Tag Archives: Reproductive health

Day 26- RAISE Initiative

Yesterday’s discussion centered on Reproductive Justice (RJ) and SisterSong, a US-based women of color collective working for RJ. Today’s post features an organization that understands the need for reproductive justice to be at the forefront of everyone’s minds all the time, even in times of crisis and emergency.

The RAISE Initiative-Reproductive Health Access, Information and Services in Emergencies-aims to improve the quality of life of those affected by natural or human-made disasters. Oftentimes, and especially in the wake of a major catastrophe, reproductive health (RH) is overlooked or seen as an unnecessary or secondary concern of governments and NGOs working to help people recover from a disaster.

Numerous case studies have shown that when water, food and shelter are the only concerns of organizations seeking to “help” survivors, harm inevitably comes to the groups with the highest pre-disaster risk factors for vulnerability: basically anyone who is not able-bodied, adult-but-not-elderly, and male. Consider that the number of boy and girl children, adult women, disabled or ill adult men, and elderly men and women combined is considerably higher than the number of healthy, nondisabled men ages 18-55; with this fact in mind it is absurd that what is “normal” and necessary for survival is based on what that minority of the population may need.

Women are at least half of any population, (although, because of socially-constructed gender roles and a lack of survival skills women may have been disproportionately killed in any disaster) and their needs should be taken into consideration when providing any services to an affected population. Women’s needs may include sanitary pads, extra-nutrition if they are pregnant or breastfeeding, well-planned and secure shelter, soap, and birth control. Many people mistakenly believe that life stops for survivors in post-disaster camps, but babies are born and love is made, even in the shadow of chaos.

Much has been written about the opportunity that arises in the wake of a disaster to weaken patriarchy and reinforce gender equality and yet the same mistakes are made over and over again, from Haiti to Pakistan to Japan.

RAISE, which has offices in New York, London, Brussels and Nairobi,  recognizes the vital role in overall health that reproductive health plays, and understands that these needs in an emergency setting are even more pressing. “Access to reproductive health care is a basic human right. Yet integrated and fully comprehensive reproductive health services are not the norm in most emergency settings. People are displaced from their homes for many reasons, and an overwhelming number of preventable deaths and illnesses related to reproductive health affect populations in crisis.”

RAISE, as far as I know, is one of the only organizations of its kind. I know very little about the Reproductive Health Response in Crisis Consortium, or the Women’s Refugee Commission. If you know of other organizations that specifically address the reproductive health needs of populations affected by disaster please share them in the comments section. RAISE is unique in its approach, and addresses RH through technical support to partner organizations, clinical training, advocacy, research, and documentation and dissemination of information.

Additionally, RAISE offers resources for advocacy, up-to-date news articles about reproductive health issues, and a large multimedia library with information about sexual and reproductive health in numerous contexts.

“By promoting awareness of the full range of reproductive health (RH) challenges in refugee and internally displaced person (IDP) situations and the consequences of inaction, RAISE Initiative staff and advocacy partners work to mobilise key humanitarian actors – UN agencies, international bodies, donor governments and host countries – to include RH as an integral part of their humanitarian response and action.”

RAISE works on long-term projects in a number of places, including Colombia, two projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Southern Sudan, the Thai-Burmese border, and Uganda. RAISE offers a number of services such as comprehensive reproductive health care, emergency obstetric care, family planning, testing and information for HIV and STIs, and assistance in bringing about an end to gender-based violence.

If you would like to help make RH a priority in both emergency and everyday situations, there are many ways to contribute to or participate in the RAISE Initiative. RAISE offers clinical training in emergency obstetrical care, post-abortion care, and family planning, in addition to offering a multimedia training tool for clinical care for sexual assault survivors. You can also subscribe to their email list for regular RAISE updates and a weekly literature review.

Day 25- SisterSong

To the readers who know me personally, the lack of discussions surrounding sex and reproductive rights and health has probably been puzzling. Sex, sexual rights, and sexual health are some of the areas about which I am most passionate. As Jean Kilbourne states in Killing Us Softly, sex is both more important and less important, than the advertising industry shows. I have not delved into sex/sexuality yet because it is such an intense topic and I have to be mentally prepared for it. Sunday’s blog will go in depth into the fight for sexual/reproductive rights in the US.

Today I want to introduce you to SisterSong, an amazing organization that is “building a movement for reproductive justice.” Reproductive justice is one of my favorite phrases in the English language. Put simplyRJ is “the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, social, and economic well-being of women and girls, based on the full achievement and protection of women’s human rights.” In other words, reproductive justice explores women’s sexuality and reproductive health while fighting for individuals’ rights to make fully-informed decisions regarding every aspect of life from education to employment to the environment.

SisterSong is a Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective. I know that all sounds really hippy feminist, and it is, but hear me out.  Let’s break it down: women of color includes any and all women who are marginalized by the imposed, socially-constructed racial heirarchy in the US, usually anyone who is not or does not appear to be white and does not benefit from the privileges of whiteness; reproductive justice, again, is a social movement that seeks to teach an understanding of sexual and reproductive health and rights issues as it relates to the framework of oppression women face in the US, including poverty, racism, ableism, ageism, and homophobia, in addition to sexism; finally, collective underscores the need for solidarity amongst women to not fall prey to the imperialist tactic of divide and conquer, as SisterSong explains: doing collectively what we cannot do individually.

The Goose Story explains members’ clear committment to the work they are doing and how vital a community of support can be. The SisterSong community includes Southern RJ Activists, the Latina Encuentro, Trust Black Women and these member organizations. SisterSong also produces Collective Voices, “the only national newspaper addressing reproductive health created and distributed by and for women of color….” They also recommend these publications and articles.

July 14-17 this year SisterSong will host its 2011 Let’s Talk About Sex Conference in Miami Beach. The theme this year is Love, Legislation and Leadership. Sistersong also offers three different levels of RJ training which are aimed at audiences of 10-20 people.

If you would like to support the work SisterSong does to end racial oppression and sexism you have a few options: you can register for their training sessions so that you will be more prepared and able to discuss RJ with anyone who will listen; you can donate to Trust Black Women to help continue the fight against racist billboards aimed at shaming black women into not asserting their right to choose; you can donate to help preserve Mother House, the historic home offices of SisterSong in Atlanta, Georgia; or you can donate to SisterSong’s Women of Color Scholarship Program to ensure that “women of color, working class communities, immigrant communities, and young women and students” have access to information and services surrounding SisterSong’s work.

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