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Our View from the Ground: Investing in Education

Photo of Dr. Carmela Cordero

Dr. Carmela Cordero is Senior Medical Advisor at EngenderHealth.

How did you first get into the reproductive health field?

I'm from Latin America, and I decided to follow in my father's footsteps and study medicine. Thankfully, women have comparatively better opportunities for education in Latin America than in other parts of the world. But there are still limits to the quality of the education and the life choices available to women. I became an obstetrician-gynecologist to help women make decisions about their fertility, and in doing that to have better control over their lives. Education is paramount, but health care is key, too. Today, I help train doctors and nurses around the world to offer new contraceptive options to women for the same reason.

Can you briefly describe the kind of training you are doing now for EngenderHealth? 

I train health providers to insert IUDs and contraceptive implants and to perform both minilaparotomy (female sterilization) and no-scalpel vasectomy. I also offer training on postabortion care and other aspects of maternal health. Perhaps most important, my team and I train doctors and nurses to offer compassionate, client-centered care, to listen to women, and to offer them all available choices with as much information as possible—so that they can make the best decisions for themselves. Especially for women who don't have many choices in life and who may not have had much, if any, education, this is such an empowering moment for them. It's so important that health professionals get it right! 

What proportion of those you train are female? At the client level, what is your sense of the preference for male vs. female providers?  

We are very conscientious about training female providers in Asia and Africa. It's so important to women to be able to talk with other women. Especially for gynecologic and obstetric care, there is a preference among clients to be seen by women. In some countries, husbands may actually prevent their wives from being seen by a male doctor. So again, educating girls has value for so many reasons, but what I see every day is that we need to have a talented pool of women ready for medical practice.

How do you think education levels affect family planning uptake (i.e., do educated women tend to use contraception more than the uneducated)?

In settings where women have access to education, family planning use is higher. The fact they have access to education also implies they have access to more information about a wider range of issues and more opportunities. A woman who has the possibility to leave the house to go to school also has the possibility to learn about contraception and access services if they are available. This just demonstrates why education is so important.