Health Department Launches Video to Increase Awareness of Sexual and Reproductive Justice and Expand Community Engagement Efforts

The video is part of a five year initiative to enhance and advance community dialogue and engagement on sexual and reproductive justice

November 4, 2016 – The Health Department today launched an educational resource video, created in partnership with the Sexual and Reproductive Justice Community Engagement Group (CEG), to raise awareness of sexual and reproductive justice (SRJ) and expand community engagement efforts around this issue. The video features Community Engagement Members and Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett, who explain the importance of working together toward undoing sexual and reproductive injustice in New York City. The video was presented at the “Sexual and Reproductive Justice & NYC: Voices from the Community” meeting held at the CUNY Law School. The goal of the video is to generate discussion within existing member organizations and encourage new members to join the Community Engagement Group. Members contribute to and stay informed about ongoing SRJ activities via the Health Department’s Advancing Sexual Health Equity monthly e-blast. To view the SRJ video and learn more about sexual and reproductive justice visit nyc.gov/health.

Click "CC" in the bottom right hand corner of the video to access subtitles in English or Spanish.

“The sexual and reproductive justice framework is fully aligned with the Health Department’s work to achieve health equity and undo injustice, including structural racism,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “We are so grateful to have created this video with community partners. It is important to recognize and contextualize the history of reproductive oppression and racial injustice in our work.”
 
“Our goal is to increase awareness and access to a full continuum of sexual and reproductive health and related services, including all contraceptive methods, so that all people can make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health, and act on those decisions,” said Dr. George L. Askew, Deputy Commissioner, Division of Family and Child Health. “The sexual and reproductive justice framework assures that this work incorporates the broader context of people’s sexual and reproductive lives and their lived experiences.”

“The CEG represents a completely different way for government to work with community,” said Dr. Deborah Kaplan, Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Maternal, Infant and Reproductive Health. “In acknowledging the tremendous value of community expertise and prioritizing meaningful community engagement, we have learned to share leadership, including all planning and decision making. Above all, we have come to understand the importance of involving community from the beginning. The video is a product of this strong collaboration and I am excited to see future campaigns developed by the CEG."

The video is the result of a yearlong collaboration between the Health Department and the Sexual and Reproductive Justice Community Engagement Group. CEG is a group of community leaders, activists and nonprofit organizations that work with the support of the Health Department to promote sexual and reproductive justice in New York City. CEG has convened gatherings with diverse community residents to identify priority areas to address in upcoming Health Department public awareness campaigns. This work is part of a five-year initiative to increase awareness, access, utilization and coordination of a full continuum of sexual and reproductive health and related services. The initiative aims, in part, to spark a citywide dialogue around sexual and reproductive justice. Today’s announcement advances this goal by making available the video as a tool to engage more New Yorkers in this conversation.
 
Sexual and reproductive justice exists when all people have the power and resources to make healthy decisions about their bodies, sexuality and reproduction. SRJ means that every person has the human right to choose to have or not have children, choose the conditions under which to give birth or create a family, care for their children with the necessary social supports in a safe and healthy environment, and control their own body and self-expression, free from any form of sexual or reproductive oppression. The term “reproductive justice” was first coined by a group of Black women in 1994 from which emerged a framework and SisterSong, a collective led by and for Indigenous women and women of color.

The sexual and reproductive justice framework provides a theory and strategy developed by women of color to address sexual and reproductive oppression. The video brings this to light through storytelling by featuring diverse voices of New Yorkers who share what sexual and reproductive justice means for them:
 
“When it comes to sexual assault…I felt guilt, I felt like it was my fault…. Sexual reproductive justice, had I been exposed to it younger, would have changed the way I viewed myself.”
- Michelle Hope
 
“A parent has the right for their children to grow up healthy, happy, and affirmed…Coming from an immigrant community there were not a lot of trans-friendly services or trans-knowledgeable doctors that I knew of growing up.”
- Travis-Michael Altamar
 
“I would have loved if there was sex education in my schools. It would have been great to see two women in love, especially two black women in love, but there was no visibility for people that looked like me.”
- Ericka Hart
 
“This video reflects an exciting collaboration between the Health Department and over 50 community organizations, reproductive justice activists and creatives to introduce the Sexual and Reproductive Justice framework to New Yorkers, especially the most marginalized,” said Dr. Lynn Roberts, SisterSong Board Member and Assistant Professor of Community Health, CUNY School of Public Health. “We are offering this video as a tool for initiating critical conversations that we hope will inform future efforts to ensure the human rights of all New Yorkers to self-determination and bodily autonomy regarding their sexuality and reproduction. We consider these dialogues that lead to action as critical to establishing health equity in NYC.”
 
“It is very exciting to see the Health Department come to the table in partnership with community,” said Marcella Tillett, Vice President of Project Street Beat, Planned Parenthood of New York City. “This work is an acknowledgement of the great value added by the voices and lived experiences of New Yorkers related to their sexual and reproductive health needs and rights, and recognizes the role the department must take in course-correcting and acting as an accountable partner to the people it exists to serve. This type of collaborative community engagement will hopefully be replicated in various units with the health department and beyond, and serve as a best practice for any institution whose work directly impacts the lives of community members.”
 
“The SRJ video places New York City at the vanguard of ensuring that everyone has the information and resources to make healthy and free decisions about their sexual and reproductive lives. This video takes the important step of introducing the SRJ framework, giving us a common language and approach to these issues. It’s an honor to have contributed my lived experience to something that can help others see the many facets of SRJ, and I hope it helps others feel that they have a place in this conversation,” said Farah Díaz-Tello, Former Staff Attorney, National Advocates for Pregnant Women.
 
"As a CEG member, I'm extremely proud of the opportunity I have to represent Urban Health Plan,” said Nicole Lefkowitz, Director of Health Literacy, Urban Health Plan. “We found hosting a community gathering in Spanish for the community we serve in the South Bronx to be a very powerful experience. It's great to help make their voices heard. This video helps to describe what SRJ is, why it's important and why we must all work hard to support it!"

“Queens lauds this collaboration between the Health Department and the Sexual and Reproductive Justice Community Engagement Group. This five-year initiative will serve to help enhance sexual and reproductive justice in our community,” said Queens Borough President Melissa Katz.

“As Co-Chair of the New York City Council Women's Caucus, I applaud the extensive initiative to broaden education and engagement on these issues. NYC needs to utilize every resource and further develop and support those on the ground doing the hard work,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.
 
Organizations and community members can join the NYC Health Department and CEG in spreading the word about sexual reproductive justice on social media by using the hashtags #SRJMeans2Me and #NYCHealthEquity. New Yorkers are also invited to engage with the NYC Health Department’s SRJ Tumblr Series and Doing it NYC Facebook Page and to sign up for the Health Department’s monthly e-blast Advancing Sexual Health Equity in New York City.
 
About the Sexual Reproductive Justice Community Engagement Group
The Sexual and Reproductive Justice Community Engagement Group (CEG) was convened by the New York City Health Department in June 2015 and membership is growing. The CEG meets monthly to plan and implement activities so that all New Yorkers can safely express their sexuality and gender identity with dignity, and have the knowledge, skills and resources to lead healthy and fulfilling lives for themselves, their families and communities. The CEG currently has 57 member organizations (PDF). Since May 2016, 10 organizations have joined the CEG.

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MEDIA CONTACT:
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