JoAnna Smith, Emory
The last session of the weekend called “Where Do We Go From Here? The Future of Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice,” challenged all of us to think about the history of the reproductive justice community, to analyze our successes and, more importantly, the bad habits we have formed, and to think critically about how to move the conversation forward.
One of the speakers was Ms. Sujatha Jesudason, the Director of CoreAlign Initiative. CoreAlign did a study to analyze what was working and what needed to be improved in the RJ community. They found that the movement was extremely well-funded, but that we lack cohesive messaging, inspiring leaders and goals, and actions that are proactive rather than reactive. Instead of looking at the issues of rights, justice, and health as separate issues to be addressed by different experts, we needed to find ways to make connections, share resources, and to focus on RJ heroes rather than victims.
I thought back to an exercise we did the first day where we were asked to design a program around a reproductive justice topic. Many of us who were well-versed on abortion-bans, defunding of Planned Parenthood, and vaginal ultrasounds struggled with the assignment because we had never thought about some of the other RJ issues out there. Even those who had thought about them, had never before considered out to communicate them to a broader audience and in a way that included the voices of those RJ impacts the most.
I also thought about the session I attended on chapter strategic planning. I attended but was skeptical that a campus club like mine would benefit much from a strategic plan; it seemed too formal for what we were. But after hearing Ms. Jesudason talk about how the RJ movement is doomed to stagnation and repetition of bad habits without close self-examination and a plan for success, I am a convert.
I pledge (and I challenge you to pledge) to examine how my organization is doing RJ work. Do we sacrifice a broader message in the name of an easy event? Could we reach a more diverse group of people by spending more time coalition building on campus and in the community? Can we acknowledge the successes of those who came before us while doing something different, better, more successful?
I am so excited to get back to campus this fall to get started on our strategic plan. I wish you good luck on yours!