Two weeks ago I attended the Sister Song Conference in Washington DC. The conference brought together organizations working on reproductive justice. While the common thread amongst them was reproductive justice, groups were represented who work to promote HIV awareness, advocate for reproductive rights, and the connections between environmental justice and its role in reproductive health.
Saturday’s events were kicked off by an amazing performance. Then SisterSong’s national staff introduced themselves and warmly welcomed the members. Several sessions followed, including an update on Obama’s year in office and an activity on self-help. Reminders of the support that existed in that were room were mentioned, reinforcing that the organizations were there to inspire and empower each other.
Several things caught my eye that weekend. The all-gender bathrooms were one of them. It was a great way to set the standard of tolerance and remove any potential judgment. This created an environment that allowed us to embrace the diversity that existed among us. During the conference, free HIV testing was also offered. I appreciated this opportunity because it was a perfect example of people taking action to provide themselves with necessary resources that are not always available to many.
Because of the timing of the conference, which happened to fall on the day that health care reform was being debated in the House of Representatives, a last minute advocacy plan was put together. Everyone on the SisterSong staff organized the most effective way to speak with our representatives on Capitol Hill. 350 women of color and allies in attendance headed over to the Hill to talk to key offices. It was a powerful site. At the end of the night we were not able to beat the Stupak Amendment, but we showed a strong presence on the Hill that evening.
Overall, I learned a lot in those two days. I was reminded that despite living in the same country, everyone does not receive the same rights that they are entitled to. Several people shared their stories of personal reproductive injustice. One man summarized the numerous injustices that occurred against women in his town. This conference in general was a continuous reminder or the importance of education. By educating both men and women we can protect our current obtained reproductive rights and gain many more that we deserve. Knowledge is power and without it no one can progress.
By Elizabeth Rivera, Research Intern