So lately I´ve been working with a lot of planning. Of the family variety. Yup, a couple of my activities coincided on the birth control section of learning, so, today, I just gave my third class on birth control of the week. Our meeting started out serious and practical, with each youth practicing putting a condom on a banana:
However, things quickly descended into mayhem:
With a group of 12 high land Peruvian teenagers, we practiced putting condoms on the straightest bananas I could find in the local bodega (the quechwa grandma was skeptical as I, without explanation, searched through the stack for the least curved). Peace Corps supplied the condoms, of course in the tropical variety pack (pink, yellow and orange, all flavored. Government health care really might have something going for it).
The ironic thing about this overload of birth control teaching is that, right now, the health post in Musho is out of birth control. The center of salud, provincial hospital, and entire department of Ancash, does not have birth control to supply the public health care system. This means that women who are accustomed to free birth control, usually by injection, every 3 months, are forced to buy this (at 25 soles an injection, it´s a pretty high cost) or possibly get pregnant. I predict lots of babies next July.
It´s a cliche to say that birth control is empowering, especially having studied public health and development. However, it is sort of moving to hear first hand opinions and accounts of the change it brings. Birth control is a fairly recent phenomenon in this highland area; only available for about 10 years, since the Fujimori years. The other night, my host mom explained to me what an amazing development it was when birth control became available.
A wonderful thing about my life here is that a lot of things I knew theoretically before I am re-learning through experience. Try birth control. Theoretically, it´s empowering to women in poverty. Practically, most married women in Musho love it and you can spot the families that don´t use it (they have upwards of 5 kids and are living in squalor). Please cross your fingers for some pills arriving in Musho soon, though, or we are back to square one.