JOVANA RIOS — MEMBER, EWEC STEERING GROUP, PANAMA
Jovana Rios is a SheDecides Champion and women’s rights advocate from Panama who wears several hats. In addition to serving as Board Chair of IPPF/Western Hemisphere Region, Jovana is also a member of IPPF’s governing council, Vice President of the Panamanian Association of Family Planning (APLAFA) and member of the Every Woman Every Child (EWEC) Steering Group.
Jovana reflects on her teenage years when many of her classmates got pregnant, faced discrimination and dropped out of school. “I knew I had to do something and fortunately, I was invited by a young volunteer woman to become a peer educator”. She is passionate about SheDecides because it can help create a life free from any kind of violence for women and girls everywhere. “I cannot stop what I do, because there is still so much to be done”.
1. Tell us briefly why you are passionate about being involved with SheDecides.
I am passionate about being involved with SheDecides because it is a movement that represents my values. I am glad to support a movement that is working hard so women and girls exercise their rights; make decisions about their bodies, are able to enjoy a healthy and prosperous live, free from any kind of violence.
2. Briefly describe how you are working hard so women and girls can make decisions themselves about their bodies.
I serve as a member of IPPF’s governing council, and I am also the Chair of the Board of Directors for IPPF/Western Hemisphere Region. In both of these capacities, I have been a steadfast advocate for the health and rights of Young people, particularly for adolescent girls.
In addition, I am also a member of the High Level Steering Group of Every Woman, Every Child, and Every Adolescent, where I lead efforts to place the rights of young women and girls at the center of global efforts to promote gender equity and sustainability.
At the local level, I am the Vice President of the Panamanian Association of Family Planning (APLAFA). We all work very hard in APLAFA to promote sexual rights and provide Sexual and Reproductive Health services, particularly for women.
3. What is the biggest challenge facing women and girls in your region? Why?
In my region women and girls face many challenges, but I think Gender Based Violence and inequality are the biggest ones.
Moreover, Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) is not available in most schools and while many programs have been put in place, the eradication of inequalities as well as access to CSE in every school are still pending matters.
4. Tell us a story of a moment that drives you to do what you do every day.
I remember that when I was a teenager, many of my classmates got pregnant and faced discrimination. Some of them dropped out school. I knew I had to do something and fortunately, I was invited by a young volunteer woman to become a peer educator.
I still remember the plight of my classmates, and I have seen many other young women face the same difficulties. That is why I cannot stop doing what I do, because there is still so much to be done.
5. How are we going to get to a future where SheDecides, without question – particularly in the Panama context.
We need to ensure that adolescents in Panama have access to Comprehensive Sexuality Education so they are empowered. APLAFA recently launched a campaign called “#infosexualparatodos” or sexuality education for all, so that young people can access the information they need by taking advantage of social media.
But we need to work even harder with different movements so everybody recognizes that girls, boys and young people are right holders, and ensure they have the opportunities to achieve their full potential.
6. Anything else you'd like to add?
I am so honored to work with SheDecides and contribute to create a better world, particularly for women and girls.