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Archive for the ‘Youth’ Category

A few days ago my sister told me she didn’t really like her curly hair. I stared at this little replica of me. It felt like I was looking into a mirror. Little me also didn’t like her curly hair. All the pretty girls have straight hair. I saw all the wrong things staring back at me in the mirror.

For days, I thought about the conversation her and I had. How can I create a space in which my sister and I feel happy and empowered with who we are? What things can I do, say and have that will make her feel secure in herself, both on the outside and inside? Where beauty isn’t the only focus? What do little ones need to feel at peace and in control of their future and their bodies when everything around them tells them they’re worthless?

I thought about the ways in which we sometimes don’t support the decisions those around us make. How inferior we make each other feel. How we judge one on another for the things we do or don’t do. As if there was a “normal” or “correct” way to be. As if there was a specific way to live our lives.

Here in New York I can’t walk down the street without seeing ads that say young mothers, and their families, will grow up and amount to nothing. Messages that tell us, “You’re worthless and deserve what is happening to you because you did things the “wrong way””. Messages that tell the little ones what horrible lives they will live and what horrible parents they have.

Pointless messages because no matter what decision we make, we seem to always lose and are belittled because of them. Sex is bad. Abortion is bad. Parenting at your age is bad. Using contraceptives is bad. Everything is bad. Our existence is bad. All decisions we make will be judged.

But, guess what, we’re not going anywhere.

On the other hand, I hope to work with warriors that will take matters into their own hands. Warriors that will be happy with who they are. Warriors that will be at peace with the decisions they make for themselves and their families. Warriors that will look into the mirror and not let these messages affect what they believe to be true about themselves. At least, that’s where I hope to be alongside my family and people in my community. I hope to live and create spaces in which decisions, including abortion and parenting, are respected and supported. Spaces in which my sister can feel confident in herself and understand that there’s more to life and herself than just beauty.



Spaces like that are being built. We are hosting a webinar training with 3 sessions aimed to serve young mothers. This training is open to all young mothers and are completely free. Session 1 already took place. Session 2 is happening on Nov 15 6pm EST which will talk about why it is important to organize young mothers and why young motherhood happens. Session 3 is happening on Dec 13 also at 6pm EST and it takes a closer look on what advocacy means and how you can use your experiences to push others into action. If you’re a young mother, register and let others know: http://tinyurl.com/MomELola

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When I first starting working with young mothers I found myself trying to validate my ally-ness. If anyone asked me why I was involved, or if I had children of my own, instead of simply saying “no”, I would feel the need to defend my involvement.

I would often respond with:
“No I don’t have any children, but my mother was a young mother”
or
“No but I have many friends who are young parents”

I asked myself, “as an undocumented immigrant, what do I want from allies?” Then it hit me, I can be an ally without an explanation or defending my involvement. “I’m not a racist, my friend is black” isn’t cool so why would “I don’t have children but my friend is a young mom” be considered okay? I started reminding myself that I can be an ally, just because. I can be an ally because I believe in the importance of young mother’s voices being heard without tokenizing those around me. I can be an ally because our liberations are tied together. I can be an ally because no one is free, while others are oppressed.

Even though being an ally can be tricky. We should all be willing to learn and be called out. We are allies to each other. Here are some things I’ve learned throughout my involvement with young mothers:

1. It’s so much easier to sit back and judge young families. Young mothers already face a bunch of judgement everywhere. Don’t judge. Educate yourself.

don't judge

2. Always step back and look at the bigger picture. This isn’t about you, remember?

stepback

3. Families are different. Don’t assume every family is compiled of a mother, father and one child.

families

4. Always engage the children and think of their needs/wants.

hand paint

5. Be an ally just because. Don’t try to prove something to others or to yourself. Believing in the people you’re working with and the cause you’re working towards is sufficient.

Cow

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photoValentina Forte-Hernandez is a Berkeley California born Immigrant/Reproductive rights activist. She is interning at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health this summer before returning to her second year at Hampshire college where she studies film production. During her first year of college she worked for Civil Liberties and Public Policy and wrote for the online political blog, The Black Sheep Journal. She is a 19 year old, biracial Latina who writes about topics that speak to her personally. She has voiced her opposition to the shaming of teen moms, Texas’ anti-abortion legislation, immigration reform that hurts the lives and rights of immigrants and now she writes about the need for comprehensive sexual education for teenagers:

Post By Valentina Forte-Hernandez

Teenagers are having sex and will continue to do so whether you like it or not. It’s nothing new, but people are still acting as if it were a shocking discovery. Whether you like it or not, the fact of the matter is that many teenagers are sexually active, not liking it does nothing to prevent teenagers from having sex and it certainly does nothing to protect them. Instead of frowning and wagging your finger, why don’t we put more effort into making sure teenagers are physically and emotionally safe when they do make the decision to have sex? We need sex ed that actually teaches teenagers how to be smart and safe about sex. We do not need education that shames us and our bodies, we don’t need to be taught that we shouldn’t talk about sex. Sex will be a part of our lives whether we choose to be sexually active or not, so we need to know about it and be prepared for it.

999613696749556760   Opponents of comprehensive sex ed may claim that it puts dirty ideas in teenagers’ heads and encourages them to be sexually active. If that’s true, then could somebody explain to me why the states that take the abstinence only approach to sex ed have higher rates of teen pregnancy than states that require comprehensive sex ed? Abstinence only classes do not deter teenagers from being sexually active. These classes provide students with no resources or information about safety, they teach teenagers to be ashamed of their bodies and sexuality. Shaming teenagers about sex does nothing to protect them. Teaching abstinence only classes not only puts teenagers in danger of spreading disease and unwanted pregnancy, it also increases the chance that they will be in emotionally unsafe situations. If your teacher is saying that you are wrong for having sex, you’re not going to feel comfortable asking your teacher any questions if you are considering having sex. If a teenager already feels ashamed for having sex it is so much harder for them to come forward with an incident of sexual assault or rape. They have already been told sex is wrong, so who do they go to when something wrong has happened to them?

   Comprehensive sex ed gives students the information to help them make their own decisions about their bodies and it gives them the confidence to be honest about their desires and experience. Students who have been given the tools to protect themselves have the knowledge and ability to practice safe sex, while students who don’t have any information may not know how to have safe sex. A teenager who has been told that being sexually active is their choice to make is more likely to have the confidence to refuse unwanted sex than one who has learned to be self-conscious and secretive about their sexuality. Teenagers in abstinence only classes are not learning about sex in school but they’re still having it so comprehensive sex ed is clearly not to blame for the fact that teenagers are sexually active.

   Comprehensive sex ed is miles ahead of abstinence only classes when it comes to protecting teenagers, but that’s not to say it’s perfect. I grew up in California, a state that offers comprehensive sex ed and has just seen it’s lowest rate of teen births in 20 years. My first sex ed class happened every other wednesday afternoon. This was the only classes where the boys were separated from the girls. I don’t know what the boys were learning about while we were watching our teacher put tampons in glasses of water because we never talked about it. That was the problem, we didn’t talk to the boys about sex and the segregation of genders was teaching us that we shouldn’t have these discussions with each other. Some might say that these early sex ed classes should be taught separately so students feel comfortable asking embarrassing questions. Sex ed is uncomfortable no matter what, but we should have been going to that comfort and feeling that embarrassment along with the boys. We should be learning from an early age that it is okay to talk about ourselves with anyone, regardless of gender. In my first sex ed class, I was taught about my period, I was taught about contraception but I learned that my body, my experience as a girl was icky to boys and I should never talk to them about it.

   All of my sex ed classes were severely lacking when it came to teaching us about the emotional aspects of sex. The word consent was never uttered, nor was there any discussion about any of the emotional choices that come with being a sexually active person. We never discussed the depiction of sex in popular culture which may not seem like it’s directly related to sexual safety, but considering that we are surrounded and influenced by dramatic, idealized depictions of sex, we probably should have at least one conversation about it. When our movies and advertisements are teaching us things like, girls who have sex are slutty, and if you have sex with him, he’ll stay with you forever it would have been beneficial to talk about the reality of choosing to be sexually active and to debunk some of these artificial depictions. There was no discussion of rape ever. Maybe the topic was avoid in hopes that it was an issue we would never have to deal with, but hoping for the best did nothing to prepare us for the worst, it did nothing to teach us about preventing rape, or what help was out there for us if we had had such an experience. We were given the number to a confidential hotline….Oh, and we watched an episode of Law and order: SVU once, that’s sufficient, right?

   Maybe these conversations weren’t happening in my comprehensive sex ed class because adults didn’t feel like we were mature enough to discuss the emotional impacts of being sexually active but the fact is many of us were already sexually active so these conversations should have been happening. If we were old enough to learn about protection and use it we were old enough to learn about communicating with partners, and we were definitely old enough to learn that sex in the movies is miles different from sex in real life. We knew there were physical consequences to having unsafe sex, we saw the pictures. When it came to the emotional impact of having sex, we were left to figure it out on our own through trial and error and in sometimes the error did a lot of damage.

   Sex ed needs to improve across the board. The abstinence only approach to sex ed needs to be thrown out the window because it doesn’t work. Any class that fails to discuss why being a safe and responsible sexually active person requires more than just using condoms needs to rethink their curriculum. Teenagers need to learn to be honest and confident in their sexual decisions. They need to know that it is not only okay to talk about sex, but that they should be talking about it! If you can’t have a real discussion about sex, you shouldn’t be having it. Sex ed should be about equipping teenagers with all the knowledge, resources and confidence to make the most best, most informed decisions for themselves. If your sex ed class isn’t rooted in teaching teens about sexual safety, then it is not serving the actual needs of teenagers. Sexual safety means physical protection, it means communication, it means honesty, self-awareness and respect. Stop trying to shame teenagers out of having sex, it won’t work. Protect and respect teenagers’ rights to make their own decisions about their own bodies.

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Post By Gloria Malone

The Care Center is “an alternative education program for pregnant and parenting teens who have dropped out of high school. The Care Center seeks to “provide access to arts and culture [while] supporting struggling young families as they move toward self-sufficiency.”

 

Walking through the house was amazing, they had artwork from the teenage mothers all over the halls, positive messaging, and helpful resources from wall to wall for all their students. 

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The young women who were there for the workshop were very friendly and open but once Leydi and myself started opening up about our personal experiences as teenage mothers the room became a lot more comfortable for all of us. 

 

The workshop included a brief history of the systemic oppression all women face and how women of color have been disproportionately affected by this, a mock office visit with an elected official, and a lesson on legislative affairs.

 

We shared stories of triumph and pain while learning and teaching one another how to channel all of our stories into advocacy. 

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The real shame that surrounds teenage parents is not our lives but the fact that societal stigmas diminish our lives while simultaneously refusing to hear our powerful stories. 

 

Hearing the stories from my peers inspired me and helped remind me why we should all be proud to be who we are despite the flaws society says we have. 

 

The young mothers in the room were ready to learn more about the social constructs in place that have the ability to keep us in a certain place unless we work to change that. They put their all into learning how to speak to their audience and how to identify their audience. 

 

NLIRH is doing great work with teenage families in an effort to help them help themselves work for their communities and families. 

 

The distinction is important. 

While some organizations are more interested in “fixing a problem” with out ever listening to the person, NLIRH wants and understands they need to hear from you to know where to meet you. 

 

When you know that a person, an organization, or any other group of individuals what’s to help you help yourself in a judgment free way that makes a world of a difference. 

 

This is what NLIRH has done for me, my peers, and the fact that they asked Leydi and I to help them facilitate a workshop further proves to me that they are interested in working with teenage families and not just prescribe a one size fits all “fix.” 

 

I hope that the young moms at the care center left feeling the same way and feeling empowered to create the change they want to see. I know I left with their stories in my head and my heart.

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Post Written by Valentina Forte-Hernandez

Note: In this blogpost Latin@ with an @ is used to be inclusive of all gender identities.

Take a moment to think of some of your favorite celebrities. Do you have a few in mind? Good, now take some time to think of your favorite queer, Latin@ celebrities. I’m not talking about inspirational activists, independent artists I’m talking about super stars. I’m talking about the people you see on billboards, in commercials, on the cover of magazines. It’s tough, right? The queer community and the Latino/a community are both individually underrepresented in popular culture. Queer and Latin@ representation is virtually non-existent in mainstream media. So what does it matter? Why do we need Latin@s represented in our media? LGBTQ Latin@ youth are suffering. They are being bullied, harassed and killed. Many of them have no adults in their lives they feel they can turn to, and almost all of them believe they must leave their current communities to live happy successful lives. Some people say that it is more difficult for LGBTQ Latin@s to come to terms with and be open about their sexuality because of the unique cultural values many Latino/a communities have. This idea ignores our societies’ responsibility to represent and support Latin@s, it blames Latino/a communities for their values and tells Latin@ youth that they must choose between being Latino/a and being queer. We should bring Latin@s into the spotlight to show our communities that we’re here, our identities are complex and valid. We deserve love and respect. We should be teaching Latino/a communities how to incorporate LGBTQ Latin@s into Latino/a culture, not telling them that their cultural values must be ignored.

Photo By Victoria Ramos

Photo By Victoria Ramos

The two main cultural values that are cited as being exclusive to LGBTQ Latin@s are religion and the importance of family. Religion has been used to oppress queer folks of all racial and ethnic identities. Using religion to deny the identities of queer Latin@s is making the assumption that being religious and being queer are mutually exclusive. A study of LGBTQ Latin@s called The Social Justice Sexuality Project shows that 60% of Latin@s look to their faith to provide meaning and purpose in their life, disproving that it is impossible to be both queer and religious. Religion is not a one size fits all suit, nobody practices their religion the exact same way as anyone else. The majority of Latino/as believe in Catholicism and though the Old Testament says that male homosexuality is a sin, there are quite a few sins that are punishable by death that have been ignored in the modern day including lying about one’s virginity, being a stubborn or and rebellious son and failing to pen a bull that is known to be dangerous and many more. Is it more important to follow every rule in the bible literally, or to follow the overall belief that God loves all of His children and we honor and love our neighbors and family? It is important to be respectful of religion and not to dismiss it as wrong or ignorant. Religion is an essential part of many peoples’ lives, however it should be recognized that religion is something that is learned and practiced while sexual identity is something we are born and live with. No one needs to abandon their religion to accept LGBTQ people, one just needs to realize that the importance of loving one another is a more valuable aspect of being religious than following the rules exactly as they were written thousands of years ago.

To say that valuing family excludes accepting LGBTQ Latin@s assumes that only “traditional” families are of value. Family love should be unconditional, and generally in Latino/a communities it is. The Social Justice Sexuality Project indicates that 52.9% of LGBTQ Latin@s feel supported by their families and another 29% feel somewhat supported. Another study of LQBTQ Latin@ youth indicates that 60% of Latin@ youth feels their family supports LGBTQ identities. Regardless of acceptance, less than half of LGBTQ Latin@ youth feel like they have an adult to turn to if they are sad or worried. If queer Latin@s were more present in the mainstream the general public would have more awareness about the needs of these young people and adults would be better prepared to help Latin@ youth confront issues that are specific to them. Family is extremely valuable in the Latino/a community and the love is there but the knowledge around LGBTQ Latin@s needs to expand.

Photo By Victoria Ramos

Photo By Victoria Ramos

LGBTQ Latin@s need their place in mainstream culture not only to improve their living conditions in their current communities, but also to expand the general knowledge of LGBTQ Latin@ issues. LGBTQ Latin@s are rarely the focus of LGBTQ and reproductive health advocacy, and almost never the focus of the general public. While LGBTQ Latin@s are fighting many of the same battles as other LGBTQ people, without focus or representation many issues specific to queer Latin@s go ignored. For instance immigration status has a huge effect on many Latin@s ability to access their reproductive rights and though immigration status may not seem to affect the entire queer community it must be addressed to serve the needs of a community as a whole. It is much more challenging for LGBTQ people to access all their healthcare needs than it is for heterosexual cisgender people. For LGBTQ immigrants, addressing all of their medical needs can be impossible. Currently, there is no way for a same-sex undocumented couple to be recognized at all. These are issues specific to queer Latin@ that cannot be ignored. Immigration reform is not something that can wait, it cannot be put to the side while other LGBTQ issues are dealt with in the spotlight.

The lack of queer Latin@s acknowledged by popular culture creates the illusion that these people do not exist. It denies Latin@ youth the role models they need and deserve. Having queer or Latina representation is not enough,  queer and Latina folks must be represented and acknowledged by the mainstream media. Both Latino/a communities and the general public need to gain greater awareness and acceptance of LGBTQ Latin@s. If we had more (or any) positive queer Latin@s represented in popular culture maybe people would stop trying to make Latin@s have to pick and choose which parts of their identity to accept. Maybe the minority of parents of Latin@ youth who are unsupportive would have someone to look to and help them come to terms with their child’s identity and maybe Latin@s would be targeted less often by people who are afraid of difference. To say Latin@s need to be represented by mainstream media is not entirely accurate. We don’t need a queer Latin@ star to validate our identities but we deserve our place in popular culture. We don’t need a famous Latin@ to prove that we exist because we’re certainly here and we’re not going anywhere. The mainstream needs Latin@ representation because we’re not getting any less queer or any less Latina and everybody needs to get used to it. With or without a celebrity advocating for us we are entitled to our identities. We are here and there will be more of us. We’re also fabulous and anyone turning a blind eye to us is seriously missing out.

The Social Justice Sexuality Project

http://www.slideshare.net/socialjusticesexuality/lgbt-latinos-in-the-social-justice-sexuality-project-vs-us-latinaos

Latino Youth Report

http://www.hrc.org/files/assets/resources/LatinoYouthReport-FINAL.pdf

Images were found on Vanessa Ramos’ WordPress, Follow Her Here:http://varphoto.wordpress.com/author/luxvideri/

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Activists across the country are making sure that their voices, and their stories, are being heard. We refuse to stay silent. A perfect example of strength, courage and determination is Samaria Johnson. She’s an organizer at the Alabama Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Justice, which was created out of our Southern Regional Latinas Organizing for Leadership and Advocacy Training. Her dedication to reproductive justice and the empowerment of Alabamians has made her the activist of the month.

Read her story here:

I’ve always gotten a bit of a thrill for bad girls. Whatever their faults, they stepped out of bounds and made their own decisions. The drive to support women and challenge misogynistic, patriarchal institutions and attitudes was jumpstarted early in my life, inspired by the bad girls of history and legend. In daily Bible study at my Christian elementary schools I questioned the assumptions that Eve’s forbidden fruit consumption was fundamentally morally wrong, and in college considered the social structures that condemned Helen for not conforming to traditional feminine roles and behaviors. These women and others took initiative – to encourage their own education and intelligence, to freely express their sexuality without guilt or hesitation, to control where they ended up in life and how.

Amanda Reyes and Samaria Johnson

Amanda Reyes and Samaria Johnson


I was raised and surrounded by generous, strong, complicated women at home, my mom and grandmothers and aunts. Most of my cousins are women. All of my closest friends are women. I grew up in a world of women, reading about them and looking up to them and learning from them. I have spent my entire life loving and being loved by women. There was never any question about my life’s purpose, once I realized it. My own strength has come from generations of women nurturing and fighting for each other. It continues to grow by relentlessly doing the same.

Over the past year I’ve become especially active in the pro-woman community. As a student at the University of Alabama, where I study history and am on track to graduate in Spring 2015, I joined the newly-formed Alabama Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Justice. I’ve organized

Samaria Johnson

Samaria Johnson

volunteering, collected signatures for sex education laws, attended potlucks to network with fellow student progressives, hosted documentary screenings. I serve as an escort at the local Tuscaloosa clinic and, standing outside the clinic in front of anti-choice protestors, have incredible leverage to explore and confront anti-woman attitudes. Being on the ground is incredibly important to me. It’s easy to get trapped in an ivory tower, and forget the nitty-gritty of actual people and the very real reasons why I’ve chosen the work that I do. At last March’s National Advocacy Weekend, I was able to connect with people whose experiences with society’s ubiquitous misogyny, heterosexism, and racism absolutely horrified me. At the same time, their stories reinforced my personal convictions. That horror was necessary in reminding me of why I work.

This summer I’m interning at the Feminist Majority Foundation in Arlington, Virginia. I’m working on a few different projects, including creating a sexual assault toolkit for universities and colleges. I’ve taken on as president of AASRJ at the University. For the next year, my fellow officers have adopted “sex positivity” as our theme. With that in mind we’ll be spotlighting black and queer intersections in sexual and reproductive justice, focus on religious outreach, and educating other students about safe expressions of sexuality and relationships. These kinds of opportunities are what dreams are made of. Thanks to the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, FMF, and a number of other organizations and fellow activists, as well as the ladies in my life, I’ve been fortunate enough to have them and the strength of conviction to take advantage of them!

Samaria Johnson

Samaria Johnson

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There’s this bill in Nevada entitled, AB 230. It would require that all school districts offer a comprehensive, age-appropriate and medically accurate sexuality education curriculum. Parents may opt their children out of this coursework without penalty.

State Senator Ruben Kihuen from Las Vegas said that in Latino homes, “it’s taboo to talk to your kids about sex. You just don’t.” But then something crazy happened! Sherman Frederick, Las Vegas Review Journal Contributor wrote:

“As easy as Nevada girls are, you see, Nevada’s Hispanic girls are really, really easy. That comes from the mouth of Sen. Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas. According to him, that’s because Hispanic parents never talk to their children about sex.”

WHAT?! Is that what the Senator REALLY said?

AB 230 would make comprehensive sex education available to students. Now, don’t freak out. Comprehensive sex education classes don’t teach kids HOW to have sex. It just means the classes are age appropriate and medically correct. Ideally, conversations about sex, our bodies and sexuality are already happening at home. Since a very young age we should be talking about good and bad touching, have a basic understanding about body parts and what to do if we don’t feel safe.

The article written by Sherman Frederick suggests that only Latinas are having sex, becoming pregnant and that it isn’t society’s problem but their parents and their culture. Are you angry yet? This is a micro aggression that sheds light on a larger problem and comes at a perfect time. May is National Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Month. Teenage pregnancy is a systemic issue, that affects all races, because yes, all races have sex. This in no way is to dehumanize teen moms. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the most badass moms ever.

Latinas do not report having sex more than white women, but are at higher risk for pregnancy because they have significantly lower rates of contraceptive use. This disparity in contraceptive use is based not on simple preference, but is closely connected to social and economic inequity. What’s the real problem? We conducted research and found some statistic that may answer this question.

No one makes the decision to become a mom at a very young age. A mixture of being undocumented or not, having little to no comprehensive sex education, not having access to contraceptives, emergency contraceptives and abortions lead to unplanned pregnancies. If there is anything that the New York Young Mom’s group has taught me is that they DID make a decision, and that was to not terminate their pregnancy; however, many have little to no choices. This decision, whether you agree with it or not, should be respected and supported. Having or not having sex doesn’t make us “easy” or “prudes”, it means we are fierce women who decide what to do with our bodies. Geez, can we get some respect?

mom__s_hands_baby__s_foots_by_theprodiqyThere is a trend in all these teenage pregnancy discussions. Often times ads, articles or discussions about teenage pregnancy target the person rather than than the issue. Teen moms are usually portrayed in racists ads that use women of color or their children against them. They’re blamed for living in poverty, for their partner leaving, for not finishing high school. ARE YOU SERIOUS? All these things existed way before they became moms. Teen parents didn’t create poverty. Parents can divorce/separate from each other at any point in their relationship. Students drop out for many reasons, instead of targeting one group of people, why not provide more resources and support for students to stay and finish high school? Yes, teenage parents CAN finish high school and college with the right support system.

How does unplanned pregnancy, sex and comprehensive sex education classes work together?

My Grandmother would melt down the barbie doll’s body before giving her over to my mom to play. She didn’t want my mom to see the lumps her breasts made under her clothes or the curve of her butt. There was no discussion about sex or body parts at all.

I had a friend awhile ago, we were both 13. She didn’t know what “having sex” and “virginity” meant. Her mother taught her that “losing your virginity” is when someone “touches your belly button”. I’m not joking. This is a true story. I only knew of the misinformation when we were watching TV and someone on the show mentioned the word virginity. She looked at me confused and asked what did touching someone’s belly button have to do with the show we were watching.

I was inappropriately touched when I was in school. I knew that what was happening wasn’t correct because these were my “private areas” and without guilt or shame I told my teacher and my mom. All hell broke loose of course. What if I hadn’t known that what was happening wasn’t correct? What if I hadn’t known that I could trust my teacher, my mom, and ask for help?

yellowMy seven year old sister recently started taking swimming lessons every Tuesday. Every Monday night my mom lists all the things she needs to remember before changing into her bathing suit the next day. “Make sure you’re alone in the bathroom stale”, “no one should be dressing you”, “If anyone follows you inside what do you do? Who do you tell?”, “If you do not feel okay, do you promise to tell me?”. She also reminds her about the ordinary things, “did you pack your goggles?”, “Don’t forget your towel”. It’s a routine now, and my sister always responds with the same “I know mom I knowwww” while she rolls her eyes and packs her things.

These are examples of how sex, sexuality and our bodies are constant topics of importance. We can’t ignore it or pretend that by not addressing it it’ll go away. They come in various situations. We need to teach our children that sexuality and sex is normal and natural. Lets be honest, regardless of race, many parents do not talk to their children about sex, sexuality, their bodies etc. We live in a world where everything is sexualized and we can’t just turn sex off. We have to address it. It’s crucial to have sex conversations from an early age. This will open the dialogue flow, not shut it down. How do we expect our kids to tell US when something is troubling THEM, but we’re unable to talk to them?

So now maybe you’re asking yourself, “what do we do?”

bottleWhile these conversations sometimes aren’t happening at home, they should be happening in school. Sex and our bodies shouldn’t be taboo. We’re naturally curious about sex and about each other even. If we create a safe environment at home and in schools for children to discuss these things, and know themselves, they’ll be able to make well thought out and informed decisions in the future. Decisions that involve – but are not limited to – touching someone who hasn’t given you permission to, saying “no”, having or not having sex. Having comprehensive sex education classes won’t push kids to have sex or in anyway encourage it. Students will be well educated and armed with all the necessary tools to make informed decisions. And why is that a bad thing? Don’t we want our children to grow up to be independent individuals who can think for themselves and have control over their bodies, and most importantly, their futures? We aim to raise warriors who will be changing the world, whether they decide to start a family or not.

The Nevada bill AB230 is taking the right steps into addressing a much bigger issue. Before writing or talking about teenage pregnancy we must educate ourselves and ask, what’s the real problem?

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By: Leydi Bautista

My experience during National Advocacy Weekend was excellent! For is the first time I was invited to something to important. It was an honor to be with so many women and men who shared their stories and fight for the same goal as me.

After the training, I wish to educate myself more about how to contact my Senators and Congress members. I also want to educate everyone on what the real needs in my community are.

Latina_Institute 117
I attended NAW without any fear and received so much information. It was so helpful because it will help me train myself to speak properly and to control my nerves.

Thank you National Latina institute for this opportunity to share with everyone. I realized that I have a lot of potential even if I am a women, young mother or student. I’m an unafraid immigrant!

Here in New York we will be having a open house for other young mothers like me, please come and get more information. Your voice matters!

FINALopenhouse


More reflections of our 2013 National Advocacy Weekend

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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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Angy holding a sign: "Soy poderosa because despite my immigration status I have found love in the darkest of places"

Angy Rivera

At the Latinas Organizing for Leadership and Advocacy training in North Carolina, I was handed a piece of paper. I flipped it over and the sign asked me why I am a poderosa. I stared at the blank paper for a few minutes, remembering my senior year of high school. (more…)

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