Putting People First in Galapagos Islands

(School of Social Work)

A Carolina interdisciplinary team is working to address youth pregnancy and violence issues on Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. Ecuador, home of the Galapagos Islands, has one of the highest rates of youth pregnancy in the Americas — nearly 26 percentage points higher than the global average of 43.8%. Supported by a 2020 seed grant from the School of Social Work and UNC’s Center for Galapagos Studies, the team aims to empower island youth through tailored interventions.

Led by researchers Natalia Villegas Rodriguez, associate professor in the School of Nursing and associate professors Cynthia Fraga Rizo and Rainier Masa from the School of Social Work, the team conducted interviews with 20 youth, revealing high rates of pregnancy and domestic violence. They noted a need for resources, treatment and mental health support among the youth.

The team partnered with local research assistants to take a community-engaged approach to the study, making it a true collaboration between the community and the study’s investigators.

“It’s not just collecting this information and publishing it,” Villegas Rodriguez said. “Our final objective is that we collect this information and, together — we and the community — design interventions and trainings that can empower youth and prevent these issues.”

Written by Matthew Smith, School of Social Work