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May 18, 2013
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?
May 17, 2013
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.
IYSO Council Member
May 17, 2013
May 13, 2013
May 8, 2013
TODAY, the North Carolina House of Representatives will be debating a bill (HB 693) that would require teenagers notarized parental consent form in order to access STD testing and treatment, mental health counseling, pregnancy prevention or care, or substance abuse treatment. Teenagers without a parent or guardian would be required to stand before a judge and request a judicial bypass in order to obtain those health services.
Let’s do a quick before and after:
RIGHT NOW, a young person in North Carolina can see a doctor for STD testing and treatment, mental health counseling, pregnancy prevention and care, or substance abuse treatment WITHOUT parental consent.
IF THIS LAW PASSES: A young person would need NOTARIZED parental permission to see a doctor for any and all of these services (including abortion).*
Obvious problematic scenarios arise: For example, a young woman who may be sexually active may decide to forgo birth control because she is not willing to speak with their parents. There’s also the question of how often signatures are required? Is it every time you get a pap test or every time you pick up monthly contraception or antidepressant prescriptions? Does this include OTC contraception? Would young people need notarized parental permission to buy condoms?
The bill is so vague that it offers more questions than answers and the answers we do have are problematic and dangerous for young people’s health and safety.
If this law passes, North Carolina would be the ONLY state in the U.S. to amend that parental consent requirements include STD testing and treatment and mental health counseling.
It’s also worth noting that even though every state has some type of parental consent law in some form or fashion, NO state has ever required notarization. That extra step will undoubtedly make it harder for young people in North Carolina to access the services they need to lead healthy lives.
The bill is going to the House today. I hope the House leadership feels embarrassed about how far this bill goes and does the right thing for young people in their state. Crossing my fingers that House leadership doesn’t allow this crazy to go any further!
If you live in North Carolina, I recommend contacting Republican members of the House to let them know why you’re concerned about this bill. They need to hear your perspective as a young person, parent, or professional to know about how truly outrageous this effort is for our young people’s safety and health.
*However, Title X clinics, meaning any clinic which receives federal funding under Title X and including all Planned Parenthood clinics, must still by law offer confidential STI testing and treatment, and contraception, regardless of any state law.
May 7, 2013
This past March I became a Public Affairs Fellow with Planned Parenthood here in Columbia. In April, we launched our Prevention First Campaign. The campaign consists of various tabling events throughout the summer and canvassing in the Columbia area. The goal of the campaign is to urge our lawmakers to put prevention first by promoting more comprehensive sex ed for youth. Canvassers are still needed for the project, if interested please email email@example.com. Each canvasser will receive a stipend for each completed canvassing shift. For additional information on this project, please visit the website at http://www.ppaction.org/site/MessageViewer?em_id=22046.0
May 3, 2013
There are so many rumors and theories about Plan B and other emergency contraception that it can become very difficult to differentiate fact from fiction, and unfortunately, many people believe the falsified rumors over what EC actually does. Emergency contraception is NOT an abortion pill and it will NOT terminate a pregnancy if you are already pregnant. Emergency contraception just prevents you from becoming pregnant just like any other birth control. In fact, EC is just a higher dosage of the pill you take every day.
That is why this new decision to finally remove the arbitrary and harmful age restriction on emergency contraception is so vital. Sometimes it can seem easier to believe that youth under a certain age are not having sex and, therefore, are not in need of condoms or birth control, but we cannot ignore the facts. The fact that the US has some of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the world, for instance. Other nations view sexual and reproductive health including for youth to be a matter of public health and public policy. It becomes the entire nation’s duty and cause to look out for their youth in all areas of their life- including the ones we don’t want to talk about. The US is slowly on its way to realizing this truth and hopefully it will bring many more changes like this one along with it. For more information on emergency contraception, you can visit our website at www.morningafterinfo.org or text SEXT to 74574.
May 2, 2013
Last week, governments from around the world met at the United Nations for the 46th Commission on Population and Development (CPD). Throughout the week-long deliberations, governments, UN agencies, demographers, and NGOs debated the topic of migration and its relationship to the 1994 ICPD Programme of Action—a groundbreaking declaration which signaled a major shift in population policy from one based on population control to one based on human rights, including sexual and reproductive health (SRH).
What’s migration got to do with sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), you ask? Well, just about everything.
Today, more women are migrating than ever before, representing nearly half of the total international migrant population, and in some countries, as much as 70 to 80 percent. And young migrants under the age of 29 make up half of all global migrants. During the process of migration, women and girls tend to be more vulnerable to human rights violations, particularly SRHR violations, including violence, exploitation, and sexual coercion. Moreover, migrant women and young people are also at increased risk of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections due to inadequate access to health services, including SRH services. As a result, ensuring access to SRHR information and services and protection of women’s and young people’s rights was our number one goal at the CPD.
So, how’d we do? Well, this year’s CPD proved interesting, to say the least. Traditionally progressive countries that fight every year to advance SRHR found themselves in a bit of a pickle given their countries’ rather regressive migration policies. Against the backdrop of comprehensive immigration reform playing out on Capitol Hill, the US delegation—typically a stalwart champion of young people’s SRHR and LGBT rights—sought to include language restricting access to non-emergency services to only those migrants who are documented or in legal status. The same was true for other Global North countries like the UK, Canada, Denmark, and the EU. At the same time, conservative countries with strong religious views (think Nigeria, Egypt, Qatar, Honduras, Malta, and Poland) joined forces with the Holy See (aka, the Vatican) to denounce any inclusion of SRHR or sexual orientation and gender identity. Discussions grew more and more tense by the day, resulting in an eventual breakdown of the negotiations and a final “take it or leave it” declaration drafted by the chair of the commission.
From a youth SRHR perspective, the declaration is just so-so. Here’s my take on it.
And the Ugly:
After a groundbreaking resolution on adolescents and young people at last year’s CPD, we’ve certainly got our work cut out for us to ensure young people’s rights are front and center in the 20-year review of the ICPD in 2014 and in the post-2015 development agenda. We simply cannot afford to go backwards; we need forward progress if we are ever to see the full implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action.
Apr 29, 2013
Being able to attend the 46th Untied Nation Commission on Population and Development during the 22nd and 26th of April was definitely a great experience for me. While entering the UN not as a tourist excited me since my dream since childhood is to be able to work for the UN, attending the sessions enabled me to have a deeper understanding of the political debate of sexual and reproductive health and rights at an international level.
This year’s CPD focused on “demographic changes and new trends in migration”. Although the meeting started somewhat like a statistical presentation, the debate over the resolution quickly started around numbers of red-lights issues.
The first, without any doubt, was around the sexual and reproductive health and rights. Although I definitely understood the cultural differences among countries and their reasons for arguing against SRHR, at some point, the debate became too frustrated for me to continue engaging since the oppositions started to become irrational. The misunderstanding of SRHR was huge. The major argument of oppositions was SRHR=abortion without realizing all other great things that SRHR promoted—for example, maternal health, empowering women, and in fact, with proper use of contraception method, abortion, especial unsafe abortion, could be avoid. However, they argued one-sidely about abortion. But, as a matter of fact, they themselves also argued for better health of mothers as well as economic opportunity for migrants—which was ironic because to achieve all of these goals, promoting SRHR is necessary.
The second red-light issue that received a lot focuses was the argument of national sovereignty and migrants’ equal access to services. This debate was actually heart-breaking for me to observe. Apparently, while conservative countries remained in opposition, countries which had a tradition of supporting universal human rights turned against migrants’ rights majorly with the consideration of national sovereignty and the fear of undocumented migrants’ usage of social welfare. As a politician put in his words—“I don’t care the human rights of migrants, because they are in my country, they need to play by my rules.”
Rules, or as a delegation stated during the plenary—“legal status and regulation”, separated migrants’ rights from universal human rights and turned the discussion during the 46th UN CPD into a debated of “us” and “them”. While migrants should be considered as natural human beings, their manmade titles such as “undocumented” make them subject to structural violence—defined by Johan Galtung as a form of violence where some social structure or social institution purportedly harms people by preventing them from meeting their basic needs—created by legal systems which are intended to protect universal human rights but become institutions only for “us”, not “them”.
Consequentially, this legal barrier makes migrants, especially those undocumented migrants, more vulnerable to ill health. On the one hand, administrative hurdle and legal status, sometimes couple with other social risk factors such as poverty, stigma, and social exclusion, lead to the lack of social security and protection for migrants which cause the exacerbation of health conditions may due to migrants’ suffering of human trafficking, sexual violence, and exploitation, on the other hand, legal status also blocks migrants’ access to services. As a result, migrants face a health disparity that sometimes even cannot be voiced due to legal barriers. For example, migrant women frequently endure sexual coercion and abuse, without the ability to report these crimes to a local authority; young migrants are often afraid to access health services for fear of discrimination, detention or deportation because of their migratory status. In fact, I have a much deeper understanding of this fear. On the one hand, during my spring trip to Immokalee, Florida with the George Washington University Alternative Spring Break program, I heard lots of stories from undocumented migrant workers there about their inability to use healthcare services. One young lady said she had to turn to unsafe abortion method because she entered the country illegally and was afraid hospitals would report her to the government. On the other hand, as an international student with legal status, I still cannot fully utilize health services like an American citizen. As a result, I urge countries to ensure migrants’ equal access to basic health services regardless their legal status and their ability to pay. I also hope to call for international society’s recognition of migrants’ rights as human rights.
The last thing I learnt from CPD was the importance of NGOs. Imaging the one-week debate among politicians will determine people’s lives around the world made me somewhat cannot accept. Although I totally understood each nation’s position and the obligations for its own politicians to stand for the position, I also felt there lack a representation of the real people in the country. While the nation may argue from a religious point of view to against SRHR, it was the people who were suffering from this decision. As a result, NGOs are very important because they are the channels of the real voices and demands of people. I am very proud of myself can be part of this channel for young people’s voice to be heard.
Apr 27, 2013
« 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.
By Max Smith
Apr 22, 2013
Social justice and environmental justice have a very direct
correlation. The environmental movement and the feminist movement both
advocate for the health of humanity, but in different ways. There are
many subject matters that exemplify this intersectionality.
For example, the way people use and abuse nature can easily be
compared to how society uses and abuses women.
Toxic Chemicals. We clearly need to do something about how easy it is
for major companies to slowly pollute our bodies and our earth. There
are over 84,000 chemicals in popular consumer products and only 200
have been tested. When chemicals even are tested it is primarily on
men, so these companies clearly do not care about the effect they are
having on women’s bodies. Some of these chemicals are made from toxins
that pollute our water and air. Many of these chemicals have been
shown to cause infertility, low sperm counts, sexual dysfunction,
miscarriage, and different types of cancer. Not to mention women use
personal care products far more often than men and are therefore more
negatively affected. Here at ETSU we’re celebrating Earth Day with a
festival and a young man best summarized it when he said “unnatural
chemicals don’t make natural beauty.”
Not everyone can afford ridiculously expensive so-called “natural
organic” personal care products to keep themselves and their children
healthy. In addition, toxic waste dumps are disproportionately located
near minority communities. Women of color are targeted by systematic
racist beauty standards convincing them to buy hair relaxers and skin
lightening creams with chemicals that have severe damage potential.
For example, the chemicals found in common African-American hair
products are known endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). EDCs are
linked to a range of reproductive health issues, like premature
puberty, gynecologic cancer, and birth defects. Look at who is hurting
the most by toxic chemicals. This is clearly a social justice issue
activists need to rise up against.
Quick Fact: 80% of federal transportation funds go to highways while
only 20% goes to mass transit. Not only does this hurt inner city
communities, but it’s a contributing factor to global warming.
Reproductive Justice. You know what’s really hurting our resources?
Overpopulation. People are using up far more than they need to and it
is growing out of control. If reproductive health options were more
readily available this would alleviate a great deal of that
Here is a quick review on what the Toxic Substances Control Act is and
why we need it to be updated. This site also helps teach you on how
you can help.http://www.saferchemicals.org/resources/opinion.html
Find out what is in your cosmetics:
Wake up to the threat of toxic chemicals!
www.rhtp.org/fertility/ToxicZombie.asp (Many resources used in the
writing of this blog were obtained from this site.)
“Toxic Combination: Fact Sheet on Toxic Chemicals and Reproductive
Health”—Center for American Progress:
“Women of Color are at Greater Risk for Toxic Chemical
Exposure”—Women’s Voices for the Earth:
Apr 17, 2013
The GetHip DC line is a resource for you to find information about sexual health. It’s free and available 24/7.
You can get info about STDs and birth control, as well as where to go locally for help. Just text GetHipDC to 74574
Apr 15, 2013
Today while at work i saw several women who were with-child and a thought popped in my head, “why are these women getting pregnant and the economy is so unstable?” this came to mind because these women were not in the best of jobs, they were the lunch lady and several janitorial staff members i began to think to myself “how will they provide for their new child? how are they going to manage? i make good money and i can barely manage!” it may seem weird but its a genuine thought which led me to google and i searched for some statistics in jamaica for womens access to contraceptives and how pregnancy intertwines with poverty.
The information below was taken from the Jamaica National Family Planning Board;
Jamaica, as elsewhere in the Caribbean, adolescent pregnancy presents a serious social and health problem ( McNeil, 1983 ). Before the age of 20, 40 % of Jamaican women have been pregnant at least once, and 85 % of these pregnancies are unplanned. Sexual activity begins at an early age for many Jamaicans, in the early teens and even pre-teen years. Among 15 year olds, the youngest age group surveyed in the 1993 Contraceptive Prevalence Survey, 35 % of females and 43 % of males reported having had sexual intercourse. The younger adolescents begin sexual activity, the less likely they are to use contraception, thus increasing their risk of pregnancy (Morris et al, 1995).
Early childbearing often ends a young woman’s education, limiting her future job prospects, and thus her own and her child’s economic well-being. Among Jamaican women ages 15 – 24 who have ever been pregnant, almost 1/ 3 became pregnant while in school, and almost 60 % of these pregnancies occurred before the fourth year of secondary school. Among adolescent females who became pregnant before the fourth year of school, only 14 % of those returned to school after the birth of their child. Among adolescents who became pregnant while in primary school, 20 % returned to school ( Morris et al, 1995 ).
Adolescent sexual activity and pregnancy in Jamaica have been associated with such factors as poverty, absence of male role models in the home, and a social context of conservative sexual ideals coexisting with tacit approval of early childbearing. Jamaica’s education system may also contribute to early sexual activity and unintended pregnancy. Children who do not gain admittance to a traditional, college preparatory high school after elementary school are viewed as failures by parents, teachers, and society. Smith (1993 ) found that students who attended “all-age” and “new secondary” schools are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem, a trait that may be related to early sexual activity and pregnancy. In general, the type of school attended is associated with social class, with children from the lower socioeconomic strata more likely to attend the all-age and new secondary schools that generally do not prepare their students for university education.
% of Young Adult Women Aged 15 – 24 Who Before The Age of Menarche Received Information From Parents / Guardians on Menstruation And How Pregnancy Occurs
And Who Before Initiating Sexual Relations Received Information On How Pregnancy Occurs By Selected Characteristics
|Before Menarche Had info. on menstruation (%)||Before Menarche Had info. on pregnancy (%)||Before 1st sex Had info. on pregnancy (%)|
|13 or more years||75.3||69.4||67.5|
1997 Reproductive Health Survey ( RHS )
Slightly more than 1/3 of women reported receiving no information from their parents or guardians on menstruation before their first menstrual period; corresponding % were similar for pregnancy information before menarche and before first sex. Also, as might be expected, parents were more likely to give this information to their children if they are in a higher education or socioeconomic category.
Apr 10, 2013
Only 23% of sexually active teens have been tested for HIV. Are you one of them? Find free or low-cost clinics near you!
Apr 10, 2013
Today is National Youth HIV and AIDS Awareness Day. This disease has been robbing our generation of precious young people for many years and now is the time to take a stand and fight for our generation back. I am happy to support this day and I have hopes that it will evolve into a mass movement amongst the young people of this generation. Knowledge is power! By raising awareness and promoting prevention young people will have the power to fight HIV and AIDS.
Apr 10, 2013
While Boston College is against adult students at the college using and having access to condoms my college LOVED when the student government gave out condom flowers on Condom Day.
I am one part of my college’s Undergrad Student Governments Health Programming Board. Our campus has a health clinic like many other college campuses however, a lot of students do not know about it. In an effort to get more of my peers to know about the clinic and to be more mindful of the sexual health I decided to make condom flowers for Valentine’s Day and give them away to students.
Apr 6, 2013
A few weeks back I listened attentively to ‘SOS Doctor’, one of the best health programs that be on Radio in Cameroon. As I listened, I got very happy at the great job that Dr. Dion Grace, a member of the National AIDS Control Committee of Cameroon was doing to educate Cameroonians on anti-retroviral drugs. She eloquently and insightfully answered every one of the questions that were posed to her by listeners who called-in and am sure her intervention in the program was a timely one. Everything was fine until when a listener called-in to ask what is it that could be done to reduce stigma on people who are on anti-retroviral drugs. Dr. Dion as usual gave a very insightful answer to this question going as far as citing the example of Ivory Coast where the drugs are put in anonymous packages so that they can be taken by patients without fear of stigma by the people around them. She went ahead to cite cases where some special containers of various doses is been used in some countries to reduce stigma. This was quiet interesting to know, but when she started advising people on anti-retroviral that they could tell people around them that they are taking vitamins or pills in order to avoid stigmatization I grumbled the following to myself: Do I have to be so ashamed of my status that I have to lie to others?
I have no statistics on this but I can assure you that having to lie on your HIV status is the order of the day in Cameroon especially amongst young people to avoid stigma and discrimination. Well, this to an extend is understandable given that People Living With HIV/AIDS(PLWHA) are considered as being punished by God for either their sisns or those committed by their family. But when telling a lie to avoid stigma is a behaviour that is reinforced health professionals, I have reservations and clearly doubt how efficient this approach could be.
I am utterly convinced that a problem can only be solved if its root cause(s) is/are carefully tackled. As a young person living in a society where most PLWHA are young persons, I compare telling a lie on your HIV/AIDS status to survive to deliberately refusing to tackle the problem from it’s source and launching an attack on its leaves instead.
To reduce stigma in the most sustainable way possible, education rather than lies is required.Young People, their families, and the communities in which People on anti-retroviral drugs have to be educated on the dangers of stigma and on the importance of accepting PLWHA. Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations’ Secretary-General, vividly spelt out society’s responsibility to PLWHA when he declared that, “We can fight stigma. Enlightened laws and policies are key. But it begins with openness, the courage to speak out. Schools should teach respect and understanding. Religious leaders should preach tolerance. The media should condemn prejudice and use its influence to advance social change, from securing legal protections to ensuring access to health care.”
Lies do nothing but contribute in amplifying the myth around HIV/AIDS in the Cameroonian society. People on anti-retroviral drugs do not need to lie on their status to survive stigma, they need to accept themselves as they are and deserve the care and protection that every other human being is due by the society in which they live.They deserve to live a real life and not a life of lies.
Apr 6, 2013
Here is Advocates for Youth’s statement on today’s landmark decision removing age and ID restrictions from emergency contraception!
Today young women across the country have something to cheer about. After a decade-long struggle in which politics trumped science and common sense, young women and their partners will now have access to back-up birth control without unnecessary and burdensome restrictions. Emergency contraception is a safe, effective method of birth control that can prevent pregnancy in the first few days after unprotected sex.
Federal District Judge Edward Korman’s ruling directs the Food and Drug Administration to remove the age restrictions on emergency contraception within 30 days and allow the back-up birth control on pharmacy shelves with no age or identification restrictions.
“The burden on young women has been lifted. No longer will back-up birth control be unnecessarily locked up behind the counter, out of reach for too many young women,” stated Debra Hauser, President of Advocates for Youth. “Access to the full range of safe, reliable contraception is an essential part of basic health care. For too long politics has stood in the way.”
Prior to this ruling, women under 17 years old were required to obtain a prescription from a physician for emergency contraception. For women 17 and older, it could only be purchased upon request and with adequate identification. For years, medical experts including the American Academy of Pediatrics have agreed that emergency contraception is safe for over-the-counter use by young women.
Tanisha Humphrey knows first-hand the burden of denying access to contraception. Her story is just one of many before today’s ruling:
“During my freshman year in college, my birth control failed. I was suddenly facing the possibility of getting pregnant my first semester in college and I was terrified. I was over 18, but I didn’t have identification to prove it. I've never felt so powerless, never so at the mercy of someone else for something so important. I am thrilled by the court’s decision today so that another young woman will not go through what I did and can take responsible steps to protect themselves from an unintended pregnancy.”
“We urge Secretary Sebelius to expedite the court’s ruling,” Ms. Hauser continued. “Advocates for Youth will continue to advocate on behalf of all young women to ensure true access to the full-range of contraceptive options – including ensuring contraceptives are affordable and available.”
Apr 5, 2013
Hello fellow reproductive justice champions!
Ever struggled to have a conversation about which method best suits a your particular lifestyle, finances, and preferences? Or, have you struggled to find trustworthy and easy-to-understand information that explains the benefits and drawbacks of different methods?
We are researchers from Dartmouth College and are studying women’s and healthcare providers’ views about making decisions about methods of contraception (birth control). This will help us develop a tool to help women and their healthcare providers discuss contraception and make decisions about methods of contraception as a team.
We are inviting women aged 15-45 years who use (or are interested in learning about) contraception, live in the United States, and are comfortable reading and writing English to complete a 10 minute online survey about making decisions about contraception.
More information and this survey is available here: http://tuck.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_9zdc5ihw8Y29oX3
In these surveys, we will ask you to provide some information about yourself and your views and opinions related to making decisions about contraception.
All information you provide is anonymous and will be stored in password-protected computer files. We don’t anticipate any risks beyond the risks you experience in everyday life. Participating in this survey will have no bearing on women’s healthcare services. The study has received approval by the Institutional Review Board at Dartmouth College (CPHS #23963).
Please feel free to forward this information to any others you think may be interested in participating.
Thank you in advance for your help in making a truly patient-centered contraception decision support tool!
Apr 4, 2013
Have you ever been in a store and found a pair of shoes that you would sell your car for, only to realize that they have every size except yours? Or maybe when you were younger you thought that you would go on to become the next Michael Jordan or Lisa Leslie, just to end up riding the bench the entire season. I can say that both of these have happened to me at some point in my life. But I’ve learned to just smile and say “Hey, that just wasn’t my thing”. This trial and error method can be used to find a form of contraception that works for you. I’m aware that having so many options can be a bit overwhelming, but the “perfect fit” is out there for you. Researching your options and talking with a healthcare provider are great ways to get one step closer to finding that “perfect fit”. Just remember that the decision to practice safe sex is one of the greatest decisions you’ll ever make. For more information on sexual health text “SEXT” to 74574.
Apr 3, 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:
Apr 3, 2013
In this midst of an ongoing conversation with a classmate of mine, they asked me “Hey Crystal, how can you tell if a person has an STD?”. Once I noticed that this question had caught more attention than either of us had planned on, I politely answered “You can’t”. All at once I became bombarded with questions, with the main idea being, “How do I protect myself?”. I went on to say that people who have STDs or who are HIV positive obviously aren’t just walking around with badges on that read “Hi, my name is _______, and I have Chlamydia.” You can’t tell what a person has been infected with, and honestly in most cases, they may not even know themselves that they are infected. Nevertheless,I am positive that the best way to protect yourself is to practice safe sex. Condoms aren’t just something cool to collect, or put on your key chain, or even to wear on a stylish bag (although we absolutely love these swag items)… condoms are like mini soldiers that protect you from the dangers that may come along with being sexually active. Wear your soldiers with pride and always wrap it up! For more info on sexual health, text SEXT to 74574.
Apr 1, 2013
Mar 23, 2013
It looks like the good folks over at Planned Parenthood Action have hired a comedian to manage their social media. That makes sense, since so many of these measures intended to block women’s access to health care are so mind-blowingly outrageous that all you can really do is throw up your hands and laugh.
Case in point: Right now, a group of CEOs has gone to court to demand the power to decide whether their employees get access to affordable birth control. Anti-choice, anti-contraception politicians are super gung-ho about this, natch. Luckily, the comedians at Planned Parenthood Action made this handy dandy guide -
And here you thought talking to your parents about birth control was awkward. Yikes.
Mar 20, 2013
— Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas and Kierra Johnson, Beyond Choice: How We Learned to Stop Labeling and Love Reproductive Justice
Mar 19, 2013
The war against women continues in Texas. It seems as if the attack against women’s health will not stop. Recently, Texas State Senators Deuell, Campbell, and Schwertner introduced Senate Bill 537. This bill also known as the “Back Door Abortion Ban” is an attempt to restrict a women’s basic right to living a healthy life. Under the guise of safety and more regulation, Senate Bill 537 would in fact not improve safety of abortion care, but instead place medically unnecessary requirements on health centers such as becoming licensed Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASCs).
These requirements would force all but five women health centers that offer abortion services to shut down in the state of Texas. This would have a devastating impact on thousands of women, especially low income women. Low-income women and women of color who live in the rural parts of Texas do not have access to the necessary resources to protect themselves and live a healthy life. To attain a basic cervical cancer screening sometimes they need to take time off work and travel miles to go to the nearest health clinic.
My mother and myself are prime examples of this. We both do not have health insurance because we cannot afford it. My mother lives in South Texas and has traveled to Mexico to consult a doctor. She only goes to the doctor when about once every two years because she cannot afford losing a day of work, paying doctor visits, and buying prescribed medicine. I am a fourth year student at the University of Texas at Austin. I do not have my yearly check ups due the inability to afford health care insurance. It is difficult, frustrating and stressful living each day without health care and hoping you do not get sick and continue to work or pursue a higher education.
Texas has the highest percentage of women who are uninsured . Also, Texas ranks one of the top ten highest rates of women having cervical cancer. Yet, the 2011 Texas Legislature cut 66 percent of family planning funds. About 300, 000 fewer women will now receive health care . Unfortunately, Texas State legislature does not support women’s health. Every year, the state of Texas is limiting a women’s basic right to living a healthy life.
SB 537 is another example of the Texas State Legislature trying to limit women’s health rights in Texas. However, we will not let that happen because we decide what is best for our future. Young leaders in Texas such as myself working with the Young Women of Color Leadership Council with Advocates for Youth, Katy Waters Vice-President for Voices for Reproductive Justice at the University of Texas at Austin and organizations such as NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, and Planned Parenthood are working hard to make sure our communities are aware of what the Texas State legislature is doing. Through advocacy, lobbying, community outreach, petition drives, and speak outs at the Texas State Capitol we are making sure to create conversations with our families and friends All women in Texas deserve access to HIV tests, birth control, safe and legal abortions. Women’s health is not a just a women’s issue. It is an inclusive problem that affects everyone. Family planning cuts and closing down of abortion clinics will affect mothers, wives, daughters, husbands, sons and the list continues.
Simple actions such as following bills that may affect women’s lives and what is going on at the Texas legislature online at http://www.legis.state.tx.us/Home.aspx or signing online petitions such as opposing SB 537 online https://secure.ppaction.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=15903 to hold our political leaders accountable are ways communities can speak up.
 Guttmacher Institute. State Facts About Title X and Family Planning: Texas.http://www.guttmacher.org/statecenter/title-X/TX.html.
 Legislative Budget Board. http://www.lbb.state.tx.us/
Mar 10, 2013
A fellow Amplify Blogger, Twittersister and founder of TeenMomNYC.com, a website offering support and incite of the day to day life of what it means to be a teenage mother, recently posted a blog (like many of us) about the New York City Teen Pregnancy “Prevention” Campaign that launched last week by the NYC Human Resources Administration. Reading through my newsfeed last night, I caught a glimpse of her responding to the hateful comments she was receiving on this particular blog post. This morning, I decided to visit her blog for myself. There were a whopping 38 comments attached to what I thought was a brilliantly written blog laced with veracity and Gloria’s situated knowledges as a teen parent. I guess the others did not think so. Let me first say that I was not a teen mother and I cannot, will not and do not wish to speak from that perspective. However, I am a young woman of color who was born and raised in a hypersegregated medically “underserved” area, attended sub-standard schools, and was in and out of kinship care my entire life. All of these experiences influence my analysis of this situation (outside of my work with young people and pregnant and parenting teens).
This blog is also not meant to come to anyone’s rescue (we advocates/activists are not saving teen moms from these egregious, shameful ads) because they do not need us to rescue them or step in and give them a voice. These brave young women already have them! This is to show my solidarity with them and express why I feel so strongly about the attacks on them. As if the ads were not enough, you have people offering their empty “advice” on their blogs, ranging from “been there, done that” to “you should have kept your legs closed.” Uhh no that’s not about to happen. So you want to come for teen moms? Let me come for your train of thought. Allow me to deconstruct your notions of young people and teen pregnancy prevention.
Wait, be patient, love yourself!
I recommend young people keep a journal of their childhood that way when they grow up and catch a sudden case of dementia when it comes to sexuality and sexual activity they can “remember” their teen years. An “older wiser woman” commented that there is in fact no positive side to teen sexual activity. Hmmm well that’s strange considering teens are pretty much still keep having sex (something has to be positive there). While we all hope that young people delay sexual activity, lets face the music TEENS ARE HAVING SEX! Just because young people make decisions to have sex, doesn’t mean we don’t love ourselves. I’m pretty sure we’d love ourselves more if society showed us some love too!
I didn’t know lived in a society in which CULTURE does not play a significant role in how we raise our children!
An anonymous added that young people have an “unlimited” amount of resources including our moms, aunts, sisters, friends… Okay, so where I come from my family doesn’t talk about sex. Outside of the fact that most parents don’t feel comfortable talking to their kids about sex, I know first hand that some families are not about to talk about sex! As a person of the African Diaspora, sex was not talked about in my house. I was told not to get pregnant, but NEVER how to go about preventing pregnancy. And when I did receive some ‘sex education”, it definitely didn’t apply to me. No one met me where I was. No one wanted to speak my language. Then and now youth need Culturally and Linguistically relevant (along with medically accurate, age-appropriate) sexual education. Because all that other stuff…Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Just close your legs that way we don’t have to provide you with comprehensive sexual education, access to birth control and all the other things you need to lead healthy lives!
Telling someone to keep their legs closed is not okay! First of all opening your legs does not cause pregnancy (if that was the case I’d be with child every time a rode a bike, danced, and did jumping jacks.).Secondly, most women don’t get pregnant by themselves unless we are talking about the Immaculate Conception. The notion of “keeping your legs closed” is not only sexist and misogynist but just plain ignorant. And lets think about resources, is birth control accessible? I saw comments on other blogs about the Affordable Care Act and how teens could purchase birth control on their parent’s health insurance because it would be free. Well some insurance companies, have these cool things called EOBs (Explanation of Benefits). They basically tell you all the stuff you just got done at your doctors visit. Until we get that fixed I don’t know how accessible Birth Control under the ACA is for young people. That’s the ish I don’t like!
Society doesn’t owe you anything its all about “choice.” (This is where you laugh hysterically.)
Oh please. This kills me because some people are so scared of the word “choice.” It kills me because people throw around the word choice and “decision making” when we aren’t really handing out the tools for young people to make choices. Yes society has a responsibility to equip young people with these tools, but that does not excuse the fact that young people have individual responsibilities too. We contribute to society (so stop acting like you don’t know). We don’t need shaming ads to tell us that parenting is hard. We don’t need people telling us that we are WIC/EBT/Medicaid/Government Assistance users and that the older generation needs not be responsible for us. Well last I checked Social Security and Medicare are government programs and every McDonalds minimum-wage check goes to fund the older generation.
If you are going to come for young moms, young people, young people of color I just ask one thing….. COME CORRECT or go home.
Mar 4, 2013
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!
Mar 3, 2013
“When I introduce the concept of reproductive justice to new audiences, at lectures or workshops, I always frame it in the same way. I use a really simple exercise, where I draw a stick figure on a piece of butcher paper, or an easel, or a chalkboard. Then I ask the question: “What things in this person’s life will impact their ability to create the family they want to create?” Usually it takes a few minutes for the audience to get going, but within five or ten minutes the result is a stick figure with many, many issues written in bubbles around them. Things like religion, money, environment, language, race, gender, sexuality, laws, incarceration end up surrounding the person.
This activity is a pretty decent illustration of my definition of reproductive justice—it’s working to build a world where everyone has what they need to create the family they want to create. And that work requires incorporating and taking into account all of those items written in bubbles on the diagram, as well as many we probably leave out. Almost always this exercise results in “ah ha” moments, and it’s had a striking universality—from using it with college students to using it in Latina immigrant communities on the border. Reproductive justice is an easier concept to explain in ten minutes than in a two-word soundbite, like pro-choice, but that additional context also allows for so many more of the issues and challenges or our every day lives to be made visible and explicitly included in our work.”
Feb 22, 2013
If you’re like me, your uterus was doing the Electric Slide with excitement last year when the Obama Administration announced that birth control would be covered under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Preventative benefits without cost sharing? Um, yes please. As if I wasn’t overjoyed already, I was even more thrilled to hear the recent news that Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARCs) such as Intrauterine Devices (IUDs) and the hormonal implant would also be covered by ACA.
The incredible effectiveness of IUDs and the hormonal implant as well as the flexibility to remove the device at any time make LARCs a fantastic contraceptive option for all women. Mirena, a hormone-releasing IUD, is over 99% effective and once inserted by your health care professional, can last for up to 5 years. Paragard is a non-hormonal IUD made with copper which is also over 99% effective and lasts up to 10 years. The hormonal implant, Nexplanon (formerly known as Implanon) is a single rod which is inserted into the upper arm, is also over 99% effective and can last for up to 3 years. All three devices can be removed by your health care professional at any time.
It also seems that the word is getting out about how awesome and effective LARC’s are. In a Guttmacher study, researchers found that between 2002 and 2007, the number of women using LARCs increased from 2.4% to 3.7%, and by 2009, more than doubling the amount of use with a total of 8.5% of contraceptors using these devices. For young women aged 15 – 19, 4.5% use LARCs, with only 0.5% using the hormonal implant Nexplanon/Implanon.
Personally, I used to completely disregard LARCs as a viable option for my own birth control. I thought of them as some ancient, strange method that my mom probably used in the 70’s – definitely NOT an option for a hip and trendy young Millennial. What I was totally ignorant to (besides the fact that no one would ever call me ‘hip’ or ‘trendy’) were all of the incredible benefits that using a LARC would provide me and other young women. Recently, more health care professionals have come forward to affirm that LARCs are a great contraceptive choice for women of all ages, not just those who have previously given birth. In October 2012, The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recognized that LARCs were a safe and extremely effective option for young women, publishing a report strongly recommending LARCs for women aged 15-19.
Ok, so now let’s talk money. You might say ‘LARCs sound fantastic! I want one right now! Let’s do this thing!’ and I would totally agree with everything you’re saying, but also would remind you that it’s important to consider the details. LARCs can cost anywhere between $400 – $1,000 depending on the device and your insurance provider – a pretty hefty chunk of change, which has deterred women from choosing the method in the past, even though the benefit usually outweighs the cost over time. This is one of the prime reasons why the announcement that the Affordable Care Act is covering LARCs is so fantastic – if the cost of the device is covered by insurance, more women can feel financially unburdened about making the choice to use a LARC.
It is true that the roll-out of the ACA in regards to coverage of birth control has been quite a confusing process in which a lot of women are asking for the fine print regarding the cost of their particular method. Getting a LARC means considering the cost of several things: the insertion procedure, the removal procedure, and the device itself, and so far what we know is that the ACA covers the device and insertion, but there is no word on whether or not the removal procedure is covered under ACA as well. Throughout the implementation of contraceptive coverage, inquiries have come center stage in response to what these new laws mean for women’s access to birth control. We can only hope that as we learn more about this new addition to the ACA, questions and investigative research lead to more informed answers about the details of coverage for LARCs for all women.
Feb 21, 2013
Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen To Host Event Encouraging Dialogue Around Educational Inequality
Who: Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen is an annual event designed to showcase female artists and use hip-hop to raise awareness around social issues.
What: This year’s event, titled ‘No Limits…Knowledge is Power!’ features female educators, students, activists, DJs, emcees, b-girls, poets, visual artists and dancers who will convene to advocate for comprehensive sexual education curriculum in all school districts, smaller class sizes and educational opportunities for all children.
When: Saturday, March 2nd, 2013, from 2pm-5pm ET
Where: Hostos Community College Main Theater
450 Grand Concourse at 149th Street
Media RSVP and Interview Requests: Kathleen Adams, firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information visit:
Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen (MHHK) is a multifaceted hip hop event designed to showcase women artists, especially women of color. MHHK serves as a social justice community-organizing platform that educates and empowers women of color on issues that impact their lives, including HIV/AIDS and reproductive justice. Our mission is to create a dynamic interactive exchange and safe space for all women of color to express themselves through art.
Feb 14, 2013
Whether we choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day or not, the fact of the matter is that it’s nearly impossible to ignore the roses, teddy bears and big red hearts abound today.
Of course the big elephant in the room on Valentine’s Day is sex — oftentimes the unspoken piece of the puzzle amongst all of those cheesy gifts.
Part of being responsible while sexually active on Valentine’s Day and every day is practicing consent with your partner(s) as well as safe sex. But what about the impact your birth control has on the environment? Not something we always stop to think about.
It’s an important thing to think about and I’m happy to deliver some good news. Any birth control is better than no birth control when you’re looking out for the planet’s health.
You’ve probably heard somewhere along the line that the estrogen-based hormones in birth control make their way into our waterways and in turn cause a host of health issues. While estrogenic compounds are found in waterways, birth control and other forms of hormonal contraception are not major contributors to this issue.
Instead, agricultural and industrial waste are the more likely culprits. The total yearly volume of entrogenic growth hormones given to farm animals is more than five times that of humans’ consumption of oral contraceptives. Estrogen also makes its way into our waterways through the use of common herbicides, like Atrazine and Roundup, as well as common industrial chemicals like BPA, which is commonly found in our plastics.
If you’re interested in using a contraceptive method that’s hormone-free, consider the copper IUD. And if it isn’t a good fit for you, choose another method rather than going without. When it comes to having sex, the greenest thing you can do is use birth control!
While birth control pills aren’t to blame for the presence of the majority of hormones in our environment, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care about the issue.
Early puberty, infertility, and developmental defects have all been linked to hormone disruption as a result of the estrogenic compounds in our water. Compounding the problem are endocrine system disrupting toxic chemicals in our everyday care products.
So what’s an aspiring green valentine to do? Continue using your birth control method, learn about the link between reproductive health and environmental health and current thinking on greening contraception, and ask your Senator to support the Safe Chemicals Act, which would regulate hormone disrupting chemicals before they end up in our products and harm our health.
Feb 10, 2013
(oldie but goody)
Feb 7, 2013
Rather than doing the normal posts on here, I’m blogging on Blogger.com! So feel free to follow my blog and my journey handing out the condoms!
Feb 6, 2013
Well, my box arrived! It was pretty cool to pour out that many condoms all at once.
I have a few disappointments with my shipment, though. First, I’m light by 18 condoms (yes I counted. Don’t judge me) but I suppose trojan just measures by weight. Second, I got more magnum size than anything else O.o I was hoping for mostly trojan enz, but hey, free condoms.
On the plus side; I dig the trojan grab bucket. My first thought was to fill that puppy up and plop it down on my desk it each class and be all: “Check it, free rubbers!” Ok, my first thought was to just take the box itself, dress up like cupid and prance about the campus, merrily tossing handfuls of condoms about.
Sadly, I am a bit more reserved and orderly (I did count the suckers, after all.) I’m setting the groundwork to build a distribution network of safesites on my campus by utilizing faculty, staff, and student clubs.
I met with my student activities coordinator and the dean of admissions yesterday and I have a meeting with the dean of student development today. My plan is to get the go-ahead of student dev. to have the academic departments to allow me to contact certain instructors who are sympathetic to the cause and have them act as distribution points.
From there, I can also enlist certain student clubs and organizations to help distribute as well. I’ve also got the go-ahead from my activities coordinator to use campus events as distribution opportunities.
Failing all of this, well… there’s always the cupid costume.
Feb 6, 2013
Well, they’re here! All 500 condoms from the Great American Condom campaign have officially landed at my doorstep, and I cannot tell you how excited I am to be a part of this. Already I’m beginning to see the benefits of it.
When I walked into the house with my huge box of condoms, my father asked what it was. Let me tell you, informing your father that you just received a box of 500 condoms is quite an experience. He laughed and told me he was proud of me, though. So that’s cool. The first condoms I distributed went to my cutie pie 16 (almost 17!) year old little brother, and I’m planning on giving 10 more to a classmate of his who is sexually active but afraid to tell her parents or buy condoms herself.
In case anyone is wondering, my box contained several hundred Trojan Ecstasy “Her Pleasure” and another couple hundred Trojan Magnums, with the last hundred or so being fire and ice. Has anyone tried these? I’m not sure how I feel about having fire and/or ice near my ladyparts.
Before I turn in for the night, I have a question for you, my fellow bloggers. Do you try to carry a condom with you at all times? What do you think of someone who decides to carry a condom with them at all times?
Feb 4, 2013
“I’m beginning to get some evidence from certain doctors and certain scientists that have done research on women’s wombs after they’ve gone through the surgery, and they’ve compared the wombs of women who were on the birth control pill to those who were not on the birth control pill. And they have found that with women who are on the birth control pill, there are these little tiny fetuses, these little babies, that are embedded into the womb. They’re just like dead babies. They’re on the inside of the womb. And these wombs of women who have been on the birth control pill effectively have become graveyards for lots and lots of little babies.” – conservative radio host Kevin Swanson
Feb 3, 2013
It was my first year in the University of Abuja, and I must say, I wasn’t impressed. The student hostels were an abomination, and goodness knows that I still don’t know how I got the resolve to stay there during the entire course of my studies at the University. That was 5 years to long. The hostels were filthy and badly maintained. It also didn’t help that the spaces we were all crammed into had the breathing space of a can of sardines, or less, to be honest.
I’ll never forget the day that a neighbour of mine in the hostel recalled the time she caught “something” from the public bathrooms. That was just…NASTY!!!
When she first started living in the hostels, she was a good girl. I mean a very good girl. The porters and hall administrators absolutely adored her. But then, something terrible happened…she caught what people around here like to refer to as “thrush” or more aptly “the vaginal scourge.” It itched, it shed, it was irritated by almost every single movement you made, and worse of all, it was humiliating.
Now thrush isn’t that much of a big deal, really. But then again, those who say stuff like that are:
1. Those who probably will never get infected the way girls do. That includes the entire male population of the world who will probably never itch and smell himself in that way.
2. Those disgustingly lucky women who the rest of us secretly hate. All I can say is, their time will come…
Thrush is an infection caused by a yeast fungus called Candida spp. Small numbers of Candida spp. commonly live on the skin and around the vaginal area and are usually harmless. The immune system and the harmless bacteria that also normally live on the skin and in the vagina usually stop Candida spp. from thriving. However, when conditions are good for Candida spp., numbers multiply and may invade the vagina and cause symptoms. Conditions like dirty pit toilets without an adequately closed off base that stops hot air rising from the clogged pits…I forgot to mention that some school are still archaic in this decade.
My dear, sweet friend caught this pretty embarrassing issue and went home to get treated, away from the sniggers of girls and the indiscreet school doctor whose credentials were more than a little doubtful.
Now, the traditional treatment was not fun. First of all, it was believed, and maybe still is, that in order to stop thrush from occurring at the infected area, that is, the vulva and the skin around it had to be scrapped with a razor. When infected that area of the skin is already weak and peeling and incredibly painful. Ouch isn’t enough to quantify the pain a razor would cause.
Secondly, that newly scrapped area had to be submerged into a basin of hot, anti-septic water for a period of days at least twice a day. I wish I could swear on this blog, but I’ve been warned in writing and over the phone that the F word and the S word aren’t words I’m allowed to use. But by all means, feel free.
Thirdly, and thankfully, less brutally painful, she underwent a series of medication where pessaries (vaginally inserted pills) and orally taken drugs were used.
I guess what I’ve been trying to say through this very sad and painful post is that, all that stress and pain and humiliation she had to go through for what?
I was brought up to think that women who have thrush are to be laughed at. I never got any form of sex education or any real information that referred to “the talk” in high school (where I was told by my biology teacher that if I sat on a toilet seat that had sperm on it that I could get pregnant) or by my parent (who till this day still refuses to recognise that their kids may probably have sex before they get married in the catholic church).
I’ve known young ladies who have suffered in silence for months at a time because they were embarrassed to confide in anyone, or even go to a hospital or gynaecologist to seek treatment. What’s even sad is that thrush isn’t even a sexually transmitted disease. And it does make you wonder – if people react so negatively to a vaginal infection that has nothing to do with sex, what else are they hiding under there?
If educational institutions can’t even get the courage or initiative to discuss feminine hygiene that goes beyond washing “that” area properly without using the appropriate words, then when are we going to have the courage to discuss other important issues like HIV, gonorrhoea or even contraception? They believe that ignorance is key to reducing the rate at which young people have pre-marital sex. But then, they fail to realise that with hormones, anything can happen.
Instead of holding vital information back that could potentially save someone’s life, why not give them the information and trust that as responsible individuals that young people will be able to make their own choices? Why not help, instead of laughing at a girl who has trouble with an issue she’s embarrassed about?
When we give young people access to relevant information, we give them the power of choice, the power to make their decisions knowing that whatever they pick, whatever the outcome gives them the confidence to be responsible members of the society, to be empowered young men and women around the world that could contribute their views, to the development and advancement of their communities and the world to a larger extent.
Information and the use of said information is key to ensuring innovative solutions to issues concerned with sexual and reproductive health.
Feb 1, 2013
Roe v. Wade guaranteed abortion as a legal right across the country. A separate decision two decades later, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, guaranteed states’ rights to limit access to abortion, so long as it did not pose an “undue burden” on the woman.
States have, over the past four decades, made no short use of that latter right. Only one state, Oregon, has not layered additional restrictions on top of the Roe decision. At the other end of the spectrum is Oklahoma: With 22 abortion restrictions, it has more than any other state. The chart below, courtesy of Remapping the Debate, has the full list. You can also gohere for an interactive version of the graphic, which will let you look at what type of restrictions each state has set.
Jan 31, 2013
Text message conversation:
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.
Me: What’s up ma?
Friend: Nothing what up?
Me: How was school?
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..
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?
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 (:
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.
Jan 28, 2013
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.
Jan 24, 2013
Tell Them is proud to announce the release of a new report: 25 Years and 250,000 Teen Pregnancies Later.
This report examines the multitude of research surrounding the need for comprehensive sex education programs in South Carolina.
The report highlights 5 major problems with current sex education programs:
The Comprehensive Health Education Act was passed in 1988. Twenty-five years later, we are still facing the same problems. Condom use among teens is down (67% used condoms in 2005, 58% used condoms in 2011); more than 50% of high school students (and nearly 20% of middle school students) report that they have already had sex; and there are an average of 68 newly reported cases of Chlamydia or Gonorrhea in youth every day.
This should enrage every parent in our state. Let’s see this report as the catalyst for change. Visit www.reformsexed.org now and email your legislator. Tell Them that you support sex ed reform and demand that we get comprehensive sex education programs in our schools.
While the report focuses on information released Monday by the New Morning Foundation in their new report A Sterling Opportunity, the Tell Them analysis also examined recent studies by the South Carolina State Alliance for Adolescent Sexual Health, the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, the 2010 US census, the CDC’s annual youth risk behavior surveys and a regional report published last year. For a complete list of sources, visit our webpage.
Jan 20, 2013
Jan 17, 2013
So just who are we? We are the SOUTH CAROLINA CONTRACEPTIVE ACCESS CAMPAIGN. Check out our video link below to learn more about the great work we contribute to the sexual and reproductive health movement!!
Jan 17, 2013
Sex does not have a mind of its own, but YOU DO. And hopefully your mind is telling you to always practice safe sex using a contraceptive or barrier method. Now in the real world, we know that these options are not always available when we are “in the moment” and in these cases, withdrawal may be necessary, especially if you are having sex unprotected. It mayfeel good, but be smart about it. I know you’ve heard the saying, “when in doubt, pull out”… but just think, you can already protect yourself, be safe, have birth control handy, and wrap it up!!
Jan 17, 2013
Oral contraceptives, also known as birth control pills, are mainly prescribed by doctors to prevent pregnancy. They can also be used to lessen cramps and heavy bleeding during the menstrual cycle (what a relief!). Ladies, it is important to follow the instructions that are given on the tablets so that your body adjusts properly to the medicine. Stay in control of the birth control, don’t let it control you! For more information on Oral Contraceptives and other Contraceptive options, please text SEXT to 74574!
Jan 13, 2013
Click on the link to see the images in full!
Jan 11, 2013
Political Info and Laws in Brief
- Governor Rick Snyder (R) is anti-choice.
- The Michigan House is anti-choice.
- The Michigan Senate is anti-choice.
Michigan bans a safe abortion procedure and has unconstitutional and unenforceable criminal bans on abortion.
Biased Counseling & Mandatory Delay
Michigan has a partially unconstitutional and unenforceable law that subjects women seeking abortion services to biased-counseling requirements and mandatory delays.
Counseling Ban/Gag Rule
Michigan prohibits certain state employees and organizations receiving state funds from counseling or referring women for abortion services.
Refusal to Provide Medical Services
Michigan allows certain individuals or entities to refuse to provide women specific reproductive-health services, information, or referrals.
Restrictions on Low-Income Women’s Access to Abortion
Michigan restricts low-income women’s access to abortion.
Restrictions on Young Women’s Access to Abortion
Michigan law restricts young women’s access to abortion services by mandating parental consent.
Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP)
Michigan subjects abortion providers to burdensome restrictions not applied to other medical professionals.
Michigan law requires health-insurance plans that cover prescription medication to provide the same coverage for contraception.
Low-Income Women’s Access to Family Planning
Michigan provides certain low-income women increased coverage for Medicaid-funded family-planning services.
Protection Against Clinic Violence
Michigan law protects women seeking reproductive-health care and medical personnel from blockades and violence.
OTHER RELEVANT LAWS
Post-Viability Abortion Restriction
Michigan restricts post-viability abortion.
83% of Michigan counties have no abortion provider.
*an issue that does not affect *just* women.
Jan 10, 2013
One of the important aspects of South Carolina Contraceptive Access Campaign is our social media advocacy efforts, however, these efforts don’t always garner the attention they should as an educational/awareness/entertaining tool. This social media advocacy campaign seeks to keep young adults abreast to news relative to reproductive health by providing daily updates to popular social media websites such as Facebook, twitter, and Amplifyyourvoice.org. The beauty in this effort is that it requires little effort outside of your daily social media perusing and you gain tons of insight that can be useful when making random conversations with strangers in the mall. Don’t take my advice, try it for yourself. Contact us on facebook at facebook.com/sextd! Also, check out our FREE text messaging line, SEXT to the # 74574 for additional info and resources.
Jan 9, 2013
During one of my previous PPPs, I made a comment which provided some new insight into common thinking about contraception. During our discussion, we were talking about LARC’s, which are long acting reversible contraception. LARCs are forms of birth control which can last upwards to 10 years depending on the brand. What is so special about LARC’s is that they provide the perfect opportunity for a young lady to really make one decision that can impact her life for years to come. Think of it like applying to college, you apply to college to finish not to drop out half way through the semester. That is the same way that we should think about LARC’s because they are an effective planning tool to preventing unwanted pregnancy. Although they are more expensive on the onset, as time passes, they will essentially pay for themselves. Imagine putting together a 5 year plan after you graduated college. On that 5 year plan, you wanted to graduate for college and apply to graduate school. To take an extra precaution, why not make sure that you are protected from pregnancy throughout that time because if we all know anything, it’s that sometimes “things happen.” Why not take it upon ourselves, to ensure that those things don’t impact our preconceived plan.
Jan 8, 2013
In my new role as a Family Planning Assistant, I have been speaking with teens about their reproductive health nearly every day.It never ceases to amazes me what teens do, or rather don’t, know about sex.
At the beginning of each consult, I have to ask a series of questions about the teen’s sexual health and history. I was surprised to see that many of them claimed to used condoms, at least sometimes. However, something that was a little disturbing to discover was that most of them did not know what “STI” stood for. After explaining the acronym as sexually transmitted diseases, many still weren’t sure what I was talking about. So while they know to use condoms for pregnancy prevention, they do not know the risks involved for catching a disease because they weren’t using a condom. Fortunately, I have been given the opportunities to further explain it to them. For every teen that comes to our clinic, they are given free birth control and STI testing. It makes me really happy when many of them opt for all the testing, and leave the clinic with a bag filled with a years worth of contraceptives and condoms. It excites me to know a difference is being made. Teens know they can come to our clinic and get the help they need, even when they are afraid to turn anywhere else. The first question teens usually ask is if we are going to tell their parents they came in. It just goes to show that lines of communication must be made if parents want to stay involved in their children’s lives, and more importantly, their reproductive health care.
Jan 7, 2013
We hope that you have enjoyed a wonderful Holiday Season and is looking forward to a prosperous and productive New Year! We would like to inform you that the South Carolina Contraceptive Access Campaign has extended the deadline for the Youth Activist Applications. The SCCAC is now accepting applications for youth and young adults (ages 16-29) to serve as a Youth Activist working on sexual and reproductive health issues in the Columbia, Charleston, Greenville, and Orangeburg areas! We are recruiting to create a team of highly qualified and motivated youth and young adults to work with us on our New Media Campaign program.
We are looking for youth and young adults (ages 16-29) who have a true passion and interest in the field of sexual and reproductive health, who live in the Charleston, Greenville or Orangeburg areas, and are willing to work in the their community to make a DIFFERENCE!
Please pass this information and application on to all youth and young adults who would be great advocates for sexual and reproductive health, and most qualified for the job. Please see the attached flyer for additional information about the Youth Activist positions. Attached to the email you will find flyers for dissemination.
Click here to download an application. The deadline to apply is Monday, January 14th, 2013.
Learn more about the campaign at www.southcarolinasafersex.org. Please contact India Walters, Program Associate for the South Carolina Contraceptive Access Campaign, at email@example.com if you have any questions.
Thank you for your assistance in the recruitment process. And remember, the application deadline is Monday, January 14th, 2013.
Program Associate, South Carolina Contraceptive Access Campaign
Advocates for Youth
Jan 7, 2013
When I attended the One Voice Summit in Washington D. C. on November 16-19, 2012, I didn’t know how they were going to fill one hour, much less three days with information about how the environment and reproductive health were related.
After attending the conference, I learned how the world is acutely affected by our reproductive choices through population control, sustainability, and resource consumption and how we are affected by the environment we live in. The reproductive system is one of the most easily affected by its environment. In one instance, an umbilical cord was found to contain approximately 287 industrial chemicals. We’re being exposed to more chemicals at an earlier point in our lives and it’s affecting how we reproduce. Phthalates, BPA, and PAH are in the air we breathe and the everyday items we use. These chemicals have been linked to premature births, endometriosis, genital abnormalities in boys, sperm damage, reduced sperm count, and hormone disruption, to name a few.
Needless to say, this is some pretty serious stuff. When I arrived home, I was determined to change my lifestyle and start living more eco-friendly. Although I had recycled before, I became even more rigorous about recycling and making sure nothing recyclable was being thrown away. No receipts, no water bottles, no cans. Though this was a good beginning, I still found myself surrounded by toxic chemicals. I swapped out cleaning supplies for white vinegar, began leaving my shoes at the door, avoided plastic like the plague, and looked up my personal care products using cosmeticsdatabase.com. It’s so easy to change a few simple things in your lifestyle that can cause a world of difference in your toxin intake and your carbon footprint. There’s even an app for that. The free GoodGuide Mobile app allows you to scan the barcode of an item and find out its health, environment, and society scores, combining them to give you an overall rating. It’s so simple, even my mom can do it.
As a result of this conference, I found out more than I ever thought possible about how environmental issues and reproductive issues go hand in hand. It caused me to reevaluate my choices. I don’t reach for bottled water anymore. I make sure that I know what my products have in them. This conference made me want to research the things in my life that I took for granted. Because of that, I’ve become an organic gardener. I’m attempting to change my life, it’s true. But, I’m also attempting to change the world. And it’s the easiest thing I’ve ever done.
Jan 6, 2013
Recently during a late night visit to the Gas station, I ventured into the bathroom. Unlike many of my gas station pit stops, I noticed something that had me quite excited for a moment. I noticed that the gas stations had dispensers that sold condoms for a dollar. Also, if you forgot that to spray on that cologne, you can get a small tube also. I was quite elated because buying condoms in the gas station bathroom provides some anonymity that some people truly desire. To make a long story short, one can go to the gas station bathroom and get condoms and cologne, and therefore be prepared for wherever the night may take them.
Dec 26, 2012
‘Tis the season to be jolly, fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-condoms. For this fall semester of being a GACC safesite, I decided to give out the 500 condoms during the holiday season. Sure, it ended up being the very end of the fall semester, but how can you resist using “wrap it up” as both STD-avoidance advice and gift-giving talk? Answer: you can’t. So, after making festive GACC flyers and equipping each of them with two condoms and an instruction sheet, I distributed them throughout the dorms; just in time for finals and Undie Run, which, yes, is exactly what it sounds like.
Dec 17, 2012
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.
Dec 12, 2012
WHAT THE MICHIGAN ANTI-ABORTION BILL REALLY DOES
The Republican-controlled Michigan Senate now has before it a draconian anti-abortion clinic bill designed to make the
full range of reproductive health services, including abortion care, inaccessible for Michigan women. The bill passed
the Michigan House in June. The most potentially dangerous, expensive, and degrading provisions in HB 5711 would:
REQUIRE DISPOSAL OF “FETAL REMAINS” LIKE A DEAD BODY
– Michigan will become the ﬁrst state in the nation to
require any woman who seeks an abortion or miscarries to decide how she will dispose of the “fetal remains.”
WHAT THIS REALLY DOES:
At 10 weeks: A woman must pay for a funeral home to transport fetal remains and to decide amongst burial,
cremation, or interment. Current law requires the products of conception to be hygienically incinerated.
HB 5711, if passed,
Misleads women into thinking of the fetal issue as a person and abortion as murder.
Traumatizes and shames women at a diﬃcult time and adds unnecessary expense to an abortion.
At 20 weeks: Additionally, either the physician or the coroner must ﬁle a Death Certiﬁcate, a public record which
may be reported in the local newspaper and remains permanently on ﬁle with the State. HB 5711, if passed,
Robs women of their right to privacy and potentially makes miscarriage and abortion public.
STOP DOCTORS FROM PERFORMING ABORTIONS – Doctors who would perform more than ﬁve abortions a month in the oﬃce (or who meet other criteria) must do so only in a licensed freestanding surgical facility and buy $1 million in liability insurance.
WHAT THIS REALLY DOES:
Makes providing abortion services prohibitively expensive for doctors so that they will give up the practice.
The requirements for surgical facilities won’t make women safer, the insurance is not currently available in
Michigan and, even if it were, it would likely be prohibitively expensive and make the cost of abortion beyond
the reach of most women. Current laws adequately protect women and should be enforced.
RESTRICT FREE SPEECH IN THE GUISE OF PREVENTING “COERCION” – Doctors must verify that patients have been “screened” about whether they were coerced into seeking an abortion.
WHAT THIS REALLY DOES:
Makes parents, spouses, and others subject to lawsuits for counseling a woman about making informed
choices, while frightening doctors from providing abortions for fear of legal action.
END THE TELE-MEDICINE OPTION
– The new law would prohibit doctors from dispensing safe medication abortions or emergency contraception drugs such as Ella through telemedicine protocols. The bill even requires that medication abortions be performed at a licensed freestanding surgical facility!
WHAT THIS REALLY DOES:
Adds physical and ﬁnancial barriers that discourage women from exercising their legally-protected rights
without making them any safer.
Makes abortion unavailable to women in underserved areas, which includes more than 83% of Michigan
WHAT THESE LAWS ALSO DO IS DISCOURAGE GOOD DOCTORS FROM PRACTICING IN MICHIGAN
- Dr. Michael Allswede of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists tes9ﬁed against the bill, arguing that his organization knows the bill will make it harder to recruit doctors to practice in Michigan. Studies show Michigan could lack as many as 4,500 doctors by 2020, and this legisla9on would make matters worse.
Contact your Senator and Governor Snyder and tell them to reject HB 5711.
See www.michnow.org for contact informa2on.
*this does not affect just women
Dec 12, 2012
**This issue is not just about women’s health, it’s about every single person who could be affected by an attack on reproductive rights and health.**
The latest filings from Karl Rove’s American Crossroads show a last minute contribution of $1 million received just days before the election (10/29/12) from Gary Heavin — the co-founder of Curves International Inc., which calls itself “the world’s leader in women’s fitness.”
Curves, a chain of women-only fitness center franchises, claims nearly 10,000 locations in more than 85 countries. Heavin and his fellow co-founder, his wife Diane, sold Curves International to an private equity firm in October, but they remain prominently featured on the company’s website. The Heavins say they “share a passion for and commitment to women’s health and fitness.” But his massive donation to the right-wing super PAC is only the latest in a long pattern of their efforts
in support of policies that undermine women’s equality in the workplace and restrict women’s access to health care services.
American Crossroads spent $91 million to elect Mitt Romney over President Obama. Romney refused to endorse key pro-women legislation including the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and thePaycheck Fairness Act, but backed reinstating the “global gag rule” on even discussing abortion as a family planning option and supported the infamous Blunt Amendment to allow employers to deny health benefits that go against their personal views. Crossroads also worked to help far-right extremists like Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, and George Allen. Much of the American Crossroads attack strategy focused on criticizing Obamacare and those who backed the effort to expand health insurance access to all Americans.
In addition to helping fund American Crossroads, the Heavins also combined to give $92,400 to the House and Senate Republican campaign arms, $2,500 to Texas Governor Rick Perry (R), $30,800 to the Republican National Committee, $7,300 to Romney’s campaign, and $2,500 to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) in 2012.
And this past election isn’t the only time that Curves and the Heavins have worked against women’s reproductive rights. Gary Heavin pledged hundreds of thousands of dollars for controversial “pregnancy crisis centers” that try to talk women out of abortions and have been accused to providing false information. They also made large donations to abstinence-only education programs — programs which often misinform and make teens more likely to engage in risky behavior and become pregnant. Curves also pulled its funding for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation over its objection to the charity’s funding for Planned Parenthood’s breast cancer screening services. In a 2004 editorial, Mr. Heavin attacked Planned Parenthood’s sex education literature, writing “I have a 10-year-old daughter. I would absolutely not allow her to be exposed to this material. I don’t want her being taught masturbation and told that homosexuality is normal.”
That anti-choice and anti-LGBT stance was further demonstrated when Curves partnered with the American Family Association — a group that has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “hate group.” They joined for a 2009 healthy recipe contest and sold a Curves fitness CD on the AFA’s website. Gary Heavin has also been an outspoken enthusiast for televangelist Pat Robertson, who has blamed natural disasters on same-sex marriage equality and blamed 9/11 on abortion, the separation of church and state, and civil liberties groups.
Dec 10, 2012
Dec 9, 2012
Sadly, we’ve all grown used to the idea that nothing gets through the U.S. Senate these days without the support of at least 60 senators. Procedural tricks and a misuse of the filibuster rule has ground legislation to a near halt in the years since President Barack Obama took office. But when it came to a vote to ensure that disabled persons have the same rights as anyone else—including the right to avoiding pregnancy or terminating unwanted ones—even 60 votes wasn’t enough.
The Senate voted 61 to 38 to ratify the United Nations Rights of Persons with Disabilities Treaty, which stated “nations should strive to assure that the disabled enjoy the same rights and fundamental freedoms as their fellow citizens,” according to the Associated Press. The treaty was modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act, but anti-choice activists rallied against it, claiming it “sacrifices the most vulnerable—the disabled and the unborn—all in the name of population control,” according to Bradley Mattes, president of the International Right to Life Federation.
Although anti-choice activists claimed concern that the treaty, if ratified, could expand access to abortion and somehow impede their efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade, many of those who voted against the measure, such as Utah Sen. Mike Lee, pointed to fear of losing United States “sovereignty” as their reason for opposing the treaty.
Dec 6, 2012
Dec 5, 2012
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!
By seye lydia
Dec 5, 2012
Family planning (FP) has been universally acknowledged as one of the key pillars of Safe Motherhood, largely due to its direct positive impacts on the health of the family and consequently the economy of nations as a whole. Evidence abound of how several countries, in particular Asian countries have successfully developed the practice of family planning to improve their families’ social and economic realities.
According to the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) Report of 2008, Nigeria with a population of over 160 million people has a CPR of 10% and an unmet need for FP at 20%.Similarly, even though Maternal Mortality Ratio has decreased to 545/100, 000 live births, it still remains among the highest in the world.
Dec 4, 2012
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.
Dec 4, 2012
months ago, i visited the hospital because i had stomach upset. While seated, i witnessed a very outrageous event between a medical staff and a young lady of about 18 years of age.
This very young and beautiful lady who seemed to me to be in need of knowledge on how to prevent herself form sexually transmited diseases since she has became sexually active, was embarased and said to be a bad girl, and not old enough to start collecting contraceptives. she was denied access to her rights as a citizen and as a human being.
The youths are important people and so we have the right to have good knowledge on sexual issues because most of us easily becomes sexually actvive every day. The use of contraceptives is of great importance to the youths. We need and deserve all due access to contraceptives.
Dec 3, 2012
Just in time for World AIDS Day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled a Blueprint for Achieving an AIDS-Free Generation. The Blueprint lays out four “roadmaps” that will guide the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)—the U.S. government’s global AIDS program—as it continues to provide life-saving HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support programs around the world.
The four roadmaps—saving lives, smart investments, shared responsibility, and driving results with science—are based on the following five principles:
Overall, the Blueprint is surprisingly strong, especially in light of the fact that over the past few years, the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator (OGAC)—the office responsible for administering PEPFAR—has done a lackluster job on young people and focused its rhetoric almost exclusively on biomedical approaches such as voluntary male circumcision, prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT), and treatment as prevention. While vitally important, these three strategies alone are not, and never will be, nearly enough to address all drivers of the epidemic, particularly as they relate to young people who continue to account for over 40 percent of all new HIV infections around the globe.
Among the many positive attributes of the Blueprint are its intentional focus on women and girls and key affected populations including men who have sex with men (MSM), sex workers, and people who inject drugs (PWID). No plan would be complete without recognizing the critical importance of addressing the structural drivers of the epidemic, including gender inequality, violence, poverty, stigma, discrimination, and other legal barriers to services, all of which disproportionately impact women, girls, and key affected populations. To address those barriers, the Blueprint specifically calls for improving girls’ access to education, increasing economic opportunities for women, preventing and addressing gender-based violence and exploitation, engaging men and boys in addressing norms and behaviors, repealing laws that criminalize people for who they are or who they love, and supporting the human rights of women, girls and LGBT populations.
In addition, supporting women—both HIV-positive and negative—to plan their families is a key pillar of the Blueprint, recommending increased access to voluntary and comprehensive family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) services with a range of contraceptive options including male and female condoms, counseling and referrals, and integration of and linkages between FP/RH and maternal, newborn and child health as well as HIV/AIDS and programs serving orphans and vulnerable children (OVC). Integration is vital for helping women and young people receive information and services in one location, and it’s great to see it interwoven throughout various sections of the Blueprint. However, continuing to rely solely on USAID to supply contraceptives places severe limits on the ability of women and young people to protect themselves and plan their families. If a young woman lives in a PEPFAR-funded country where USAID has no presence, what then? How does she access other forms of contraceptives, particularly if her partner refuses to use condoms, the only form of contraception supported by PEPFAR?
What about the other needs of young people? How do they fit within the Blueprint? For starters, there is a section, albeit somewhat short compared to other sections, that specifically focuses on strengthening programmatic commitment to and emphasis on reaching and supporting young people with HIV services. The fact that the youth section appears in the roadmap on “smart investments” should not be overlooked. Perhaps PEPFAR is now seeing what we’ve long known—that investing in young people is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.
So what does this youth section say? First, it says that PEPFAR will work with partner governments to develop age-appropriate, evidence-based curricula for use in schools, while working with parents, communities, and implementing agencies to reach out-of-school youth. Secondly, it recognizes that education, alone, is not enough and that a comprehensive package of programs needs to be specifically tailored and targeted for sexually-active and at-risk youth. Third, it calls for special attention to be given to young people living with HIV (YPLHIV) as they transition to adulthood, seek youth-friendly HIV care and treatment programs, develop sexual relationships, and plan their own families. Fourth, the Blueprint prioritizes better monitoring to track services utilized by YPLHIV and evaluation of PEPFAR-funded youth programs to identify the most effective interventions for young people. And lastly, PEPFAR for the first time ever, explicitly recognizes that the key affected populations of MSM, sex workers, and PWID also include young MSM, young sex workers, and young PWID, thereby requiring programs to be designed that specifically address their needs in an accessible and acceptable manner.
In addition to a specific section on youth, adolescent girls and young women are also prominently highlighted in the section on women, girls, and gender equality. Given the fact that this population is often invisible in larger gender programs, the Blueprint rightfully acknowledges the need for stronger surveillance efforts to ensure that adolescent girls and young women are adequately represented. Going one step further, the Blueprint finally requests “to the extent feasible” that data be disaggregated by sex and age in all health service programs, including those serving adolescent girls and young women—something Advocates for Youth has been requesting for years. Furthermore, PEPFAR is tasked with adopting evidence-based best practices in youth-friendly health care and services, including supporting positive youth development approaches for in-school and out-of-school youth, developing specific programs for adolescents and pre-adolescents including boys and married adolescent girls, working with communities to change attitudes around child marriage, preventing and responding to sexual abuse and coercion, and increasing access to economic strengthening and educational resources.
While the Blueprint makes great strides in the U.S. response to HIV and AIDS, it is not without its shortcomings. Evidence- and rights-based comprehensive sexual health education is critical for young people, but the Blueprint fails to state whether the education it calls for is comprehensive, rights-based, or LGBT-inclusive. Furthermore, while a comprehensive and tailored package of services and programs for youth is needed, the Blueprint makes no mention of what that package might look like or why it seems to be restricted to those young people who are already sexually active or considered at-risk, rather than to ALL young people. The same can be said for access to male and female condoms, which also is limited to those who are already sexually active. And despite very strong language in other sections requiring the active engagement of PLHIV, key affected populations, and civil society in the design, implementation and evaluation of HIV programs, there is a complete and utter lack of attention to meaningfully engaging young people and YPLHIV in youth programs. Engaging parents, guardians, and influential adults, yes, but young people themselves, astonishingly not one mention whatsoever!
In her remarks, Secretary Clinton stated, “Now, make no mistake about it: HIV may well be with us into the future. But the disease that it causes need not be.” In order for that to be absolutely true, we can and must do better by our young people. We must ensure that programs for young people are comprehensive, evidence- and rights-based, and inclusive of the diversity of youth. We must move away from segmenting youth into artificial categories based on real or perceived notions of sexual activity or level of risk and provide ALL young people with the information and services they deserve and need. We must allocate sufficient resources—financial, technical, and human—to best address youth within the HIV pandemic. And we absolutely must ensure that young people themselves are meaningfully engaged in all program and policy decisions impacting them.
Young people have the right to accurate and complete sexual and reproductive health and HIV information and services. And the U.S. government has a responsibility to respect young people and provide them with the tools they need to safeguard their sexual health.
Nov 30, 2012
On November 29, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)—the government’s lead agency delivering foreign assistance to more than 100 countries around the world—officially launched its first-ever Youth in Development Policy. The policy, which has been posted on the USAID website since the beginning of November, provides the agency with important guidance recognizing young people as a driving force in global development efforts.
Nearly two years in the making, the policy seeks to strengthen youth programming, participation, and partnership while mainstreaming and integrating young people throughout all of the agency’s policies and programs. Such mainstreaming is critical because, while USAID supports some youth-focused programming, in the health sector for example, these efforts are often small-scale, short-term pilot projects that are limited in reach. In addition, broader initiatives that should be addressing young people’s needs do not necessarily do so unless there are youth champions within the agency or among implementing agencies who seek to proactively prioritize youth within the programming.
This policy has the potential to impact real change on the ground for young people by systematically integrating and mainstreaming youth while also engaging them in policy decisions. Whether it’s providing critical family planning information and services; promoting democracy, human rights, and gender equality; increasing employment and civic engagement; or delivering life-saving assistance following humanitarian disasters, every facet of USAID’s development agenda could (and in my opinion, should) include youth as a key component. In order to achieve this, the policy includes seven key principles:
The fact that there exists a youth policy at all, let alone such a multifaceted one, is certainly commendable. Furthermore, the extent to which it highlights young people’s sexual and reproductive health needs, including the prevention of unintended pregnancies, early marriage, and gender-based violence, is a positive development given the fundamental role sexual and reproductive health plays in all aspects of U.S. foreign policy. In addition to strong language on health, the policy also explicitly recognizes the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth, as well as the importance of pursuing gender equality and connecting with hard-to-reach populations, including young migrants and refugees, out-of-school and street youth, rural youth, married adolescents, and young people with disabilities.
No government policy is perfect, however. While this policy has made strides in promoting a more holistic and positive approach to youth, it lacks the teeth required to achieve its full potential. No additional funding is set aside to implement it and no mandate is given requiring the agency’s overseas missions to follow it, leaving it largely up to the discretion of individual missions and staff to decide if they have the time or interest in prioritizing youth. Without such mechanisms in place, the policy is just a piece of paper sitting on a shelf. In order to bring it to life, we need to get past this idea that doing youth work is too hard, that young people are too difficult to work with, don’t care, aren’t engaged, or don’t have the knowledge or experience to make change.
We cannot continue to let governments and others perpetuate the fear-based notion that, left unaddressed, youth will wreak havoc on communities and nations. We must remember that young people do not instigate civil strife and conflict; weak political systems do. Young people do not promote extremist ideologies; oppressive government policies do. Young people do not fuel crime sprees; inequitable distribution of resources and economic stagnation do. Young people are not the problem, they are the solution.
They have proven that they are resilient, innovative, and powerful agents of change who can achieve significant policy advancements when they work in conjunction with local, national, and regional stakeholders. Nepalese youth activists supported by Advocates for Youth and our local partner, YUWA, have successfully lobbied government officials to change Nepal’s national sex education curriculum to better reflect the needs of youth. After years of effort, Advocates’ youth council in Nigeria, Education as a Vaccine (EVA), won its campaign to have the Federal Ministry of Health create a stand-alone budget line in the national health sector budget that is specifically dedicated to adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health funding. And, the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network (JYAN) is working with the World Health Organization to develop guidelines for adolescents living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries. Involving young people and key stakeholders in their communities in these processes not only leads to innovative programs, it also increases success rates, while further helping young people build skills in communication, negotiation, and civic participation.
While young people have made tremendous progress in advancing their rights, they cannot and should not do it alone. National governments and the entire international community must not only recognize the rights of youth and respect them as equal partners and rights-holders, but they also have a responsibility to prioritize youth within all their development policies and programs. The USAID Youth in Development policy is one step in the right direction.
With nearly half the world’s population under the age of 25, a government policy recognizing the pivotal role young people play in the development of their communities, their nations, and the world is long overdue. The current and future direction of this planet will largely depend on how well we educate, empower, and engage the largest generation of young people in history. In no area is this of more paramount importance than in the realm of sexual and reproductive health and rights, where education, health, self-determination, and human rights intersect to create the foundations for healthy decision-making.
Nov 28, 2012
World Ball 2012 // Welcome to the North Pole
Join Metro TeenAIDS, RealTalkDC, STIGMA, SMYAL, Sasha Bruce, and the Latin American Youth Center for a night of competition, prizes, and voguing. This is your chance to compete in 15 categories, win a prize, and snatch a trophy!
The event will be hosted at the Eastern Market North Hall
Open to ALL YOUTH aged 13-24 years old.
DJ Tony Playboy
ENTRANCE TO THE BALL IS FREE IF TESTED FOR HIV OR $5
To gain a FREE entrance pass to the Ball, you will need to get tested at the following locations:
651 Pennsylvania Ave, SE
Testing Times: 12-8pm (Mon-Fri)
410 7th Street, SE
Testing Times: 3-5pm (Mon-Thurs), 3-6pm (Fri)
701B Maryland Ave NE
Testing Times: 11-8pm (Mon-Fri)
1419 Columbia Road, NW
Testing Times: 3-6pm (Mon – Thurs)
Youth can get tested between now and December 7th or at the actual event. We recommend getting tested prior to the event to skip the lines! Youth who chose to not get tested for HIV can enter the event for just $5.
All youth who are tested for HIV will receive a FREE entrance pass and be entered into a raffle for a $25 gift card (10 winners total!)
DON’T FORGET TO GET TESTED!
WORLD BALL 2012 CATEGORIES
Runway- Green and White effect
Vogues- Red and White effect
2. Realness (OTA)
Bring it in a North Pole effect
European- Jack Frost
All American- Nutcracker
Female Figure- Ice Queen
5. Hand Performance (OTA):
Blue or White gloves
6. Performance (OTA):
Female Figure – All White effect
Butch Queen: Santa’s Elves vs. Realness with a Twist: Reindeers
7. Tag Team:
Runway of 2 (1 Female Figure & 1 All American)
Female Figure- Snow Angels
All American- Snowman
PERFORMANCE (1 female figure & 1 BQ/ RWT)
Female figure- Ms. Claus
Butch Queen or Twister- Mr. Claus
The winner of each category will receive a $25 gift card and a World Ball 2012 trophy!
Nov 25, 2012
Omg. You can’t just ask people why they’re ignorant.
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.
Everyone should read this article: What happens when a woman is denied an abortion?
Although it may evoke the same thought I had:
“And water is wet.”
I live about five minutes away from this.
Their typical show of “slactivism” is anti-choice chalk writing on school property, which reeks of emotionally manipulative messages full of misinformation and bad spelling.
And now there’s this recent sign they put up, even after what happened to Savita Halappanavar, see what AFY_EmilyB has to say about that.
Nov 15, 2012
In the annual Population Fund report released yesterday, the UN called access to family planning services a universal human right. Although the UN has long supported expanding access to contraception, this is the first time they’ve framed it explicitly in human rights terms. The report states:
“Recent statistics show that 867 million women of childbearing age in developing countries have a need for modern contraceptives. Of that total, 645 million have access to them. But a staggering 222 million still do not. This is inexcusable. Family planning is a human right. It must therefore be available to all who want it. But clearly this right has not yet been extended to all, especially in the poorest countries.”
The UNPF report includes several charts that illustrate the vast unmet need for access to contraceptive services in developing countries:
In developing countries, 82% of unintended pregnancies result from a widespread lack of access to modern contraception.
Nov 11, 2012
Free birth control could prevent 1,060,370 unplanned pregnancies and 873,250 abortions a year in the U.S., according to a study.
Nov 9, 2012
This is something you can use if you didn’t use birth control or were late on your regular method. It’s really stronger doses of the same hormones that are found in regular birth control. And it’s most effective if it’s taken within 12 hours after sex.
A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that Plan B and RU486 (also known as the ‘abortion pill’) are the same thing. It’s not. Pregnancy is defined by implantation, and Plan B can’t harm an egg that has finished implanting–thus can’t cause an abortion. It also cannot cause birth defects.
Click on the image and then print it out for the Plan B Coupon!
Nov 8, 2012
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!
Nov 7, 2012
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.
Nov 2, 2012
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.
-opportunities to shape policy from the local to international level
-resources to mobilize your communities
-meet some pretty fantastic people
Be a part of a movement to make youth voices heard!
Nov 1, 2012
Advocates for Youth does not provide psychological counseling, or medical or legal advice. No information presented herein is intended as such advice. Furthermore, Advocates for Youth complies with, and does not condone, violations of the law.
So last month I went to the Richland County Health Department to gain a first hand experience on how the Family Planning Department works. It was a very smooth and easy process (and free!). I made an appointment, arrived early and waited for my birthday to be called (they do this for privacy reasons). First they did a rapid HIV test. All it took was a drop of blood and ten minutes! Next they did a pap smear and counseled me on birth control, even gave me a free prescription! Overall the experience took less than two hours, and was extremely pleasant. I encourage more young people to call them, make an appointment, get tested, and get on birth control! Did I mention they also give out free condoms?
Oct 30, 2012
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
1) Journal of HIV/AIDS Prevention & Education for Adolescents & Children 5.3-4 (2003): 7-32.
Oct 29, 2012
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?
Oct 28, 2012
We had a halloween on the green event last Thursday in which the Alabama Alliance for Healthy Youth had a booth. We did spooky crafts, a pumpkin bean bag toss, and handed out candy…. and condoms! It was so funny to see everyone’s reactions when they saw the condom basket- at first they gave us weird stares and thought “Why in the world do they have that here?” However, the more outgoing people who came to our table asked if they could have one or two. The more shy girls and guys that came quietly slipped them into their brown paper bags or into their bras. It was interesting to see the differences in reactions to how people responded to the fact that they could get free condoms. In fact, a policeman came over to our table and asked who we were and what we were doing. We responded with who the Alabama Alliance for Healthy Youth was, and that we hand out free condoms to anyone who wants them. He then responded with, “Do you have any more condoms, because I am about to get you a whole bunch of people to come over here.” He kept thanking us and saying how great it is that we were handing out condoms. I want everyone on campus to know that getting condoms is not expensive or difficult here at UAB. All they have to do is ask one of us in the alliance leadership council, or show up to a school-wide event. Its that easy to stay safe. However, as the Alabama Alliance for Healthy Youth, we need to make sure that everyone knows who we are and what we can offer. One of the ways that we do this is by asking people to join the Alliance so that they can get email updates on what we are doing. We still have a long journey ahead of us, but by every new card that we fill out and every event that we attend, we are, though perhaps in a small way, slowing down rates of STDs and teen pregnancies in Alabama- and that is an encouraging thought.
Oct 27, 2012
Mary J. Blige, along with actress Julianne Moore and songwriter/producer Bryan Michael Cox, attending the Planned Parenthood Action Fund “Yes, We Plan” in NYC
Oct 26, 2012
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!!
Oct 26, 2012
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!
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.
This is outside the State Capitol building in Lansing for a free viewing of The Vagina Monologues, in which Eve Ensler made an appearance on her day off, in support of Representative Lisa Brown and overall reproductive healthcare and rights this past summer. I was definitely there.
What HB 5177 entails:
1) Bans Abortions After 20 Weeks, Even For Rape And Incest Victims: A woman would not be able to have an abortion after 20 weeks of gestation based on the widely disputed idea that a fetus can feel pain after that point. The only exception would be if a woman’s life was in danger.
2) Transforms Doctors Into Detectives: The Republican-backed legislation would make it a crime for anyone to coerce a woman into having an abortion. Doctors will have to give their patients a questionnaire to inform them of the illegality of coercion and determine if the woman had been coerced or is the victim of domestic abuse before the abortion procedure.
3) Limits Access For Rural Women: Under the omnibus bill, doctors would have to be physically present to perform a medication abortion, thus preventing a doctor from administering abortion-inducing medication by consulting via telephone or internet. This would especially hurt rural women, who may have to travel hours to meet in-person with a specialist.
4) Requires Doctors To Purchase Costly Malpractice Insurance: If HB 5711 goes into effect, then doctors would be required to carry $1 million in liability insurance if they perform five or more abortions each month or have been subject to two more more civil suits in the past seven years, among other requirements. But the qualifications are so vague that almost all doctors who perform abortions could be requiredto carry the additional liability insurance at a potential cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
5) Regulates Clinics Out Of Existence: HB 5711 would create new regulations so that any clinic that provides six or more abortions in a month or one which advertises abortion services would have to be licensed as a “freestanding surgical outpatient facility.” That means that even if a clinic does not offer surgical abortions, it would be required to have a full surgical suite.
I hope I don’t get in trouble for this following one. I don’t really think it’s profane.
You probably can’t see me, but I’m somewhere in here. I’ll have to look it up but I think over 500 people were there.
Oct 19, 2012
Oct 18, 2012
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:
Against All Authority
Alice in Chains
Angels and Airwaves
Archers of Loaf
Au Revoir Simone
Big D and the Kids Table
The Black Keys
Boards of Canada
Broken Social Scene
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Dave Matthews Band
Death Cab for Cutie
Dillinger Escape Plan
Dry the River
Florence and the Machine
Fox and the Law
Gang Gang Dance
Get Up Kids
Goo Goo Dolls
The Go Team
Gregory and the Hawk
Kings of Convenience
Less Than Jake
The Magnetic Fields
Manic Street Preachers
Maps & Atlases
Marina and the Diamonds
Mary J. Blige
The Mountain Goats
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
My Brightest Diamond
My Morning Jacket
New Found Glory
The New Pornographers
No Use For a Name
The Postal Service
The Presidents of the United States
Queens of the Stone Age
Rage Against the Machine
Ra Ra Riot
Red Hot Chilli Peppers
Salt ‘n’ Pepa
The Scissor Sisters
Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
Stone Temple Pilots
The Summer Set
System of a Down
Tegan and Sara
TV on the Radio
Uh Huh Her
The Volcano Diary
Yo La Tengo
Aug 16, 2012
Aug 1, 2012
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).
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
Jul 31, 2012
Here’s an email we sent out to our list today, celebrating tomorrow’s beginning of ACA contraception provisions!
On August 1, 2012, under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), private insurance plans will begin to cover the cost of birth control — meaning millions of women will no longer have to pay the up to $600 a year that birth control can cost.
Most young women with insurance will soon be able to choose among birth-control methods — oral contraception, injectables, the ring, IUDs, and others. They will be able to select the method that best fits their needs and lives, without cost standing in the way of their decision. You helped make birth control with no co-pay a reality. You sent thousands of letters and participated throughout the year in a campaign urging President Obama and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to stand firm and supporting them in the face of relentless attacks from social conservatives. And you were heard!
With this new mandate, making women’s preventative care affordable for those with insurance, we are inching closer to the day when all young women will be able to choose the type of contraception that is right for them; when they can take full control of protecting their health and planning for their futures.
Unfortunately, not everyone has coverage yet. Conscience clauses still allow churches and other houses of worship to deny coverage to their employees. And, nonprofit employers who, based on religious beliefs, do not currently provide contraceptive coverage in their insurance plan, will have an additional year to prepare (until August 1, 2013) to comply with the new law — meaning many students at colleges and universities which claim a religious exemption may not be covered until next year. And, last week, in Colorado a judge granted an injunction allowing one business to deny its employees access to birth control while its lawsuit challenging the ACA is decided.
So we still have a long way to go to ensure all women have access to affordable contraception and the full range of reproductive health services. But today, thanks to your activism and commitment, private insurance coverage begins to reflect the health care needs and priorities of women. And that’s something to celebrate.
Youth Activist Network Manager
Advocates for Youth
Jul 28, 2012
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).
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.
Jul 26, 2012
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
This is part two 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.
Several things about your campaign imply a religious background. Would you agree with that? If so, how do you identify your beliefs?
1Flesh is an entirely secular organization. The closest thing we get to a religious argument is our argument regarding the philosophy of contraception. Our beliefs are many and varied. Obviously we’ve got a lot of Catholic kids, as the Catholic Church has never been down with contraception, but we make it clear to everyone working for us that we have a strictly secular policy. The risk of breast cancer associated with the Pill doesn’t just hurt religious people, so why limit our audience?
First of all, there are risks with any medication. That doesn’t mean the risks are significant or at all likely.
A few facts from the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health:
1) “Naturally occurring estrogen and progesterone have been found to influence the development and growth of some cancers.”
2) “However, 10 or more years after women stopped using oral contraceptives, their risk of developing breast cancer had returned to the same level as if they had never used birth control pills, regardless of family history of breast cancer…”
3) “…nearly all of the increased risk was seen among women who took a specific type of oral contraceptive, a “triphasic” pill, in which the dose of hormones is changed in three stages over the course of a woman’s monthly cycle.”
4) “Women who use oral contraceptives have reduced risks of ovarian and endometrial cancer. This protective effect increases with the length of time oral contraceptives are used.”
And second; I think there’s a difference between having a secular policy and basing the beliefs of your organization on religious ideology. You may work with volunteers of different religions, but I don’t see how you could possibly state that none of what you’re saying comes from religious teachings.
You say there is not a religious basis to your work, yet you say your "philosophy of contraception" is based in Christianity. If this is the main basis of your practice, how is there not an inherent religious basis to your message?
Our "philosophy of contraception" has no basis in Christianity. It certainly has a basis in Western philosophy, which we would concede as a bias. It takes Aristotle’s principle that all things have a telos, or an ultimate end, and applies it to the action of sex. If we are most fulfilled when our actions achieve their end, it follows that in order for sex to be fulfilling to the human person, it’s end must be discerned and sought after. This has no more basis in Christianity than the following: The end of eating is twofold, pleasure and nourishment. To seek the pleasure of eating without the nourishment (as in the case of a bulimic), does harm to the organism. I’d encourage everyone to read our basic philosophical argument.
Your philosophical argument is indeed philosophical, but I’m still not convinced there’s no religious influence.
In researching the term “one flesh,” I found several references to marriage (two people becoming one couple) and divorce (not separating who God has sealed together). I didn’t come across anything that talked about “one flesh” as a directive on how to have sex. Is this your own interpretation?
We’re not interpreting the Bible, we just like the buzzword and have thus stolen it.
I am not religious, (just as you claim your organization to be secular) but if I started an organization and named it after a term in the Bible…that would be a little suspicious, no?
The title of your organization is 1Flesh, a term you appropriated from the Bible. Where do you draw the line between religious influence and secular practice, especially considering that religion so strongly influences messages of waiting until marriage to have sex?
Again, our organization remains entirely secular in its content. We leave it to others to decide to what extent they wish the religious and the secular to influence their lifestyles.
You’re right. Maybe I should have asked how your philosophy relates to religious teachings.
Many people take the Bible’s teachings and apply them to their modern lives. Can you address the fact that modern contraception was not available in Biblical times and therefore could not have been commented on?
Again, we’re not too concerned with biblical arguments for or against contraception. We know they exist, but they aren’t what 1Flesh is about.
For every question I asked about the influence of religion on their organization, I got the same answer- we’re entirely secular. On one level, I can concede that they don’t rely on religion to make their points (as we’ll see throughout the rest of the interview) but to deny the influence of religion in their message seems illogical to me. When nearly all of the messaging against contraception, divorce, pre-marital sex, and abortion are so deeply tied to religious dogma, I don’t understand why 1Flesh refuses to acknowledge the significance of this connection with their work.
Jul 24, 2012
This is part one 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.
On your site, you identify yourselves as “a group of college kids.” Do you all go to (or used to go to) the same school? How did you meet?
We didn’t all meet at one school. We’ve got folks from all over the country, from Texas A&M, University of Dallas, Franciscan University, CUA, some alumni from UVA, with more people volunteering their efforts every day. We’ve also got a lot of medical professionals — OB/GYNs and the like — fact-checking for us, so it’s not just a college party at this point.
Doesn’t really answer the question of how you started working together, but okay.
Are all of the medical professionals you consult with licensed to practice medicine? What kind of practitioners, other than OB/GYNs, do you work with?
Not all. Asides from OB/GYNs and family practice physicians, we also take a lot of guidance from medical students (some of whom write for 1Flesh), nurse practitioners (especially those who teach the Creighton Method), and folks operating within the world of social science — sociologists and researchers.
Well that’s reassuring.
Where are you based?
Since we’re entirely an online community, at this point we’re not based anywhere. We are in the process of establishing ourselves as a non-profit, however, which is based out of Charlottesville, VA.
What prompted you to start this campaign?
A lot of things. Primarily, however, we’re not satisfied with the way our culture treats human beings. Women are terribly demeaned, men are thought of as uncontrollable animals, lasting relationships and lasting marriages are few and far between, we mistreat our bodies, and life is often thought of as a commodity. No one’s claiming any sort of direct causation here, but the widespread use of artificial contraception hasn’t been helping us. It works against our natures — by working against the nature of our actions — and creates all sorts of physical, medical, and sociological problems.
LOTS more on these issues as we go through the full interview!
It seems your campaign is targeted to young people. Do you agree with that?
We are young people. Our average age hovers around 20. So the graphics and videos we make, the writing styles we use, these things are entirely natural to us. To your own self be true, that’s the only target we’re aiming for.
Again, that doesn’t really answer the question. Every blog I’ve read about this group has interpreted its audience the same way I did. I don’t see what’s so hard or uncomfortable about admitting that. Maybe they’re afraid of admitting that they’re taking advantage of young people who may not know better?
How would you describe your experience of these first months of this campaign?
Lots of fun.
Do you find the attention you’re getting to be mostly positive or mostly negative?
Certainly negative, but in a remarkably positive way. We’re entirely aware that the dominant paradigm today holds that contraception is the niftiest thing since sex. Subverting the dominant paradigm only ever leads to outrage, and thus we got all sorts of fun write-ups from Jezebel, Huffington Post and the like. The positive part is that the vast, vast majority of the criticism we’ve received has been against the very idea of us, a group opposed to contraception, and not against the actual ideas we’re promoting, that oral contraceptives have negative effects on women’s health, that condoms take away from the biologically bonding nature of sex, etc.
I looked into this, reading blogs on 1Flesh from Huffington Post, Jezebel, Patheos, and Salon. I wouldn’t call any them “fun write-ups.” None of them were specifically surprised by or against the “idea” of a group, per se, like theirs. Theirs is a message that’s been around for a long time, simmering under the surface of the anti-choice movement. What these articles are against is the lies and misinformation, which 1Flesh deal out in abundance. Each article deconstructs the myths that 1Flesh peddles as facts, including the studies they cite to support their bogus claims. It’s true that none of the articles I read addressed the subject of “the biologically bonding nature of sex,” but their site is so full of false information that can you really blame them for leaving out the hocus pocus idea that having sex means you’re biologically bonded to that person for life?
What do you think is the biggest misconception about your campaign?
That we secretly want teenagers to die from STDs.
Well, you certainly want sexually active teenagers not to use condoms, which would highly increase their chances of getting an STD.
Do you see your group as a reliable, educational resource? What kind of institutions have approached you to provide information or education to their members?
We do. We try to keep our sources objective, peer-reviewed and recent. There is a large window for misunderstanding, however, especially when folks think that we’re implying causation and not correlation. For instance, we try to show how condoms — whatever good they might do in a single instance of sex — have not been shown as reducing the overall rate of STDs over time. This leads many skim readers to assume that we’re saying that condoms can never prevents STDs, that they have holes in them, or that condoms have single-handedly increased the rate of STDs. Which is silliness, of course.
As of yet, no institutions have approached us to provide education to their members. This is something grateful for, because as a 2-week newborn organization, we don’t have that capacity right now.
As we’ll see in the upcoming installments of this interview, 1Flesh stands absolutely firm in saying that certain things are facts when medical and scientific evidence supports the opposite. In the way they express their views, even when they don’t out-rightly suggest causation, they give the strong impression that anything contradicting their assertions must be false.
You ask your supports for contributions to be able to fund your efforts going forward. How did you get your original start-up money?
Just playing, our start-up money came out of our own pockets, from various dishwashing and on-campus jobs. We also got an 1000 dollar loan from parents. The sweet thing about our start-up was that when people heard what we were doing and were convinced with our message, they gave us incredibly generous discounts on their service, (medical advice, web design, legal work, writing skills, etc.)
Jul 11, 2012
The world is overpopulated.
Overpopulation is everywhere.
It is a major cause of most of the crises we face.
We can fix it…humanely, voluntarily, and starting today.
Six things stand in our way.
This week a few human rights and too few environmental organizations will observe World Population Day. In 1989, as world population passed the 5 billion mark, the United Nations declared July 11 World Population Day. In the 23 years since, we’ve added another 2 billion.
The UN’s latest mid-range scenario has us passing through 10 billion before this century ends. We’ve been adding a billion to the planet about every 12 years, but the UN expects fertility rates to decline such that it will take nearly 80 years to add the next 3 billion. This scenario also has us hitting peak population just after 2100. Some feel this means population growth is no longer a concern.
I’m as worried about population growth today as I was when I decided twenty years ago to stop at two children. Why? Today alone we’ll add more than 200,000 to the planet. This week we’ll add more than a million – over 80 million this year. Yet according to data from the Global Footprint Network, published in the WWF’s Living Planet Report, the current 7 billion of us are living like there’s no tomorrow. We’re pushing other species off the planet at a record rate, draining the world’s major rivers and pumping aquifers dry, liquidating fertile soils, toxifying our land and waters, and heating up our climate.
We’re doing this while half the world’s population lives at a lifestyle we’d consider impoverished. We’d like all the people on the planet to have an opportunity to live like we do. Unfortunately that’s just not possible. The scientists crunching the data tell us it would take 5 Earths to support all 7 billion of us living like North Americans. Even if we could pull this off for a day or a week, it’s not sustainable and we’d very quickly destroy the life support systems upon which we depend.
So it’s a sticky wicket at 7 billion, and the problem is amplified if we go to 10. Clearly those of us living materially rich lives need to scale back our levels of consumption. But that is not enough. The prospects of achieving worldwide economic justice and equity do not get better as we overpopulate the planet.
The good news is we don’t have to follow that UN scenario. It’s not inevitable. It is physically possible for population to peak at 8 billion or even less. Families the world over can begin today making informed, responsible decisions about family size. What stands in the way?
1. The myth that growth begets prosperity – We are convinced our recent 200-year binge (harnessing the power of fossil fuels, industrialization, globalization, settling and exploiting the frontiers of the Americas, etc.) is the way life is supposed to be. These exploits allowed us to improve our lives, and they were accompanied by explosive population growth (1 billion in 1800, 8 billion in 2000). We think we can repeat this binge behavior going forward. In fact, many of us believe we must. The evidence and the science tell us clearly we cannot. We can take power away from this mythology by pointing it out whenever it is repeated or used to guide behavior or policy. We must be relentless in demolishing this myth.
2. The assumption continued population growth is inevitable – Many also have the impression it would take decades to change that steep upward trajectory. But all the talk about demographic momentum assumes people of reproductive age will not dramatically alter the choices they make. We can get over this hurdle. It just takes a little information. Growth can stop 9 months from now if it’s enough of a priority.
3. Our fear of addressing the issue – The “population taboo” has many forms. We think it’s an inalienable right to reproduce as many offspring as we wish. It’s none of our business to suggest someone else limit family size. Some critics leap to the conclusion that sustainable population advocates in the developed world are trying to avoid addressing our overconsumption and blame humankind’s unsustainability on the procreation of people in the developing world.
For these and other reasons many good people avoid the topic. It’s become politically incorrect to use the word “overpopulation.” “Population dynamics” has replaced “population growth.” “Reproductive health” is mentioned instead of “contraception.” We see it at the UN and in statements from environmental and human rights groups. This PC approach to the topic pervades most of our media.
Perfect examples are statements from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. From an early World Population Day 2012 message:
“A world of 7 billion is both a challenge and an opportunity with implications on sustainability, urbanization, access to health services and youth empowerment.”
A challenge and an “opportunity?” Give me a break! And from his actual World Population Day 2012 statement:
“Multiple crises — food, fuel and financial — have caused significant suffering and served as a wake-up call about the need to pay far more attention to the building blocks of sustainable development. Reproductive health is an indispensable part of the sustainable development equation.”
That’s the best he can muster. In his defense, he does go on to actually use the word “contraceptives.” That in itself is astounding progress. But he does not have the cojones to tell the full truth. Here is what he ought to say (my words now):
“The world is overpopulated. We must find humane, voluntary ways to bring population growth to a halt as soon as is humanly possible. And we need to do this in the developed world as much as in the developing world.”
This is a tough beast to tame, but I’m going to suggest the George Carlin approach. Let’s get over our goody-two-shoes fear of the truth. Stop beating around the bush. Use the words. Our planet is overpopulated. Population growth is not good for our children. It would be in their best interest for us to conceive fewer of them. You can say it! It’s the compassionate, loving, humanitarian thing to say. If we say it and write it enough, world leaders may follow (the irony is not lost on me).
Let’s also admit the developed world is overconsuming and we must deal with that issue simultaneously. And if we’re overconsuming, that means we North Americans and Australians have a population problem, too (Europeans not so much; many of these nations are experiencing population decline – which they should embrace with joy).
4. Our culture is addicted to growth – Our cities, states and nations compete to have the fastest growth. We pursue population growth because we connect it with economic growth, which is of course the Holy Grail (and a subject for another day). It’s impossible to have a sustainable world in which most of the geopolitical units are pursuing growth. Frankly, it can feed a hypocrisy in which rich cities and countries increase population and footprint, while thinking birth control for poor peoples and nations will solve our sustainability problem. It’s all nonsense. Of course we need to expose this mythology for what it is, and progress to more enlightened, sustainable prosperity strategies.
5. Propaganda from growth profiteers keep reasons 1-4 in play – We are programmed from birth to believe in and worship everlasting growth. News media and advertising reinforce that indoctrination on a daily basis. Some of this happens innocently enough – because journalists grow up with the same programming. However media companies and business tycoons benefit from a growing market so they intentionally serve up a steady diet of pro-growth Kool-Aid.
6. Family planning under attack – Lastly, we have the ultra-conservative attack on funding of family planning. I’ll say it: access to contraception. As more and more people come to understand that limiting family size is critical, compassionate and responsible, I think we can prevail. It starts with having frank dialog about it. World Population Day 2012 seems like a good day to start.
Dave Gardner directed the film, GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth, and has created www.worldpopulationday.org, to encourage honest conversations about overpopulation. To order the film or find a screening near you, visit www.growthbusters.org. Both are non-profit projects of Citizen-Powered Media. Permission is granted to publish this essay elsewhere in its entirety, provided full credit and link back to these sites is included.