By: Gabriela Caldera
Translated from Spanish
Each year, a theme is chosen to highlight the struggles women face due to inequality. In 2023, the agenda is focused on initiatives that deepen female empowerment in digital spaces and through technology, as does Aya Contigo, our app created, developed and managed by women and for Venezuelan women.
Venezuela has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in South America, according to the United Nations Population Fund: 101 out of every 1,000 births are to mothers between the ages of 15 and 19. Young women from historically discriminated communities in this country are affected not only by the lack of sex education, but also by the shortage of contraceptives and their high prices. The legal minimum wage for March 2023 is equivalent to $6.14 per month, which is precisely the price of a box of contraceptive pills.
In this context, Aya Contigo has been configured as a tool to accompany, inform and contain women who want to terminate their pregnancies or seek reliable information on contraceptive methods. In this way, pregnancy does not become a sentence that worsens their economic and social conditions, but rather a choice that women make about their bodies and with a view to what is best for their lives.
Amnesty International estimates that in Venezuela 15 abortions are performed every day, 2,200 a year. An article of the Penal Code dating from 1904 punishes women who decide to have an abortion with imprisonment from 6 months to two years, and between 20 and 30 months for those who assist them.
This is why Aya's mission has taken on greater relevance to support those seeking a safe abortion. In 2022, the Aya Contigo app reached 2,500 users and had 400 virtual conversations about sexual and reproductive health, resulting in a 97% positive sentiment among the women served.
This is the kind of progress in the digital world that is needed and that UN Women wants to highlight on this international day.
"Transformatively incorporating a gender perspective in innovation, technology and digital education would help women and girls become more knowledgeable about their rights and empower them to exercise their rights and activism," UN Women says of this year's celebration.
The slogan is #EmbraceEquity, which means taking action to prevent gender inequality from being perpetuated in digital spaces. This is an important issue for Aya Contigo, because it is through social media and technology that women can be informed about their rights, when traditional media and the legal framework deny them that possibility by criminalizing and stigmatizing abortion.
Additionally, this is work that transcends this issue. "When we started Vitala, our vision was for women to be able to self-manage their abortions safely and effectively, but it has evolved since talking to the women involved," said Genevieve Tam, co-founder of Vitala Global, the organization that created Aya Contigo. "Now it's about helping women feel strong about their reproductive health decisions and being able to achieve their personal goals and plans."
A solution created by women, for women
Aya is an example of how women are capable of developing a technological product with a high social impact, with a gender perspective and that attacks a fundamental problem such as unsafe abortion.
The Aya Contigo team commented on the importance of the work they have been doing, bringing Venezuelan women closer to the information they need through technology. "It allows us to get closer to that society in which each person can exercise their sexual and reproductive rights," says activist Jhoana Chirinos.
"I am proud that other women who have never been able to have other types of support and access to safe and reliable information can feel safe without being singled out and accompanied, because at the end of the day we are women supporting other women," says Estefania, who is part of the community engagement team.
Ana Paula Jiménez, product strategy advisor for Aya Contigo, states that the goal is that "every woman who uses Aya can have a pleasant experience and feel that she benefits deeply from this app".
Our team is an example of how women are working to change the face of technology and deliver an application that benefits people living in an environment as difficult for the exercise of their rights as the Venezuelan one.
Why is this date important to us?
"This date is important for our team because feminist practices are part of our principles. On this day we join our colleagues from different movements because we recognize that the right to decide about our bodies is vital and part of the social demands that States must guarantee," said Genesis Luigi, Community Engagement Lead at Vitala Global.
"Everyone should have access to quality information about sexual and reproductive health, including abortion, and at Aya Contigo we take this very seriously. Our team is made up of a diversity of women with different life experiences. This richness allows us to think about, identify and address the information needs of those who need to end their pregnancy or learn about their reproductive health, no matter where they come from," she added.