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Archive for the ‘Reproductive Justice’ Category

As we saw in the elections, political pundits were somehow shocked that Latino voters came out to support Democratic candidates.  Many think that the Latino community is by nature conservative, but this is far from reality.  Who can forget that 75% of Latinos swept President Obama to victory and that 77% voted for the Democratic House candidates? And you can hardly say that all Latinas are conservative: they supported Obama with 77% of their votes.

So it comes to no surprise to us that the Mexican Supreme Court paved the path for same sex marriage in all 31 states of Mexico last week.  In a unanimous ruling, they struck down a same sex marriage ban in Oaxaca, building off of a 2010 decision that held that same sex marriages in Mexico City must be recognized nationwide.  Mexico isn’t the only Latin American country where marriage equality is becoming the norm.  Just recently, a same sex marriage bill passed the first round of Senate votes in ColombiaIn Uruguay, their legislature is on the cusp of legalizing same sex marriage, extending the right to all individuals regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.

Although the Mexican Supreme Court ruling strengthens the legal arguments for same sex marriage in both the United States and in other parts of Latin America, this decision is exciting because it contradicts the unconsciously accepted idea that all Latinos are conservative.  And it’s not that Latinos are socially liberal just on same sex marriage (55% percent of Latinos support it), but that we support a wide range of social justice issues.  In Maryland, Latinos voted for both marriage equality and for their state’s DREAM Act.  In Florida, with our awesome partners, Mi Lola, we defeated Amendment 6 which would have further restricted insurance coverage for abortions.  In fact, we knew that we would defeat legislation like Amendment 6 because of a study we conducted a few years ago.  In partnership with Lake Research Partners and Reproductive Health Technologies Project, we found that 74% of Latino registered voters agree that a woman has a right to make her own personal decisions about abortion without political interference and that 67% would support close friends and family members who choose to have one.

When it comes down to it, we not only want immigration reform, but we also demand marriage equality, reproductive freedom, economic justice and fair and just solutions to the other social problems our communities face.  Politicians know that they can no longer divide us but that they have to represent all of us.

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This past election cycle, we saw the power a government-issued ID can give an individual.   In states where voter ID laws were being enforced, individuals who did not have government IDs could not exercise their right to vote.  Several communities were impacted: transgender people, Latinos, African Americans, students, the elderly, people with disabilities – in short, many, many people. These ID laws harken to Jim Crow-era poll taxes and “literacy tests,”  and at the same time increased the impact of fear tactics used to intimidate voters from going to the polls, exacerbating the historic and current inequities that many communities of color face. (more…)

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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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Sign reads: “Soy poderosa and my voice matters because i am a mother. a teacher. a figther. an activist and a strong latina”

Latinas are making sure that their voices and their stories are being heard. We are not silent. A perfect example of the determination Latinas have towards personal growth, justice to all communities around all issues not just Reproductive Health, is Cynthia Brito. She is an organizer at the Latin@ Youth Action League. Her dedication to lifting Latina voices in Illinois has made her the activist of the month.

Read her story here:

I am powerful. Through my lived knowledge, experience, and activism, I am an agent of change. We all have a transformative power to change society, but as Latinas, our unique lived experience amplifies our ability to understand society through a powerful lens.

As a young girl, I experienced molestation and assault. My life was filled with years of violence and abuse. My first experience with racism occurred when I moved from the city to the suburbs at the age of 9. The combination of violence, racism, and lack of support for young Latinas set the stage for a destructive path in my life. As time went on, I was involved in several abusive relationships, with the most severe of these relationships nearly ending my life.

I became a mom at the age of 17 and again at 19. As a teen mom in the suburbs I experienced negative interactions at an individual and institutional level. I became aware that I was not only looked down up for being a young mother, but also for being a Latina mother. It was through this lived experience that my perspective of the world began to unfold.

Cynthia Brito and her 2 girls

I’m a co-founder of the Latin@ Youth Action League (L@YAL), a fairly new organization in DuPage County. Our work focuses primarily on issues the Latino community faces in the suburbs of DuPage County. Much of our recent work has focused on undocumented youth. We have held rallies, workshops, and provided access to resources to many youth in the area. More recently, we decided to organize an event around Latina reproductive health issues.

Cynthia Brito, Latina activist in IL

I first learned about the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) while I was a teaching assistant for a Latino Studies class at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The following year, I taught my own course: Latinas in the United States. The NLIRH helped students become aware of the complex dynamics in the issues Latinas face around reproductive health. I also successfully completed the E-LOLA Webinar and organized a Cafecito in collaboration with HABLAMOS, a Latina organization in Elmhurst College. Many factors interconnect to create the current political backlash against Latinas reproductive rights, and NLIRH is a powerful agent that brings them to light.

Thank you Cynthia for all the work you do, and will continue to do, for our community. We are honored and excited to work with you on many things to come. Congratulations on being this months activist of the month!

Check out the work NLIRH is doing in other states by liking our facebook and maybe YOU can be our next poderosa profile.

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Young woman holding her child, who is holding a sign that says "Soy Poderosa and my voice matters because I will fight for a better tomorrow for my daughter and I"

Jóvenes poderosas!

Hace unas semanas, el Instituto Nacional de Latinas para la Salud Reproductiva (NLIRH por sus siglas en inglés) tuvo la gran oportunidad de acompañar a un grupo de madres jóvenes de Nueva York a Washington, DC. En Washington, estas jóvenes hablaron con congresistas y nuestros colegas sobre sus experiencias como madres jóvenes y la situación de las madres jovenes en sus vidas y comunidades. Hablaron de cual es el problema en realidad cuando se trata de las madres jóvenes (es decir, la falta de acceso a recursos como cuidado de salud incluyendo anticonceptivos y al cuidado de niños asequible) y como el presupuesto nacional afecta a estas familias.

El presupuesto nacional es importante para las madres y familias jóvenes porque en este se dedican los fondos para programas imporantes para la salud de esta comunidad – programas como el Título X, el cual provee cuidado de salud reproductiva, y programas como el Fondo de Desarrollo y Cuidado de Niños, el cual provee cuidado para los niños de algunas mujeres de bajos ingresos.  Pero por las divisiones corrientes en el Congreso, es posible que, en vez de decidir con cuidado donde se puede recortar el presupuesto para poder bajar la deuda del país, se hagan recortes devastadores a través del presupuesto entero, recortando y a veces eliminando programas esenciales para las latinas. Este método de recortes es el secuestro fiscal (“sequestration” o “sequester” en inglés).

Este plan de recortes se diseñó para obligar al Congreso a tomar decisiones difíciles; nunca se tuvo el propósito de que estos recortes entraran en vigor. Pero ahora, por falta de acción del Congreso, es posible que  esta sea nuestra realidad. Recortar los gastos de esta manera simplemente no tiene sentido.

En vez de recortar programas que afectarían a las familias jóvenes y a las Latinas de bajos ingresos, el Congreso debe recortar el déficit mediante el cierre de vacíos legales de impuestos corporativos y la suspensión de subsidios a las compañías petroleras grandes en un momento en que estas jamás han sido tan rentables.  Podemos ahorrar dinero si les recortamos los subsidios a los millonarios y modificamos el código de impuestos de manera que sea más sencillo y más justo para las familias Latinas.

Por ahora, estamos esperando el próximo paso, listas para tomar acción. No podemos dejar que simplemente recorten los programas esenciales para las latinas sabiendo que hay mejores maneras de que el país pague la deuda nacional.

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Five activists registering people to vote This summer, NLIRH hosted our Southern Regional LOLA Training in Charlotte, North Carolina. Latinas from 8 states in the region including, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky and Virginia met to network, strategize and organize with other new and experienced Latina activists around reproductive justice.

In this blog post, I highlight the work of three Poderosas from Virginia who met each other for the first time at our LOLA training, left our training inspired and motivated to take on the challenge of creating a Latina Advocacy Network (LAN) in the DC-MD-VA area.

The new “DMV LOLA” has moved full force with several Soy Poderosa and My Voice Matters events. Two Sundays ago they teamed up with Voto Latino and hosted a successful Voter Registration Drive in a Latino neighborhood in Arlington, Virginia. Activist registering someone to vote

Their next event is a Happy Hour Meet & Greet where they want to invite all interested folks to meet and network with one another, and become members of the DMV LOLA. Furthermore, they want to continue to motivate folks to show our power as a community to vote, as well as encourage those who cannot vote to speak to their friends, family members, and community to vote on November 6th.

So if you’re in the DC-MD-VA area, join them at their:

Happy Hour Meet and Greet!

Tues. Oct. 23rd, 6-9pm

Vapiano, 1800 M St NW (between N 18th St & N Connecticut Ave), Washington, DC 20036

Lastly, our folks are gearing up to do outreach with the ANSWER Coalition for the Maryland DREAM Act! We want to shout out these poderosa activists for stepping up in our communities and creating a space for other poderosas to take action and most importantly making sure OUR VOICE MATTERS.

If you’re outside of the DC-MD-VA area, Take the pledge: Make your voice heard this election!

Visit our website to find Latina activists in your area, or contact karina@latinainstitute.org to create your own Latina Advocacy Network.

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We’ve been following the case of Juana Villegas since the beginning. Just over a week after she gave birth, shackled, while in in jail due to her immigration status, we covered it here on Nuestra Vida, Nuestra Voz as an all-too-real example of the ways that immigration enforcement tactics hurt immigrant women and families. Shortly afterward, the New York Times covered Juana’s story, and it became a prominent if all-too-common reminder of the importance of considering gender in immigration advocacy.

I am incredibly happy to hear that last week, a judge in Nashville awarded Juana $1.1 milion to cover her attorney’s fees and other expenses during the three-year ordeal of lawsuits and appeals. Most importantly, the judge also certified a U-visa – a visa category that is available to undocumented victims of crime who may fear reporting them for fear of deportation. While this certainly does not represent justice – in a just world, this would never have happened in the first place – it is certainly positive that a court has recognized that Juana’s rights have been violated.

Of course, this is just one of many cases, most of which never make it to the media’s attention. With immigration enforcement programs such as Secure Communities taking hold across the U.S. and states taking immigration enforcement into their own hands, there is still much work to do.

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