Live From SisterSong: Reproductive Justice For All

Eesha Pandit

Youth leadership, global justice and sex-positivity are just some of the issues that power a broad-based reproductive justice movement envisioned and experienced at the Sistersong Conference.

Having just wrapped up the 2nd National SisterSong Conference, I'm full of new ideas and inspiration. I'm sure all of this year's participants are as well. The conference was energizing and chock full of incredible examples of how the reproductive justice framework operates. The framework is an effort to tie together an incredibly diverse and multifaceted movement so that it is more inclusive and effective. In an effort to tie together an equally diverse and multifaceted conference, I thought I'd take this opportunity to use the reproductive justice framework to highlight some conference themes that stood out as exemplars of the SisterSong mission.

Youth Leadership: The SisterSong Collective is committed to incorporating the particular issues facing young people in their quest for access to sexual and reproductive rights. To this end, and to foster youth leadership at the conference, SisterSong created a Young Women's Working Group last year. This group encouraged workshops at the conference that were by, for and/or about young women. Among the 16 total workshops offered were:

  • Youth Taking Action: Organizing to Improve Sex Education in Our Communities
  • Sexual Health and Latina Youth Development
  • Young Women's Access to Abortion and,
  • Building Healthy Sex Esteem for Youth

These kinds of workshops, along with the Saturday plenary entitled, "To Be Young, Gifted and Sexy: Affirming the Sexual Human Rights of Youth," and the standout presence of young women at the conference itself, demonstrated the commitment that a movement for reproductive justice must have to include young women in all aspects of organizing.

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Global Justice: As I mentioned in my earlier post, the plenaries and workshops showed great concern for linking the local and global. They ranged from addressing violence against women, human trafficking, HIV/AIDS, population control, and the Global Gag rule. The message here was to emphasize the shared challenges and lessons learned in reproductive justice advocacy globally.

Sex Positivity: With a tagline like, "Let's Talk About Sex," how could this conference shy away from any topic sex related. With refreshing candor and much humor the organizers offered what they called a "pro-sex space for the pro-choice movement." Considering the right to have sex as a fundamental component of reproductive justice, and acknowledging that it is rarely discussed, the conference offered a range of workshops to challenge those sexual prohibitions promoted by moral conservatives in this country, and also to broaden the scope of pro-choice advocates themselves. Some of the workshops included:

  • A Healthy Love Party
  • Let's Talk About Sexual Freedom
  • Healthy Relationships and
  • The Pleasure Principle

And finally, but certainly not exhaustively — on everyone's minds are the upcoming legal and political challenges to reproductive rights in the U.S. In addition to discussions about political organizing in '08, U.S. policy and violence against women of color, using human rights to access reproductive justice and conversations about the right and conservative churches, SisterSong highlighted a new project. SisterSong, Ipas and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force have come together, in a perfect example of cross-issue reproductive justice organizing, to bring us their new project, Mapping Our Rights. This website provides a tool for activists to monitor and mobilize around the sexual and reproductive rights issues affecting their states. Check out the site: it's got a wealth of information broken down into a state-by-state analysis.

Overall, as you can certainly tell, the conference was rich and rewarding, though hectic and fast-paced! At first glace it might seem as though the wide range of topics and challenges would dilute the potency of the reproductive justice method. Instead, many of us found ourselves seeing new links between movements and issues that will make our organizing easier and more effective. Activists met people from disparate movements and faraway places only to determine that there is a great deal of power to be found in a broad-based, inclusive and, now, newly energized, movement for reproductive justice!

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