María Paula Calle – Si Mujer Young Leader

I am 19 years old, and I joined the Si Mujer youth leadership programme three years ago. 

In this time I’ve worked on film discussion forums, community talks, social media messaging and public advocacy campaigns.  Before the pandemic we went to different places in Cali and spoke about the right to abortion, which is decriminalized in three circumstances in Colombia but still a very stigmatised and invisible right. During lockdown, we moved our discussions to Zoom, where we would invite our friends to take part.

At the beginning I was very scared because in Colombia there are still many people who are very conservative and closed to these issues. Even my mother used to be, but now with time she has become more open. I was also very embarrassed at first to talk about this stuff, but Amanda, the youth coordinator, always placed us with people who already had experience and who could guide us. We approach people in a non-confrontational way and share information in a very neutral way. We let them know we are offering information, simply so that if you have a friend, a sister, a relative who is going through this situation you can tell them about it, and that’s it. 

There is a lot of misinformation out there about abortion. Many myths remain.

So we are having these conversations to change the way people see abortion. We are really more empathetic, of course if you disagree it is fine not to do it but do not judge a person who needs an abortion or chooses to have one. Abortion is something that exists, we respect it, we accompany the person who is going through it, but it is up to each person to choose, and we should not point the finger at those who do it.

I always let people know that if they have a friend who is in trouble and they don’t know what to do, they can give them my number.

Or if they want to ask me, I can direct them to Si Mujer because it’s a very accessible place for people who don’t always have lots of money and resources.