Victoria is the Co-Founder and President of The Summit Foundation, which was founded in 1991 and provides support for international empowerment of girls and reproductive health initiatives, the conservation of the Mesoamerican Reef ecosystem, and Sustainable Cities. A graduate of Stanford University, she was a member of the Board of Trustees of the National Gallery of Art from 2000 through 2015. She serves on numerous boards, including Vital Voices Global Partnership, International Center for Research on Women and The Brookings Institution.
Living in a country plagued with smuggled arms, drugs, and more gang members than all other Central American countries combined, girls in Honduras face dire challenges in staying healthy and safe.
Girls in Honduras are especially at risk for teen pregnancy and HIV, which threatens their health and lives and traps them in a cycle of poverty. The average age of a girl’s first sexual experience is only 14 and by age 19 a startling one in four Honduran girls have been pregnant or are already mothers. Access to reproductive health services for teens is severely limited by conservative cultural norms and a lack of information and education on sexual and reproductive health.
This project adapts lessons learned from The Population Council’s flagship program in Guatemala to give Honduran girls several things: safe spaces to learn, sexual and reproductive health services and information, and trained mentors that increase their agency and give them the tools to earn a living.
Chicas en Conexión – “Connecting Girls” – is piloting girl-focused activities for teenagers in nine rural Honduran communities. The program will demonstrate that by providing safe spaces for girls to meet, learn, and access the tools to make healthy choices, it is possible to address cultural norms and other inequalities that prevent teen girls from reaching their full potential.
Teen girls across Honduras and the broader region face similar obstacles to their health and personal empowerment, so this project provides an opportunity to advance a model that has immediate regional relevance and impact.
After proving the viability of this approach to create safe spaces for marginalized girls, the model can be scaled to other Honduran communities and, potentially, across Central America. Investing in the health and rights of teen girls is a priority globally, with considerable interest from large government and multilateral donors in supporting programs that address the unique challenges they face.