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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

By Jessica Karina Guerra-Ugalde

I was thrilled and honored to stand behind the President last week as he talked about how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) benefits all of our communities.  Because of the immense pride I have in the ACA, I wanted to share my enrollment story and what it means to me.  I graduated college in 2008, and did what college kids throughout the country do after graduation – I moved home and began looking for work. I worked as an intern and later as a temp- both positions did not offer any benefits. At that point, I was 22 years old, and I really did not think that anything could affect me.  I was healthy and rarely got sick. Immediately after the ACA became law and was implemented, my mom went to her job to ensure that I was covered under her health insurance plan. A week after I received my health insurance card, I became very sick. I had to see a number of different specialists, had lab work done, and ultimately, the doctors were able to diagnose and treat me for pneumonia. If I didn’t have health insurance, if it wasn’t for ObamaCare, I wouldn’t be here today in good health.

The ACA is good for Latinas and our community because it has given young people like me, access to health insurance in a time when it’s hard to find work. It’s even more difficult to find a job that offers benefits. Because of ACA, I can go to sleep at night knowing that I can see the doctor whenever I want, without worrying about not having money to pay for a provider out of pocket or for medication. For young people graduating college, it adds stress to your job hunt to find a job that would offer you health care benefits. A few weeks after I got better, I was able to access all the care that I needed to make sure I was 100%.  That included an appointment with the dentist, ophthalmologist, and my annual physical. When you have health insurance, you take even the smallest things for granted like seeing the eye doctor for contacts.

I believe that my experience, my story, is the story of many young people across the country. My mom says that the ACA, all the policy makers who worked to pass this law, and the people who have fought for the ACA have all saved my life and I agree. Thanks to this law, I was able to get the care I needed when I needed it.

On the 35th anniversary of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), we are reminded that women of color experience multiple forms of discrimination because of their race, gender, immigration status, sexual orientation, and yes even when they become pregnant.  In fact, this discrimination often translates into poor health outcomes for these women and their children.  Last year, researchers found that discrimination against young, pregnant, urban women of color contributed to symptoms of depression and consequently, lower birth weight, an indicator of poor future health for their children.  In that study, 62% of its participants were Latina.

Although we know women of color experience discrimination, we often don’t talk about how they suffer from workplace discrimination if they become pregnant.  Many women of color and immigrant women, particularly Latinas, are disproportionately represented in low-earning, physically demanding jobs.  For instance, more than 750,000 Latinas work in the production, transportation, and material moving occupations and another nearly 2.7 million Latinas are employed in the service industry.  There have been a disproportionate number of pregnancy discrimination claims from these employment sectors.  If a Latina becomes pregnant and her employer refuses to make slight accommodations that would allow her to stay healthy and keep her job, then she is forced to choose between her health and her paycheck.  For example, an accommodation for a cashier could be as simple as allowing her to sit on a stool rather than standing on her feet or allowing her to have additional break time.  To make matters worse, many women of color are the sole breadwinners for their household.  An employer who refuses to make these accommodations jeopardizes the economic security of a Latina and her family, and possibly, her ability to have access to health care.

One way to mark the anniversary of the PDA is to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.  Although  PDA outlaws discrimination based on pregnancy, employers are still getting away with pushing pregnant, women of color out of the workplace.  The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would build on existing law by requiring employers to give reasonable accommodations when workers need them due to pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions, just like they do for workers who face similar limitations.  As a result, it will ensure that women of color, including Latinas, can continue working while staying healthy.  If you think pregnant, women of color workers deserve fair treatment and should be able to keep their jobs, take action here.

Trainings Coming To You!

Latinas are taking over! Both online and specifically in Florida. There are two very awesome trainings available right now. Check both out, see if you’re eligible and register. Make sure to help us spread the word!

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THIS IS A CALL TO ALL YOUNG MOTHERS
check out this awesome community mobilizing and advocacy webinar training! Completely accessible from home if you have a phone and computer with internet access. We believe in supporting young mothers and providing them with the tools to be leaders in their community.
Register here: http://tinyurl.com/MomELola

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MIAMI, FLORIDA ACTIVISTS!
Our LOLA Training is coming to you! From October 18th-20th. Register for our three day Latin@s Organizing for Leadership and Advocacy training to receive the tools necessary to be a leader in your community. We will be covering your stay and travel.
Spread the word and register here: http://tinyurl.com/LOLAFL

If you have any questions please email Angy@LatinaInstitute.org or call us at 212-422-2553

When I helped promotoras go door to door in Utah to educate families about the Children’s Health Insurance Program, I became increasingly aware of how confusing the health care system is for many persons, especially for aspiring citizens.  I remember how some people shut the door in my face and how I could tell if someone was at home but pretended they weren’t.  Also, I distinctly remember how my conversations with newly arrived immigrants and refugees would be the only meaningful conversations I would have that day.  Going door-to-door made me realize that one conversation may have led to one more person or family getting the affordable, quality health care they deserve.  If we didn’t have these conversations, some of these families would still have thought that they couldn’t get health care until they were in the emergency room.

I am sure today that many persons are still confused about how to access health care in this country and that will be no different after enrollment begins on October 1st and after coverage begins on January 1st.  I am thrilled that National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health is a Champion for Coverage.  As a champion, we will reach Latinas, their families, and their communities who face insurmountable obstacles to health care.  We are all aware that Latinas face severe health disparities which are only aggravated by lack of access to care.  Latinas have the highest rates of getting cervical cancer and are diagnosed at twice the rate of non-Latina white women.  Transgender Latinos/as may not receive the critical cervical cancer screenings they need because of provider discrimination.  For many Latinas, the cost of contraception is prohibitive, forcing many to go without it.  For these reasons, and many more, we are honored to help educate our community.

At this moment, we Latinos/as have an opportunity to receive the health care we need.  All health plans that will be offered on the Health Insurance Marketplaces will be required to cover preventive health services, the very life-saving care that Latinos/as need to treat and screen cervical cancer and other illnesses.  For the very first time, these same plans cannot discriminate on the basis of sex or gender identity, an important step in improving the health of our LGBTQ community members.  However, we aren’t going to get the care we need unless we all chip in and charlamos con nuestras hermanas, nuestras madres, nuestras tías y nuestras familias.  For more information about how you can enroll, please go to HealthCare.gov or CuidadoDeSalud.gov.  For more information on enrollment options for our LGBTQ hermanos y hermanas, please go to http://out2enroll.org/.  

Say it with me, hymen!

The hymen is a covering that surrounds the vaginal opening. Female babies are born with. Most hymens are donut-shaped and have a small opening in the middle. They’re thick when we’re babies and with time wear away, thin out or no longer exist because of exercise, masturbation, washing etc. That’s right. Hymens are NOT a covering on top of the whole vagina. If it were, we wouldn’t be able to get our periods while virgins.

Why am I even talking about this?

Because I’m sooo tired of the discourse around virginity and our bodies; why is it so violent?! (What else is new). No, our virginity is not a cherry one has to “pop”, “pierce”, “rip”, “puncture”, “tear” etc. This idea that we need to bleed to know for sure we’re no longer virgins or that our partner needs to make us bleed, needs to stop. If we’re bleeding, that means tissue was torn, we’re in pain and that’s not okay!

First off, virginity is more than just going into a vagina. It’s also a state of mind. And it isn’t something that someone takes away or steals. It’s like we’re connecting our body, mind and/or soul. No one is a virginity collector. Stop it.

I found some really awesome tips on how to decrease the pain during your first sexual encounters:

1. TAKE YOUR TIMEEEEEEEEE

Many times partners who have consented to sex may be scared someone will change their mind so proceed with sex right away that can cause pain. Hymens can be stretched out before using an object and/or penis and it’ll be less painful. Days, maybe even weeks, before objects and/or penises enter the vagina, the hymen should be stimulated with fingers or smaller objects to stretch it out. If it hurts, stop, and try again later. Also keep in mind your partner may have some trauma they’re dealing with and need time to be there mentally, spiritually etc.

2. FOREPLAY AND EXPLORATION. DO IT.

It’ll lubricate stuff down there. And if you have trouble lubricating, they sell stuff in the store. Buy it! And of course, get to know your body.

3. IT’S NOT PORN Y’ALL

Don’t attack the holy vagina. Praise it.

4. REPEAT REPEAT

If you haven’t had sex in a while and start again, you might want to start off slow again. Our hymen will reduce back to its original size and there may be discomfort again.

5. COMMUNICATE

The most important of all. Communicate. Everyone is allowed to change their minds prior, during and post sex. Respect and practice that.

hymen

Any other tips or things folks can try to do to have less painful sexual encounters?

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?

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

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

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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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