of multiple sex partners. The challenges are their lifestyle, poverty level, environment, and sex are often transactional to deal with economic struggles,” Francis explained. However, she said YAM has provided a safe space for many young people to learn about, and discuss issues like consent, sexual health and rights, and sexuality to make informed choices But there is a need for more youth volunteers and learned adults to carry the mandate of the JFPA forward. “We need more young people and we definitely need an adult group. Teens can carry the message, but you’re likely to hear parents say, ‘I’ve been through it already’ and not listen. They also need the education YAMs have access to, so they can deal with their children, grandchildren, and educate them about sexual and reproductive health rights. For my first community intervention, a lot of kids came out and had questions to ask. Questions that needed answers. I had to get my colleagues to come and answer,” Francis said. “There’s a lot going through these teenagers’ minds. Through YAM I have developed relationships and become their confidante, so they can call me for anything. The movement is impacting. It helped me with my life and now I can pass it down. YAM can go a long way with the right persons. Whatever we do we do it with fun and education – edutainment,” she said.

Mario Boothe
story

| 21 January 2021

“The biggest issue is misinformation”

‘Are you interested in advocacy and reproductive health and rights?’ These were the words which caught Mario Boothe’s attention and prompted him to sign up to be part of the Jamaica Family Planning Association (JFPA) Youth Advocacy Movement (YAM) five years ago. At the time, Boothe was 22 and fresh out of college, searching for opportunities to gain experience. It’s so much more than sex and condoms “I was on Facebook looking at different things young people can do, and it popped up. I had just left college with an Associate Degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management. I was unemployed and I just wanted to be active, give myself the opportunity to learn and find something I can give my time to and gain from it,” Boothe said. Being no stranger to volunteerism and having a desire to do advocacy, Boothe decided to sign up for YAM to get a new experience and broaden his knowledge base. “It’s so much more than sex and condoms. It’s really human rights and integrated in everything we do. Reproductive health affects the population, it affects your income, your family planning, how people have access to rights. It cuts across men, women, LGBT people and encompasses everything. My love for working with YAM and being an advocate for sexual and reproductive health rights deepened and I could expand further in my outreach,” he said. Now, Boothe has no regrets with his decision as he has gained a second family and a safe space, he can call home. Additionally, YAM has equipped him with skills and given him opportunities he would otherwise not have. “I have done public speaking which has opened lots of doors for me. I have traveled and met with other Caribbean people about issues [around SRHR]. There’s an appreciation for diversity as you deal with lots of people when you go out into communities, so you learn to break down walls and you learn how to communicate with different people,” Boothe said. With YAM, Boothe has delivered projects, presentations with schools and churches, and training sessions in condom use and addressing other sexual health issues. Reluctance to talk about sex But, the greatest challenge to his advocacy is people’s reluctance to talk about sex. “Once they hear sex it’s kind of a behind the door situation with everybody, but they are interested in getting condoms,” he said. “When it comes to that it is breaking taboo in people’s minds and it might not be something people readily accept at the time. LGBT rights, access to condoms and access to reproductive health for young people at a certain age — many people don’t appreciate those things in Jamaica.” Other challenges regarding sexual and reproductive health and rights, Boothe said, include access and misinformation. “Within the framework of the family and giving youth individual rights to access their own reproductive health. So, can they go to a doctor, nurse without worrying if they are old enough or if the doctor or nurse will talk back to the parents? Access is about giving them the knowledge and empowering them to go for what they need. “The stigma is the misinformation. If you’re going to the clinic people automatically assume, you’re doing an HIV/AIDS test or abortion. [So] after the community empowerment, because of the stigma maybe 15 per cent will respond and come to the clinic. The biggest issue is misinformation,” Boothe said, adding that diversification of the content and how messages are shaped could possibly help. To address these issues Boothe wants to see more young people involved in advocacy and helping to push the message of JFPA in a diversified way. “It is a satisfying thing to do both for your own self development and community development. You’re building a network. If you put yourself out there you don’t know what can happen,” he said.

Mario Boothe
story

| 22 June 2022

“The biggest issue is misinformation”

‘Are you interested in advocacy and reproductive health and rights?’ These were the words which caught Mario Boothe’s attention and prompted him to sign up to be part of the Jamaica Family Planning Association (JFPA) Youth Advocacy Movement (YAM) five years ago. At the time, Boothe was 22 and fresh out of college, searching for opportunities to gain experience. It’s so much more than sex and condoms “I was on Facebook looking at different things young people can do, and it popped up. I had just left college with an Associate Degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management. I was unemployed and I just wanted to be active, give myself the opportunity to learn and find something I can give my time to and gain from it,” Boothe said. Being no stranger to volunteerism and having a desire to do advocacy, Boothe decided to sign up for YAM to get a new experience and broaden his knowledge base. “It’s so much more than sex and condoms. It’s really human rights and integrated in everything we do. Reproductive health affects the population, it affects your income, your family planning, how people have access to rights. It cuts across men, women, LGBT people and encompasses everything. My love for working with YAM and being an advocate for sexual and reproductive health rights deepened and I could expand further in my outreach,” he said. Now, Boothe has no regrets with his decision as he has gained a second family and a safe space, he can call home. Additionally, YAM has equipped him with skills and given him opportunities he would otherwise not have. “I have done public speaking which has opened lots of doors for me. I have traveled and met with other Caribbean people about issues [around SRHR]. There’s an appreciation for diversity as you deal with lots of people when you go out into communities, so you learn to break down walls and you learn how to communicate with different people,” Boothe said. With YAM, Boothe has delivered projects, presentations with schools and churches, and training sessions in condom use and addressing other sexual health issues. Reluctance to talk about sex But, the greatest challenge to his advocacy is people’s reluctance to talk about sex. “Once they hear sex it’s kind of a behind the door situation with everybody, but they are interested in getting condoms,” he said. “When it comes to that it is breaking taboo in people’s minds and it might not be something people readily accept at the time. LGBT rights, access to condoms and access to reproductive health for young people at a certain age — many people don’t appreciate those things in Jamaica.” Other challenges regarding sexual and reproductive health and rights, Boothe said, include access and misinformation. “Within the framework of the family and giving youth individual rights to access their own reproductive health. So, can they go to a doctor, nurse without worrying if they are old enough or if the doctor or nurse will talk back to the parents? Access is about giving them the knowledge and empowering them to go for what they need. “The stigma is the misinformation. If you’re going to the clinic people automatically assume, you’re doing an HIV/AIDS test or abortion. [So] after the community empowerment, because of the stigma maybe 15 per cent will respond and come to the clinic. The biggest issue is misinformation,” Boothe said, adding that diversification of the content and how messages are shaped could possibly help. To address these issues Boothe wants to see more young people involved in advocacy and helping to push the message of JFPA in a diversified way. “It is a satisfying thing to do both for your own self development and community development. You’re building a network. If you put yourself out there you don’t know what can happen,” he said.

Midwife Dorothy Boyd-Brown, Jamaica
story

| 18 January 2021

“I remember some time ago a lady beat her daughter the first time she had her period”

From their inception, cultural barriers and stigma have threatened the work of the Jamaica Family Planning Association (JFPA). Although some myths around family planning are still prevalent, according to one senior healthcare provider at the Beth Jacobs Clinic in St Ann,  there have been some positive shifts. Registered midwife Dorothy Boyd-Brown who first began working with the Association in 1973, said the organization has made its mark and reduced barriers and stigmatizing behavior towards family planning and sexual and reproductive health and rights. Boyd-Brown, head of maternal and child-care/sexual and reproductive healthcare at the Beth Jacobs Clinic said cultural barriers were often seen in families lacking basic knowledge about sexual health. “I remember some time ago a lady beat her daughter the first time she had her period as she believed the only way, she could see her period, is if a man had gone there [if the child was sexually active]. I had to send for her [mother] and have a session with both her and the child as to how a period works. “She apologized to her daughter and said she was sorry. She never had the knowledge and she was happy for places like these where she could come and learn – both parent and child,” Boyd-Brown said. Information sharing is important She also highlights that religious groups once perpetuated stigma, so much so that women feared even walking near the FAMPLAN clinic. “Churchwomen would hide and come, tell their husbands, partners or friend they are going to the doctor as they have a pain in their foot, which nuh guh suh [was not true]. Every minute you would see them looking to see if any church brother or sister came on the premises to see them as they would go back and tell the Minister because they don’t support family planning. But that was in the 90s,” Boyd Brown said. Boyd-Brown says things have changed and the church participates in training sessions about family planning encouraging members to be informed about contraceptive care and their sexual and reproductive health and rights. But despite the wealth of information and forward-thinking of the communities the Beth Jacobs Clinic serves, Boyd-Brown said there are some prevailing myths, which if left unaddressed threaten to repeal the work of the Association. “Information sharing is important, and we try to have brochures on various STIs, and issues around sexual reproductive health and rights. But there are people who still believe ‘sex with a virgin cures’ HIV, plus there are myths around contraceptive use too. We encourage reading. Back in the 70s, 80s, 90s we had a good library where we encouraged people to read, get books, get brochures. That is not so much now,” Boyd-Brown said. Boyd-Brown also faces the challenge of ensuring women continue to access healthcare. “I saw a lady in the market who told me from the last day I did her pap smear she hasn’t done another one. That was five years ago. I had one recently - no pap smear for 14 years. I delivered her last child,” Boyd-Brown said. Despite the challenge, she remains dedicated to the task and shares that her commitment also helps to improve women’s choices. It is Boyd-Brown’s hopes that the once active Mobile Unit with community-based distributors will be reintegrated into JFPA’s healthcare delivery to be able to reach under-served communities.  Boyd-Brown added, “JFPA has made its mark. It will never leave Jamaica or die.”

Midwife Dorothy Boyd-Brown, Jamaica
story

| 22 June 2022

“I remember some time ago a lady beat her daughter the first time she had her period”

From their inception, cultural barriers and stigma have threatened the work of the Jamaica Family Planning Association (JFPA). Although some myths around family planning are still prevalent, according to one senior healthcare provider at the Beth Jacobs Clinic in St Ann,  there have been some positive shifts. Registered midwife Dorothy Boyd-Brown who first began working with the Association in 1973, said the organization has made its mark and reduced barriers and stigmatizing behavior towards family planning and sexual and reproductive health and rights. Boyd-Brown, head of maternal and child-care/sexual and reproductive healthcare at the Beth Jacobs Clinic said cultural barriers were often seen in families lacking basic knowledge about sexual health. “I remember some time ago a lady beat her daughter the first time she had her period as she believed the only way, she could see her period, is if a man had gone there [if the child was sexually active]. I had to send for her [mother] and have a session with both her and the child as to how a period works. “She apologized to her daughter and said she was sorry. She never had the knowledge and she was happy for places like these where she could come and learn – both parent and child,” Boyd-Brown said. Information sharing is important She also highlights that religious groups once perpetuated stigma, so much so that women feared even walking near the FAMPLAN clinic. “Churchwomen would hide and come, tell their husbands, partners or friend they are going to the doctor as they have a pain in their foot, which nuh guh suh [was not true]. Every minute you would see them looking to see if any church brother or sister came on the premises to see them as they would go back and tell the Minister because they don’t support family planning. But that was in the 90s,” Boyd Brown said. Boyd-Brown says things have changed and the church participates in training sessions about family planning encouraging members to be informed about contraceptive care and their sexual and reproductive health and rights. But despite the wealth of information and forward-thinking of the communities the Beth Jacobs Clinic serves, Boyd-Brown said there are some prevailing myths, which if left unaddressed threaten to repeal the work of the Association. “Information sharing is important, and we try to have brochures on various STIs, and issues around sexual reproductive health and rights. But there are people who still believe ‘sex with a virgin cures’ HIV, plus there are myths around contraceptive use too. We encourage reading. Back in the 70s, 80s, 90s we had a good library where we encouraged people to read, get books, get brochures. That is not so much now,” Boyd-Brown said. Boyd-Brown also faces the challenge of ensuring women continue to access healthcare. “I saw a lady in the market who told me from the last day I did her pap smear she hasn’t done another one. That was five years ago. I had one recently - no pap smear for 14 years. I delivered her last child,” Boyd-Brown said. Despite the challenge, she remains dedicated to the task and shares that her commitment also helps to improve women’s choices. It is Boyd-Brown’s hopes that the once active Mobile Unit with community-based distributors will be reintegrated into JFPA’s healthcare delivery to be able to reach under-served communities.  Boyd-Brown added, “JFPA has made its mark. It will never leave Jamaica or die.”