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Archive for the ‘Youth’ Category

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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Long-time NLIRH friend Miriam Z. Pérez, aka the Radical Doula, pointed out to us a very cool new resource: the California Pregnant and Parenting Youth Guide!

This Guide is for you if you are under 18 years old, you live in California, and you are pregnant or are already a parent. The Guide answers your questions about the law for pregnant or parenting minors.

The guide, put together by the National Partnership for Women and Families, answers questions about young people’s options regarding a pregnancy, how to access health care, and provides a great list of resources for young people who are pregnant or parenting in California. The guide is fabulous – comprehensive, understanding of youth issues, not patronizing or stigmatizing of young mothers, and it’s also in Spanish! Check it out!

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by Hannah Joseph, NLIRH  Policy Intern

What did January 22nd mean to me as the anniversary of Roe v. Wade?  I am a new policy intern working for NLIRH between semesters in college.  This position represents my first official advocacy position in reproductive rights outside of my college campus.  As part of the cohort of women born after 1973, for me, abortion has always been a protected right and an assumed possibility. Without even having to think critically about whether I would choose to have one myself, I was able to assume that having an abortion would be a possibility for me.  Does this make me “casually pro-choice”?

This question was brought to mind when reading the recent NewsWeek article that identifies a lack of intensity in young pro-choice advocates.  This sentiment is consistent with the common political trope that that young people do not care about reproductive health.  According to a NARAL survey from early 2011, 51 percent of young voters (under 30) who opposed abortion rights considered it a “very important” voting issue, compared with just 26 percent of abortion-rights supporters.  The young respondents did not view abortion as a right in need of defenders.  Does this “intensity gap” mean that the pro-choice movement is losing its young supporters? (more…)

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Yesterday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius rejected the decision made by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to make emergency contraception (EC)–often known as Plan B, after the drug brand name Plan B One-Step–available to women of all ages without a prescription. This decision will maintain a harsh status quo for young women, who were excluded when EC was made available to women aged 17+ without a prescription in 2009 and whose likelihood to be uninsured make it extremely burdensome, if not impossible, for them to obtain a prescription for EC within the limited timeframe after intercourse during which EC is effective.

Because of immigration status, lack of insurance, residence in rural areas, and other structural barriers to accessing health care and services, young Latinas will be particularly affected by failures to increase access to EC, which represents only the latest instance of mixed messages sent to women about their rights and place in society. Latina teens are pregnant at higher rates than their peers, and the pregnancy rate for young Latinas has fallen more slowly than for other teen populations. In 2005, over 230,000 women aged 15-17 became pregnant and over half of them gave birth; in the same year, 15,000 young women under the age of 15 became pregnant, over 40% of whom gave birth.

This is the case because not only can many young women not access Plan B, but also because they also are not presented with a Plan A. Empirical studies document higher pregnancy rates in schools with abstinence-only sex education, yet many states do not acknowledge this fact or are just starting to. For instance, Texas, a state in which Latinos comprise over one-third of the population, has long been a devotee of abstinence-only sex education. Recent gains, though small, in abstinence-plus education are cause for celebration, but are far from enough to reverse years of failing to ensure that young women have comprehensive evidence-based sex education.

(more…)

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As a reproductive justice organization working in the Latin@ community, people often ask us what we do to get people to understand such complex and intertwined issues such as abortion, immigration, and LGBTQ liberation. It is true that these issues are complicated. The way we talk about them is nuanced, they ways in which they connect are varied and intricate. But the reason we advocate for our issues in this way is not to overly complicate, but rather because this is the way we live our lives. As renown freedom-fighter Audre Lorde once said, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”

Our communities understand the complex nature of these issues because it’s the way our lives play out – we are a sum of identities and realities that make us who we are. In fact, it’s the fact that we speaking about many different issues in the context of each other that facilitates our community’s connection to our work.

We want to share this video of Felipe Matos after the pilot of our training on LGBTQ liberation and reproductive justice this summer as an example of those connections, and the natural ways they play out in the lives of Latin@s in the United States. Thank you so much, Felipe, for spending a beautiful Friday evening in Miami with us, and for your dedication to our movements for justice.

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By Sofia Campos

I came to the US when I was six from Peru, along with my younger brother and sister. I found out about my undocumented status in my senior year at Eagle Rock High School. Despite the countless barriers before us, my parents encouraged me to accept my admissions to UCLA. After graduating from high school, I began commuting to UCLA from Highland Park to attend my classes–it took me 2 hours each way to get to campus by way of 4 busses. This lasted for my first 2 years at UCLA. This was my reality as an undocumented student who is not allowed to legally drive, legally work, nor apply to most forms of financial aid. This was also my struggle as a woman who was not willing to allow her immigration status impede her future, no matter how risky the late night commute may have been. Though I did carry pepper spray, I often feel grateful that no physical harm ever came my way during that part of my life.

Now, I am a senior at UCLA majoring in International Development Studies and Political Science, and minoring in Labor and Work Place Studies. This past year, I served as the Co-Chair of IDEAS at UCLA, one of the first organizations in the country to support and advocate for undocumented student rights. In addition to mentoring undocumented youth and presenting DREAM Act and college workshops to educators and students throughout LA County, IDEAS led our largest annual Immigrant Youth Empowerment Conference this past May, where over 1,000 people came to UCLA to learn how to overcome their immigration status and reach higher education. After learning about my status at seventeen, speaking out at various rallies and events, and committing herself to the immigrant youth movement, today I live Undocumented and Unafraid.

Today, my brother is attending UC San Diego and my little sister will soon begin her studies at UC Santa Barbara. By helping her create an IDEAS organization at her high school, undocumented students there will not have to wait until college to understand that they too can fulfill their potential. These forms of community empowerment are crucial for the kind of positive change our society needs, and I hope more people will join our cause for social justice so that more cycles of empowerment may grow. No matter what stories move us, what issues spark our interest, or what passions motivate us, we are and will always be one movement brought together by love and a deep desire for justice.

I am blessed to be a part of this social justice movement and I do not take my struggle for granted. As a result of my experiences and education thus far, I know we can change this world for the better. I hope to continue encouraging others to become empowered individuals so we may work cohesively to accomplish great progress for together. We–our hope, our love, our struggles– must be invisible no more.

Isang Bagsak, which in Tagalog means “One Rise, One Fall.”

An Invisible Experience
By Sofia Campos

How to get through the Day,

When it starts at 6 AM on the first of 4 buses to get to UCLA.

How to get though the Week,

When it starts with rejection from the AMC
Because there is no California ID to verify an age older than 17.

How to get though the Month,
When it starts with dropping out of UCLA for a quarter or more
Because there is just not enough money to pay anymore.

And How to get through the Year,When it starts with the weight of the world
On top of seemingly
shrinking
shoulders.

It is that invisible faith,Coupled with that invisible hopeThat gets me through this Invisible Experience.
Being undocumented takes the phrase
“Count your blessings” to a whole different level.
Every smile I receive, Every hug I embrace
Every act of kindness I glimpse
Radiates throughout this universe,Into mind, soul, and place.
It is this faith I do my best to nurture, to grip
Because that is how I get through my year,
my month,
my week,
my DAY.

That is how I live

UNDOCUMENTED And UNAFRAID.

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Gaby Rodriguez, a high school senior, standing with a microphone in front of a slideshow presentation

Gaby Rodriguezpresenting in front of her classmates. Photo Credit: Yakima Herald

The last couple of weeks have brought us two amazing instances of young women speaking out about pregnant and parenting youth. In one case, Gaby Rodriguez, a high school student from Washington state, faked a pregnancy as a social experiment and critique of the stigma surrounding pregnant young women:

 Only a handful of people — her mother, boyfriend and principal among them — knew Gaby was pretending to be pregnant for her senior project, a culminating assignment required for graduation….But Gaby didn’t give up the charade until Wednesday morning, when she revealed her secret during an emotional, all-school assembly.

The topic of her presentation: “Stereotypes, rumors and statistics.”

“Teenagers tend to live in the shadows of these elements,” she says.

This brave young woman is right on it, pointing out and calling out the ways that pregnant young women are stigmatized, and challenging that stigma. It’s clear that what pregnant and parenting young people need is support, not stigma. Which brings us to the second instance of young women of color speaking out on this issue: the young women of the Catherine Ferguson Academy.

The Catherine Ferguson Academy (CFA) is a public school in Detroit for pregnant and parenting young women, providing on-site childcare, prenatal care, and other support to their students. Faced with budget shortfalls, Detroit is planning to close down several schools, and CFA is slated for closing after this summer – but CFA’s students took matters into their own hands, and staged a sit-in to protest the closings.

“When people at my regular high school realized that I was pregnant, I was told my chances of being a success in life were over,” said Ashley Matthews, a junior at CFA. “At Catherine Ferguson, they told me they wouldn’t allow me to be anything BUT a success. I love CFA, and I am prepared to fight to keep it open, not only for myself, but for all the girls who will come behind me.”  

In a city with low graduation rates, CFA boasts a 90% graduation rate, and a 100% of graduates go on to college. These numbers go to show that when young parents are supported they can and do succeed. The young women of CFA now know this, and were willing to resist with civil disobedience – the sit-in participants were arrested, some of them in front of their small children – to show their district just how important the school is to them.

These young women are all heroes, and are making the point over and over again: support, not stigma, is what young women need – whether trying to access reproductive health services or raise a child.

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We’re happy to report that the The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment (CAPTA) Reauthorization Act of 2010 passed both the House and Senate last week. It is critical in the fight against child abuse and neglect.  This Act reauthorizes CAPTA through FY2015 and enacts important revisions that, as the White House stated, will “strengthen child protective services and continue life-saving programs for victims of domestic violence.”  Senator Harkin, a co-sponsor and champion of the bill, stated that “incidents of child abuse are on the rise… and this disturbing trend must be reversed immediately.”

The bill directs the Secretary to award grants for two national resource centers, at least seven special issue resource centers, a National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, and specialized services for abused parents and their children.

Other highlights of CAPTA reauthorization include:

  • Reauthorization of the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (which is the only federal funding source dedicated to domestic violence services and shelters), the Adoption Opportunities Act, and the Abandoned Infants Assistance Act;
  • Emphasis on the need to develop the use of research-based strategies;
  • Enhancement of the general child protective system;
  • Provision of services to children that have been exposed to domestic violence; and
  • Improved training on prevention of violence against children.

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