Youth Volunteering, Brazil
Renata and Roselly are youth volunteers at BEMFAM, our Member Association in Brazil, where over 15 percent of young women have sex before they turn 15. As part of the peer educator team in one of the country’s poorest areas, Renata and Roselly teach other young people about contraceptive use and sexually transmitted infections, answer questions, and offer a sympathetic ear.
Both young women decided to become volunteers after observing attitudes that inhibited their friends and put them at risk. Renata, aged 20, lives with her boyfriend. “Most kids feel very shy and are too embarrassed to talk about sex with their parents, and because of this, a lot of girls get pregnant,” she explains. “Now I can help my friends to get protection and have safe sex.”
Roselly, who is 21, started volunteering at BEMFAM in high school. She was concerned that girls were hiding their relationships from their parents for fear of being beaten or thrown out of their homes. “Boys aren’t punished for having sex,” she says. “Their parents think it proves their masculinity. Because they’re not punished like girls are, they’re being told it’s okay without words.” Through her work with BEMFAM, she feels she has earned her family’s respect. “This is possible for all girls. When they learn what’s right and wrong, their parents treat them like they treat their sons.”
Both women enjoy helping their peers. “Issues are treated very openly at the youth center,” says Renata. “I like that. I feel comfortable talking—we have our own way of talking to each other so we understand.”