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Archive for the ‘From the Field’ Category

I’d like to tell you about Paula.

Paula talking to a group in South Texas

Paula is a busy mom who works two part-time jobs to support her four children (ages 2 to 18 years old). Frustrated and concerned about the lack of access to adequate healthcare in her community, when Paula heard about our Texas Promotora Training earlier this month, she immediately signed up. Paula says:

There were close to 30 women who attended the training…by the end of that training I saw the transformation. That’s what caught my attention, how through education…it empowers women, how it can make them become a true leader.

Paula is now one of our active leaders in Texas, educating and advocating for reproductive justice in her community.

Paula is just one of many activists we’ve worked with this year, to bring them bilingual tools and information they’ve used to mobilize their communities.

As the end of the year draws to a close, we’re asking you, our loyal supporters, to consider a tax-deductible donation to NLIRH in your year-end giving.

With the support we received last year, in 2012 we also accomplished:

  • Training close to 500 Latinas and Latinos between the ages of ages 18 – 39 years old throughout the country, and particularly in the Southeast, on leadership, advocacy and reproductive rights;
  • Reaching a record media audience of nearly 125 million people in both English and Spanish which is over thirty times the media reach we had in 2011; and
  • Launching our ¡Soy Poderosa! (I am powerful) civic engagement campaign designed to engage, mobilize, and highlight civic participation by Latinas and Latinos throughout the country. Through this campaign we’ve achieved some key victories in Florida and Texas, and activated communities throughout the nation through social media.

We’re already planning and preparing for 2013, which is already jammed packed with more leadership trainings, research, legislator visits, communications activities and much more. But we need your help. Become a Poderosa and make a tax deductible contribution to NLIRH!

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Leydi Bautista – young mother of two

My mother decided to have me at the age of 20 without any support from my “father” or our family. She was a young mother, living in poor conditions in Colombia, who barely made enough money to support herself, much less raise a child. Despite all this, she was able to provide for me and for my siblings as they came. However, I oftentimes imagine how different things would have been if my mother had a support system pre, during, and post pregnancy. I wonder how many more young mothers are out there without anyone to turn to or anyone who shares their experiences and can lend a shoulder to lean on. Which is why I’m so excited for the work the young mother’s group in New York is going to do.

Young mothers during their first training

The first time this group of young mothers set foot into the office they were shy and hesitant to open up about the hardships they’ve faced as young mothers. Their babies sat on our office floor, too scared to ask for snacks or even a juice box. With time, the mothers got to know each other better, they shared their fears of not becoming someone, of hating baby throw up, of deciding not to have an abortion even though they knew it would be difficult from here on after. Many gatherings that led to a briefing in Washington DC where these mothers stressed the importance of investing in them. They walked around DC with a sense of ownership; owning their stories, their experiences, their struggles, their goals, hopes and aspirations for the future that awaits them and their babies too.

Poderosa young mothers in DC

Marymar, one of the young mothers who went to DC shared her experience with us:

It was a fun experience and I would love to do more things like that. I felt motivated. I want to continue being vocal about the issues young mother’s face and to get more girls to do this. Even though there are people that don’t think about our future, we have to do it! We have to do everything we can to make sure others work with us and help us out. I want my kids to look up to me and to be proud of me. I’m doing all this so they can be happy. I want my daughter to one day say, “that’s my mother!” and that she’ll follow in my footsteps and help others. All I want to do is be somebody in life and everyone will see that I made it even though they didn’t believe I could. I will make it, that is a promise.


For these moms, the journey is not over though, it has just begun. As we continue to grow together and learn from each we hope to see real change in our community. These young moms are determined to obtain the resources they need to help their families or to create paths that are not there for them the way my mother did. From having access to child care, scholarships, food and shelter, comprehensive sex education to parent only parks, they will continue to fight for it all. But they won’t be alone.

Perlita and her baby boy

One thing is certain; they are not fighting for themselves but for their kid(s). Their kids are the reason they are able to get out of bed sometimes, why some of them are still enrolled in college even though it is so difficult to find child care. Their kids are the reason why they’re standing up to the injustices and inequalities they face every day. Because some day, things will change, and their little ones will be there to witness it and know their mothers fought for this. Without realizing it, these moms have already become someone in life. They are warriors and creators of their own destinies.

If you are also a young mom in New York and you’d like to get involved with us, connect with us here. Also, check out this video of the young mothers in DC.

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Texas LAN signs

Everything is bigger in Texas, but does that include community organizing? Last week a few of us went down the Rio Grande Valley to visit our incredible activists who have been working on creating an educated and saavy group of Latin@s in colonias throughout the Valley. The Texas Rio Grande Valley is a place that is often times forgotten about by the rest of the United States. It is only recently that it has been placed on the map because of the work that our Latina Advocacy Network (LAN) has been doing around the Affordable Care Act and the destructive cuts to women’s health services in Texas – our activists are truly incredible, and right when you think they have surpassed any expectations, they do something else to raise the bar, and really push their activists to the next level.

Our leaders hold “juntas comunitarias,” (community meetings) in different colonias on a daily basis. Some of our more developed colonia leaders come to these meetings equipped with a neighbor or family member by their side to get them involved in the LAN;  a pen and paper to write down any information they have learned in the meeting, or an assignment(s) they have taken for an event; and an open heart and mind. (more…)

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MLK in Birmingham

“Lo que pasa en la casa, no se habla,” a phrase that was drilled into me and my siblings at a young age, was the first thing that came out of the mouth of Trini, a mother, a woman, a member of the Birmingham community, and a warrior in the fight against Alabama’s Anti-Immigration Law, HB 56. Trini and six other extraordinary women were part of a group of Latinas, who made a decision that  goes against what they were taught culturally to do (not to talk about hardship at home): they began speaking out and fighting back.

These women each had characteristics of my greatest role model, my mother. My mother is by far the most extraordinary woman alive, not only because she is my mother, but because of what she did to make sure that us –her children and only family in the United States– were able to help her realize her “American Dream”: to be educated professionals, own a home, and have the opportunity to be what we want at our fingertips. My mother, a paraprofessional for the NYC Department of Education, has been an incredible educator, and proud union member for over twenty years. My siblings and I are all clear that had it not been for my mother’s great job with awesome benefits and constant focus on our education, we wouldn’t be where we are today. My mother and father both paved the way alongside other Latin@ immigrants to fight and obtain their dreams for a better life.

Two weeks ago on 3/21 & 3/22/12, I unfortunately saw that the path my parents made when they came to this country, is slowly disappearing in places like Birmingham, Alabama. As an Advisory Committee Member for the We Belong Together delegation to Birmingham, I along with sixteen other fierce, woman leaders, came to Alabama to bear witness to the harshest anti-immigrant, anti-family law in the United States, HB 56. We heard about how one law has been able to tear apart, traumatize, and at times uproot women, children, and families. Interestingly, the women who shared their stories with us taught us all a lesson: that they would not let their fear paralyze them, but instead use that Letter from kidsfear to empower them to stand up, take control, and fight like hell.

These women spoke about the importance to access health care for their children, a better life for their families, and the American Dream they made for themselves — one which they knew they would never be able to fulfill in their homelands. Their reasons to emigrate and the dreams they have made are all things that I am very familiar with. My father’s family immigrated to the US from Ecuador in the late-50s and early-60s searching for a cure for polio, which had struck my aunt at a young age. My parents had one thing in mind when they got married, which was to create the best environment possible for their kids to be better than them, to have access to everything they need, and for their family to move ahead. It seemed to me like all of my friends who were like me, first generation immigrants, had parents who had the same dream. We just needed to go to school, do well academically, go to college, and we would be set for life — our parents paved the way for us to do all of these things without having to worry about the hardships that they had to confront. And yet, 27 years later, I listened to the stories of the women of Alabama and realized that the path began vanishing because of this anti-immigrant, anti-family law.

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This Thanksgiving, at NLIRH, we are especially thankful for the fierce Latinas in our Latina Advocacy networks across this country. On November 14-18 our Texas Latina Advocacy Network (LAN) hosted an important event: a Texas Advocacy Week in the Rio Grande Valley. A total of 30 women from the Rio Grande Valley participated in week-long training on reproductive justice, civic engagement, leadership, and advocacy. Together they learned from each other and from their experiences in organizing as promotoras (health promoters) and respected leaders in their communities.

They shared their expertise in organizing and mobilizing for reproductive justice and demonstrated their collective power by rounding off the week with in-district visits to their state representatives asking them to re-instate family planning funding, whose cuts have deeply affected their communities in devastating ways. For many of the women who participated in this week of action, it was the first time they had exercised their right to be civically engaged and hold their representatives accountable by visiting their offices. These fearless women understand that this work is just the beginning.

From collecting thousands of signatures for petitions to hosting their first ever advocacy week, the Texas LAN are a primary example of what authentic leadership in action looks like. Reproductive justice activism is crucial to their everyday lived experiences and they show it through the passion and heart that they put forth in every community health fair, in-district visit and march that they organize. The activists we work with respond to the challenges that face them as immigrant women and Latinas by reaching out to more communities, educating and empowering more leaders, and mobilizing for reproductive justice in ways that are accessible to those who need it most. As they would say, they are “siempre hechandole ganas”! 

Above are two videos from women present at the Texas Advocacy Week, sharing their experiences. English transcripts after the jump.

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“Statistically significant”

“Accurate denominator”

“Barrier vs. non-barrier population”

This is what I heard as I sat in a gloomy conference room today during an agency committee meeting about who classifies as a medically underserved population and where health professional shortages exist.

The committee’s job is to build a model that the federal Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) will use to allocate money to populations that lack medical services.

I was at these same meetings in November and realized that the deliberations lacked the human stories needed to make an accurate model. We know that certain elements have the biggest impacts on underservice such as race, ethnicity, culture, language, sexual orientation, and gender identity. So we joined forces with other organizations including the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) and the National Immigration Law Center to express our concerns.

With these organizations, we submitted written comments to the committee and then I gave public testimony today about these issues. I know that by opening up this conversation, giving strong examples of the problems, and offering solutions we have made an impact in that committee’s focus. They asked us to remain a resource for their future efforts and several committee members thanked me for our participation and expressed that they have tried to elevate these concerns but that it has been difficult. These issues are not easy to raise. They make finding a clean model very difficult. But they are critical in designing a model that is effective at figuring out who really is underserved. I hope, and believe, that our work on this issue has elevated underserved voices and will make a difference in the committee’s deliberations.

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