Men in the Movement: Angel Mendez
David Horn, Guest Contributor
Finding a man who spends his life championing sexual and reproductive health is a rare and remarkable endeavor on its own. To do it in Guatemala, a country marked by its brashly machismo culture, is a downright impressive feat.
Angel Mendez, a WINGS for Men Educator, has been working within the field of sexual and reproductive health since he was 14 years old. Now 28, Angel began his career with APROFAM, IPPF/WHR's Member Association in Guatemala and the largest private provider of reproductive health services in the country. In his role as a youth educator, Angel was tasked with informing his peers on how to take control of their sexual lives. He worked with APROFAM for 12 years, along the way getting married and becoming a father to three children – two girls and one boy.
As Angel got older and gained experience in the field, he became interested in men’s role in family planning and sexual responsibility. Through the years, he had encountered numerous road blocks in his work, many in the stalwart form of a macho culture that conditioned its men to be in control of the entire family’s sexual and reproductive health.
Angel’s zeal for sexual and reproductive health and interest in men’s role in the family and society caught the eye of WINGS’ Men’s Program in 2010. Angel was quickly hired as a WINGS for Men Educator to provide individual counseling and group workshops for men on topics that range from basic anatomy to being a responsible father. He also spends much of his time distributing literature, condoms, and other materials to men to help educate a demographic that is often forgotten in the discussion about family planning. Angel speaks with leaders and organizations within different communities in hopes of convincing them on the importance of learning about and understanding these critical topics.
Angel’s hard work is paying off. He is now a respected ambassador of sexual health in many areas of Western Guatemala. He has also been able to gain the support of influential men who have have been working with their peers to change machismo culture and take responsibility in their roles as husbands and fathers.
When you speak with Angel about his work, you get a taste of the passion he has not only for his job, but also for his people and his country. He believes that Guatemala’s future rests in part on his ability to educate as many men as possible about the importance of family planning and reproductive health, and also on the responsibility of those men to pay it forward by working to mend the mindset of a deeply rooted patriarchal society.
“We can improve this country,” says Angel. Considering his track record and tenacity, I wholeheartedly agree.
David Horn is the Communications Coordinator at WINGS Guatemala.