Sexual Health as a Human Right: Ecuador's Unique Model
After a hard-fought campaign, in 1998 Ecuador became one of the few Latin American countries to explicitly guarantee sexual and reproductive health rights to all citizens in their constitution. Local nonprofits advocating for these rights for years began seeing increased support from both federal and state health ministries. The government has relied on the expertise and close community ties of these organizations to carry out education and outreach efforts to communities on sexual and reproductive rights and generate awareness about gender and sexuality.
Through CFHI, work with pioneering non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on sexual and reproductive health issues in Ecuador. Learn first-hand about the challenges of carrying out these initiatives in a predominantly Catholic and socially conservative country. Here, stigmas about sexuality, lingering gender inequality and traditional gender roles continue to impact access to family planning services and sexual health education, resulting in preventable STDS, unwanted pregnancies and continued prejudice against LGBT communities.
Take part in this unique model spearheaded by Ecuadorian nonprofits and chose from two innovative NGO’s. One organization focuses on providing low cost health care services to women and youth from underprivileged and marginalized populations, while at the same time increasing awareness about pivotal issues around sexual and reproductive health. The second NGO serves the LGBT community, providing integral health, counseling and social services, with an emphasis on HIV/STD prevention. Staff also participates in workshops and other activities to raise awareness about social and political issues that affect this community.
Become immersed in Ecuadorian culture and language through conversational and medical Spanish classes while living with a local family in Quito. CFHI participants may also organize weekend trips to destinations such as Tena in the Amazon region, known for its waterfalls and adventure sports like kayaking and zip lining, the town of Mindo and its subtropical forest, and Otovalo, an indigenous community with a bustling weekly market.
Clinical Rotations & Public Health Placements
Choose to spend the month at one of the two NGO’s listed below.
Sexual and Reproductive Health NGO- This NGO began its work in 1973 with a mission to offer free and low cost family planning services to women, with 50% of services provided to adults under age 25. It currently runs an integrated sexual education outreach program and provides reproductive health services in over 26 semi-urban and rural clinics in 11 provinces. Clinics provide gynecological, pre-natal, counseling and family planning services (IUDs, contraceptive implants, pap smears, monthly check ups, STDs testing). This NGO also runs a “Youth Health Promoter Program” which mentors youth leaders to be health promoters and educators, raising awareness amongst their peers about STD prevention, family planning and contraception and health and counseling services.
Sit in with counselors as they guide adolescent patients seeking advice on STDs, unwanted pregnancies, sexual abuse, gender violence, and addiction issues. Assist local staff with the sexual health education programs in clinic, handing out leaflets and giving oral presentations to patients in waiting rooms on topics such as family planning, maintain a healthy sexual lifestyle, pap smears and breast exams. Join health teams in answering questions from youth at informational booths at local fairs. Options may be available to analyze survey data the NGO has collected on sexual health and reproductive issues for over 40 years.
LGBT Rights NGO- Based in Quito and founded in 2000, this groundbreaking NGO provides services that address the health, human rights and well being of the Ecuadorian LGBTQ community. Projects include a cultural and community center, clinical services, youth counseling, legal referral and advice, as well as workshops to the local community at large to sensitize and raise awareness about LGBT issues. Alongside Ecuadorian staff, help raise awareness about STI prevention by helping to create reports and material for outreach and social media. Participate in local workshops and help disseminate information about HIV/AIDS prevention. In clinic, support HIV counseling and clinical services while learning about specific LGBT health concerns. In order to better guide the organization’s efforts, local staff may also assign projects such as surveying the prevalence of HIV in Ecuador’s LGBTQ community.
CFHI is considered a global health ethics leader therefore CFHI programs uphold strict standards and comply with all local laws regarding student involvement in health settings. Your experience on the program depends on your previous clinical training (if applicable), Spanish level, and the relationship you build with your supervising preceptor. Above all, YOU are the most important factor in making the CFHI experience as fulfilling as possible by being respectful, inquisitive, and open to the wide variety of learning experiences which you will encounter.
Quito is the capital of Ecuador, one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world. It was founded in the 16th century atop the ruins of an Incan city. Today, this modern metropolis boasts a diverse population of about two million people. As the capital and economic hub of the country it attracts migrants from rural areas - mostly indigenous groups, as well as immigrants from neighboring countries.
Quito is nestled in a valley within the Andes Mountain Range, surrounded by volcanoes and impressive peaks. At an elevation of 9,000 feet above sea level, it is considered one of the highest capitals in the world. Due to its close proximity to the equator, the climate is spring-like all year long, with warm days and cool nights. Quito’s historic center is one of the largest and least altered in the Americas and one of the first world cultural heritage sites declared by UNESCO in the 1970’s. As the nation’s capital, it is a lively urban center with dancing, dining, historical sites, shopping and museums.
Things to Do
CFHI participants have free time during most evenings and weekends and may choose to organize weekend trips to nearby destinations and take part in cultural activities offered within Quito itself.
Within Quito, popular activities include visiting the “middle of the world” or the equatorial line, the famous Guayasamin art museum and home, and the historic city center. Quito is also served by various bus lines thus is an ideal jumping off point to see the rest of the country. Travel to the Amazon to hike, nature watch, and visit jungle communities. Closer to Quito and ideal for a day or weekend trip is Otavalo, a primarily indigenous town that has maintained its traditional way of life and is renown for its weekly market.
Accommodations & Homestays
Participants stay with homestay families, chosen and screened by the CFHI Local Coordinator and language school. Homestays are located in a middle class residential neighborhood in the northern part of Quito. They are located in close proximity to one another and the language school, allowing participants to walk to language classes and meetings with ease. In some cases CFHI participants may be housed with others in the same homestay, but will always have their own room.
Homestays provide a unique opportunity to learn about local culture and practice Spanish skills on a daily basis in an informal setting. Accommodation includes two meals a day and laundry once a week. Participants will be instructed on recommended transportation from homestays to clinical rotations and getting around the city.
Eligibility: Who Can Apply?
This CFHI program is ideal for students who have a foundation in Spanish and have an interest in health and medicine in small town and rural settings. Non-students are also eligible. The program offers an overview of primary and secondary level care through visits within a hospital and primary care clinics, as well as Spanish language classes with an emphasis on medical Spanish. To confirm whether you're eligible to apply, please read CFHI's general eligibility requirements.
Minimum Language Required: Beginner 1 Spanish or Above
Beginner 1 Spanish: “I can speak a little and understand at times if people speak slowly and clearly.”
- I can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and simple phrases to get across basic needs.
- I can introduce others and myself. I can ask and answer questions for example where I live, people I know and things I have.
Leading this program on-site are our on-site partners (see Local Team tab), all of whom share Spanish as their native language, but may speak English as well. To provide authentic learning experiences translators are not provided. Daily interactions will be in Spanish, but CFHI’s local team is able to support and help you through your experience.
All CFHI participants applying to programs in Latin America will evaluate their Spanish language skills as part of their application. This information will then be shared with the on-site partners. Most important is your general ability to communicate verbally with those around you and to be proactive in speaking Spanish, versus accuracy with grammatical tenses. All CFHI Latin America programs include Spanish language instruction on-site.
Not sure about your Spanish level? View a full list of CFHI’s language levels for all Latin America programs on our Spanish Level Guidelines page.
Participants should arrive in Quito, Ecuador on the program start date and will be picked up from the airport by a CFHI representative and taken to their homestay. A welcome orientation will take place the Sunday or Monday after arrival.
Visas are not required for U.S. citizens staying less than 3 months in Ecuador. More information on travel and logistics will be provided by CFHI after acceptance into the program.
- Guidance from CFHI staff in San Francisco before departure
- Program-specific materials with information on making travel arrangements, visa requirements, recommended immunizations, etc.
- Airport pick-up upon arrival and transportation to homestay in Quito with local CFHI representative
- Welcome orientation with other participants covering safety, transportation, and other logistics
- CFHI Local Team: providing instruction, logistical support, and 24/7 emergency response
- Information sessions that highlight the health care system in that country,
- Spanish Classes: 30 hours/month of Spanish classes with a focus on how to provide informative presentations on various topics:
- Accommodation, two meals a day, and laundry services once a week
- Local cell phone
- International emergency medical and evacuation insurance
- Placement and coordination of public health activities at one of the two not-for-profit organizations
- Sexual and Reproductive Health in Ecuador
- Prevention of unwanted pregnancies
- HIV/AIDS Prevention
- Prevention of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
- Access to CFHI alumni-only LinkedIn group featuring news and career opportunities related to Global Health
- CFHI alumni newsletter highlighting events, resources, and ways to stay involved
Uniquely CFHI, 50% or more of student program fees go directly to the communities they will be visiting, benefiting the local economy at large and specifically underserved health systems. Read more.
Meet the Local Team
Rosita Tamayo - Sexual Health Program Coordinator: The role of the Program Coordinator is to organize NGO placements, housing, transportation, orientation and weekly meetings. Rosita is a great resource for any questions related to navigating the program locale, cultural norms and tips on planning weekend travel.
Rosita has served CFHI since 1998. She is co-founder and owner of the language school that CFHI participants attend and regularly hosts CFHI students from in her home. She participated in an intercultural exchange as a young student, and lived the United States for a year. Rosita graduated from the Universidad Central del Ecuador with a degree in International Relations. Rosita has a passion for volunteerism and supporting underserved communities.
What Alumni Say
“My immediate response was to grab the nearest penis model and use the simplest words that came to my mind. But, I broke into a cold sweat when a crowd started to gather around us. Thankfully…” Read more from Miranda's blog.
-- Miranda Iverson, (CFHI Participant, Sexual Health as a Human Right Program, May 2013)