"I decided to become a volunteer at Pro-Familia when I heard a talk the staff were giving at the Acajutla City Hall, where they explained what they were doing in the communities with the program, and they invited us to be part of the volunteer service. I liked what I could do with the men in the community. It’s been two-and-a-half years."
Juan Martinez Leon is a volunteer with the Asociación Demográfica Salvadoreña (ADS/Pro-Familia) community-based programme. Juan’s remit is broad, working mainly with men to provide information on contraceptive methods and counselling to individuals and couples. He also provides contraceptive methods including the Pill, injectables and, especially, condoms. For some hormonal contraceptive methods, Juan refers his clients to Pro-Familia clinics or other public health facilities.
Putting community first
"I like to work for my community, despite the difficulties, and I help in four more communities for them to have the [contraceptive] methods and medicines, because they come to get me," says Juan. "I give talks on the soccer field in front of my house or I have meetings at my house. My children help me invite men to come and they also learn and admire the work."
Juan visits clients at home and organizes talks – mainly with other men – to promote the importance of contraceptive use, and women and children's health. The importance of men’s health and their family group is a key element in Juan's role as a health promoter.
“I like providing family planning counselling, because sometimes men don't like women using anything to prevent pregnancy. When I talk with the men of my community, people's lives change and you see the difference: you no longer see the domination over women, they let women plan, and [the woman] no longer requests the method secretly – although there are still some women who hide from their husbands. That's why we have to continue working on counselling, that's what awakens them."
Changing behaviour and attitudes
Juan runs informative talks on reproductive health and the prevention of STIs and HIV. "In some talks, some men have come out angry and questioned me. Who am I to tell those things? ‘Someone who has learned and who respects people's rights,’ I tell them. Now men come to ask for condoms, and even my wife confidently gives the condoms to them. She also supports me."
Some men thank Juan for having "awakened their minds", and encouraged them to change to respect women and to help at home.
“I think I help my community a lot. You wake them up. I like what I do, I like to help. Before there was no promoter and they had women submerged. Little by little that is changing, but only by talking to men is it achieved. I want to continue learning about sexual and reproductive health issues, it never ends. I would like to continue in training as we used to before the pandemic, and for Pro-Familia to come more often. Until God tells me, I feel that it is my obligation to attend to men or whoever seeks me to help them. That's what I'm for.”