Just recently, as I walked to the podium and accepted the Ms. Foundation’s Women of Vision Award, I was in awe. I stood in front of a roomful of leaders, advocates and supporters of the women’s movement to accept an award from Gloria Steinem — who I have revered since I was a young feminist in high school helping my school mates organize for the 1992 abortion rights march. As a 35- year-old Latina with immigrant parents, I never dreamed that one day I would meet Gloria Steinem, let alone accept a leadership award from her. But now I realize that this moment represents one of the goals of the women’s movement — finding and supporting new and diverse voices to challenge stereotypes and transform the lives of millions of women and girls.
The Ms. Foundation’s Women of Vision award is given each year to leaders working to advance an equitable society. For many of us who are in the day-to-day fight for women’s advancement, it’s a moment to reflect and celebrate our achievements. So often, we talk about all the challenges women still face—and believe me, there are many. I also can tell you — that looking around at all those faces, I truly understood — that there is real power in the women’s movement. And, despite mainstream media claims to the contrary, the movement for reproductive justice is strong and there is growing recognition that reproductive health doesn’t happen in isolation, and pregnancy and disease prevention programs built on stigma and shame aren’t making anybody any healthier.
Together, along with the Ms. Foundation, other donors, activists and advocates, we are building a foundation of new grassroots leaders: Latinas who are committed to ending poverty and discrimination and to affirming the right to self-determination for ourselves and our families. Racism, sexism, poverty, xenophobia, educational disparities – all these issues are inextricably connected for Latinas. Never before has it been so clear that Latinas have a stake in the intersection of social justice, human rights and reproductive rights.
Every Latina activist has a story-some of us claim reproductive rights as our motivation others devote their lives to immigration or environmental justice. Regardless- the women’s movement is diverse and in many communities being led by women of color. But more of us have to tell our story so that we can begin changing the perception of our women and girls and demonstrate our collective strength. These moments of recognition are especially important as many of our communities are suffering in the wake of the egregious Arizona anti-immigrant law, or as some women fight to make ends meet and are struggling to afford the health care they need.
There are 15 million Latinas nationwide. Whether you choose to volunteer in your neighborhood, you work for a social justice organization or you simply share your unique story, each of us has an opportunity to use that collective power to ensure that our children, partners, and families will enjoy a healthier, more just world. Our time is now.
To tell your story or why you care about these issues, click here.
To learn more about ways you can get involved, click here.