In the 80s we worked as health promoters, going from house to house. In 1992 we formed the ¨Junta Directiva¨ and we began to work as a group. The five original members were Maria Elena, Norma, Silvia, Raquel, and Sandra, four of whom still work in the center today (pictured below). We used to meet in our houses and hold larger meetings at the high school. We focused on three principle themes: health, education, and violence against women, but we were also aware of other problems in our neighborhood (including extreme poverty, unemployment, delinquency, drugs, illiteracy, prostitution, exploitation, lack of knowledge about health, malnutrition, and the lack of paternal responsibility).
From left to right: Maria Elena, Silvia, Raquel, Norma
During that time we didnt have money so we coordinated with other groups to arrange pap smears and other medical care. There was a health center in Acahualinca but it wasnt welcoming to women and in 1992 it closed down. With the help of a group called Socorro Popular Frances, we rented a house near the old health center. We had a doctor and a pyschologist to take care of the women in the community’s health. We also completed a diagnostic of 100 women to determine what they knew about their health and how they handled violence. We learned that five women in the community had died from cáncer and that 85% had sexually transmitted infections. We also learned that there was a myth surrounding pap smears and that women suffered violence in silence.
To solve these problems we devoted ourselves to studying different subjects. Silvia decided to study nursing, Maria Elena law, Norma management, Raquel beauty, and Sandra pharmacy. In 1997 the French Embassy helped us buy the building where we are today. In the beginning we only had a small clinic, but later we added a clinical laboratory, a patio for presentations, a room for beauty clases, and offices.
Now we are the only women’s center in Acahualinca. We run several programs such as gynecological services, general consulation for the nuclear family, sexual and reproductive health services, psychological services, education for members of the community, legal advice and accompaniment for victims of violence, technical beauty education, and education on the prevention of STIs and HIV-AIDS. We do 1000 pap smears a year and we have 6000 patient files. Of the population of women in Acahualinca, 80% have come to the center. We have limited resources but three organizations help uso out: ProNica, Medicos Mundi, and Livingston.