Withered Flowers

Nursing student travels 3,000 miles to document an epidemic of underage pregnancy

Kimberly Rosado poses with her Sony camera

With help from her roommate, Rosado found a Sony camera that was easy to learn how to use, and found a willing mentor in Barbara O’Neill, an associate clinical professor and Urban Service Track coordinator for the School of Nursing.

Kimberly Rosado ’24 (NUR) has never taken a filmmaking class.

She says she’s never been great at talking to people, and she doesn’t enjoy public speaking. A year ago, she didn’t know much about professional cameras or audio recording. She’d only ever made small social media videos for fun.

But none of that stopped Rosado from traveling alone more than 3,000 miles from home to make a feature-length documentary film, in two languages, in a different country — with support from BOLD, a pioneering UConn program aimed at cultivating courageous leadership in young women.

At Danbury High School, Rosado completed a certified nursing assistant course and, after graduation, started working as a medical assistant before applying to the UConn School of Nursing.

Rosado, whose family is from Guatemala and Mexico, has known for some time that, as a nurse, she wants to help women. Growing up, she saw within her own family how women like her mother and grandmother, who didn’t receive formal sexual and reproductive health education in school, often didn’t know or understand what they were experiencing within their own bodies.

“In Guatemala, a lot of women don’t really like to talk about what’s happening with them,” says Rosado. “I just did a ton of research on things that are happening in Guatemala with sexual and reproductive health, and I found that they are having an epidemic of underage pregnancy.”

Between January and August 2023, the Observatory on Sexual and Reproductive Rights (OSAR) in Guatemala reported 43,331 pregnancies among adolescents and girls 10 to 19 years old, including 1,589 among girls 10 to 14. Under the country’s law, pregnancies in girls under age 14 are considered to be the result of sexual violence.

Human rights and health care advocates attribute the epidemic to a number of factors, including social and religious stigma, sexual violence and assault, lack of access to health care and contraceptives, lack of comprehensive education, and patriarchal attitudes and a culture of “machismo.”

For Rosado, learning about the challenges women, adolescents, and young girls face in Guatemala — where some of her family members still live — felt personal.

“the flower symbolizes innocence and purity, which are qualities that are robbed from these children”

Getting Help

UConn’s BOLD program focuses on facilitating opportunities for women’s leadership on campus through funding, programming, and engagement in service projects.

Once accepted into BOLD through a competitive application process, scholars in BOLD cohorts are given funding and support for individual student-led projects. They find a mentor and work to refine and execute their project, which is typically implemented during the summer between their junior and senior years.

Rosado and her roommate, Daniela Bedoya ’24 (SFA), were both accepted into BOLD’s fifth cohort. And, lucky for Rosado, Bedoya is a photography major. “I was struggling to figure out how I was going to present the project. I’m not great with public speaking. I’m not great with talking to people. So I was like, You know what? Let me just put it in a documentary and let it speak for itself.”

With Bedoya’s help, Rosado got a Sony camera that was easy to learn how to use, and found an enthusiastic mentor in Barbara O’Neill, an associate clinical nursing professor with a background in journalism and filmmaking.

Rosado planned her trip to Guatemala City for summer 2023, lining up interviews and stays with family members, but hit an unexpected roadblock when her flight was abruptly canceled. When she arrived in Guatemala a week later, her originally scheduled interview subjects were no longer available, and she scrambled to regroup. Her aunt, a lawyer who works on women’s reproductive health and maternal abuse issues, helped make new connections.

“And thank God she did,” says Rosado, “because they came out perfect. They were the best interviews I could have found.”

A large part of Rosado’s work in Guatemala involved interviewing subject-matter experts — including the program coordinator at OSAR, practicing doctors and midwives, and the executive director of a health center that conducts clinics for women. Their expertise and perspective helped her tell a story about the social, cultural, and political factors that often affect the lives of women and young girls in Guatemala.

She took a week to teach herself the professional video editing software she used to compile her work into the 59-minute documentary “Una Flor Marchita,” which she screened for the first time at the Student Union in Storrs last December.

Una flor marchita translates to ‘a withered flower,’” she says. “I picked the title because the flower symbolizes innocence and purity, which are qualities that are robbed from these children at a young age.”

The film, says O’Neill, “provides valuable insight into a subject that is underreported. Kimberly learned and performed all the roles that would typically require the expertise of a scriptwriter, videographer, editor, and production team.”

Rosado hopes to educate and advocate for others by sharing their stories.

“We live in the U.S., so we have a different point of view,” she says.

“There are countries where the people are suffering, and they don’t really know what sexual reproductive health is. They don’t know their rights as women, so they don’t seek them. They’re blind to what their rights should be.”

Giving Help

Rosado believes the experience of producing her film will help her be a better caregiver and advocate for her patients.

“When it comes to asking sensitive questions of patients, it definitely will help me with that, because you never know what someone is going through,” she says. “A lot of these underage pregnancies are products of rape. So talking about super sensitive topics, and how to go about it with adolescents, is important. Education is super important as well.

“So overall, it helped me become a better nurse, a better educator, and just a better person.”

By Jaclyn Severance


  1. Kimberly, just read about your work in the UConn magazine. Congratulations and thank you SO much for doing this very important work.
    Welcome to healthcare and nursing. Wishing you ALL the best in your life and career.

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