Sandra grew up in Santa Cruz Balanya, a small town two hours west of Guatemala City, the capital of Guatemala. Her father was a farmer and her mother stayed at home to care for Sandra and her five siblings. According to Sandra, her father “used to like to drink; so basically my mother is the one who raised us, all six of us.” Although Sandra said her father was never physically violent, he would often abuse his children and wife verbally. “He would never beat us up; he would just say really bad things to us,” Sandra shared. Her mother struggled to make ends meet, but managed to feed her children. “Thank God my mom would always look for something to feed us. We never had very much or very little, we had enough,” Sandra said. Sandra added that her mother never learned about or used contraception.
Sandra watching her five-year-old son play in the courtyard of their home in Santo Tomas Milpas Atlas, Guatemala
At age seven, Sandra started working, cleaning an uncle’s house, to help earn extra income to help pay for school. She worked her way through school and, after dropping out for a time when she had her first baby at age 20, she eventually graduated with a degree to become a secretary. “I stopped studying because he was very young and I didn’t want to leave him all by himself,” she explained. Prior to having her first child, Sandra had never heard of family planning: “The first time I found out about family planning was when I had my second baby … at the health center.” Prior to that, the only sexual and reproductive information she had learned was from friends because, as Sandra explained, “we wouldn’t get this information at school.” Despite studying to become a secretary, Sandra never secured a job outside her home after marrying at age 19 and having two children shortly after. Today, she supplements her husband’s income as a farmer by selling beans out of their house.
Sandra decided to start using family planning because she wanted to ensure she could care for her two children and worried she may not be able to adequately care for more. “I had two children … so I just wanted to pay attention to both of them; I didn’t want to have another child. I did it because I want to provide the same love to all my children,” she explained.
Sandra with her two oldest children at their home in Santo Tomas Milpas Atlas, Guatemala
Today, Sandra has a five-year contraceptive implant she received from Etelvina, her neighbor and a community health promoter with WINGS, a local Guatemalan health organization. With input from Etelvina, she decided to get a long-term method of family planning after having her third child because she wanted to ensure she would not have any more. Without Etelvina, and the low-cost contraceptives she provides due to a discount WINGS receives from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Sandra feared she may not have been able to afford family planning: “I think back to when I first got it; I don’t think I could have afforded it because we were going through a very difficult time. But thanks to [Etelvina] and God I was able to get the [contraceptive implant] at a more affordable price.” Without family planning, Sandra added, “it would have been a very difficult life because I would have had a lot of children.”
For Sandra, the ability to afford contraceptives is about more than simply accessing health care, it’s about controlling her future and investing more in her children in order to build a better life. “Like every father and mother, we want our children to do better than we did and to be very prosperous,” she said. Family planning is key to that success because, according to Sandra, “family planning has benefited my children because now I can dedicate more time and resources to them.”
Sandra with WINGS community health promoter, Etelvina, who provided Sandra with her contraceptive implant, and Sandra’s five-year-old son
“The first time I found out about family planning was when I had my second baby … at the health center.”
“I had two children … so I just wanted to pay attention to both of them; I didn’t want to have another child. I did it because I want to provide the same love to all my children”