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There are millions of women in the world with little or no access to sexual and reproductive health services, safe abortion options, and the freedom to make decisions about their pregnancies. As a result, nearly 19 million women resort to unsafe abortions annually, with many cases resulting in death or serious health injuries. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the number of unsafe abortions is among the highest in the world: there are four million unsafe abortions per year; seventy percent occur in women under 30 years old.
Fortunately there are health professionals like Luisa Ceballos who provide comprehensive SRH care and information about the risks and complications associated with unsafe abortion. They inform clients, who want to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, about safe abortion options. Health professionals like Luisa Ceballos are helping to reduce morbidity rates in Latin American and Caribbean countries with restrictive abortion laws.
Luisa Ceballos is an educator and counselor at PLAFAM, the IPPF/WHR Member Association in Venezuela. In the next few paragraphs, Luisa shares details about working with clients who come to PLAFAM for sexual and reproductive health services.
I am 51 years old. I’ve been a counselor for five of the 19 years I’ve been at PLAFAM. I started working in sexual and reproductive health, specifically on the harm reduction model, because I wanted to help, guide and support young people, especially teenage girls who are sexually active at an early age. I want to prevent complications and reduce risk, wherever and whenever possible.
I feel very rewarded by working at PLAFAM. I love it, I enjoy it. I feel like I’m exactly where I belong and that I’m working at a place where I should be working. I provide all the information, support and guidance that each client needs. In addition, I offer all the advice, help and guidance I’m able to as a counselor, and I ensure that clients have access to all the tools available to PLAFAM. The hardest part about my work is that I’m not always able to provide all the services and support that clients need. For example, when victims of violence come to PLAFAM, they are referred to experts who provide legal advice and information. If we had legal services and tools at our disposal, we would be able to provide a more effective response to clients’ issues.
At the same time, I think my work has quite an important impact on the community. I’m not going to cite exact figures or percentages, but there are many clients who share the information they are given at PLAFAM with other people. Clients come from everywhere, even from other states, to visit PLAFAM. It would be terrible for our community, who come to us looking for answers, support and guidance, if this project did not exist.
I really like everything I do here at PLAFAM. I feel good about the fact that I’m able to help people through my work, especially when it solves some of their problems. Because of my work, I’m more sensitive; I have learned to look at other people’s problems with “new eyes.” Nevertheless, I would like to have more updated tools, and an even deeper understanding of sexual and reproductive health in order to be able to offer much more to those who come to PLAFAM.