Mexfam's JOCCA Model Meets the Community Where It's At
Kelly Castagnaro, Senior Communications Officer
Throughout Mexico, Mexfam employs approximately 1,000 health promoters. These promoters educate community members about sexual ad reproductive health and provide a much-needed link to Mexfam’s clinical services—as well as condoms and contraception—in rural and underserved areas. As part of this work, Mexfam’s health promoters host JOCCAs—two-day local events that bring the community together for discussions and learning about sex.
In San Catarina Minas, I had the opportunity to see one of Mexfam's JOCCAs in action. In the middle of this small town an hour south of the city of Oaxaca, the school gymnasium was packed with hundreds of community members, young and old. After opening the session with a traditional Oaxacan dance, Mexfam went to work. They divided up the participants into groups according to age and Mexfam health promoters and staff led discussions with each group about sexuality and health. At the end of the JOCCA, each group presented a skit or poster it had created on the topic of their choice to the larger group.
Walking through the gymnasium and listening to snippets of the group discussions afforded a rare insight about the evolving nature of sexuality: while we often discuss sexuality education in the context of youth development, too often we forget the fact that the need for accurate and complete information is one that remains with us throughout our lives. Among the 12-year-olds, I heard questions about masturbation and dating, while a group of middle-aged women shared strategies on how to initiate the topic of condom use with their husbands.
The JOCCAs have been so effective at disseminating accurate information and facilitating access to sexual health services that the Ministry of Health in Oaxaca has begun to replicate Mexfam's JOCCA model in other communities throughout the state. As a result, the state of Oaxaca has seen a 25% decrease in teen pregnancy over the last five years.
Perhaps most importantly, the JOCCAs have been invaluable at creating a climate where sexual and reproductive health and rights can be discussed openly across gender and age lines. One Mexfam health educator said it best:
“When it’s time for your child to start brushing their teeth, you don’t immediately send them to the dentist; you give them the tools and information they need to learn to take care of themselves. Learning about sexuality and how to protect yourself needs to become a part of what you learn at home, a natural part of your community.”
Click the slideshow below to see photos taken at the JOCCA: