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Last year Candies started the #NoTeenPreg hashtag in an effort to continue the work they do which they believe helps reduce unintended teenage pregnancies. 

A group of former teen moms, now young moms, really felt that Candies mission is an important one but their messaging and ads were stigmatizing, rude, disrespectful, and not informative enough so #NoTeenShame was born. 
We asked the founder of the Candies Foundation, Neil Cole, to meet with us as a group to discuss how we could work together to make better, non stigmatizing, and informative ad campaigns for their annual month of action in May. (May is is also Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Month) Despite numerous calls and 800+ petition signatures asking Mr. Cole to meet with the #NoTeenShame team Candies and Mr. Cole did not respond. 

Mr. Cole did however, spend time writing a post on his Huffington Post Blog about why Candies is right and why essentially anyone who disagrees is wrong. We were upset but certainly not defeated. 

This year #NoTeenShame has been meeting for about 5 months through weekly conference calls about what and how we will directly create a cultural shift in the way teenage and young families are discussed and how preventing teenage pregnancy does not have to include mentioning us, our peers, or our families especially if it is in a negative way.

We have a Tumblr, a very active hashtag; #noteenshame, and a very insightful one pager about our goals, history, and mission. 

However, what #NoTeenShame has really showed me, as simply one of it’s core members, is that online advocacy that is born out of speaking up when something is wrong is powerful, purposeful, and can change the way people think about certain topics. 

In April we launched- and successfully met our goal on- a Thunderclap campaign which asked supporters to sign on and tell the world that they support #NoTeenShame and our mission, we had an insightful and purposeful twitter chat hosted by Tara of The Young Mommy Life, we’ve had organizations reach out and show support and pledge their solidarity alongside with us. 

As we get ready to enter one of the most stigmatizing months for teen and young parents we have the honor of knowing that we are on the right side of change and progress, that more people are beginning to think about how harmful ads they once thought were seemingly harmless really effect others, and that Neil Cole and many other organizations and foundations like his who use stigmatizing language are watching. 

#NoTeenShame is about young people using technology to advance and change discussions on causes we hold most important and personal to us in an effort to implement change in policy and change in cultural perceptions.

Thank you for your support thus far and please continue to support us and ALL young families during May and everyday.

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Thoughts at puberty”

Thoughts may come and go,
And minds made decisive,
Mates may stay to cuddle,
And tears cease to stop,

http://reverbednothesblog.wordpress.com/category/poetry-sex-ed/

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I have seen people change and at the same vein witnessed a retrograde in youths. I have been around areas where there\’s no hope for light and peace, but in this same situation some people still survive.

I have been around youths – Boys and Girls, that have made life difficult for themselves due to lack of knowledge. And my countenance has dwindled, because I have witnessed a holocaust of ruined lives in the past, even now.

I love peace and the prospect it brings. I love sanctuary – a foundation laid on the rocks of simplicity and the Arm of Justice.
I stand against the illegal acts displayed by the so-called Governmental body. I stand against rape, child abuse and its associated acts. I stand against the malfunctioning of child rights and value – I stand for a change, as an \”Advocate\”.

I stand as a Youth, Not a man, alone. But with men – the colony of change.
\”A man cannot be a faculty, men can. The necessity of change begins with not one man, but with the uniformity of all\”.
(Victor Omovbude Brown)

I stand against – Child punishment, Tribalism, criticism, Discrimination, and Queer visions. I stand for change, which is my first goal. As a youth, I stand for Unity, Peace and Progress.

I stand for a free and transparent Health service attributed to (children,youths and adults) – I stand against unequal rights and segregation in roles.
I stand for Quality Education – Void of preferential treatment, equal for all.
I stand against poor governance.

I am an \”Advocate For Youth\”.

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I have seen people change and at the same vein witnessed a retrograde in youths. I have been around areas where there’s no hope for light and peace, but in this same situation some people still survive.

I have been around youths – Boys and Girls, that have made life difficult for themselves due to lack of knowledge. And my countenance has dwindled, because I have witnessed a holocaust of ruined lives in the past, even now.

I love peace and the prospect it brings. I love sanctuary – a foundation laid on the rocks of simplicity and the Arm of Justice.
I stand against the illegal acts displayed by the so-called Governmental body. I stand against rape, child abuse and its associated acts. I stand against the malfunctioning of child rights and value – I stand for a change, as an “Advocate”.

I stand as a Youth, Not a man, alone. But with men – the colony of change.
“A man cannot be a faculty, men can. The necessity of change begins with not one man, but with the uniformity of all”.
(Victor Omovbude Brown)

I stand against – Child punishment, Tribalism, criticism, Discrimination, and Queer visions. I stand for change, which is my first goal. As a youth, I stand for Unity, Peace and Progress.

I stand for a free and transparent Health service attributed to (children,youths and adults) – I stand against unequal rights and segregation in roles.
I stand for Quality Education – Void of preferential treatment, equal for all.
I stand against poor governance.

I am an “Advocate For Youth”.

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By: Sarah Bradley ’17

On April 5, I and another freshmen member of Students for Sexual Health attended the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts conference for campus organizers, alongside representatives from UMASS-Amherst, Boston University, Tufts University, Northeastern University, Smith College, and Wellesley College. It was a day of instruction and reflection on how to improve our campus outreach programs, strengthen our campaigns, recruit new members, and facilitate those difficult conversations concerning reproductive social justice. Discussions were encouraged as we exchanged ideas and strategies. Representing Boston College—a school where we as a student group have no support from the administration and literally stand on non-BC property sidewalks to distribute condoms—we represented a unique situation within the group.

It was both frustrating and incredibly exciting to hear what other schools were doing, to hear about their incredibly fun and innovative events and creative campus outreach programs. When we explained our situation as an unrecognized sexual health group at a Catholic college, the other representatives were shocked. They were quick to suggest different ways to rally support and to promote our cause, regardless of our campus situation. And they had some great ideas.

Taking the train home, I found myself wishing I attended a more liberal college where our student group could have more freedom with our outreach programs. Then I realized: as great as it is that these other Massachusetts schools have the ability to rally on campus and receive administrative support, the fact remains that this is not the situation we face at Boston College—at least, not now.

I’m a freshman. That means that I have three more years to continue working with Students for Sexual Health here at BC. If I had attended a more progressive college, maybe sexual health would have just been another cause among the lineup of tables at the club fair. But attending a conservative college, as frustrating as it may be, is an important push that maybe I would not have experienced otherwise. It’s not about sulking over the lack of administrative support; it’s about taking it as a challenge.

Personally, I know that I have three more years ahead of me of standing on the sidewalk passing out condoms, holding events off campus, and doing our best even as an unofficial group to educate our peers. And while it may not happen during my time here as a student, SSH will be an official group someday—but even then, Students for Sexual Health will continue to advocate for our cause and for our right to educate our peers here at BC.

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Sometimes I ask myself questions : questions which are ever aching and proving stubborn to define or understand. I can’t recall the last time; a friend ,organization or social community discussed the affair of Youth Development via Sex Education and the threat it poses to Humanity and its affair.

In America there’s a flexible, progressive link for Sex development. Although not perfect but better than what we have here in Nigeria. At most case I have wondered why we are still in the loop hole ; a pit filled with ill-fated people who only acknowledge the receipt of their welfare.

The role of sex Education , is to foster a spontaneous change in : Sexuality, Heterosexual-conscience,Attitude and also promote a Beneficial role in Moral and Value. Youths , (especially boys), will massively grow in self esteem as it will tremendously shape Thoughts and increase a positive intake in Sex orientation and Education.

Educating people on Pre-sex Affair which is the Basics for a good foundation on Youth sexuality, will change lives. What we fail to understand is our, ” inability to Define what Sex Education and the Orientation it has on Youths”.

Sex education is instruction on issues
relating to human sexuality, including
human sexual anatomy, sexual reproduction, sexual activity, reproductive health, emotional relations, reproductive rights and responsibilities, abstinence, and birth control. Common avenues for sex education are parents or caregivers, formal school programs, and public health campaigns.

sex education is defined as a vital public health strategy – which will play a role in the Reduction of STDs : By initializing Health centers, Health tips, Options (Gadget) and Orientation. And will also diminish an increase in Abnormal Behaviors displayed by Youths (Boys mostly) ; which are ,Bullying, Coercion and Discrimination). If Every youth know the basics (i.e, its preventive methods (Abstinence), techniques, and Healthy tips) then we can have a possible outbreak of change in Heterosexuality.

I believe that when people become enormously aware of their Sexuality and how it tends to : Affect, Diminish and Increase STATUS’, we will begin to see change – Fundamentally, Socially and Mentally in schools, society, Environment and the world at large.

Starting with schools – which is a great idea, is one profound step. Advocating Sex-ed in public places, outlets like Seminars, NGO programs and other governmental aids will contribute too.

We need to spread the word which is a,”PROMOTION ON SEX-ED” in schools, outlets, Rural and Urban sphere and other geographical locations.

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Sometimes I ask myself questions : questions which are ever aching and proving stubborn to define or understand. I can’t recall the last time; a friend ,organization or social community discussed the affair of Youth Development via Sex Education and the threat it poses to Humanity and its affair.

In America there’s a flexible, progressive link for Sex development. Although not perfect but better than what we have here in Nigeria. At most case I have wondered why we are still in the loop hole ; a pit filled with ill-fated people who only acknowledge the receipt of their welfare.

The role of sex Education , is to foster a spontaneous change in : Sexuality, Heterosexual-conscience,Attitude and also promote a Beneficial role in Moral and Value. Youths , (especially boys), will massively grow in self esteem as it will tremendously shape Thoughts and increase a positive intake in Sex orientation and Education.

Educating people on Pre-sex Affair which is the Basics for a good foundation on Youth sexuality, will change lives. What we fail to understand is our, ” inability to Define what Sex Education and the Orientation it has on Youths”.

Sex education is instruction on issues
relating to human sexuality, including
human sexual anatomy, sexual reproduction, sexual activity, reproductive health, emotional relations, reproductive rights and responsibilities, abstinence, and birth control. Common avenues for sex education are parents or caregivers, formal school programs, and public health campaigns.

sex education is defined as a vital public health strategy – which will play a role in the Reduction of STDs : By initializing Health centers, Health tips, Options (Gadget) and Orientation. And will also diminish an increase in Abnormal Behaviors displayed by Youths (Boys mostly) ; which are ,Bullying, Coercion and Discrimination). If Every youth know the basics (i.e, its preventive methods (Abstinence), techniques, and Healthy tips) then we can have a possible outbreak of change in Heterosexuality.

I believe that when people become enormously aware of their Sexuality and how it tends to : Affect, Diminish and Increase STATUS’, we will begin to see change – Fundamentally, Socially and Mentally in schools, society, Environment and the world at large.

Starting with schools – which is a great idea, is one profound step. Advocating Sex-ed in public places, outlets like Seminars, NGO programs and other governmental aids will contribute too.

We need to spread the word which is a,”PROMOTION ON SEX-ED” in schools, outlets, Rural and Urban sphere and other geographical locations.

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According to DoSomething.org, “more than 90 percent of parents of junior high and high school students believe that it is somewhat or very important for sex education to be included in the curriculum”. And yet, if a basic question regarding sex is typed into Google, some of the most popular results include webpages such as Yahoo Answers. Many schools across the United States currently push for the abstinence-only, Mean Girls approach (“Don’t’ have sex, because you will get pregnant and die!”) Yet even if these schools are not providing students with information regarding sex education, students will find their own means to understand their questions—often, from unreliable sources such as Internet forums, or word of mouth from other students.

College campuses provide a unique opportunity to learn first-hand what high school sex education programs are like in various states; try asking classmates from different locations what their experience has been in the past. For example, I attended an urban high school in Pennsylvania, where I received an intensive sex education class in ninth grade that covered all methods of contraception, how they are used, and their effectiveness. In contrast, I have a friend from a rural town in Washington whose sex education class was shorter than one semester and consisted of an abstinence-only approach. When I asked him how he pursued the answers to his questions regarding sex education, his answer was simple: the Internet.

You know how teachers are picky about research paper sources, strongly against the use of sites like Wikipedia, but advocating for researched articles? Those Internet forums on informal sex education are like Wikipedia for your body. Young students are getting their own information from complete strangers on Internet forums who claim to know all the answers—answers that may prove unreliable and unsafe. Our generation is at high risk for unplanned pregnancies and contraction of STDs, and the public school system is doing little or nothing to help. Abstinence-only methods are ineffective; if students want to know more, they have endless resources—thank you, Internet—to help them do their own research. Yet these methods are not as reliable and not nearly as trustworthy as a researched curriculum would be to students in the classroom.

Young students have the right to learn about their sexual health. The choices they make outside the classroom are their own. But if every student is provided with an equal level of education in regard to prevention of STDs, unintended pregnancies, and equal understanding of their sexual health, then every student has an equal chance to be healthy in their sexual choices. (And P.S.—the parents agree.)

 

Sarah Bradley ’17

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Adrian Nava (18 years old) and Scarlett Jimenez (18 years old)

Colorado Youth CREATE Council Members

As educators, advocates, and allies of sexual health, we often ask ourselves why we are still having conversations about the implementation and support of comprehensive sexuality education for young people across the nation. For a lot of us, the issue of reproductive rights and justice is one that hits very close to home. As advocates, our stories and personal experiences hold immense power in our work. They allow us to break down barriers when interacting with others, and to create room for meaningful human connections and a space to share why we are so passionate about the work we do.

We share our stories with the hope that we will create awareness and support for comprehensive sex education. Having personal stories that reflect a lack of inclusion of all sexual orientations, or lack of information about healthy relationships and self–esteem, we – Scarlett and Adrian – understand and are optimal examples of why sexual health education is essential for all youth. During our years in advocacy, we have both been exposed to a world of possibilities, and have actively participated in various levels of advocacy.

From local to national participation, both of us have had the opportunity to express ourselves as young people. During the 2013 legislative session at Colorado’s State Capitol, we were actively involved in advocating for the passage of House Bill 1081, what has become known as Colorado’s “updated sex ed law.” We wanted to make sure that young people’s voices and concerns were included throughout the process. As part of CREATE, a youth advocacy council sponsored by Colorado Youth Matter and Advocates for Youth, we testified in favor of the bill during committee hearings and organized a youth advocacy day, which brought more than 230 youth to the capitol to speak to their legislators about the importance of passing laws that increase access to comprehensive sex education.

Adrian’s Story

Adrian NavaI consider myself an advocate not only for programs and policies that promote youth sexual health, but for change founded on social justice principles. As an advocate, a person of color, and someone who identifies as gay, I remember sitting in a crowded 7th grade health class during my glorious awkward pre-pubescent years, asking myself what the ladies at the front of the room were talking about. It turns out that these women were teaching the girls how to say “NO” to males who would only want to have sex with females. I then realized that this uncomfortable discussion was actually part of a “sexual health” class. Yikes! This situation was uncomfortable not only because I did not know what sexual health education looked like, but because I was being targeted as a male. I was expected to insist on having sexual intercourse with women. I was ultimately astonished and speechless at the sexist, and judgmental tone that was being set within a classroom environment.

As a student, I was genuinely eager to learn about what was going on inside of my body and mind. But after much talk about “male and female relationships,” I asked the teachers if it was possible for two boys to be together, and the teachers ignored my question and moved on to talk about the importance of abstaining from having sex.

I began to feel like it was wrong to ask that question – which meant that something about me was wrong, since I was attracted to people of the same gender as me. The following day, my peers and I participated in an activity in which one person was assigned to be a person with “AIDS.” To my surprise, that person was me. I learned later that gay men are stereotyped as having HIV, which only deteriorated my self-esteem and self-love because I was not exposed to positive messages about LGBT people.

My negative experience of feeling ignored and stigmatized in the classroom is the reason I became actively involved in advocacy work for increased access to comprehensive sex education. I was made to feel ashamed of being gay, which harmed my emotional health for a long period of time. I wish I could have received comprehensive, inclusive, medically accurate, age-appropriate information about my body and mind – but I didn’t.

However, just because my school did not provide me with that education, it does not mean that future generations should not have access. I am completely in love with my advocacy work and impacting my generation, for the better. I find empowerment through making my voice heard and mobilizing young people to speak about and advocate for their sexual health.

Scarlett’s Story

Scarlett JimenezI am an advocate for comprehensive sex education and reproductive rights and justice for young people, because I believe that the issues at hand should be considered as part of our basic human rights. I believe that young people should have the right to have access to accurate information about their bodies. Furthermore, youth deserve the opportunity to develop the life skills that are included in comprehensive sexuality education. I believe that my high school experience would have been a much happier and more successful time had that been included as part of my education.

On a daily basis, young women are bombarded with highly sexualized messages from the media that dictate the social norms. I think that it is absolutely essential for young women to learn that these messages are disempowering and are not actual expectations of women. All youth, regardless of their gender, deserve to hear that they are much more valuable than the media depicts them. High school is such a hectic and overwhelming stage for teens. Oftentimes, teens do not receive much needed positive and empowering messages about themselves or young people in general. I know that for myself, low sense of self-worth and a lack of basic sexual health information and the ability to communicate with my partner led me into an unsafe relationship and a very hard time in my life.

I am an advocate for comprehensive sexuality education, and all that it entails, because now I have a vision for future generations. Creating access to comprehensive sex education can inform and support youth to be empowered, inclusive, educated, compassionate, communicative, strong, and driven by their identified passions and goals.

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(reposted from USAToday, David Jackson, click for original and full post – Image of President Obama: Charles Dharapak – AP)

President Obama has put out his annual statement on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, praising the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that struck down anti-abortion laws.

“We reaffirm our steadfast commitment to protecting a woman’s access to safe, affordable health care and her constitutional right to privacy, including the right to reproductive freedom,” Obama said in a statement.

The president said he also wants to re-affirm commitments to “reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, support maternal and child health, and continue to build safe and healthy communities for all our children.”

 

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    Growing up in Alabama I thought I had the worst of abstinence only education until I watched this video. Videos like the one shown above are broken into four lessons each taught by the same cartoon characters. Do we really believe computer animated animals should be teaching about sexual health? Not if those animals only teach the “traditional” beliefs of our parents generation and not the medically accurate information we have currently.

    After watching all the videos in the series, I was shocked that there were still people out there who believed what these videos were teaching! Gender doesn’t always affect the rate at which someone gets sexually aroused – it depends on the person! In the video “Girls Shouldn’t Have Ideas,” it was disheartening to hear that men wouldn’t like women who have ideas. That’s not only affecting the sexual health of women, but also their self esteem. The other two videos continue using cartoons with the help of gross metaphors (drinking the spit) to advocate their ideas on abstinence only education.

    These videos surely leave a bad impression about sex and sexual health in the minds of youth. Before watching these videos, I wasn’t a supporter of abstinence only education, and after watching these videos I’m more against it than I was before. Youth need to learn from actual professionals, and they need to be taught in ways that won’t leave them with a bad impression of sex. I’ve talked to many youth in my area and heard stories of them being traumatized by the sexual education they received. I’ve heard scenarios like long fingernails poking holes in condoms to show how “ineffective” the protection that they provide is. In another story, I heard how students were required to put tape on their arm then rip it off and hand it to another student to do the same thing. The purpose of this activity was to give a picture of what a “used” vagina would look like, and that no one would want to touch it. Both of these portrayals are using scare tactics to encourage abstinence.

    Thankfully my peers and I weren’t subjected to these videos, and the reason I fight for this cause is so other youth won’t have to watch these videos as well.  Now I watch these videos when I need a laugh or a reminder of why I strongly support comprehensive sexual education.

Other videos that are a part of this lesson:

http://youtu.be/Jk_kiNZJYfY

 

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I couldn’t believe it. They supported us. As I rubbed Gaby’s back up and down, back and forth, and side to side I couldn’t stop my smile from spreading. I was happy. Recently, I attended a School Board Public Rule Meeting with my fellow counsel members  in which our policy was read in front of an audience filled with parents of all backgrounds. The amount of support and love for the policy and for our advocacy was overwhelming in every sense that is great! I can not wait to continue our fight along side such a group of people! (Broward County Youth Program – 1) (Abstinence only programs- 0)sex ed

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image

 

I am a pretty big fan of sitting at home with food and shows to binge on.  And East Los High caught my full and undivided attention.  I’m not normally into soapy teen dramas, but the problems teens face everyday, especially teens of color in neighborhoods like East Los, were real.

While many find sex and the details of it to still be taboo to discuss, teens are left without the rights and respect to get the knowledge they need to better protect themselves.  I found it so refreshing to find a series that is easily relatable, stimulating, and educational.  Oh, and guess what?  Characters in the show can actually say the word “abortion.”  There wasn’t a Voldemort treatment of an actual medical procedure that one out of three women in the United States will experience in their lifetime.  Even better, several choices and paths that follow unprotected sex are explored and tidbits of helpful sexual health facts and info are casually placed into the dialogue.  There’s even brief but impactful conversations on masculinity and gender roles in regards to safe sex throughout the show.

I had a Hulu Plus account and was fortunately able to view the “Hulu exclusive” series, but anyone can watch the full episodes on the East Los High website.  It’s a good and fairly accessible teen drama with lots of examples and lessons to share.    There are little whispers about a second season to appear, and I am excitedly waiting.  Not everyone shared my enthusiasm for the show though.  An online “news” article from Life Site News expressed an opinion:

Planned Parenthood’s has its guns aimed squarely at Hispanic teens, as it continues its latest foray into eugenic targeting via an unbelievably salacious novella featuring an all-Latino/Latina cast…

What kind of public service is done by the airing of this trashy novella directed to Hispanic teens? And just what is the “moral” of Episode 1? Finish the dance with your boyfriend before dashing to the car to have sex with someone else? Watch out when you have sex in a car because someone may be videotaping you? Being voted Winter Queen will make you extremely popular on the hookup circuit?

How can anyone even use the word “moral” in connection with this series?

There are some other significant things that this writer neglects to mention besides the awesome sexual health info and examples found throughout the series.  East Los High is the first English language show with an all Latino cast.  And what is even better is that the cast defies the mainstream roles that Latino people are often forced into.  For something like this to be left out in this diatribe is quite telling of the kind of perspective the writer has, especially with the condescending and twisted but very nonexistent link between the show and fictitious eugenic attempts.

Miriam Perez, a past contributor on Racialicious, Feministing, and RHRealityCheck, has written on this topic of anti-choice movements making it seem like they care about women of color.  Her post was originally found on RHRealityCheck, but I pulled it off Racialicious.  From the succinct and eloquent post Worried About Women of Color? Thanks, But No Thanks, Anti-Choicers. We’ve Got It Covered:

At first glance, it’s nice to see the anti-choice community pretending to care about communities of color. But within a few minutes, the skepticism sets in. What’s really behind these tactics, coming from a group that is majority white, middle-class and Christian? In the end, we know this isn’t actually about women of color and their well-being. It’s a sensationalist attempt to pit women of color against the reproductive rights movement. Classic divide and conquer…

We’ve fought back against governmental policies like welfare family caps and limits on access to certain types of contraception over others. We’ve fought with the reproductive rights community to get them to care about these issues and how they affect our communities—and we’ve won.

We’re fighting for access to contraception, to abortion, to options for childbirth and parenting. And now we’ll fight the racist and paternalistic logic behind the eugenics arguments being made by anti-choicers.

Life Site News has urged concerned citizens to call  Hulu’s corporate headquarters at 310-571-4700 to remove the series and to make sure a second season contract cannot be extended.  Please use the number to the opposite.

(This has also been posted on my blogs FanTalk and STFU, Pro-Lifers.)

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Take a peek at my SC sex education! @TellMeSC

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I’m one of the lucky ones.

In a nation where 1 in 6 women are raped (a number that’s even higher for Black women), I’ve never been raped. In a country where STI infection rates in young adults continue to rise, I’ve never been infected. In a nation where teen suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10-24, and for LGBTQ+ people are 8.4x more likely to attempt suicide, I’m still here. In a state where Abstinence-Only Sex Education is the norm, I went to a school that taught Comprehensive Sex Ed.

I was lucky enough to have supportive, loving and open parents. I was lucky enough to have access to websites like scarletteen.com, gurl.com and a million blogs dedicated to teaching teens that sex wasn’t scary or dangerous, but a natural part of life. I had feminist friends and adults who paid attention to me and cared about what I did. Even so, my life hasn’t been perfect. I had missteps: six years in an unhealthy relationship, sex with people I didn’t like. I made some bad choices. But I was able to bounce back. I was given the space to recover.

Everyone doesn’t have the privileges I’ve had. Some people don’t have parents at home to teach them how to put a condom on a phallus, or what birth control actually does. Some people go to school where “sex ed” is a series of misinformed scare tactics that leave them uninformed and unprepared for the interpersonal relationships they’ll inevitably face. Some people have been raped or sexually assaulted, but have never been given the words to articulate what happened to them, or why it was wrong.

None of these things happened to me, because I was lucky.

I shouldn’t be considered lucky, though. My experiences of education, openness and safety should be the norm, not the exception. The first way to make that happen is by embracing formal, positive, medically accurate and age-appropriate Comprehensive Sex Ed. It should be open and honest about sexual orientation, anatomy and healthy interpersonal relationships. It should magnifies how important and critical consent is in all interactions. It should do these things and more.

I was one of the lucky ones. I shouldn’t be. My experiences with sex ed should be normal.

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Seeing a pregnant teenager makes many people uncomfortable. The discomfort is rooted in facing the reality that the comforting lies these people tell themselves about youth not being sexual beings, don’t have questions about sex, and aren’t having sex are wrong.
By finding comfort and silence in their disillusions they too play a role in the high rate of unintended pregnancies experienced by teenagers and young adults everyday.
I remember being a pregnant 15 year old and complete strangers glaring at me, stopping me to lecture me on what a mistake I have made and how terrible I make the world, and telling me how dumb I was for not just saying no and keeping my legs closed.
After having my daughter some of these things subsided because I was no longer a pregnant teen they felt inclined to harass instead the disillusions took on a new form. When people would see me with my daughter they told themselves I was the baby sitter, older sister, nanny, cousin, anything BUT the mother.
The few rude brave ones would approach me and ask me if I was her mother. “YES!” I would proudly answer with the new mother glow only to be scoffed at, looked up and down, and walked away from.
Teenagers become pregnant for a variety of reasons: inadequate sex education, lack of access to affordable contraceptives, no one to talk to about sex and relationships, poverty, boredom, sexual assault, planning a pregnancy, all types of reasons. However, the overwhelming consensus is elders are failing to help youth navigate the world of relationships and sexuality in a healthy way so teens are figuring it out on their own.
Don’t like it? Change it by changing the way YOU (read adults) address and deal with approaching the topic. It isLet’s Talk Month… maybe you should start listening and stop comforting yourself with lies.

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(Image reposted from Amplify Facebook – click here for more)

Urban Retreat 2013 was truly an experience beyond any tier.  Never have I ever been surrounded by so many like-minded individuals–as much of an oxymoron as that might sound.  We were all individuals because we all had our own story to share.  We came from many different walks of life and parts of the world.  All of us had to overcome some type of unique trauma and oppression that we were facing in our own separate lives.  But we celebrated our diversity.  And we were all there in unison trying to contribute to the vision we shared for the world.

I might have been a tiny bit apprehensive about making the trip to Washington, D.C. at first.  I wasn’t really enthusiastic about being away from my girlfriend.  It was a place I had never been to on my own.  I would be surrounded by strangers.  But these strangers quickly became my friends.  And these friends were all activists and advocates for social progress in their own communities from all over the world, so I had a lot to learn from them.  And I found, to my surprise, that I had things I could share with them as well.  Together we received training to become more effective activists and leaders.  And after the inspiring trainings and workshops, we headed to Capitol Hill together to share our stories and insight with our representatives.  It was a self-affirming and inspiring experience.

I even got to meet Janet Mock!  We talked and had dinner.  She even tweeted me and followed me on Twitter!

It’s thanks to Urban Retreat that I’ve gained new tools, resources, and concepts that would empower me and inspire me to be more involved in activism and advocacy for social justice.  And it’s thanks to Urban Retreat that I’ve gained a new family with YouthResource.  Today I woke up this morning and found myself in my own bed in Michigan.  I wasn’t in Washington, D.C. with my fellow advocates anymore.  The realization was bittersweet.  But I know I’ll see these faces soon enough with stories to share.

 

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Just yesterday on a Friday afternoon, I posted the petition to make The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act a reality on my reproductive justice blog.  It’s not much, but it’s already gained a little less than 900 notes on Tumblr.  Popular blogs like ST*U, Sexists and F*ck Yeah, Sex Education just gave the petition a signal boost and I’ve seen a lot of #vision4sexed hashtags on Twitter, so we’ll be sure to see more feedback before September 10.  And the youth activists have been out and about getting physical signatures, which is something I’m doing once school is back in session.  Some people are reblogging it with their own commentary to emphasize the importance of it, and sometimes it’s all in caps so you know it’s a pretty big deal.  Especially with our current culture’s views on sexuality and education.  No one should have to suffer another abstinence only class in which our youth, especially girls, are compared to used up candy wrappers and dirty pieces of tape if they’re sexually active.  If you haven’t already and you support comprehensive sex education, definitely sign the petition and share it!

The petition page lets you know exactly what you’re saying when you’re leaving behind a signature:

I support the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act, a sex education vision that outlines what young people truly need. The bill not only authorizes funding for comprehensive sex education directed towards adolescents and college students, but also prioritizes teacher training so that our nation’s educators have the tools they need to be effective in the classroom.

Let’s work to realize our vision of young people receiving the sex education they need in order to lead healthy lives and have healthy relationships. We owe it to them to provide them honest sexual health education. With the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act we can start bringing our vision for sex ed to life!

My vision for sex education includes letting our youth know that it’s never okay to shame others for being sexually active or abstinent by choice.  My vision for sex education also includes teaching our youth the signs of an abusive relationship, whether it’s emotional, physical, or both.  I’d love for there to be discussions that include the LGBTQ community because often they are erased from the topic, leaving many without resources.  I find it to be very dangerous to let our youth go through life without the tools they need to have healthy lives.  Comprehensive sex education just makes perfect sense to me.  What’s your vision for sex ed?

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When we hear about politicians making unqualified and uneducated statements about abortion and reproductive/sexual health, we just shake our heads, asking ourselves and our peers, “How does someone like that get into office?”

Not to diminish your faith in humanity, but less than a couple weeks ago, Brian Nieves, a Republican state senator of Missouri, commented in a Facebook argument to a pro-choice priest, “‘Life of the Mother?’ Your own argument proves it is a matter of convenience!”  State senator Brian Nieves later denied that he said this.  But the denial wouldn’t do him any good since his comments have been screencapped and the comment is still on the Facebook page.

There are people who treat this like it’s an isolated incident.  Like it’s nothing to worry about, but you’d have to imagine the kind of culture it takes to condition people to be able to say these things.  You don’t even have to imagine because that’s the culture we’re living in.  It’s not just one old, white male politician.  It’s several.  And they’re not necessarily always white men.

Brace yourself.  This is pretty triggering.

“These Planned Parenthood women, the Code Pink women, and all of these women have been neutering American men and bringing us to the point of this incredible weakness…We are not going to have our men become subservient.”

— Florida Rep. Allen West expresses a clear understanding of how oppression and privilege works.

“In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out.”

— Texas state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, discussing why there shouldn’t be a rape or incest exception in bills restricting reproductive health care because clearly she understands how health care works.

“I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something God intended to happen.”  —Richard Mourdock, an Indiana state senator candidate who fortunately did not win.

“Understand though, that when we talk about exceptions, we talk about rape, incest, health of a woman, life of a woman. Life of the woman is not an exception.”

—Joe Walsh, former Illinois congressman revealing just how “pro-life” he really is.

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

—Missouri Representative Todd Akin basically sharing how much he doesn’t know about a female body in one terrible sentence.

“The facts show that people who are raped —who are truly raped—the juices don’t flow, the body functions don’t work and they don’t get pregnant. Medical authorities agree that this is a rarity, if ever.”

—former North Carolina Rep. Henry Aldridge using imaginary doctors as his sources.

“As long as it’s inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it.”

—Clayton Williams regarding rape, he was a former Texas Republican gubernatorial contender and a past fundraiser for John McCain.

This is one of the many reasons why I’m in total support of Advocates for Youth.  The politicians I’ve listed are the kind of people who have been supporting legislation that not only hurts people who need abortions, but rape victims and teens in desperate need of comprehensive sex education.  It hurts people who need access to contraception, affordable health care, and everything else a person would need to live a quality life.  And it’s not going to stop until we change the culture and institutions that allows it to happen.  So, we advocate for the youth.  We have a responsibility to them to ensure that they have their rights and are to be respected.

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California’s teen pregnancy rate has dropped nearly 60 percent as a result of expanded sex education programs, according to a report released by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) on Wednesday.

The report –- which was based on data collected until 2011 — revealed that the California teen pregnancy rate reached a 20-year low that year. While in 1991, there were 70.9 births for every 1,000 teens aged 15-19, in 2011 this number decreased to 28 births per 1,000 teens.

Teen pregnancy rates fell across all ethnic groups, according to the report. The Hispanic teen birth rate dropped from 73.6 in 2001 to 42.7 in 2011 –- although Hispanics continue to be the group with the highest teen birth rate. Teen pregnancy rates for African-Americans, Whites and Asian-Americans also decreased significantly.

Several factors contributed to the falling pregnancy rates, the department said in a press release. One factor was the state’s school sex education program, which law requires to be comprehensive and medically accurate. The report also credits community-based education programs that provide sexual health information to teens and their parents.

“We do believe that our programs are behind these numbers,” Karen Ramstrom, the chief of the program standards branch at the California Department of Public Health’s maternal child and adolescent health division, told the Los Angeles Times.

“California’s innovative strategies and community partnerships aimed at lowering teen pregnancy are helping young women and men make responsible choices,” Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the CDPH, said in a press release. “We must not be complacent; we must continue to promote teen pregnancy prevention programs and strategies in all communities.”

As Think Progress noted, California’s teen birth rate decreases are part of a national trend. The national teen birth rate dropped nearly 50 percent between 1991 and 2011, NBC’s Today Health reported.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/19/california-teen-pregnancy-rates-drop_n_3625090.html?ncid=txtlnkushpmg00000037

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All too often our stories are told for us. Last week, I had the honor of presenting to members of congress, their staff and other people in the reproductive health and rights field during a congressional briefing with Black Women’s Health Imperative. I took this opportunity to use my voice as an African American young person to tell anyone listening that we Millennials are not only invested in creating change but we are committed to making sure our generation can lead healthy lives. Read what I had to say! 

As a member of Advocates for Youth’s Young Women of Color Leadership Council, I have been organizing and advocating around the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people for the last 5 years. I am dedicated to this work not only because I believe that young people like me deserve the right to lead healthy, self-determined lives, but also because I know first-hand what it is like to navigate this world without access to accurate and honest education and services.

At 23 I can say that I never received any type of formal sexual education from any educational institution I attended. The first time I was tested for HIV happened completely by accident. One day during my junior year in high school I wandered into a mobile testing unit in hopes of receiving a free metrocard. That would be the first day I would find out about HIV and other STIs. The woman conducting my test asked me if I was nervous and I proceeded to tell her no and then asked her would I have a reason to be. She began to explain sexually transmitted infections and diseases to me. Thus giving my first “sex education class” in the back of a mobile testing unit. Although my results that day revealed that I was not HIV positive, I remember feeling like someone had robbed me. I felt cheated. Lied to. I could not fathom at that time how learning about preventing diseases that could potentially make you sick and claim your life were not as important as math and science. The even more depressing part is that even when I went to college many of my peers were still uneducated about their sexual health, and how prevent HIV, STIs and unplanned pregnancies. I began wondering whether we all needed to wander aimlessly into a mobile testing truck to learn about saving our lives.

As leader of a campus organization that provided sexual health information specifically geared toward Black and Latino students at Syracuse, it became more and more clear to me that I was not the only person who had been robbed. Some of our campus events attracted over 200 young people interested in learning about what they could do to lead sexually healthy lives. Many of these young people expressed that they felt that this is something that should be taught in school, by the administration. They were not alone.

Not only do African American Millennials believe that comprehensive sexuality education should be available to young people in high school, overwhelming majority, over 90% believe that it should include information about preventing HIV/AIDS and other STDS, unplanned pregnancy prevention, and abstinence. Over 80% also believe that comprehensive sex education programs in high school should cover information about pregnancy options including abortion.

Many of the young people I worked with in college constantly spoke about the barriers, many financial, to accessing contraception and abortion services. Research shows that over 90% of African American Millennials believe that contraception needs to be available and affordable to help young people stay healthy. 75% of African American Millennials believe that regardless of how they feel personally, abortion should remain legal and that women should be able to get safe abortions.

There is still much to be done to ensure that young people like myself have access to medically accurate and culturally competent information regarding their sexual health, and we young people across the country are working diligently and organizing to make it happen.. While the media and other people are committed to portraying my generation as apathetic and removed from this type of work, I can insure you that those statements are indeed false. In fact, according to research conducted by the Reproductive Justice Communications Group and Advocates for Youth, over 7 in 10 of African American millennials say they are interested in improving young people’s access to sexual health services such as contraception and testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. 7 in 10 expressed interest in getting personally involved in promoting honest and accurate sex education programs in their communities. Another 6 in 10 are personally interested in making sure that safe abortion is available and accessible in their community. We African American Millennials are interested and committed to helping our friends, our families and our communities access services and information to live healthy, autonomous lives.

Here’s video of my remarks at the briefing!

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Don’t talk to me about teenage pregnancy prevention unless you intend on listening.

I can not tell you how often I have been asked in interviews or casual conversation if I support teenage pregnancy prevention. Somehow to some people that fact that I advocate for respect and a fair chance at creating the future I and so many other teenage parents want or wanted translates to I do not agree with teenage pregnancy prevention. I do.
The next question is usually what do you think would have worked on you or needs to happen to reduce the rate of teenage pregnany.
My answers are and will always be-but not limited to:
  • Parents need to talk to their children about sex and relationships early.
  • Schools need to teach comprehensive sex Ed.
  • When asked a question about sex or relationships by a youth answer them and more importantly answer honestly.
  • Stop pretending like kids and teens aren’t thinking or talking about sex.
In a nutshell the response is: those answers are too taboo. What about ads? You know ads like nyc hra’s recent ones or ones a like? Aren’t those good?
No. 
Well surely they would’ve worked on you if say them.
 I did and they didn’t. 
End of conversation or follow up with more questions.
People! Stop thinking a PSA is going to be the end all be all of teenage pregnancy and more importantly stop asking me questions you don’t like the answers to.
Stop asking youth and young adults what they think if you won’t listen.
Because I’m tired of speaking and having no one listen

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Don’t talk to me about teenage pregnancy prevention unless you intend on listening.

I can not tell you how often I have been asked in interviews or casual conversation if I support teenage pregnancy prevention. Somehow to some people that fact that I advocate for respect and a fair chance at creating the future I and so many other teenage parents want or wanted translates to I do not agree with teenage pregnancy prevention. I do.
The next question is usually what do you think would have worked on you or needs to happen to reduce the rate of teenage pregnany.
My answers are and will always be-but not limited to:
  • Parents need to talk to their children about sex and relationships early.
  • Schools need to teach comprehensive sex Ed.
  • When asked a question about sex or relationships by a youth answer them and more importantly answer honestly.
  • Stop pretending like kids and teens aren’t thinking or talking about sex.
In a nutshell the response is: those answers are too taboo. What about ads? You know ads like nyc hra’s recent ones or ones a like? Aren’t those good?
No. 
Well surely they would’ve worked on you if say them.
 I didn’t and they didn’t. 
End of conversation or follow up with more questions.
People!  stop thinking a PSA is going to be the end all be all of teenage pregnancy and more importantly stop asking me questions you don’t like the answers to.
Stop asking youth and young adults what they think if you won’t listen. Because I’m tired of speaking and having no one listen

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Texas Lawmaker Says Sex Ed Makes Teens ‘Hot and Bothered’ Leads to Sex and Babies

The Texas house recently passed an extreme bill that could force most of the state’s abortion clinics to close. Many of the debates over the bill were heated, but one of the more interesting ones started last Tuesday night after a house committee vote was over and three members of the committee had a conversation that was audio-taped by a reporter for theHouston Chronicle. In that conversation, Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) pointed out to two of her Republican colleagues, Reps. Steve Toth (The Woodlands) and Bill Zedler (Arlington), that sex education that includes information about contraception can help prevent unintended pregnancies, and therefore can reduce the number of abortions that are performed. Toth was quick to disagree about the merits of sex education.

READ MORE HERE.

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When I mention the term taboo I DO mean the game in which you guess the word someone on your team is explaining. I mean taboo as in  is a vehement prohibition of an action based on the belief that such behavior is either too sacred or too accursed for ordinary individuals to undertake, under threat of supernatural punishment as explained by Wikipedia(you know you refer to that site).  Parents today are just not taking the initiative to  teach their kids or even answer questions.Everything starts at  home.  The schools does not enforce sexual education like they should hence why advocates does the work they do.  I hearing all kinds of things that are just plain crazy and I have to correct the young people and send to different resource. If different organizations are providing the resources then parents should back the kids it’s only right.  I want education for all dispite the topic. If only I can educate the world.Sex shouldn’t be taboo instead it’s should be talked about.  I am positive parents don’t want students learning from the wrong person.

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Get Custom Essay, Research Paper or Dissertation done at very Reasonable Prices with assured high quality, proof read by experts. We have more than 50 full time Writers. We also guarantee that the work will be of no plagiarism. We have helped more than 20,000 students in last 5 years. For more info visit here - www.thecustomessay.com

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“CPCs have a long history of engaging in deceptive advertising. For example, some CPCs intentionally choose their name to mislead women into believing that they offer a wide range of services, including family planning and abortion care. The Family Research Council investigated what names would be most likely to appeal to women, particularly pro-choice women, in a 1998 report. Women’s Resource Center, which gives the impression of a full range of services, was deemed to have the most strategic value in reaching women “at risk for abortion.” The report also showed that women faced with an unplanned pregnancy were most likely to look in the Yellow Pages under the words “Pregnancy,” “Medical,” “Women’s Centers” and “Clinics.” Accordingly, CPCs often are advertised under these categories, as well as “Abortion Alternatives,” and “Women’s Organizations.” CPCs also advertise through posters, signs, and billboards that contain messages like, “Free Pregnancy Test,” or “Pregnant? Scared? We Can Help! Call 1-800 #.” Women report, however, that when they call these numbers the CPC representatives evade questions about whether they provide abortions, and urge the women to make an appointment to meet with a ‘counselor’ to talk in person.”

Crisis Pregnancy Centers: An Affront to Choice

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“Together we can end HIV stigma, but we need to be able to TALK ABOUT IT. Share this graphic to continue the conversation and encourage your network of friends to speak up!”

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In an attempt to lower teen pregnancy rates, Chicago has implemented a thought provoking ad campaign. All over the city people are encountering billboards picturing pregnant young men.  While the images are powerful, I am uneasy about their message and effectiveness.

As seen above, the uniting message of these ads is, “Unexpected? Most teen pregnancies are. Avoid unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. Use condoms. Or wait.” While I applaud the Chicago Department of Health for not  promoting abstinence and safe sex practices, by imploring “use condoms” instead of “use protection” the message is a bit limited. Perhaps this campaign is solely targeted at males, in which condoms are the most effective form of protection. I know ads must cleverly summarize their message into a line or two, but this subject deserves a bit more expanding. Where’s the mention of how you must use condoms properly each time for them to work? Even just adding “every time” after “use condoms” would have gone a long way and perhaps subliminally started to engrain the consistency condom use requires. The ads lists the website www.beyoubehealthy.org which also only provides basic information on condoms, and no mention of other forms of birth control and sti-protection. A thorough, responsible education campaign should offer knowledge on all options.

I have always been a believer of the tenet that “scare tactics” do not work. Yes, they often provoke meaningful conversations, but their effectiveness has failed to be proven. Supporters claim similar ads resulted in a 10% drop in teen pregnancy in Milwaukee, however, it is difficult to isolate causality. I would love to see a campaign that sparks conversations about how to have safer sex without shaming teens in the process.

The Milwaukee campaign had nearly identical ads. I’m sure they were well-intentioned, but attached quite a bit of stigma to teen pregnancy in order to get their message across. Below, one of the ads claims that teen pregnancy is “disturbing”.

Attaching such charged words to teen pregnancy gives it a negative connotation, further shaming young parents or those debating what to do with their current pregnancy.  In addition, while I acknowledge this trend is decreasing, some young adults still do choose to have children and we should not push those people to the fringes of society.

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What I treasure the most never will I think of getting it lost but I have always know I can’t keep it forever so  share it with another. My treasure is fragile and that’s why I worry if I get it broken, I will forever be sorry but it will never be complete if I keep it alone. Unless of course I get to find one which is as lone, another who will value and place it so high that will guard and keep my treasure as well as I do. If I find that then I have get my entire goal to make but if not there’s just too much at stake.

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Colorado Youth Testify in Support of HB 1081

I strictly assumed that by this time period humans would not be arguing over equality, inclusion, and sexual health. Apparently, some Americans don’t want their children learning about “the gays”, “the lesbians”, “the immigrants” or “cultures.”  Some are even outraged because “white heterosexuals” are “no longer represented.” These are authentic words spoken from citizens present in the committee for HB 1081 or “The Sex Ed Bill”, on Thursday February 7th. I went into committee humming “I’m just a Bill” to ease the nerves, because I had no idea what to expect for my first committee hearing.  I was not prepared to speak, but after listening to the opposition’s arguments that were no more than racist and discriminative, I wanted my voice heard. I was “the gay” that they rejected, and the “immigrant” that disgusted them, and the “culture” that they were opposed too.

My turn came to speak. Hesitant I got up from my chair, stepped slow and cautious to the stand while I felt judgment from the many eyes in the room. I thought repeatedly in my head what I wanted to say, but as soon as my mouth said the first word, everything seemed to vanish from my brain. What was a high school student to say? Hell, why was he even here? I sat down. My voice shook as I said my name, but I remembered the woman who didn’t want “the gays” and the “immigrants” in her white heterosexual culture and said “I am here representing the Latino community who cannot be here today because they do not speak English, or have the resources to be here.” Yes, I said Latino with an accent because in that very moment, I had never been more proud to be a person of color. I then stated “I would like to begin by saying that I identify as gay.” Never had a said “I identify as gay” openly, in public. I knew however that this was the time to truly express myself as an advocate.

I testified for HB 1081 in a way I never thought I would. I not only came out to the 12 legislators in the room, but I came out to the priest in the back who probably damned me to hell ten times over, the woman who drove from Colorado Springs to attack communities I am a part of, and the many allies in that room which gave me the boost of confidence I much needed. I didn’t have a clear understanding of why I do the work I do. I knew I had a passion for the education of individuals, the equality of humans, and empowerment of the mind, but it took that one woman saying “the gays” and “the immigrants” to accurately put this into perspective.  Not only was I advocating for Comprehensive Sexual Health Education, but I was making a stand for everything that is included in Comp Sex Ed; The inclusion of culture, ability, gender, age, sexual orientation, size, and ethnicity. Comprehensive Sexual Health addresses the respect for others and respect for yourself, which is why I was able to testify, and confront the opposition: Learning about my body, my actions and reactions, and my rights as a young person has allowed me to gain self assurance and confidence.  The experience of testifying for committee was electrifying, intimidating, but mostly rewarding and reflective, and I can only hope that I was remembered among the citizens who don’t want the “the gays”, “the lesbians”, or “the immigrants” in their culture, these pitiful underprivileged people: Where are they represented?

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condoms_hanging

The Ministry of Educations says “No to condom in Schools.” I beg to differ. Yes to Condoms in Schools…..

By now we must all be aware of the National Family Planning Board (NFPB) and National HIV/STI merger to form the national authority for sexual and reproductive health. While it is a good move to have the merger, we are now faced with the question, will these two entities — now made one — make more success in its endeavour, and what about the rights component associated with sexual reproductive health?

One of the issues that this authority needs to examine is the debate on whether condoms should be distributed in schools or not. In order to tackle this correctly, the first step that must be taken is for us to scrutinise the readiness of individuals at this age to be engaging in sexual encounters.

There needs to be greater transparency in the age at which one can start engaging in sex and the age at which one can access sexual reproductive services. At present, it is 16 years old and 18 years old respectively. This is contradictory, but the sad reality is, it is our law, so we have to abide by it or else we know the result will be jail time or be fined large sums of money when brought before the courts. There have been several consultations over the years with the relevant authorities involved; however, we are yet to see any real change with regards to having consistency in light of this discrepancy.

Let us examine the pros and cons of distributing contraceptives in schools moreso condoms. Many argue that if this is done we are sending a strong message to children that they should be engaging in sexual activities at their young age, even though they are not emotionally ready for this act. How many of the children in schools are married? Well, we have to take into consideration the moral standing of most of the country being Christians, and we all know that it is a sinful act to be engaging in sex before marriage.

When last did you stop to check the statistics as it relates to teenage pregnancy? The last time I did, it still showed Jamaica having one of the highest in the region. What about that for HIV and other STIs? The 14-24 age groups have the highest rates in the total population. This should not be the case, but it is a reality that these unwanted diseases and pregnancies are occurring among our young people. How else can we deal with this in our society but to distribute condoms to students to rid the society of these unwanted actions? This should always be a last resort, but if the family was playing its role and educating children from within the home from an early age about sex, then the school wouldn’t have to be faced with this burden.

At the end of the day, we should also be advocating for comprehensive sex education in schools. Not only should we teach about abstinence — which is the greatest prevention strategy — but for those who are involved already there needs to be intervention strategy, and this can come in the form of condom distribution to protect these students against unwanted pregnancies and diseases. There should also be a supportive component which can come through counselling and effective referral services where needed. Students have the ability to make informed decisions and should be trusted in taking on this role at times.

Jason Madden

IYSO Council Member

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We’ve been hearing stories this month of students in high school who have not been permitted to pose in yearbook photos or attend graduation with their babies.  But this one takes the cake:

“A Michigan school district has barred two pregnant students from showing their baby bumps in the high school yearbook — a decision made to keep with the state’s abstinence-based approach to sex education, according to the superintendent.”

What?  So, showing any evidence of pregnancy in a young person’s yearbook picture is a violation of a policy that indicates that young people must only be given messages of abstinence.  I actually can’t follow the logic at all.

1)Tell them only that they can’t have sex (not how to use prevent pregnancy)
2) Hide the proof that they did have sex and did not prevent pregnancy
3) While you’re at it, make the girls (just the girls!) who had sex feel way, way bad.
4)….Just to follow the policy in (1).

?????

Meanwhile, the genius proposed solution here was retaking the photo to hide evidence of the pregnancy.  Hey, she’ll still be pregnant, but at least we won’t have to look at it, amiright?

Let’s separate out several issues, though.

1) The school’s actions are absurd and essentially…stupid. I read Michigan’s sex ed policy and (you will be amazed to learn) it does not mention yearbooks or hiding photographic evidence of pregnancy.

2) Between this and the Elizabeth Smart quote,  we’re seeing a lot of evidence lately that abstinence-only education not only leaves young people unprepared for preventing unintended pregnancy and STDs, but also shames and stigmatizes young people who do have sex or are sexually assaulted.  It’s totally unacceptable and should not be allowed in our schools.

3) Acting like teen moms’ pregnancies and even their babies are something they should be ashamed of and hide is MEAN.  And it serves literally no purpose – it doesn’t reduce teen pregnancy.  It only indulges the prejudices of a culture all too willing to punish women for their reproductive choices.

This whole case stinks.  White Cloud Public Schools Superintendent Barry Seabrook, and every adult involved, should be ashamed of their ignorance and their cruelty.

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South Carolina’s current sex ed law has been on the books for 25 years, and many advocates across the state are working tirelessly to have the current sex ed laws revised in order to be more accurate and comprehensive. Recently the SC Statehouse subcommittee heard testimonies on H. 3435, otherwise known as the Healthy Youth Amendment. According to several witnesses, the hearing was standing room only, and much of the crowd was in favor of the amendment. Several prominent members of the public health community gave testimonies and tried to persuade the subcommittee to approve the amendment. The subcommittee delayed the vote, but if approved, the amendment would move to the full committee and then on to the house floor. The sponsor of the bipartisan bill is Republican State Representative B. R. Skelton.

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If Nevada and Sexuality listed their relationship status on Facebook, it would undoubtedly read “It’s Complicated”.

A flourishing sex trade? Check! A tourist industry that is based around that 80’s clichéd notion that “sex sells” and continuously uses women’s bodies as the background for marketing strategies? Duh, All about it! Home to Sin City, a place built upon a slogan that tells visitors that you can basically indulge in whatever vice you want, and leave with no consequences? Come on, It’s Vegas, Baby!

But providing young people a comprehensive sex education?! NOW, THAT IS SIMPLY OUTRAGEOUS. At least that’s what many lawmakers and anti sex ed advocates are screaming about in Carson City because of a new comprehensive sex education bill (AB 230) that is currently making its way through the Nevada legislature.

As a homegrown Nevadan, a Las Vegas resident for over 25 years, and an activist who found her voice and strength by engaging in local communities in Las Vegas and throughout Nevada, I can’t put into words how important and HUGE this all is.

See, Las Vegas is a city that has a difficult time having an honest conversation about sex. Sure, its nickname is Sin City, and everywhere you look, some notion of sex is being shoved down your throat (pun unintended). And while prostitution is not legal in Las Vegas itself, there are small towns outside of the city limits where legal brothels boast a steady business. All this to say, Las Vegas and the state it resides in, have not reconciled this economically-driven presentation of sex with the way we talk to the young people growing up around it.

My sex education in Nevada was similar to many others across the country. When the time came to teach sex ed, the health teacher separated us by gender: we then learned the basic anatomy of parts and functions, saw traumatic photos of STDs, and were warned about the varying consequences to having sex. You know, the basic fear-inducing, shame-based ways of talking to young people about sexuality.

Now what wasn’t talked about were all the sex-related things I was actually seeing around me day-to-day. Like the fact that most my friends were already engaged in varying sexual activities at that point. Like how I had no clue what a healthy relationship was supposed to look like for someone my age. Like how I didn’t have a firm grasp on what rape actually was, especially in the context of drinking and drugs. Like how I had internalized the correlation of my sexual desirability and success. Like how I knew that if I went to college, I’d end up making less money than if I served cocktails on the Strip. Like how I saw my male friend get in trouble for wearing makeup to school. Yup, my Nevada sex education really just became another layer of my adolescent confusion, fear and shame around sexuality.

Growing into adulthood, finding my feminist voice, and figuring out sex and sexuality on my own, I slowly shed those layers of fear and shame that had been so prominent in my life as a young person. As my voice grew louder and my activist spirit hardened, I quickly ascertained that Las Vegas and the entire state of Nevada was one of the most unique political landscapes in this country. And also had the most schizophrenic internal conversations with itself about sex and sexuality.

But just a few years ago, I saw a brief step forward in that conversation. I had the privilege to help organize the first-ever LGBT Lobby Day in Carson City where we actually talked with legislators about gender and sexuality. That was also the session where we were able to pass a domestic partnerships bill in Nevada (a state whose constitution includes language on marriage being only between a man and a woman). And after those victories, I often wondered what the next big legislative victory would be.

Fast forward a few years later, and here I am, sitting in an office in Washington, DC, working for a national organization that fights for reproductive and sexual health/rights for young people. And my job? I manage state-based policy and mobilization efforts around comprehensive sex education.

And I’m hopeful to believe that THAT is what the next big legislative victory will be in my home state.

To put some legislative context to this — After failed attempts in 2011, the Nevada Legislature is currently (finally!) debating the merits of providing its young people with a more comprehensive approach to sex education, and advocates are pushing hard this time around to see their vision turn into reality. And to add to that, the nation’s eye has been on Nevada’s legislature recently, most having to do with a new wave of courageous and progressive legislators (Lucy Flores, Kelvin Atkinson, Pat Spearman – I’m lookin’ at you!) that have really pushed the state to see that the Personal IS Political …. even in the Wild West of Nevada.

And though I find myself described as a Washingtonian these days, y’all should know that this little Battle Born activist doesn’t mess around with her Nevada’tude.  With Nevada having the 4th highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation, and topping the charts in STD rates and high school drop-out rates, I’m standing in solidarity and joining my friends in the Silver State to push for a more comprehensive approach to sex education.

Because the adults of Nevada owe it to their young people to finally figure out their state’s relationship to sex; and maybe then, Nevada’s young people will have access to a healthy, positive relationship to sexuality and themselves.

If you are curious about the movement of Nevada’s sex ed bill, follow updates here!

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Elizabeth Smart, who famously was kidnapped, held in captivity for months, and raped, had this to say about her feelings during the ordeal:

…she was raised in a religious household and recalled a school teacher who spoke once about abstinence and compared sex to chewing gum.

“I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away.’ And that’s how easy it is to feel like you know longer have worth, you know longer have value,” Smart said. “Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.”

My blood ran cold when I read this.  Teens are being taught this in school!  That if they have had sex, they are of no value  – a dirty toothbrush, a cup of spit.  How sad for Elizabeth and young women who like her have experienced sexual assault.  How sad for any young person who is sexually active, too, to be consigned to the trash heap.  Is this the best we have for them, seriously?

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Jamaica has done it again. In an effort to turn the volume up against the fight against HIV/AIDS in the country, renowned vocalist and actress Sheryl Lee Ralph was introduced as the newest ambassador to help in this venture.  

The Ministry of Health was instrumental in inviting the Jamaican born now Hollywood star to get on board and had a launch on Tuesday April 23, 2013. This reception saw several stakeholders attending to welcome the CEO of Diva Foundation – Lee Ralph. 

The Minister of Health, Dr. Fenton Ferguson was very keen in his greetings and stated that “The disease was seen as a death sentence, no longer today as we have ART and support from Global fund, World Bank and PEPFAR. We now need to see how we can sustain these improvements with HIV/AIDS. Jamaica is amongst the first country to be looking at sustainable study in regards to HIV/AIDS.” He further went on to say that there is unity with the political parties, civil society and private sector and therefore nothing can stop us now. “HIV/AIDS as a developmental issue must now be treated in that way.”

Ms. Denise Herbol, Mission Director of USAID uttered firm words and reinforced that Partnership amongst all sectors will help us to achieve an AIDS free generation.

The JaBCHA Foundation was one of the key partners’ at this event and its Managing Director, Mr. Earl Moore beckoned that stigma still exists, especially amongst church people. “Private sector is not doing enough and again I will emphasize the churches are not doing enough and it is embarrassing.”

AIDS Healthcare Foundation was in attendance as well and its Southern Bureau Chief, Mr. Michael Kahane brought greetings from his organization. “This country is blessed with the willingness to accept new ideas. As the largest HIV/AIDS organization in the world we are happy to be on board with Jamaica.”

Ms Sheryl Lee Ralph with her melodic singing began her presentation “I am an endangered spices  … I am a woman, I am an artist and I know where my voice belongs.”  “Jamaica now is the time, you saw us light that fire earlier, you should take action and start talking about sex. We are going to love our children more by talking to them about sex and inform them about abstinence. We can and must do better when it comes to HIV/AIDS, it is everyone’s problem. Get involve, get inform, get proper information. I talk about condoms too, use them! I know you are saying it doesn’t feel good, well HIV doesn’t either. The number one reason most persons don’t talk about their status is because they don’t know their status. “Get tested!” 15-49 age groups are carrying the burden of this disease. “Get tested!” “I love you, God does not make mistakes.”  

Ashe ensemble did performance from beating of drums, singing and dancing and had those in attendances wowed by the high energy that they end on and showed that young people are indeed creative and can make a difference in the fight against HIV/AIDS.   

This is truly a step in the right direction for Jamaica as it increases awareness on HIV/AIDS. People should become inform and stay in the know. There should be no more stigma and discrimination towards people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.

 

Jason Madden

IYSO Council Member  

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When Katelyn Campbell protested her school’s mandatory abstinence-only assembly, she did something I’ve wanted to do since leaving college. I remember there was one day in my health class sophomore year of high school when we had two speakers come into our class to talk about abstinence. I don’t remember what they said other than, “Sex isn’t bad, but just don’t do it.” That’s paraphrased a bit, but you get the idea. Knowing what I know now, however, I sometimes wonder what I would have said if I could somehow be transported back into my 16 year old body on that day. Maybe it’s weird, but I think about it occasionally. I imagine challenging the speakers on some point or another. Eventually, it leads to me standing up and teaching the class myself. We talk about things like teen sexuality, healthy relationships, and rape culture.

When I read about Katelyn Campbell’s story, it felt like she was able to live out my fantasy in a way. I love that she was able to do in high school what would have taken me a few extra years. And what’s wonderful is the support she’s gotten. When I hear about the thousands of people sharing and commenting on and writing about her story and sending her messages of support, it shows me that more people, even most people, understand the importance of students receiving comprehensive, medically accurate sex education.vEven the threats from her Principal were alleviated when her college of choice assured her that they are looking forward to welcoming her in the fall.
The other part of this story that inspires me is that Miss Campbell had the strength, confidence, and determination to stand up for what she believes in, both for her benefit and the benefit of her fellow classmates. And what’s even more inspiring is knowing that there are hundreds of student activists just like her all across the country. Through Advocates for Youth, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of them and I really couldn’t be more impressed. Adults usually vastly underestimate students, but Katelyn Campbell and those like her continue to show the fortitude, tenacity, and leadership that making change requires.
Well done, Katelyn, Well done.

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When I first began to read the article How a German Elementary School Taught Sex Ed” published today in The Atlantic, I was a bit shocked. The first sentence describes how a high school biology teacher in Idaho is under investigation by a “professional standards commission” for using the word vagina. Okay, that wasn’t what shocked me. After all, there was that Michigan State Representative who was censored last year for using the same word in front of adults. What surprised me more was the next sentence. Parents in Berlin are mad after an elementary school used a book containing illustrations of condoms and descriptions of orgasms to discuss sex.

Germany? That’s a country in Europe, right? Isn’t Europe supposed to be all liberal about sex and more open to discussion, which is why they have higher rates of contraceptive use and lower rates of teen pregnancy and abortion than other countries. So isn’t this normal?

The article included pictures from the book, along with a disclaimer that cartoon penises would be shown ahead. The first set of images show a couple of cuddling on the bed, both completely naked with all of their anatomically correct parts shown. In the next image, Lisa – the name of the woman – is putting a condom on Lars. Great, safe sex! In the following image, the couple is enjoying some post-coital cuddling.

To appease those German parents and lawmakers who thought that perhaps the book had “unnecessary zeal“, updated versions of the book change the name of the couple from Lisa and Lars to Mama and Papa, and remove images of condoms so that sex is not portrayed as something that is merely done for pleasure. The name of the book is even changed to “Was I in Mommy’s Stomach Too?”.

The authors of a 2012 study that examined children’s knowledge and understanding of contraception and birth argued that kids in elementary school are capable of understanding such topics. However, the study’s results showed that kids from Sweden and the Netherlands understood far more about these ideas than did children from the United States (no shocker there). (The picture at the topic of this article was drawn by a Dutch boy as part of the study. Not too bad, actually)

In the 22 years this book has been out, Germany has still managed to keep its adolescent birth rate to one-third of that of the U.S. While it would be unfair to claim that this book is solely responsible for the lower rate, it is indicative of wider acceptance of age-appropriate sexuality education in Germany and Europe as a whole. To be clear, there has been no discussion of banning the book in Germany, or firing the teachers who used the book. The book is still at the school, although children do not have direct access to it. The most critical comment of the book came from a lawmaker who said that “Sex education should accompany the development of children, not speed it up.”At a time when sex education is again under attack across the United States, it may be too extreme to ask that the book is translated into English. However, the United States could still learn a lot from Europe and their reasonable, realistic views on sexuality education.

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« KO! KO! KO! », shouted the crowd .Mind you, they weren’t participating in a boxing match, neither were they at a musical concert, they shouted KO! in response to the health officials that took turns in sensitizing the crowd of more than 5000 that gathered at the Douala Place du Gouvernement to participate in the 9KM sensitization Walk that was organized by the Cameroon’s Coalition of Businesses for the fight against HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis and better known by its French acronym CCATSIDA, Cameroon’s Ministry of Public Health, and other stakeholders (local and international) in the fight against Malaria this Saturday 20th April 2013.

Being a participant, I could not help but be marveled at how engaged fellow participants were as we criss-crossed the streets of Cameroon’s most populated town. Young and old, and from diverse horizons, one thing united this people; that Malaria be kicked Out of Cameroon.

This passion and demonstrated in the endurance of the participants all through the alertness of their  footsteps and the smile on their faces, could not however stop me from asking myself fundamental questions around the strategy for the fight against Malaria in my country. Thus, when  one of the thousands of spectators that had  amassed  at  streets corners shouted, “Where are condoms?”, there was  an outburst of laughter from the crowd, I began asking myself  what might have prompted this spectator to ask the question he did. As I thought about this, my eyes fell on the logo of the Cameroonian Coalition of Businesses for the fight against HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis and on the T-Shirt of the participant ahead of me, my answer was here. The words AIDS on this coalitions logo prompted the question from this spectator.

AIDS and its prevention methods are better known in Cameroon than Malaria and its means of protection.  This is paradoxical given that Malaria kills in Cameroon and Sub-Saharan Africa than HIV/AIDS. Mind you, I am in no way saying that resources (human and material) should be shifted from the fight against HIV/AIDS, which is causing havoc in Cameroon especially amongst youths, to the fight against Malaria. The point I am trying to make is that the fight against Malaria, HIV/AIDS, and Tuberculosis has for long been done as though they were isolated.

It is true that a person that has Malaria  or Tuberculosis is not automatically an HIV/AIDS patient, but  most often people suffering from HIV/AIDS in Cameroon are  victims of the  Malaria and tuberculosis given the milieu in which they live and  the little means they have to survive on.

I have for long being convinced that an effective fight against Malaria cannot be done in an isolated manner but must be inclusive; taking into consideration the vectors of the disease in various communities in Cameroon. A dirty environment provides good breeding grounds for Mosquitoes especially the female Anopheles mosquito, through which Malaria is spread, the fight against Malaria must start from there. If a clean environment is achieved through mechanism through efficient urban development and poverty reduction strategies, Malaria will be made history. After all, isn’t it common knowledge that prevention is better than Cure?

In Cameroon and I guess is the case elsewhere in the world, a change from a dirty and crowded environment to a cleaner environment is the main indicator that a person has emerged from poverty. This is so because people who could barely afford 3 meals a day will have little time to think about the environments in which they live talk less of women in this bracket going for prenatal consultation or even having time to take their infants to the hospital when they are sick. Thus, despite the bed-nets distribution campaigns that  have been organized all over Cameroon and despite the fact that  Malaria treatment is free for  children and pregnant women  in Cameroon, Malaria killed more than 3000 people most of whom children.

Without an efficient attack on poverty, which is fertile ground for poor living conditions, I am afraid our walk and much talk on the fight against Malaria will be in vain. For Malaria to be kicked out of this country, we must not only walk on occasions like those organized  to mark the World day for the fight against Malaria, we must truly walk the talk on the fight against Malaria daily, by  launching an immediate assault and poverty. Because Malaria is the consequence of a dirty environment which is its self a glaring consequence of poverty.

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At George Washington High School in West Virginia, students were required to attend an assembly where abstinence-only speaker Pam Stenzel told students that if they take birth control, their parents hate them; that condoms aren’t safe; and bringing some members of the audience to tears by shaming and scorning those who had ever had sex. The assembly was funded by a conservative religious organization and advertised with fliers that proclaimed “God’s plan for sexual purity.”

Katelyn Campbell, a senior, was not having it; she has filed a complaint with the ACLU and spoken out against the Principal for subjecting students to this absurd performance.

We’ve known for years that abstinence-only speakers receive thousands of dollars to come to school and preach and moralize at teens, without providing any real and useful information. Derek the Clown, Keith Deltano the cinderblock-on-your-crotch guy, and Pam Stenzel are just a few examples of the phenomenon, often paid for by taxpayers.

The fact is that abstinence-only programs do more than just tell kids not to have sex.  They impose an entire ideology on students who didn’t ask for it – an ideology in which men are dominant and unable to control their own impulses; women are either modest and submissive, or they get what they deserve; those who have sex are dirty and gross (who can forget about drinking the spit!) and LGBT students, at best, don’t exist.

Katelyn was right not to tolerate it.  And her high school’s principal should be ashamed – both for hosting the speaker in the first place, and for his subsequent threats to call her colleges and tell them she’s disloyal and a troublemaker.  (The college doesn’t seem too upset, by the way)

Troublemakers.  That’s what students are called when they challenge a system that tries to control their health and their bodies.  But today’s young people know that the myths and moral strictures surrounding sexuality are not just silly, they’re dangerous.  This is trouble that needs to be made – and youth activists are brave and smart enough to do it.

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Video From NAW 2013!!!

Thanks to Advocates For Youth, I had the privilege and pleasure of attending the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health’s National Advocacy Weekend for 5 days this past March. As I packed my bags and boarded the plane that would take me from Ithaca, NY to Washington DC, I had no clue as to the intense intellectual, emotional, and passionate environment I was about to step into.

This year’s Advocacy Weekend was focused on the inclusion of immigrant women’s health care in immigration reform. Immigration policy directly affects an immigrant woman’s access to health care. According to the NLIRH website, the majority of female immigrants do not have healthcare coverage. State legislatures continue to introduce legislation that would restrict non-citizens’ access to basic public health programs, including prenatal care. Immigrant women are less likely to receive adequate reproductive health care, including cervical and breast cancer screening and treatment, family planning services, HIV/AIDS testing and treatment, accurate sex education and culturally and linguistically competent services.

Reproductive Justice tells us that these services are essential for women to have the basic human rights to dignity and self determination. It was under this belief that over 50 activists from across the country joined together. We represented the full spectrum of american latina identity- some of us were undocumented, others were second and third generation citizens. Our command of English and Spanish differed, but we were united in our conviction, and most of all in our support of one another.

Yo te apoyo. This is one of NLIRH’s campaign slogans, and it was this sentiment that was most felt throughout the weekend. As we learned about the intricacies of immigration reform and of it’s intersections with Reproductive Justice, we were free to voice our personal experiences and frustrations. People spoke of very personal obstacles- young motherhood, the pain of familial disruption by deportation, the inability to be seen by a doctor for a cyst in the breast- openly and honestly, and were always received with respect and the assurance that they had in their power the ability to create change.

At the rally for Immigrant Women on Sunday, speakers shouted, “We are on the right side of history!” to a church full of applause. I clapped and shouted right along.  It was only later that I questioned the assurance I felt that this is true. I suppose I feel that I am “on the right side of history” when I am working with people who sound least like a history textbook.. People who choose not to simplify and sterilize an issue, because they are not afraid to admit to and confront the complexity and diversity of it. People who gain collective power through their willingness to admit to vulnerability, to the need to support and be supported in their struggle.

 

For more information about the issue of Immigrant women’s access to healthcare, and how it is affected by immigration policy, check out:

Our Issues: Immigrant Rights

The Economic Effects of Granting Legal Status and Citizenship to Undocumented Immigrants

 

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I have seen this post circulate on Facebook and loved its message. I apologizing for not crediting it since I am not sure who put it together. There is absolutely no way to sugar coat the rape stories that are happening today and we should keep doing our great work loud and proud until we no longer hear about these savage crimes happening in our world. It is about time we teach our fellow humans NOT TO RAPE. Full Stop.

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“To be clear, reproductive justice is not a label—it’s a mission. It describes our collective vision: a world where all people have the social, political, and economic power and resources to make healthy decisions about gender, bodies, sexuality, reproduction, and families for themselves and their communities. And it provides an inclusive, intersectional framework for bringing that dream into being. Reproductive justice is visionary, it’s complex, it doesn’t fit neatly on a bumper sticker, and it has a lot to teach us about how to be successful in a changed and changing world.”

— Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas and Kierra Johnson, Beyond Choice: How We Learned to Stop Labeling and Love Reproductive Justice

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My name is Lesley Del Rio and I am a CREATE council member. I was disappointed to learn that after all the hard work we put into Youth Action Day, a group of people who oppose our message took it as a joke and intruded and tried to silence our voices. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but Youth Action Day was about Comprehensive Sex Ed and showing our support for HB 1081, not opposing it and bringing it down. We don’t want to give them any more attention because they don’t deserve it. This is an example of why we need to stand together and advocate for what we want and need in spite of opposition.

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While browsing through my twitter page I came across an ad directed at teen mothers in NYC. While seeing this ad disgusted me; I was a little relieved that I had not seen it person in my city, Brooklyn. Not only is this ad extremely offensive (the Post calls it a “Tad” offensive), it has racist, classist and sexist undertones. The ad I saw featured a beautiful brown girl with big brown eyes and read “Honestly Mom… chances are he won’t stay with you. What happens to me?” It also quoted a statistic that 90% of teen parents do not marry each other. While this statistic can be shocking to most it also seems to continue to push the agenda of marriage and “nuclear” families among young people, something I wish this country would have let go of in the 1976 Reagan “Welfare Queen” era.

After further research, I discovered that this ad was part of a larger campaign created by the NYC Human Resources Administration. For an agency with the word “resources” in its name, it appears that they do not know how to use them very well.  Especially considering the fact that the United States is preparing to undergo sequestration and they thought it wise to use government funding to disseminate disturbing, stigmatizing and shameful ads about teen mothers. Also considering the fact they are a “Human Resources” agency, I would think funds would be better allocated to real initiatives to help young mothers, such as creating real job opportunities for young moms and working with other agencies and organizations to provide childcare so that young women could support their families. It is resourceful to create life-size ads that basically say “Mom you suck for having me.”

While NYC has taken steps to improve the lives of young parents, like closing Pregnancy Schools after advocates insisted these institutions were in violation of Title IX, this initiative seems backwards. This is the same city responsible for the Living for the Young Family through Education program which provides free childcare around the city to help teen parents graduate from high school. In addition to these efforts, the NYC Department of Education mandated Comprehensive Sexuality Education in schools in 2011 to decrease the rate of teen pregnancies, HIV and STIs among young people. However, many of the youth that I work with in Brooklyn still report receiving little to no sex education even after the mandate was placed into effect. Having grown up in Brooklyn my entire life and having never received formal sexual education, I know they are telling the truth.

So if you think scare tactics and shameful ads are going to work, think again.  In fact it is just making the situation worse. I’m mostly concerned with who the agency talked to before creating these controversial ads. It definitely was not teen parents!! I wonder how agencies feel they can solve a problem without consulting the people on the ground and the young people with the “situated knowledge.” As a millennial of color, research shows that although my peers would like to decrease the rate of teen pregnancies, they also feel that society has a responsibility to provide young parents with the necessary resources and opportunities to lead healthy lives.

Lastly, I think these ads should be taken down, and the funding for this so-called Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Initiative should be redirected to organizations working to provide real comprehensive sexual education, access to contraception, teen parenting programs, affordable childcare and job opportunities for young people. Education, inclusion and empowerment is how we solve real issues not by attaching stigma to young people, especially young women!

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In the spheres of education and public health, sex education is often discussed in terms of content and outcomes. Policy makers, advocates, parents, and educators want to know: Does it teach about contraceptive methods? Is there a condom demonstration? Does it lead to young people delaying sex? Does it reduce rates of STI transmission? And certainly content and outcomes are of vital importance. But great sex education must also address the context of young people’s lives. And that requires that sex education support young people in building the knowledge, skills, and self-efficacy to create and navigate healthy relationships throughout their lives.

For too long, in reaction to years of federally-subsidized medically-inaccurate, misleading, and stigmatizing abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, advocates and educators in favor of comprehensive sex education have concentrated on a relatively small component of this topic. The work for comprehensive sex education has often focused narrowly on ensuring that young people can learn accurate and age-appropriate information about their bodies, about sexual decision-making and negotiation, and about reducing the risk of STI transmission and unintended pregnancy. And as a result, there have been positive shifts in sex education in recent years. Federal funding initiatives like the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative (TPPI) and the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) have increased the resources available in states, communities, and schools to implement evidence-based programs.

But too many of these programs and curricula focus narrowly on specific changes in youth risk behavior—such as delayed initiation of sex, reduced frequency of sex, and increased condom use—and not nearly enough on healthy relationships. This is a missed opportunity and an incomplete representation of comprehensive sex education.

Healthy relationships education is an integral component of truly comprehensive sex education. Released last year, the National Sexuality Education Standards outline the minimum, essential content and skills that is age-appropriate for children and youth in grades K-12, and healthy relationships is one of seven major topic areas (page 32). These standards outline the baseline of healthy relationship knowledge and skills that students should have after completing sex education coursework. For example, students should be able to:

  •  “Identify healthy ways for friends to express feelings to each other” by the end of 2nd grade.
  • “Compare positive and negative ways friends and peers can influence relationships” by the end of 5th grade.
  • “Describe the potential impacts of power differences such as age, status, or position within relationships” by the end of 8th grade.
  • “Demonstrate effective ways to communicate personal boundaries as they relate to intimacy and sexual behavior” by the end of 12th grade.

It is not a coincidence that healthy relationships are a key component of comprehensive sex education, because comprehensive sex education is the best vehicle for healthy relationship education. The information and skills that it takes to create and navigate healthy relationships are best taught in the context of the non-judgmental, honest, and inclusive classrooms that comprehensive sex education fosters.

Because while some abstinence-only-until-marriage programs do purport to teach information and skills related to healthy relationships, these programs are full of flawed, incomplete, and harmful messages. These programs make false promises to youth that they will necessarily avoid heartache, regret, and “baggage” by pursuing relationships and avoiding sex. They teach young people that relationships that involve sexual activity can only chip away at a finite “self:” that youth have a certain amount of love and affection to give, and they will be diminished and depleted if they give it away “too soon” or to the “wrong” person. They often assume that (heterosexual) marriage is an inevitable and/or universally desired goal. This is a wildly limiting way to think about people’s personal and interpersonal capacity. Relationships—including young people’s relationships—can be opportunities for learning and growth, and we are much better off helping young people pursue mutually respectful and satisfying relationships than we are feeding them dishonest guarantees.

For many young people, part of pursuing and maintaining healthy relationships may mean delaying sex. For many others, it may not. Either way, a real understanding of communication, power, consent, sexual negotiation, and risk reduction is of vital importance. To fully meet young people’s rights and needs, we must take an inclusive and non-judgmental approach to relationship education. A sole focus on sexual refusal skills—as is the case in many abstinence-only-until-marriage programs—is just not sufficient. We must work with youth as they learn to form and maintain healthy relationships. This includes being truly inclusive of GLBTQ youth and families. It includes respecting and trusting young people with the knowledge and skills to negotiate relationships and sexuality on their own terms.

Healthy relationships education is not a “middle-ground” between comprehensive sex education and abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. If we don’t look closely, some programs may use the guise of healthy relationships education to reinforce the same old gender stereotypes and compulsory heterosexuality that we see in abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.

Rather, healthy relationships education is part and parcel of comprehensive sex education. Sex education programs that teach youth to reduce their risk of unintended pregnancy and STI transmission are incomplete if they neglect to build in youth the knowledge, skills, and self-efficacy to negotiate healthy relationships. And programs that purport to teach relationship skills but fail to do so in a way that represents the full range of experiences in young people’s lives are limiting and ultimately harmful.

We must take the strides we’ve made and move forward to ensure that sex education for young people is truly meeting their rights and needs and that healthy relationships education is integrally tied to the respect, honesty, and inclusivity of comprehensive sex education.

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Where we share all of our emotions. About all of the states.

Just say NO to… Abortion?!

It’s basically the mantra of anti-choice lawmakers across the country and one that they’re now espousing inside the classroom. Currently there are two similar bills, one in Montana (HB 239) and one in Texas (HB 1057), that prohibits a school district from allowing any abortion services provider to teach sex ed in schools.  And of course, by abortion providers, they really mean Planned Parenthoods.

The bill in Texas was just introduced last week, and includes a ban on “any entity or individual that performs abortions or an affiliate of an entity or individual that performs abortions” from providing human sexuality or family planning instruction. Talk about a case of the scarlet letter (“A” for abortion, in this case).  The motive behind this piece of legislation is clearly to ensure any organization that is either a Planned Parenthood or any individual and/or entity that affiliates with Planned Parenthood is not welcome in Texas classrooms. It even reinforces stigma against abortion providers themselves, by actually banning individuals that perform abortions inside the classroom.  This lawmaker (and so many others) simply does not want a more comprehensive conversation about sex education, including contraceptives, even when the Lone Star State has the fourth highest teen birth rate in the country. The bill would also put an “opt-in” requirement for sex ed, meaning all students must obtain a written consent form from a parent or guardian to even be able to sit in the classroom.

Montana is in the same boat, except it’s just further along in the process. On Wednesday, February 6, the House passed a bill (HB 239) that would, like Texas, require parental permission before students can attend sex education classes (“opt-in”)  and also ban any “person, entity… affiliate or agent” that is a provider of abortion services to offer, sponsor, or furnish any course material on sex ed.  The definitions are broad enough to, again, be harmful to local Planned Parenthoods or any organization that affiliates with the group, that has a stake in sex ed curriculum.

And to round out the “don’t you dare affiliate with anyone who dare say the A-word” news in the states, we turn our head to North Dakota, where two researchers who were granted federal funds to evaluate a local sex education program had their funds frozen from the University’s president (North Dakota State University) because they had signed an agreement to work with Planned Parenthood. While he justified his actions because of a (vague and contested) 1979 state law that prohibits any federal funds being used by entities that provide or refer abortions, the real reasons seems to be political pressure more than anything. Once anti-Planned Parenthood legislators caught wind of the grant and made comments about cutting the University’s funding if it dared move forward with accepting the grant, NDSU president peculiarly decided to freeze the funds (and without conferring with the researchers OR anyone from faculty leadership), making the announcement on a local conservative talk radio show.

Texas, Montana, North Dakota FAIL.

Now here are some other states and my emotions about them.

North Dakota vs. South Dakota = STALEMATE

Apparently, the Dakotas have gotten together and decided they want to make it as hard as possible for women to have any type of access to abortion. North Dakota’s Senate just passed a Personhood Constitutional Amendment initiative on Thursday that would amend the state’s constitution to give legal rights and protections to human embryos. YUP, you read that right, the state’s CONSTITUTION. If it passes the house, North Dakota voters will decide on it in the 2014 elections. And then South Dakota decides to hop back on the anti-abortion bandwagon and introduced a bill that would redefine the 72-hour waiting period as to not include weekends or holidays, which could drastically eliminate access to safe abortion for women – especially since there is only one comprehensive women’s clinic that provides abortions in the entire state. So yeah… neither state wins this round this time around. Sorry, Dakotas. Better luck next time.

And the winner is…

…Colorado!

The state’s House Health, Insurance, and Environment committee passed a comprehensive sex ed bill last week (HB 1081) that would define sex education in the state as having to be age appropriate, culturally sensitive, evidence-based, and include positive youth development. It also creates a grant program and a cash fund to ensure the implementation of comprehensive sex ed programs throughout the state. Legislatively, it’s only part-way there (and there are Senate challenges ahead), BUT we should all give a round of applause for Colorado ‘cause they are on their way.

But the real winners are the activists who told their representatives why comprehensive sex education is important. Big high-fives go out to Colorado Youth Create’s youth activists, Scarlett and Adrian, who were the only high school students testifying during the hearing. Listen to their awesomeness HERE!

Do you have any rants or raves about things going on in YOUR state? Or maybe you live in one of the above states? Please share all of the feelings in the comments section below!

Curated by Diana Thu-Thao Rhodes, State Strategies Manager, Advocates for Youth

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poster-abstinence

My boyfriend I have been going back and forth for the past year on whether or not we should be having sex. I mean we are already doing it and all but afterwards we always say that we know that what we are doing is wrong. I mean it’s hard!! He’s so handsome and has a huuuuge smile and an even bigger penis! And his kisses are so sensual. It really is hard to tell him no! We are both so busy with our work and school schedules that we only have time to see each other on the weekends. So after a week of not seeing your favorite person, you want to be intimate…but we just always hate that ashamed feeling that comes after sex. You know that dirty feeling you get after you masturbate? Yea it kind of feels like that. So my bf and I decided to wait until marriage to have sex….after the first 37 attempts it seemed as if it wasn’t for us…but we decided to give it another try and so far it’s been three months since we’ve had sex!! And I mean NO SEX at all! No intercourse! I haven’t licked his jolly stick, and he hasn’t even touched my juice box. We’ve decided that we want God to be the center of our relationship; we wanted to please him so that way we can have a blessed marriage when we decide to take that route! It hard but knowing that you are making God happy is what makes the wait a lot easier!

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Text message conversation:

Friend: Becca!

Me: Haaaaaaaay!

Friend: What up!

Me: Chillin. You?

Friend: I gotta talk to you but I’ll text you in a bit….

oh man. this might be big.

Friend: Yo!

Me: What’s up ma?

Friend: Nothing what up?

Me: How was school?

Friend: Good!

Me: Thassssssswhatsup!

Friend: Fo sho! So Umm I gotta talk to ya…

breathe, Rebecca, breathe.

Me: What’s up?

Friend: So umm I kinda need something… From you..

Me: What?

Friend: Lol… Take a guess.. “be protected”

Me: For you?

no, Rebecca, for her cat. of course it’s for her. get it together!

Friend: Mhm.. Lol

Me: Is this something you want?

Friend: Not that I want, I need it. “stay protected” lol you have them…

Me: Yes I know, but have you and _____ talked about this? And have you had time to think about what you want?

Friend: Yes

Me: Okay, I had to ask. I trust you and I’m glad you asked me. Is there a certain time you need it by?

Friend: I don’t need it soon. Whenever you can (:

Me: Okay, well I want to make sure you have them for protection when and if you need them. I assume you haven’t talked to your mom about this?

why, Rebecca? why are you making assumptions? have you learned nothing from your social work classes??

Friend: We’ve had the “talk.”

Me: Ight lil’ ma. If you have any questions just ask

Friend: Ight I will (:

aww.

This was a conversation between a friend and I from a couple of weeks ago. If you can’t tell by the coy wording, we are talking about condoms and sex. Looking back on the conversation I wish I would have just said condoms and sex instead of “it.” What can I say? I was caught off guard. I have known this friend of mine all her life. She is a special person to me, and I consider her to be a little sister, especially since I don’t have any younger siblings. I have always been very open and honest with her, hoping that she would return the favor by trusting me, and I’m glad she did.

Back when I first began my activism with sex education and sexual health, I asked my middle/high school aged cousins and friends about the type of sex ed they were receiving in school. Some were a little embarrassed and tried to laugh my questions off, while others were straight forward and told me that they don’t remember learning anything, but that so and so was pregnant and had to leave school for a bit. No matter which way the conversation went, I always ended it with something like this, “I just want you to know that I will always be here for you, if you ever need anything. I’m in college, and I remember my years in high school; I know sex happens. I can’t tell you how to live your life, but I can tell you this, if you choose to have sex you should respect yourself and your partner by using protection.” I didn’t want to come off as preachy by telling them what to do, but I wanted to get a message across.

When I started having sex I had no formal education and had to research everything online. You can imagine how amazing that process went. I feel that I knew more than some of my peers because I knew that you could get pregnant “even if he pulls out,” and that you can’t get pregnant by having oral sex. However, I didn’t know that oral/anal sex are still sex, so condoms should still be used.

I have always had a great relationship with my parents, but in high school I was scared to talk to them about sex. Growing up in a devout Catholic household might have that effect. I wasn’t scared of them, but I didn’t want them to judge me or get angry. I didn’t know how to approach them. Now, things are much different. My parents are very much aware of the work that I do, and they respect me for it. While there is one particular issue we don’t see eye to eye on (I’m pro-choice, they are pro-life), we still respect each other and love each other. I often joke with my mom and tell her we will probably run into each other at a rally but will be on opposing sides. She rolls her eyes and responds with something like, “estas loca,” and I tell her to pray extra hard for me.

I love my parents, family, and friends. I’m glad that my relationships are always strengthening and growing thanks to the big questions and conversations that allow for both parties to gain trust. These conversations are important, not only for the obvious reasons like preventing pregnancy, STI’s, or HIV, but also to have healthy relationships with the people you love or care about.

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laci-green-on-abstinence1-480x244

Let the record show that this U-DGurl is in absolute LOVE with Laci Greene!

I am literally watching her video on “A is for Abstinence” and I think it’s such a great thing to do for those who need (and may not need) to be informed about abstinence and making the choice

She’s funny and so real…did I mention funny, too?

I do wish there was a Laci Greene symbol back in my high school days. So many girls grew up, confused about the changes in their bodies, confused about their desires and the world they lived in that seemed to change after they discovered two weird things growing on their chests. And what towhere telling you was worse, the “grown ups” we turned to made it their duty to give developing girls and growing boys the most untrue and confusing information possible. Either that, or they made you feel guilty about know what was happening to your body. It’s Yours! It’s your duty and privilege to know as much as possible about your body, your likes and so on without anyone, anywhere telling you that it’s wrong and sinful to.

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laci green on abstinence

Is it just me or has Laci Green been making some killer videos lately?? Her latest, A is for Abstinence, just might be the most spot-on five minute take-down of abstinence-only education that I’ve ever seen. YOU GO LACI.

Want more hilarious, sex-positive health advocacy and educational tidbits from Laci? Check her out on Youtube, Twitter, and Tumblr.

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HELLO !!!! FRIENDS I WILL TELL YOU FROM EXPERIENCE TO PLEASE CHOOSE ABSTINANCE…. WHY CUZ ITS SURE…WE TALK MORE

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“If, in contrast, tomorrow’s potential activists can feel that their demonstrations and actions are effective in molding public opinion and more important, in effecting needed social change, then the possibilities for constructive change in post-industrial American society are virtually without limit” 

-Kenneth  Keniston 

When I was about sixteen, I participated and led a youth organization called the Youth Advisory Committee. The YAC was a state-funded program under the direction of AVANCE, a nonprofit organization. The YAC aimed to address youth at-risk from dropping out of school from the 78520 zip code in Brownsville. In one major project, we had to create a poll that targeted adolescents in our area.  This poll contained issues that youth face often; including gang involvement, drug use, and teenage pregnancy [I cannot remember the other issues…]. We handed this poll to our classmates and they had to rate the issues they felt affected them the most. Consequently, the top three issues would then be utilized to create programs that addressed those issues. So, we sat in a room with my organization, our coordinator, and representatives of other organizations. We were going to openly discuss what was to be done. I cannot remember what the top three issues were but I know that teenage pregnancy fell below the top three. I made it clear to the adults that teen pregnancy was an extremely important issue to us. However, they could not do anything about it. It was pushed to the side…

I clearly remember that I began to sob because I was so angry and frustrated. I could not believe that nothing was going to be done! I did not understand this. If not us, then who was going to offer the support they needed? Who was going to empower them? Why? Why? Why? They simply said that they could refer them to other services. Before, I did not know of any organization that did advocacy work for teenage pregnancy or sexual health and reproductive rights. I was aware that Planned Parenthood existed but I only thought they offered medical services.

In these past elections, all of the Texas Freedom Network Student Chapters participated in a state-wide civic engagement project to register young people to vote and get them out to vote! Also, we informed them about the State Board of Education elections. In Texas, the SBOE has the authority to revise, review, and edit the curriculum from K-12 in public schools. By bringing awareness to the issue of the ineffective abstinence-only programs and the SBOE, we hoped to elect members who will fight to remove ignorance and censorship from the health curriculum.

Directing people to their poll sites

In the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, we registered over 100 students to vote. Up until Election Day, we informed and directed students of polling locations. Now, I hope that the new members of the SBOE will begin to formalize their plans for a new type of sex education— comprehensive sex education. I do not want injustices like the one that I encountered when I was 16 to happen again.

https://www.facebook.com/tfnatutbrownsville

http://www.tfn.org/educate

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Talking about young people in the part of the world where I come is already a sensitive issue and adding ‘rights’ which is another very explosive issue to this makes advocacy for the placing of youth rights at the heart of development a very difficult but not an impossible task. Behind these words lies the fears, doubts, and optimism of a participant at the just ended International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD)-Beyond 2014 Global youth Forum (GYF) which held from the 4th to the 6th December 2012.They are also the words that come to my mind whenever I think about this forum and the impact its outcomes will have on the future of young people and therefore our world as a whole. The fruits of the optimism raised and the hopes re-enkindled by the ICPD-Beyond 2014 GYF not only in the young persons that attended this event but above all in the lives of the millions of young persons that are marginalized, down trodden, and persecuted because of their gender, age, political choices, and sexual orientation, will no doubt become reality as youths irrespective of their social status, religious beliefs, and gender have been empowered and energized by this forum. With most of the recommendations from the ICPD-Beyond 2014 GYF urging governments, international bodies, and civil societies to recognize the rights of all young persons especially the marginalized, suffering and persecuted(the girl child, sexual minorities, rural dwellers, the uneducated) and establish an enabling environment for the potentials of every young person to be unleashed and his/her dreams fulfilled, the forum is ended but has opened an avenue for youths to claim what is theirs and take their places in decision making cycles in their various countries. Enlightened, empowered, and inspired by the passion and enthusiasm I witnessed in Bali, the following words came to my mind in the evening of the 6th of December as the forum ended: ‘What happens when it comes time to part? Well you know how when you’re listening to music from another room and you’re singing along, because it’s a tune you really love, when the door closes, or a train passes, and you can’t hear the music anymore, but you sing along anyway?’ Just like the song described in this scene from the movie, ‘Music from Another Room’, the journey towards achieving youths rights might have begun long ago, Bali marked a new beginning in this fight for the rights of young people in all their diversity to be recognized and respected in the society where they live.

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DSC01080

Another day has come and gone over Bali ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Youth Forum.But as days come and go, the discussion intensifies and young people are more demanding to their governments, religious and traditional authorities, parents, and society at large.

Universal access to education,inclusive education, relevant education, quality education ,financing and partnerships, as well as ccomprehensive sexuality education were identified by participants at the ICPD beyond 2014 Global Youth Forum participants as being vital for comprehensive education to become a reality in our world and were thus recommended in that other for discussion by the United Nations and possible inclusion in its post-2015 international  development agenda.

Transitions to decent work, and famiies,youth Rights and well being are the themes which were on the discussion table today.These being of course issues which are relevant to every young person irrespective of  where he/she hails, the debate in the plenary was so intense and continued into the various work groups.

During the plenary on transitions to decent employment, it was revealed by the International Labour Organisation’s representative that we now have the highest number of unemployed youths that the world has ever. Also, during this plenary it was disclosed that 1 in 9 young workers in Africa are in the informal sector, 4 out of 10 young workers are working on a temporary basis, and 5 in 10 low paid persons are youths.

Productivity, fairness, and rewarding are the major characteristics of a decent job as defined by the International Labour Organisation(ILO). If one is to go by this definition, one will have no choice but agree with the above statistics. One other area in which there was total agree is on the fact that  stronger families, respect of  youth rights, and the well being of youths are the basis for any society and so for  a world at peace with itself, there was need for these issues to be tackled with maximum care.

According to Mr.Anatole Makosso, the president to the conference of African youth ministers and youth minister of Congo Brazzaville, there exist three reasons for governments to carefully consider the above mentioned issues and ensure that the needs of youths are met: They are the majority, they are the future, they will not identify with any decisions taken without them.

Another day is come and gone,  and the desire for action by youths on the part of their governments has not faultered Youths want to make the Bali declaration not only a declaration but a platform for action. Hear our voices!

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Gaston

What a long awaited and historic day for mankind has today being. The ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Youth Forum was officially opened today. In the presence of   close to a thousand participants, Indonesian officials, and  representatives of governments the world over, Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA’s executive Director , in his speech  decried the  situation in which so many young people, especially those in the global south, live in before pointing  out the importance of this event, and then inviting  representatives of governments and those he termed “Seniors” to look  at the  young people around them and  challenge  how they  relate to them, and then think of how they can release  the potentials of these young people.

Further setting the context of the Bali ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Youth Forum, the Indonesian minister for people’s welfare, declared that: we believe that a meaningful dialogue is necessary on the means and ways of engaging young people to release their potential. He further emphasized that , young people need to understand the values of life that will make them  stay healthy, be educated, foster family life, actively participate in building the  world they have always dreamed of.

Staying healthy, comprehensive education, transition to  decent work for youth, Families, youth rights and well being, leadership and meaningful youth participation, and realizing youth rights are the themes which will be discussed and recommendations made by the over 650 participants for  discussion and adoption  by the UN member states as one of its post-2015 agenda.

 

Staying healthy and comprehensive education were tackled today in discussion groups (world Cafés) and recommendations made on the former. Access to data, putting in place of an enabling environment for youths by governments, religious and traditional authorities, access to   quality, affordable, and comprehensive health services, and finally  the abolition of laws and policies that   that hinder youth empowerment   are the recommendations that came out from the 15 sort of work groups that brainstormed on this topic. The recommendations on the comprehensive education will be presented  tomorrow, Wednesday December 5th 2012.

It should be noted that the above recommendations were arrived at by participants including representatives of governments, UN agencies, and civil society in a very interactive, safe, and open environment  after attending the plenary session that addressed  the issue of staying healthy for a young person. At this plenary Advocate for Youth’s Meredith Waters acting in her capacity as young person commentator for this theme, declared amid thunderous applause from the audience  that: the Global Youth Forum is a great way to start but not enough. Dr Nafsia Mboi, Indonesian minister of health, answering to questions from the participants declared to conclude the plenary that: Every person, I repeat every person including young people has the right to health.

Good as the speeches may be, world leaders should be conscious that young people are tired of speeches and want to see concrete actions being taken solve the pile of problems in which young people from all part of our beloved world are drowning. World leaders! Take action now or be fired! We are ready for the fight and I assure you we will always out power you; for we are the majority.

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The United Nations announced, “Access to contraception is a universal human right that could dramatically improve the lives of women and children in poor countries.”  CBS News says that this is the first time the United Nations Population Fund’s annual report describes family planning as a human right.  CBS even quotes the executive director:

“Family planning has a positive multiplier effect on development,” Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the fund, said in a written statement. “Not only does the ability for a couple to choose when and how many children to have help lift nations out of poverty, but it is also one of the most effective means of empowering women. Women who use contraception are generally healthier, better educated, more empowered in their households and communities and more economically productive. Women’s increased labor-force participation boosts nations’ economies.”

But not everyone is happy with this progress.  Groups like Human Life International are disgusted with this development.  Really, the idea of having some control over when and where to get pregnant, spacing the births far apart enough for optimal health of pregnant person and children, and actually being able to care for the resulting children while saving some money in medical fees is mortifying.  Let’s all get up in arms and fight this!  I kid, of course.  Albeit, there are people who serious with this kind of sentiment, like the folks at LifeSiteNews:

Declaring birth control a right means “everyone else must pay for…the new right” Clowes told LifeSiteNews, “even if those forced to pay for it may object to it on moral grounds. This violates the more basic human right of freedom of conscience, which has for some time now been dispensed with by UN ‘human rights’ champions.”

Despite what they’re saying, the UN declares “that legal, cultural and financial barriers to accessing contraception and other family planning measures are an infringement of women’s* rights.”

*Let’s all try to remember that now all women can get pregnant and not all those who have the ability to become pregnant are women.


SOURCES:
http://blogs.babble.com/strollerderby/2011/08/01/big-win-for-women-family-planning-and-contraception/
https://www.unfpa.org/public/
http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-204_162-57549577/un-calls-contraception-access-a-universal-human-right/
http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/11/15/they-are-coming-your-birth-control-condoms-are-murder-and-contraception-is-rape
http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/un-declares-birth-control-a-39human-right39#comment-710831021

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Check out this entry on Huff Post by Advocates for Youth’s own fantastic Youth Activist Network Coordinator, Ian O’Brien (also known as amplify user AFY_Ian)! It features an interview with GACC safesite Jeremiah at St. John’s University in New York!

Trojan Sexual Health Report Card Sparks Action

(more…)

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by Deb Hauser
President, Advocates for Youth

Advocates for Youth congratulates President Barack Obama on his historic reelection. We also celebrate the amazing role that young people played within his administration and his reelection, and we recognize the growing power of youth to drive social and cultural change for a better world. Young people represented approximately 19 percent of the electorate yesterday—a larger percentage even than in 2008!

In the years ahead, we call on President Obama to stand with us in recognition of every young person’s right to honest sexual health education, safe and affordable sexual health services, and an equity of social, educational, and economic opportunity – the type of opportunity that builds healthy lives and strong communities.

(more…)

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THE DEADLINE HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO DECEMBER 7th

Boom. The International Youth Leadership Council is looking for college students in the DC metro area to apply to be new council members to start this January.

Need some background?

Advocates for Youth sponsors a project called the International Youth Leadership Council (IYLC), which is designed to develop youth leaders in the areas of international sexual and reproductive health and rights, abortion access, global HIV and AIDS, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and other sexual orientation and gender identity rights. The Council currently consists of seven members who are a diverse group of young people with backgrounds from around the world.  Members attend colleges or universities in the Washington, DC Metro area.

 

IYLC members work with the staff of the Policy Department and The Youth Activist Network to increase U.S. support and leadership for improving young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights globally and domestically. As members of the council, they develop an understanding of a broad range of issues, including international family planning; maternal health and adolescent maternal mortality; gender inequality; harmful traditional practices, such as child marriage; HIV and AIDS; and LGBT rights. They in turn become familiar with related U.S. domestic and foreign policy, and international agreements that address youth sexual and reproductive health and rights.

 

Throughout the school year, council members serve as youth educators, advocates, and spokespeople on sexual and reproductive health issues and polices that affect young people around the world. They organize campus events, utilize online and traditional media outlets, conduct educational workshops, attend conferences, and lobby policy makers at the national and international level.

To Summarize:
-opportunities to shape policy from the local to international level

-resources to mobilize your communities

-meet some pretty fantastic people

-be fancy

Be a part of a movement to make youth voices heard!

Apply Now!

https://advocatesforyouth.wufoo.com/forms/international-youth-leadership-application/

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Talk to your parents about sex.  No, really.  Do it.  I’m being completely serious.

If your parents aren’t around and/or conversations with your parents never go well and you fear an extreme negative reaction, find a local clinic/Planned Parenthood and direct some of your questions there or do some research using the Internet or find a trusted adult who you can talk to.  The education is worth it especially with all the risks that do come with sex.

But if the worst that can happen from talking about sex with your parents is just awkwardness, then it’s definitely worth the try.  And it might not just be awkward for you, it’s probably this way for them too.  But they care about you.  And I’m sure you care about them, even if you’re not ready to admit that quite yet.

Studies show that the closer the relationship is between parents and children, the less likely it is that a teen pregnancy or an STI will occur.1  Open communication can only help. I know, I know.  Easier said than done.  So, how do we bring it up?  Mom or Dad hands you your lunch or allowance or whatever and you just go, “Hey, can we talk about sex?”  If that works for you, try that.  I mean, yeah.  Your parents will be caught off guard, but it’s better than never finding out what your parents know or if they’re willing to help you reach a better understanding of sex and all it entails.

You can also try pulling up some article from a magazine or off the Internet about sex education and/or prevention care and try discussing that with your parents, then casually ask questions about your own interest, but be sure to have those questions prepared.

Why would you want to ask your parents about sex?  Why is it so important to have comprehensive education not only from school but from your parents as well?

It’s just important to gather all the information you can about sex.  Let’s look at it this way.  There are approximately one billion people ages 15-24 in the whole world, and there are about 42 million in the United States.  48% of high school students are currently sexually active, and 62% of those teens report using a condom the last time they had sex. Just 62%.  That’s like a D minus.  But get this, in 2006, only 5% of American high schools made condoms available to students.2

Maybe you’re thinking, “How hard can putting a condom on be?”  It’s a good question.  You probably know all the necessary steps, like checking the expiration date on the package, opening it with just your fingers and never your teeth, squeezing the tip of the condom, when exactly to put it on, leaving a half-inch space at the tip, which side to roll down, etc.  And did you know that with typical use of a condom, 15 out of 100 people face an unintended pregnancy?  When condoms are used consistently and correctly, less than 2 people experience an unintended pregnancy.3  Almost half of all new infections are happening with people under 25, but only less than a third of these people know how to protect themselves from STIs and HIV.4  So, think about those numbers again.  Weigh the awkwardness and the importance of sex education together for a minute and decide what matters more to you.

For more facts, please click this link: http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/press-room/get-the-facts

SOURCES:
1) Journal of HIV/AIDS Prevention & Education for Adolescents & Children 5.3-4 (2003): 7-32.
2) http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/FB-ATSRH.html
3) http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/press-room/get-the-facts
4) http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/hiv-home 

 

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Melanie

By Melanie Waddell

SWARM attended the Urban Retreat in Washington DC over the weekend. It was an amazing experience where I was able to meet tons of different people from all across the nation and the world who are just as invested in these issues as I am. To see these young people so involved and engaged in the activities really made me proud to say that I’m with this group. I’m with Advocates for Youth and CAMI. I’m part of a group that promotes comprehensive sex education and equal rights for all.

So this group of amazing talented youth marched towards Capitol Hill and we went in to see our representatives and show them our power. We wanted to show them how much we cared, and show them why they should support us. We marched in to those offices, sat down, and met Congressional aides. We talked, gave our spiel, and left information folders. When we finished, the aides asked us questions or thanked us.

They were nice but noncommittal. One of them explained the process to our group. At the federal level there is only so much that our representatives can do. It’s really up to the state legislators to enact comprehensive sex ed programs for SC. This is because the federal government cannot dictate curriculum, that’s a state responsibility.

In a weird way, this was a practice run for the real meeting with our state legislators. For me, this confirmed that what we’re doing can make an impact. One person can make a difference because there’s a ripple effect. Every time we talk to a legislator, hand out a pamphlet, or post a blog, we can spread the message. And just by doing this, we are already making a difference.

SC is traditional. She’s old-fashioned. She likes her tea sweet and her yellow jasmine blooming. She has never been fond of change. And I can’t fault her for that. I’m the same way. I love SC. It’s the perfect temperature, with mild seasons, great people, and a friendly atmosphere that makes me feel at home no matter what city I’m in. That’s why I feel so strongly about this issue. SC is a great place. I’m just trying to make it even better. I want a state that is known for its neighborly waves, not its ranking as the 8th highest state for HIV rates.

I love my state. And I’m glad that SC has control over its own school curriculum. However, something needs to change. The statistics show that Ab-Only-Until-Marriage programs aren’t effective. They’re expensive, inaccurate, and they don’t work. If SC paid me $20,000 to tell blatant lies and I only worked one day a year, I’m sure taxpayers would be very upset with me. So how come no one questions the sex education that embodies those same qualities? Something has to change. That something is the sex education that is being taught across SC. We know what needs to change. But how do we do it? It’s simple really. We spread the message, we distribute information, and we show our legislators that we care about comprehensive sex education because we care about SC. So what are you waiting for?

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Jordan

By Jordan Craven

I honestly feel like a changed person after the Urban Retreat. I miss my council, coordinators, and new friends. It was the best trip of the year.

I thoroughly enjoyed hearing Sonya Renee speak at the final dinner. Through spoken word her message was empowering and was beautiful. I fought tears and chills in every poem or stop. One day I hope to find my inner courage to be able to get my message of gender equality, comprehensive sex education, and personal stories across as elegantly as she did.

Another thing I loved was the people. Everyone was extremely accepting, warm, beautiful, and heartfelt. During the talent shows many performed amazingly with vulnerability and passion. In sessions, people made sure I was comfortable and accepted. Never have I been to a place where I felt so open to be me.

Finally, lobby day was a surprising success. Believe me, I was hella nervous, but through workshops, encouragement and wonderful coordinators and fellow council members, I, and everyone else, was able to step up to the plate and speak out in support of the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act.

I LOVED the privilege circle (despite the fact that it was cut short). I felt moved by the honesty and vulnerability from everyone who participated. I was able to fully comprehend my own privilege as a white male, but also my disadvantage as a gay youth who grew up in a single-parent home in a rural community. I felt close to my peers and would LOVE to do this with SWARM USC!

Overall I thought it was an amazing experience. When I left DC I didn’t want to come back to Columbia and the ordinary it serves. I will miss the sea of people, the sea of acceptance, and the sea of hope.

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Nadia

By Nadia Anderson

I had many takeaways from this amazing trip to Washington, DC for the Urban Retreat. It is kind of hard to lower it to three, but I will try. One takeaway was the act of storytelling. I never knew that it was better to talk about personal experiences rather than facts. I especially thought this because we were presenting for legislators for lobby day and they seem to always want the statistics when hearing about bills that people want to be passed. It was incredible hearing stories from all of the other students and even some of the students from our own group. I had to keep from crying sometimes. When I told my personal story, it was hard because some people that knew me for years were just hearing it for the first time and I think that it changed their perspective of me. I am glad that I told my story though.

I really enjoyed meeting all of the other groups on the trip. Everyone brought their unique personalities and styles and made for a great experience. I really enjoyed meeting the international students. I never knew the struggle that these people went through and that is something that you can’t just see from someone’s outer appearance. We all got on deeper levels with one another and learned so much that is relevant across the world. Everyone was on a mission to change the world and this weekend experience made our missions easier to accomplish.

One thing that I learned from the Urban Retreat that I brought back to implement in SC is the HIV treatment and the studies that scientists are doing to find a cure. I never knew that there were so many ways of treating HIV. I believe that people do not get tested because they still look at it as a death sentence. I will talk to the teen groups that I run and make sure that they know this to tell their friends and make sure that they are aware of what they can do to help themselves.

One memory I will always take with me is the group hug that we had before we started lobbying. Through that small moment, I knew that we were a family now. The things that we shared with each other and the laughs and smiles we shared made me realize that I could depend on all of them whenever I needed anything. Even though we came together under very tragic circumstances, we now have the motivation and the love to fight for what we believe in as a team.

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Darian

By Darian James

As I made my way to the airport to join my coordinators and council members, I began to wonder about what the Urban Retreat would be like. After missing flight number one and being persuaded not to get on flight number two, flight number three was very early (5:26 a.m. to be exact) but quite the charm!

After missing two flights and waking up at 3:00 a.m. to catch the third flight I knew for sure that good luck was in store for me. I arrived at the Washington D.C. airport and was greeted by one of my fabulous coordinators, Cherisse.

Thinking that all of my bad luck was used on yesterday, I was certain that the rest of the trip would be perfect….. not just yet! I knocked on the door to room 711 and a guy answered the door. He welcomed me in and introduced himself. I thought nothing of it at that moment but as I began to think about rooming with a guy as the day went on, I started to feel more and more uncomfortable. So uncomfortable that I mentioned it to my coordinators. As we talked about the situation Emma explained that I was placed in that room by mistake. PHEW….I was relieved! As always, my name gave off the impression that I was a male.

The good luck begins and continues after that moment. The Urban Retreat was phenomenal. I am so appreciative for everything that I encountered prior to arriving at the Urban Retreat because I know that those obstacles were preparing me for my “Fiercely Fabulous Weekend.” The retreat certainly met and exceeded all of my expectations. Advocates from all over the world had the opportunity to share ideas, network, bond, grow, and so much more. At the various training sessions we had the opportunity to openly discuss our opinions and experiences about different topics without harsh stares or offensive comments from the people around us.

I am so thankful for this retreat because it not only allowed me to meet new people and grow as an individual but it assisted S.W.A.R.M. in forming a bond that is unbreakable. We shared so much with each other during those five days that you would have thought we knew each other for over five years. We laughed, walked, talked, took pictures, ate, danced, joked, and even cried together. I love my S.W.A.R.M. family so much and I know that Tim is smiling down on us because he would not have wanted it any other way! We love you Tim and we will continue to make you proud. I can honestly say that Exuberant Emma and Courageous Cherisse are two magnificent individuals. To take time out of their busy schedules, to travel to Washington, D.C. with 9 college students, who they saw face to face once or twice was remarkable. Thanks ladies!

The Urban Retreat has given me a different outlook on life, responsibility, rights, and so much more. My most memorable moments are going to the youth lounge for a refresher, media 101 and 102 with Ms. Rachel Cooke, the fabulous speech delivered by Ms. Sonia Renee, and LOBBYING! Lobbying was a great way to end our awesome retreat. It felt so good to go to our state representatives’ staff to voice our opinions and share our personal stories. We even had the opportunity to go on a few tours thank to our amazing coordinator Emma.

We as young people have the right to comprehensive sex education, deserve respect from everyone around us, and you should place responsibility on us to make wise decision when it pertains to sex and relationships!

Anyone who had anything to do with the Urban Retreat I want to thank you so much for a job well done! #UR2012

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Alexus

By: Alexus Tullock

When Ariel and Leighann informed me on the Urban Retreat they attended last year, I thought they were going a little overboard on the fun they said they had. They said I would meet cool people, get to lobby on Capital Hill, and eat lots and lots of snacks. Well, I honestly had the time of my life in DC.

First, meeting my SWARM council in August, I knew they were the bomb but this trip made us feel like a family.

Then, arriving in DC and meeting awesome people from all over the world was amazing. I had the pleasure of having a roommate from Africa. I never knew how lucky I was until I had the chance to listen to her story. Sexual health education doesn’t exist in Nigeria and many health clinics aren’t willing to help families in need. Most families can’t afford to go to a doctor when they are sick. My heart went out to her and her county. I took a small thing like going to the doctor for granted.

Every morning at 7:00 a.m. (that’s right 7 in the morning!) the California group introduced Forward Stance to the Urban Retreat. Being the great group SWARM is, we were the only ones to show up. Honestly, Forward Stance made a lot of sense. We should always focus on our opponent with a forward stance and we will win every time.

At the closing dinner before Lobby Day, we had the chance to give shout outs to whoever we wanted. Nadia gave a shout out to Emma and Cherisse. Boy did her story have me tearing up. It made me realize how much Tim was missed and how much SWARM was loved.

Lobbing on Capital Hill was so much FUN!! I felt so important. We were like little league politicians walking around DC. Emma was like our Secret Service Agent taking us under tunnels and on private tours! It reminded me a lot of the movie Salt. Having the chance to talk to our state’s Legislatures and bring issues affecting our youth was truly a “wow” moment. How many college students have the opportunity to do that? Not many but my SWARM Council did. I’m sure we made Tim proud!!

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Brittany

By Brittany Prince

My 1st flight. My 1st trip to the Capital. My 1st Advocates for Youth Conference. September 27-October 1 was filled with a lot of changing events.

At the age of 22, I finally experienced my 1st plane flight. Excitement rushed through my body as I arrived to the airport. I felt like a little kid in a candy store. As we prepared for take off I became anxious and could not help but look out the window. Then it finally took place, the wheels started rolling, the speed accelerated and the plane left the ground. My eyes lit up and I started screaming “weeee” until the pilot instructed us to turn our electronic devices on. My flight was everything I expected and more. I finally got to see Google maps in person.

Once we arrived in DC the metro became our new of source wheels and also my bed on the go. The speakers and workshops were wonderful, but the people were amazing. It was amazing meeting people from different backgrounds coming together for a common goal. It filled my heart with joy being surrounded by youth who were being the change they want to see in the world. Although it was nice meeting new people it was gratifying getting to know my council members better. I never would have imagine being so close to people who were complete strangers to me less than two months ago. Our bond has grown so strong for one another. We laugh together, cry together and will continue to change the world, together. I would do anything for them. We are not just council members, WE ARE FAMILY.

We continue to soar and reach the sky. We will TAKE FLIGHT!

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As I boarded the plane to return back to Florida all that ran through my mind was that Urban Retreat was more than I expected it to be. I never knew that there were so many young people that we energized and excited about better comprehensive sex education. That weekend opened my eyes up to some many different cultures, personalities, and ways of life. I learned about different topics that I was either naive to or completely oblivious of. The many workshops and training sessions that I attended allowed me to be equipped with the necessary tools and information needed to advocate for my cause . Urban Retreat more than prepare me to be able to come back and make a significant difference.

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Click to watch: Fundamental Human Rights.

Every day, governments all over the world violate the fundamental human rights of millions of women. The Center for Reproductive Rights fights on the front lines every day to beat back these assaults — and Meryl Streep, Sarah Silverman, Amy Poehler, Billy Crudup, Audra McDonald, and many more are standing beside us in this call to action in the global battle for reproductive freedom.

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I have received something special from The Advocates for Youth Urban Retreat in Washington, DC. For 4 days and nights I was able to see the visions and values of youth advocates from all over the United States as well as Uganda, Nigeria, Jamaica, and Nepal. Students from all over the United States have come together to raise their voices on Abstinence-Only Programs. The conversations I have shared with other youth advocates have given me a better understanding of the United States sexual education policies. And I believe that if enough of us raise our voices, we as a generation can change the Abstinent-Only Policies of our nation.

I enjoyed Angel Brown’s (Senior Program Manager GLBTQ Health and Rights) presentation on HIV Vaccine Research, ARV’s and Prevention Strategy. This session gave those that were uninformed about HIV a basic overview of vaccine research and antiretroviral drugs. We also explored how current research and treatment approaches are impacting prevention strategies.  We also had a chance to present ourselves to different youth advocate groups from all over the United States as S.W.A.R.M. (Students With A Responsible Message). Aimee Thorne-Thomsen (Vice President for Strategic Partnerships) a very kind woman in my view, sat down to speak with me about sexual education and families.

I didn’t grasp the idea why my younger family members would come to me before they would go to their parents. But she explained that they might be more comfortable talking to me rather than their parents. Our group conversations have shown me that the days have changed when youth were more open and unafraid to ask their parents about sex. It should shock the public conscience when youth are starting to ask questions before they reach their teens. I have seen many instances were youth have been caught in situations they could have avoided, if only they were taught sexual education.

Martin Luther King once said that our lives begin to end “the day we become silent about things that matter”. We maybe dreamers and we may be ignorant in politician’s eyes on the policies we would like to change. But our vision embraces the right of all young people to have the sexual health education and services they need to protect their health.

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One of the things I like to do as the moderator for STFU, Pro-Life is share pro-choice music.  People ask me why I do this, how is it relevant, etc.  I just think it’s cool to know if our favorite bands or singer supports a cause that we believe in.  A lot of these artists actually put their money into supporting sexual and reproductive health and rights.  Giving them a shout out just seems like the thing to do.

As stated on the STFU, Pro-Life blog:

This is based on their support for Planned Parenthood (either by playing for feminist events and/or knowingly signing onto labels that donate to PP) and continuous work for feminism and overall pro-choice awesomeness. You might be surprised by some of these artists. And if there’s a musician(s) you know that’s pro-choice and it’s not on this list, let me know! Progress never sounded so good.

And here are some of the bands:

311
AdeleAgainst Me!

Against All Authority

A.K.As

Alanis Morisette

Alice in Chains

Alkaline Trio

Aimee Mann

Andrew Bird

Angels and Airwaves

Ani Difranco

Animal Collective

Anti-Flag

The Antlers

Aphex Twin

Archers of Loaf

Asobi Seksu

Ataris

Atlas Sound

Audio Karate

Au Revoir Simone

Avail

Bad Astronaut

Bad Religion

Barenaked Ladies

Bayside

Beach House

Beastie Boys

Beck

Beirut

Ben Folds

Ben Harper

Best Coast

Beyonce

Big D and the Kids Table

Bikini Kill

Billie Holiday

The Black Keys

Black Mountain

Blink 182

Bloc Party

Blondes

The Bloodsugars

Boards of Canada

Bob Marley

Bon Iver

Born Ruffians

Bouncer Fighter

Bright Eyes

Broadcast

Broken Social Scene

Brother

Bruce Springsteen

Bush

Caribou

Cat Power

Chaka Khan

Cher

Christina Aguilera

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Cloud Cult

Coldplay

Cornelius

The Cure

Crystal Antlers

Cyndi Lauper

Dam Funk

Dan Deacon

Danielson

Dar Williams

Dave Matthews Band

The Dears

Death Cab for Cutie

The Decemberists

Deer Hunter

Destroyer

Devendra Banhardt

Digable Planets

Dillinger Escape Plan

Dinosaur Jr.

Dirty Projectors

Discovery

Dixie Chicks

Dom

The Donnas

Dropkick Murphys

Dry the River

Editors

Ellie Goulding

Elvis Perkins

Emilie Autumn

Errors

Everclear

Everlast

Expensive Looks

The Explosion

Feist

Femi Kuti

Fish Bone

Flogging Molly

Florence and the Machine

Freelance Whales

Flying Lotus

Foo Fighters

Forest Fire

The Format

Four Tet

Fox and the Law 

fun.

Gang Gang Dance

Get Up Kids

Good Charlotte

Goo Goo Dolls

The Go Team

Green Day

Gregory and the Hawk

Grizzly Bear

Hayden

Henry Rollins

Hole

Holly Throsby

The Holograms

Hospitality

Hygiene Wilder

Iggy Pop

Indigo Girls

IUD

Janis Ian

Jessie J

Jewel

Jimi Hendrix

Joan Jett

Joanna Newsom

Johnny Cash

Justin Timberlake

Kate Nash

The Kennedys

Kings of Convenience

Kinky Friedman

Kitten Forever

Korn

Lady Gaga

Lenny Kravitz

Less Than Jake

Le Tigre

Lily Allen

Little Boots

Living Colour

Liz Phair

Ludacris

The Lunachicks

Madonna

The Magnetic Fields

Manic Street Preachers

Maps & Atlases

Marilyn Manson

Marina and the Diamonds

Marnie Stern

Mary J. Blige

Melissa Etheridge

Metric

Mirah

The Mountain Goats

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

My Brightest Diamond

My Morning Jacket

The National

Neil Young

Neko Case

New Found Glory

The New Pornographers

Nice Nice

Nice Purse

Nina Simone

Nirvana

No Age

No Doubt

NOFX

No Rey

No Use For a Name

Odetta

The Offspring

Of Montreal

Passion Pit

Patti Smith

Pavement

Pearl Jam

Pennywise

Phantogram

Phish

Pink

The Postal Service

The Presidents of the United States

Queens of the Stone Age

Radiohead

Rage Against the Machine

The Raincoats

The Ramones

Rancid

Ra Ra Riot

Regina Spektor

Red Hot Chilli Peppers

R.E.M.

Rilo Kiley

Rise Against

RZA

Salt ‘n’ Pepa

Santana

Sarah McLachlan

The Scissor Sisters

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings

Sheryl Crow

The Shins

Sigur Ros

Sleater-Kinney

Social Distortion

Sonic Youth

Sorry OK

Sound Garden

Stars

The States

Steel Train

Stone Temple Pilots

Straylight Run

Strike Anywhere

Sugarcult

Sum 41

The Summer Set

Surfer Blood

Sweet Secrets 

System of a Down

Ted Leo

Teenage Moods

Telekinesis

Tegan and Sara

Thao Nguyen

Thom Yorke

Those Darlins

Tom Waits

Tool

Tori Amos

Tupac Shakur

TV on the Radio

U2

Uh Huh Her

Usher

The Vacancy

Vampire Weekend

Veruca Salt

The Volcano Diary

Wavves

Whetherman

White Zombie

Wolf Mother

Wolf Parade

Women

Yann Tiersan

Yeasayer

Yellowcard

Yo La Tengo

Zola Jesus

 

 

 

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1Flesh is a new online organization promoting the message that condoms and hormonal contraception are ineffective at preventing STDs/STIs and unintended pregnancy as well as being harmful to the health and relationship of a couple. They believe that people should not have sex before they are married, and then should use a method of “birth control” called the Creighton Model, which is really just a suped-up version of the Rhythm Method (despite how much they tried to convince me otherwise).

Need to catch up?: Part 1: The Basics, Part 2: Religion, Part 3a: Education

This is part three of an in-depth interview I conducted by e-mail with Anna Buckley of 1Flesh, from July 15- 19. All of their responses are printed in full and unedited. My response and criticism can be found below.

1) What kind of government involvement, if any, is appropriate when it comes to sex education?

Tough question. The government has recently become involved with what for all time has been considered an intensely familial matter.

We imagine that a daughter told by her mother that she is beautiful, loved, of infinite value, worth a man who will cherish her as such, and that sex is a positive good and a total gift of self oriented in its nature and chemistry towards "forever," would be more likely to make holistic sexual choices and achieve inner happiness than if by watching a Planned Parenthood employee put a condom on a banana.

Similarly, we believe that a father telling his son that he is proud of him, that he loves him, that sex is a positive good and a total gift of self oriented in its nature and chemistry towards "forever," that it is no manliness to use women for pleasure, but it’s epically manly to sacrifice your desires for the good of your beloved, and to seek the woman who you will promise to be with forever, and once that promise is made, then fulfill that promise with your entire body in the act of sex — We believe this would be — in the long run — far more effective than being shown a slideshow of diseased penises and getting free rubbers from your gym teacher.

However, we’ve created a culture of awkwardness between parents and their kids, to the point where this discussion has become a far scarier one to have than it should be. We are inundated with the culture’s idea of sex from a young age, and thus parents feel like they’re competing with everything cool in a kid’s life. Want to talk to your son about this when he turns 12? 11 is the average age a boy is exposed to hardcore pornography. Want to tell your daughter her body is valuable and beautiful? She’s already seen the female body used to sell cars on TV.

So if the government is to be involved in sex education, we believe it should be finding people who can effectively speak against the current sexual culture that’s making everyone miserable. Maybe Obama could help us out. After all, he speaks very effectively on the importance of families staying together, and of fathers resisting the easy route of divorce and instead being present for their wife and children, to which we tip our hats.

2) Do you believe sex education courses belong in schools? If so, and if you were able to write the curriculum, what would you include?

See previous question. Add to it teaching the Creighton MODEL to girls.

3) As part of sex education classes, you would recommend the Creighton Model be taught to girls. If the boys in the class will presumably one day be married to women, isn’t it important for them to be familiar with the Creighton Model as well?

Absolutely. You’ve got fantastic ideas: Teach it to boys and girls — perhaps not together, as there could be a maturity gap in the discussion of things like luteal phases and mucus patterns — and watch the male respect of the intricacy and beauty of the female body soar.

4) You refer to girls as having "infinite value." How do you define this phrase? And is the same true for boys?

The value of the human person is immeasurable, priceless, and infinite. We hold this truth to be self-evident, that the value of all else pales and bows before the value of a single human life. And yes, the same is true for boys.

5) In your ideal conversation of how mothers talk to their daughters about sexuality, you say that girls are "worth a man who will cherish her as [having infinite value]." To me, this phrase suggests that her value is her virginity and her ability to become pregnant. I agree that every person deserves to have a partner (if they want one) that loves and cherishes them, and treats them well. But I don’t believe that virginity or fertility are the reasons someone deserves to be valued and treated well.

We had no intention of suggesting that a girl’s value is her virginity and her ability to become pregnant. That’s ridiculous. Girls are worth men who will cherish them as having infinite value for the simple reason that they are girls. That they are human persons. Dignity and infinite worth are products of being a human person, and girls — who are so often bombarded with the idea that their worth depends on being "hot", being productive, having sex, making children, being popular, being rich, etc. — need to be affirmed by their lovers in this manner: "You are of infinite value to me because you are."

6) Do you think it’s important for religion to be included in sexuality education?

No. Then again, we’re a little confused why it’s so important for the government to be involved with sex education, but whatever.

7) How does information of and access to condoms increase the chance of someone -who wants to remain abstinent- having sex?

There’s folks way more qualified to answer that question, so we’d again refer you to the following study.

Response and Criticism

1) The Federal Government has been involved with funding sex education programs, unfortunately giving hundreds of millions of dollars to abstinence-only programs that are proven failures. But there’s been no federal law about what is taught in these classes. Some states don’t require sex ed be taught at all. And the curriculum for sex education programs are decided largely by the school districts with consideration for community input.

Also, were you serious when you said that telling your child they’re loved is more effective at achieving a positive, health sexual outlook and practice than learning how to prevent STDs and pregnancy? I agree that the female body is often objectified in media, but, if anything, wouldn’t that make it easier to talk to your child about body image and sexual autonomy since you have so many accessible, cultural examples to make your point?

2) Much more on the Creighton Model later!

3) Since I don’t think you’re suggesting that the Creighton Model should start being taught in 5th or 6th grade (where they wouldn’t understand it anyway) or in jr. high (see how far you get talking about cervical music to a room of 13 year olds), I don’t think that a maturity gap is what you should be worried about.

4) If the term “infinite value” has the same meaning for boys as it does for girls, why have both times you said it, you’ve applied it to girls, especially considering that you made the choice to use different language for boys?

5) It’s a nice thought, but there’s no denying that girls are held to a much higher standard of “purity” than boys.

7) This link is to the Duke study, described above. If 1Flesh doesn’t feel they’re qualified to answer this basic question, I guess I’ll jump in. Knowing how to use a condom will not magically make a person who has chosen to be abstinent change their mind and make sex a “habit.” Sex is a personal and consensual choice. Just because I have a life-jacket doesn’t mean I’m going to go water skiing.

Next Up, in pt. 4: Sex

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1Flesh is a new online organization promoting the message that condoms and hormonal contraception are ineffective at preventing STDs/STIs and unintended pregnancy as well as being harmful to the health and relationship of a couple. They believe that people should not have sex before they are married, and then should use a method of “birth control” called the Creighton Model, which is really just a suped-up version of the Rhythm Method (despite how much they tried to convince me otherwise).

Need to catch up?: Part 1: The Basics, Part 2: Religion

This is part three of an in-depth interview I conducted by e-mail with Anna Buckley of 1Flesh, from July 15- 19. All of their responses are printed in full and unedited.

I assume you support abstinence-only programs. What are you thoughts on more comprehensive approaches? Also, how do you feel about classes including discussions on contraception being labeled comprehensive? To you, is it an appropriate term?

Actually, we find abstinence-only education decisively whack. Telling kids to just not have sex because it’ll give you STDs degrades the act of sex as ugly, patronizes the students as stupid, and — though we know there’s "evidence" both ways — doesn’t seem to be a magic cure.

Educating kids on contraception is no better. Such programs — well-intentioned though they may be — come with the philosophy that women cannot understand their own bodies, that men "are going to have sex anyways" and thus can’t control their bodies, and that the grand purpose of a thing as mind-blowing as sex is to satisfy a biological urge without biological consequences. There’s a reason the 2011 Duke study “Habit Persistence and Teen Sex”concluded that “programs that increase access to contraception are found to decrease teen pregnancies in the short run but increase teen pregnancies in the long run.” It creates a lame sexual c ulture, and reaps lame results.

No, if we had our way (which we’re entirely aware that we won’t) girls would be empowered to understand their own fertility cycle by being taught to chart with the Creighton MODEL, not as contraception, but as self-knowledge. Girls and guys would all learn about the nature of sex itself, in all its bonding beauty, from oxytocin to prostaglandins, from fetal development to pheremonal attraction. Girls would be told that they have immense value inherent in their very beings, and guys would be taken on a hike and told about how historically speaking, an essential part to manliness is the ability to battle and destroy our selfish passions, and to sacrifice ourselves for love.

We’re speaking unoffically, of course, and entirely off the top of our heads, of course, but the bottom line is this — elevate the sexual culture. It currently resides in the pits. We’ve got 1 in 5 women being raped, and 1 in 3 reporting some sort of sexual abuse. We’ve got untold millions of kids addicted to porn, and 63% of married women who’d rather be watching a movie than having sex with their husbands, and 1 in 4 teenage girls with an STD. Whatever we’ve been doing, it ain’t working.

So much to say here, so let me start with the Duke study and go from there. This is a quote from the Conclusion of the study you linked to:

There is much persistence in teen sexual behavior. If this habit persistence arises from a moral or psychological barrier that has been crossed once an individual has sex for the _rst time (a _xed cost) or the _rst time in a relationship (a transition cost), programs that increase rates of teen sexual activity may lead to higher pregnancy rates in the long run than in the short run.

I have issues with this and how you interpreted its meaning. First, yes, teens have sex. I don’t think I’d call sex a “habit,” though, and I certainly don’t think that in order to have sex you have to break through a “moral or psychological barrier.” The study also suggests that once you have sex (either for the first time or with a new partner) that sex is automatically a “habit” with a “cost.” They, and you, seem to say that birth control becomes less effective over time, which is not true. The only way that more sex leads to more pregnancy is that you have a greater number of possibilities of using birth control incorrectly or inconsistently. That’s not a problem with birth control. That’s a problem with poor education and limited access.

Now to the rest of it.

1) I’m glad that we both agree that abstinence-only programs are “whack.” Side note: No one has said “whack” in 15 years. What are you doing?
2) I disagree that learning about menstruation, sex, pregnancy, and contraception would make anyone feel like they “cannot understand their own bodies.”
3) Regardless of the type and quality of the sex education they are given, men are “going to have sex anyways;” 62% by the end of high school and 90% by the end of college. We agree that sex is a natural, healthy desire, but in my opinion, and in the facts, pre-marital sex is not due to an un-controlled (male) body; it’s about desire, pleasure, and fun. And it’s not cheapened by this. How can two people consenting to sexual pleasure be “cheap”? Also, who are you to decide whose sex is good enough?
4) Millions of kids are addicted to porn? Really?
5) Your solution to rape, sexual abuse, and STDs is to discourage the use of condoms? Come on now.

Can you comment on why you believe that sex has hormonal "bonding" elements? Why would it be necessary for the body to do this?

Well, from an evolutionary perspective it makes sense. If sex has the capacity to produce a new offspring, the last thing you want is your mate ditching you. It would ruin survival chances all around — especially for the offspring. Thus it seems that any individuals who became chemically bonded to each-other during sex — by chemicals like oxytocin — would have a greater chance of spreading their genes than individuals who didn’t. Natural selection would pick it up from there.

Actually, if we’re going to guess about the mating habits of primitive humans, I’d say it makes much more sense, evolutionarily, for a female to copulate with several males, ensuring that her children will be cared for by many.

You say "an essential part to manliness is the ability to battle and destroy our selfish passions." Doesn’t this suggest that sexual desire is harmful to young men? And doesn’t it assume that young women don’t also have strong sexual desires?

The key word here is "selfish" desires. Sexual desires are good, appropriate and beautiful. They make Shakespeare Shakespearean, and the world go round. The problem is that our culture tells men — and especially men — to take these beautiful desires — which by their nature look outwards, towards a beloved — and turn them inwards, making them selfish. Young men are inundated with the message that — in order to be a man — they have to get laid. Think about that term, "get laid." It’s entirely about "me." I get something. Not "I give myself", not "I share in something beautiful", but I get. When sexual desires become selfish, pornography makes a whole lot of sense. If it’s about me, who needs another person? The alarming fact that frequent viewers of pornography are more likely to believe that women enjoy rape, and more likely to label an act of sexual violence as sexual — and not violent — seems a natural consequence of divorcing sex from the idea of self-gift. If desires are selfish — about me — who cares about the other person? To which we here at 1Flesh react violently, and instead claim as our own a sexual culture that stands in radical, stark contradiction to the tyranny of selfishness: Sex as pure self-gift, all imitations be damned.

I 100% agree that using language like “get” and “take” instead of “give” and “share” are problematic (and patriarchal) when it comes to sexuality. I also agree that most pornography plays into these ideas. But I don’t think the idea of pornography is inherently selfish, and I certainly don’t think that it leads to a tyrannical sexual culture of selfishness. Yes, some people watch legitimately problematic porn, but I would suggest that material like that isn’t really about sex at all.

Can you cite the study where you read those stats on sexual violence?

It’s right here. There is a 22% increase in sexual perpetration; a 20% increase in negative intimate relationships; and a 31% increase in believing rape myths. A total sample size of 12,323 people comprised the present meta-analysis.

This study was conducted by the National Foundation for Family Research and Education. It appears that this Canadian organization does not have a website, and from everything else that I found on them, they appear to be on par with the American Family Association and the Family Research Council, both of which are listed as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Meaning I don’t take seriously anything coming out of these groups.

Next Up, in pt. 3b: Education (continued)

~ Samantha
Community Editor


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“We don’t have high paid lobbyists; we don’t have a lot of money. Here are some of the things we do have: the most people living with HIV & AIDS, the most poverty, the most sexually transmitted infections, the most people without health insurance, the most vulnerable populations, the fastest growing epidemic, the least access to healthcare, the highest mortality rates, and the least resources to deal with this crisis.” – Kathie Heirs, CEO AIDS Alabma

Kathie Heirs’ blunt summation illustrates the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the southern United States. Hiers and her organization AIDS Alabama, which is part of the Cultural Advocacy Mobilization Initiative (CAMI) at Advocates for Youth, appear in a new documentary entitled deepsouth. Directed by Lisa Biagiotti, the documentary follows the stories of individuals and communities fighting the spread of a HIV/AIDS epidemic in the domestic south. deepsouth examines the different facets of a culture that renders this epidemic invisible and perpetuates the silence around this issue. deepsouth shows that understanding the prevalence of HIV/AIDS is less about ‘that one time you should have used a condom’ and more about the compilation of factors (e.g. abstinence-only sex education, religious values, individualism, racism, homophobia, etc.) that lead to an epidemic.

The film premieres this week at the International AIDS Conference, which is under way here in Washington, DC. The conference and city is buzzing with hope for an AIDS free generation. With recent medical advances, like the FDA approval of Truvada and more clinical trials for HIV vaccines, Secretary Hilary Clinton’s goal of an AIDS free generation seems within reach. Yet, the focus on medicine and prevention do little to address the stigma and discrimination of HIV positive individuals or the real causes of a global epidemic. This week alone, HIV statistics on black men became consistent talking points and were publicized with few parallel messages on the discrimination, profiling and stereotyping of black men and the relations of sexism, racism, and heterosexism to a larger HIV/AIDS epidemic. Echoing Elton John, the key to developing a true global commitment to ending HIV/AIDS lies in deconstructing a fear of HIV/AIDS (HIV/AIDS phobia), a judgment of those living with it, and addressing other HIV/AIDS risk factors such as poverty and lack of education.

deepsouth pioneers this path by examining the cultural factors that contribute to discrimination through the lens of three main stories. Biagiotti follows Josh, a young, gay black man living with HIV in a rural community, Monica and Tammy, coordinators of a support group and retreat for HIV positive individuals, and Heirs, who tours the country seeking federal aid for the epidemic.

In an interview with The Baltimore Sun, Biagotti lays down the focus of her documentary:
The reality is that HIV is less about safe sex and more about safety nets. HIV is symptomatic of so many other social ills. Silence, stigma and judgment create layers of secrecy. They can’t be “fixed” without a deep dive into the underlying reasons behind why people are quiet, what they’re ashamed of and why they’re afraid.

The documentary’s premier is tonight at 7PM at E Street Cinemas in Washington D.C., and will screen tomorrow, Wednesday, July 25 at both 3PM and 7PM.

Stay tuned for a second blog post later this week that reviews the film and discusses the role of HIV/AIDS phobia and racism in HIV/AIDS activism.

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Just in time for the International AIDS Conference here in Washington, DC, this week Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced H.R. 6138, the Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic Act of 2012. This visionary bill creates a policy and financing framework for an AIDS-Free Generation.

Quoting from the Congresswoman’s press statement:

The Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic Act of 2012 increases and targets federal resources to maximize impact of HIV efforts, expands efforts to end stigma and discrimination, repeals and reforms laws that violate human rights and undermine the positive impact of resources, and maximizes federal coordinating efforts to drive greater efficiency and improved results in all HIV and related programs. The bill establishes a system to expand targeted efforts to prevent HIV infection using a combination of effective, evidence-based approaches and accelerated research and educational reforms to addressing the epidemic at home and abroad. The bill also provides for the expansion of comprehensive sex education, the distribution of condoms to people in prison, and improved provisions for monitoring HIV care.

In particular, the bill highlights the impact of the HIV & AIDS epidemic on young people both domestically and internationally as well as calls to expand comprehensive sex education and end funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.

Currently, there are 26 co-sponsors.

We applaud Congresswoman Lee for her leadership on this legislation and proudly support the bill and hope for its passage!

The text of the bill should be up soon and will be available here. For more information on the bill, check out this fact sheet.

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  Comprehensive sex education, one of the objective of yalc (youth activist leadership council) is the need of today’s generation education. Giving knowledge regarding sex education helps to overcome the risk of the sexual behaviour.Sex education, which is sometimes called sexuality education or sex and relationships education, is the process of acquiring information and forming attitudes and beliefs about sex, sexual identity, relationships and intimacy. Sex education is also about developing young people’s skills so that they make informed choices about their behaviour, and feel confident and competent about acting on these choices. It is widely accepted that young people have a right to sex education. This is because it is a means by which they are helped to protect themselves against abuse, exploitation, unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV and AIDS . It is also argued that providing sex education helps to meet young people’s rights to information about matters that affect them, their right to have their needs met and to help them enjoy their sexuality and the relationships that they form other. Research shows that teenagers who receive sex education that includes discussion of contraception are more likely than those who receive abstinence-only messages to delay sexual activity and to use contraceptives when they do become sexually active.
In Nepal , the subject has been introduced from class 6 but the srh information has been included only in class 9 and 10. The education about sex education has been overlapped with reproductive education which is almost different from each other.In the present curriculum , grade 6 and 8,includes only about reproductive areas like HIV ,methods of family planning and other STDS which really lags behinds the information regarding their bodily change and their curiosity regarding attraction towards the opposite sex and others. Students know more about more than those in text books through other sources by that time. Students are exposed to the subject much later than when they should actually have been. All the information is flooded in class 9 all of a sudden rather than gradually introducing age appropriate topics. Several topics are mentioned just but not explained. It means that the curiosity of the students will grow. For e.g.. Process of sex is mentioned but not explained. Similarly, abortion has just been mentioned, but with least explanation. And like the simple sharing information to parents and older siblings are also not included .if such things are focused and put in the curicullum then the students will share their curiosity and share their problems with their parents which will be guided in a right direction.

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Yesterday the CDC released the results of its Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance, a survey of 15,000 high school students around the nation that asks questions about a variety of health and safety behaviors.

The headline for sexual health was: no headline.

There were no statistically significant changes in the percent of young people who have ever had sex (47%), who are currently sexually active (34%), or who used condoms (60%) and/or the most effective forms of birth control (24%) at last sex.

The only statistically significant change was in HIV education, and it wasn’t good: the percentage of students taught in school about HIV has trended down since 1997 and went down between 2009 to 2011 (from 87% to 84%).

What lessons can we take from this?

1) No matter how much adults want to live in denial, a significant proportion of teens are having sex. Among seniors, 63 percent of students have already had sex and nearly half are currently sexually active.

2) Safer sex messages still haven’t taken hold among all young people. While it’s wonderful that so many young people are using condoms and birth control, those numbers need to be much closer to 100 percent, with all young people fully protected.

3) Every year fewer students are learning about HIV – and we already knew that less than a quarter have been tested for HIV. What’s causing this – the abstinence-only programs that have taken root around the nation? No Child Left Behind and the emphasis on standardized testing? Funding cuts in the current economic climate? Whatever the cause, the erosion of HIV education has to stop. Students’ lives depend on it.

Read the full Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance here. Also check out Martha Kempner’s discussion of the results on RH Reality Check.

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. ”..all the Lilly Ledbetter hypocrites who claim to be fighting the War on Women? Let’s hurl some acid at those female democratic Senators who won’t abide the mandates they want to impose on the private sector."

Hurling acid? Acid? Hurling acid in women’s faces. As if advocating an all-to-real threat of violence against women is an acceptable thing for a spokesman of a U.S. Representative to do.

This hideous quote came from Jay Townsend, a campaign spokesman for Congresswoman Nan Hayworth (R-NY). It appeared in a discussion (about gas prices!) on a Facebook page dedicated to dialogue within the district about local issues. There is so much in Townsend‘s quote, but I think we have to start with the acid; and that’s hard to do because I’m having a tough time conceptualizing how that quote could be said in this country and about some of our most powerful women. Actually, maybe that’s where I need to start. This did just happen in the United States. Our female political leaders were threatened with horrific violence. And worse, the Congresswoman he works for didn’t fired him. How is this true in 21st century America?

That question could be asked about a lot of things happening today, especially about women. How is access to birth control being threatened? How is getting an abortion today harder than it was 25 years ago? How are the bombings of Planned Parenthood clinics not considered domestic violence? The list continues: abstinence-only programs, filibustering the Paycheck Fairness Act and the DREAM Act, the serious lack of adequate parental leave, funding being cut for rape crisis centers and services for survivors of domestic violence, state constitutional bans on marriage equality, the ongoing 30+ year fight for an Equal Rights Amendment, mental health centers being closed, employment discrimination; it never ends. The reality is that this is the kind of environment that allows misogynists to threaten to throw acid into the faces of accomplished women.

This cannot be where our progress has led us, and yet this really happened. This is what happens under the ideology of wanting to put women “in their place.” Now this is where the other parts of the quote come in. Jay Townsend threatened these 12 women while accusing some of them of not paying their female staffers as much as they pay the men in their offices. That’s what he means by “Lilly Ledbetter hypocrites.” I have to note, though, that this claim is a bit sketchy.

While I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised if the national wage gap was just as true in the halls of Congress as it is anywhere else, the report that he is pulling this information from isn’t exactly…visible. In his Facebook comment, Townsend linked to an article from a conservative newspaper called the Washington Free Beacon (note: that’s beacon, not bacon; I read it wrong the first time and was pretty confused) which claims that they analyzed information on how much Senate staffers are paid, and concluded that 37 of the 50 Senators in the Democratic caucus pay their female employees less than their male employees.

I was curious about this, and searched the article for a link to the study. It wasn’t there. So I tried to track it down myself, but every website that came up just linked back to the WFB article. Suspicious. Next, I tried to contact the writer through Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail, asking to be sent the report. Haven’t heard back yet. I then tried looking up the information myself, but each Senator has between 50 and 80 staffers working for them, and it would be impractical for me to nose dive into such a huge project. Which, of course, also made me wonder why the Washington Free Beacon felt it was necessary to take the time right now to do such a laborious analysis. Curious.

Townsend, though, tries to use this claim as proof of the Democrats being the ones waging a war on women. He gets very confused, though, as he appears to say that the democratic women are hurting women by not following the Lilly Letter Act or the proposed Paycheck Fairness Act, and that that’s a bad thing, yet hates that they are trying to pass the PFA because it would force employers to pay their employees fairly, which is also apparently a bad thing. And then of course he also seems to be under the impression that the LLA and PFA only apply to private sector workers, which of course means that it wouldn’t apply to Senate staffers, but this, of course, is not true either.

Now, I mentioned earlier that Townsend had not been fired. The following is what has been happening since his statement. Townsend posted his comment on Facebook on May 26th. Six days later, Congresswoman Hayworth put out a statement, also on Facebook, calling the resulting outcry a “manufactured controversy.”

This is a manufactured controversy by a campaign operation that has, for months, hurled offensive rhetoric and imagery at Nan Hayworth on various Facebook pages, including the one mentioned today. It is a matter of public record that the moderator of the page in question, while purporting to represent an objective point of view, is on the payroll of the Becker campaign.

Wait, wait, wait. Stop. Hold up. So, you’re blaming your opponent’s campaign for your spokesperson threatening to burn women’s faces with acid and you’re wondering why people are upset? You really don’t see that they had an incredibly valid reason for being pissed; that all the evidence was there, and didn’t need any ginning up to seem outrageous? Is that what you thought? You’re a United States Congresswoman. Really?!?!

Two days after that, Townsend chose to resign. Note: He was NOT fired. He resigned. To be clear- he threatened to throw acid at women, and the woman he worked for chose not to fire him. Just to be clear. His announcement of his resignation, (say it with me!) over Facebook, still managed to make the whole thing worse.

It was stupid because my words were easily misconstrued; thoughtless because my choice of words obscured a point I was trying to make, and insensitive because some have interpreted the comment as advocating a violent act.

I’m sorry; your words were “misconstrued”?!? “Obscured”?!? Wrongly “interpreted” by “some” to be “advocating a violent act”?!?

Please! Tell me what is it exactly about “Let’s hurl some acid at those female Democratic Senators,” that I misinterpreted as advocating violence.

Please. Really. I’d love to see you try.

Rep. Nan Hayworth can be contacted through her Facebook page, her website, or at her office, at 202-225-5441.

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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Amplify has the stories you need to hear! With so many great contributors from all over the world, you definitely don’t want you to miss out on the top insightful and informative stories of the week. Check in each week for a list of must-read posts. Whether it’s a national story or a individual experience, these are the issues you care about!

May 20- May 26

Stats this week: 13 posts by 12 writers

Pieces of Me: Gay in the Rio Grand Valley- by JamesMLee

Inside this post:

I knew from a very early age I was gay. When I entered elementary, things became very clear to me. I wanted to hold other boys’ hands, I would give them flowers instead of punches, something felt different. At first, I think some adults were amused by this, although as time went on, I noticed a change in their reactions toward me, it was then I first realized I couldn’t "behave" that way.

“Toning It Down” Isn’t A Solution- by Amplify_Staff

Inside this post:

Ten reports of bullying, a group assault on one young person, and the result is that young person is expelled. No penalties for the bullies – they ran off while school police arrested Darnell.

Media Justice and Privacy? May It Exist?- by Media_Justice

Inside this post:

Women of Color’s bodies are always on display in various ways. The messages this sends is that folks have the right and privilege to speak on, examine, watch, and follow us. We are socialized into thinking this is okay because it is “normal” to do without really examining what it does to women and girls of Color. And when we speak on and up about our privacy, about this hyper-visibility and display we are not taken seriously, ignored, erased, and targeted for other forms of violence (i.e. name calling, defamation, threats, intimidation, and physical violence).

Thank you to everyone who posted a blog this week! You are part of what makes this community great!

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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My post this week: Abstinence-Only Programs and Rape Culture: A Cartoon

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If you feel like you’ve heard this message before, it was probably part of an abstinence-only program. These inaccurate, misleading programs use shame, intimidation, and fear to try to convince young people that sex, sexuality, and sensuality are dangerous. Similar to the cultural messages that tell women not to get raped instead of telling men not to rape, these messages rely on the belief that male sexuality is so strong and inevitable that it is out of their control and that female sexuality, which is not as essential, needs to be guarded. Further, these beliefs assume that there are certain rules of conduct that women must adhere to in order to protect themselves from unrestrained, male sexual aggression; rules that if they don’t follow to a tee, others could socially and legally presume that they got what they “wanted” or “asked for.”

In the cartoon, a baby says a word they don’t really understand and dances to a song by wiggling her butt. And the mother’s right- it’s adorable. In the third frame, the mother gives her teenage daughter a short skirt. By this age, the daughter obviously feels comfortable with her body, evidenced by her short top and shorts. In a culture that constantly tells girls that they should feel bad about their bodies, however they look and however healthy they are, it’s actually a good sign that this teen appears to enjoy her body the way it is and seems to have no shame in it. Brava.

The fourth frame, showing an unintended pregnancy- judging by her bowed head, lowered eyes, and frown- curiously depicts the mother brought to her knees in tears, asking, “Where did I go wrong?” I say curiously because the only clues we are given about their mother/daughter interaction involve a cute baby or toddler and a teenager receiving a short skirt. None of these have anything to do with an unplanned pregnancy.

Unless of course you believe what you were taught in an abstinence-only program.

The fourth frame implies that women who swear, shake their butts when they dance, and wear short clothing are in some way responsible for becoming impregnated because of these things. If you believe this, you must also believe that girls who don’t swear, don’t move while dancing, and don’t show “too much” of their skin would have somehow avoided this. The “logic” in this way of thinking depends on the belief that the difference between sex leading to pregnancy and no sexual activity is what the girl or woman is wearing and how she acts.

This line of thinking completely ignores and rejects the actions that actually have an impact on sexual activity and pregnancy. First, I have to question why all the “blame” is put on the mother. She’s not the one experiencing an unintended pregnancy. This is not at all to say that the daughter should be “blamed,” but that blaming the mother assumes that her daughter was incapable of controlling her sexual desires and urges and unable to use some form of contraception. Why is there this assumption? I believe it has to do with the irrational fear that many adults (particularly parents) have that teen sexuality is uncontrollable and inherently dangerous. The cartoon assumes that because her mother let her swear, dance, and wear short skirts, what else could have possibly happened but an unintended pregnancy? It assumes that the daughter is a mindless being who doesn’t know how to make her own decisions about her body and her sexuality. If mothers want to help their daughters avoid unintended pregnancy, they first have to realize and respect that their daughters are capable of making personal, sexual choices.

Second, there is no mention whatsoever in the cartoon of any form of sexual education. A medically accurate, fact-based, comprehensive sexual education would provide this teenager with all the information, tools, skills, and confidence to make informed decisions about her sexual expression and activity. These fact-based classes, which rely on science and reality rather than myths and assumptions, have been proven to be more effective at reducing incidences of unintended pregnancy. Studies of abstinence-only programs, on the other hand, have repeatedly proven their short-comings and failures.

In the cartoon, the mother asks herself, “Where did I go wrong?” The answer is certainly not in short skirts. What she should be asking herself is: Why didn’t we talk about sex? Why wasn’t I sure that she was using a reliable method of birth control? Why didn’t she know about the morning-after pill? Why did she feel that being sexually active was so taboo that she couldn’t talk to me about it?

Swearing, dancing, and short skirts do not cause pregnancy. Things that actually lead to unintended pregnancies include not having: knowledge of how pregnancy happens, information on how various methods of contraception work to prevent pregnancy, skills in talking about relationship dynamics, free and safe access to birth control, and a safe, respectful environment in which enthusiastic consent is continually asked for and given.

The mother in the cartoon ignores and rejects all of these things. This is dangerous because it perpetuates the myths that young women must protect themselves from men by strictly following someone else’s sexist rules. Worse, while these rules portend to give a woman control and power, they end up taking power away from her by insinuating that even if she had factual knowledge of pregnancy and birth control, her choice to wear a short skirt matters more. That regardless of what she knows, it’s how others choose to, and are culturally taught to, react to what she’s wearing that makes the difference. Basically, she either follows her own rules and gets raped, or she gives up her rights to decide for herself and hopes to not get raped regardless.

I’d rather choose what to do with my own body and expect that the men around me are not brutish animals, but rather respectful human beings who understand that my voice matters more than my skirt.

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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Amplify has the stories you need to hear! With so many great contributors from all over the world, you definitely don’t want you to miss out on the top insightful and informative stories of the week. Check in each week for a list of must-read posts. Whether it’s a national story or a individual experience, these are the issues you care about!

April 29- May 5

Stats this week: 55 blogs by 31 writers

Top Five Ways to Support Young Activists: Lessons from the “Heart of It All”- by ashthom

Inside this post:

I am not going to lie – in doing the work that I do, I get tired. It is grueling at times, and I get a little sick of older people telling me my generation is apathetic. That’s why it was so refreshing to see two of the most prominent women in the United States praise something that passionate young people organized.

Risk of Negligence- by peepee

Inside this post:

HIV positive youth come from all different backgrounds; however recent studies show that 75 percent of HIV positive teens (13 to 19 years old) were African, even though only 17 percent of all young people are Africans. Unlike young men, the vast majority of young women get HIV through heterosexual sex (sex between a male and female), because Young women are especially vulnerable.

Republicans Further Demonstrate Inability to Address Sexual Health: VAWA edition- by ashthom

Inside this post:

Republicans simply do not support the types of services and policies necessary to prevent violence. Instead they stick their heads in the sand to avoid addressing the root causes of violence, because it causes them to question their privilege and beliefs.

Unconditional- by cavve_sol

Inside this post:

So, I’ve been volunteering as an Abortion Doula for the past few months, and it’s really been amazing. The womyn I meet, the stories we share with each other, the tears that pass, the hands held in the brightly lit sterile room… I’ve also been battling just as long it seems with others in my life about the supposedly horrible thing I am doing, the kind of work I am dedicating myself to.

Taking Action Across Texas- by Garrett Mize

Inside this post:

We had approximately 30 young people attended each training. They learned extensive information on grassroots organizing and civic engagement. In particular they learned tactics like voter registration, block-walking (canvassing) and phone-banking. Each of our student chapters will be using these skills through the next semester to register thousands of students across Texas to vote.

New Action Alert: Tell the Obama Administration to Stop Endorsing a Sexist and Homophobic Curriculum- by Amplify_Staff

Inside this post:

President Obama has said he is working toward women’s equality and ending sexism. He has shown his support for contraception as a part of basic health care. And he has spoken out against homophobia and bullying of LGBT students. Yet the Administration has allowed Heritage Keepers onto a short list of HHS-approved programs, in direct contradiction of those principles.

The Church, Privacy and Individual Freedoms- by Ricaadoe

Inside this post:

I believe this is a dangerous standard by which to determine how society progresses or evolves, since scripture itself cannot evolve, it is static. [...] As society’s understanding of human attitudes, relations and needs evolve, there will arise a need for renewal and change. Where the church opposes this, the state must assert itself as the proper guardian of the liberties of all citizens.

Looking Back on Spring 2012- by kenzie

Inside this post:

We set up our table with a cardboard cutout of Rick Perry, our current governor and the second largest support of failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs (George W. Bush is still #1 though!) so that students could write him a message and stick it to him, literally, with a sticky note.

Thank you to everyone who posted a blog this week! You are part of what makes this community great!

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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Blogs I wrote this week:
The Female Body in YA Fiction
In Context: Criticisms of the SlutWalk Movement (trigger warning)
Think of the Children!
Republican Policies on Rape, Incest, and Abortion