It was the beginning of my fifth and final year at the University of Missouri, I had just tacked on a new major, and the majority of my friends had graduated and moved away. How was I going to take an active role in my new department; how was I going to fill this new void in my social calendar; and importantly, how was I going to get a better grip on what I wanted to do after graduation (because this time around I planned to actually do so)? I could… launch a ‘zine. A sexy ‘zine. Yeah! A ‘zine on sexuality and reproductive health, if executed well, would be a seemingly perfect way to engage my peers in a collaborative project that was interesting, meaningful and activating. It would also allow me to explore my interest of sexual and reproductive health. And even better: I may even build a new friendship or two (or thirty).

So, that’s what I did. Last month, I launched an e-zine called BODYTALK at the University of Missouri. BODYTALK is a completely student produced publication that focuses on issues of sexuality, bodies, and reproductive health and is rooted in the belief that cooperative, judgment-free discussion of our own experiences is key to achieving equality and freedom.

The first issue was entitled The Virgin Issue and aimed to start near the beginning of students’ sexual narratives with their first sexual experiences (whether they have had one or not). The next issue, The Medical Issue, is scheduled to release this week and encompasses experiences in which sexuality/sexual bodies and medicine intersect.

Overall, the goal of BODYTALK is to normalize conversations about sexuality at the University of Missouri and to illustrate that our sexual experiences are diverse and all valid. It is a step towards raising students’ consciousness about the complexity of sexuality and seeks to engage young people in the movement to fight for the protection, equality, and freedom of individuals from all sexual narratives. So far, BODYTALK has received a lot positive feedback. I think the subject matter is particularly relevant to young people in and of itself, but its fresh look (thanks to the incredible graphic artists and designers I work with) and diverse voices have definitely helped catch people’s attention. We were even featured in one of the university newspapers!

Furthermore, BODYTALK grounds itself not only in discussion but also in action. So, to concretely illustrate how campus level sexual and reproductive health issues raised in BODYTALK can translate into political action for global sexual and reproductive health and rights, BODYTALK will host a Reproductive Health Forum March 2010 in collaboration with Americans for Informed Democracy and Advocates for Youth. As part of the International Youth Speak Out Tour, the two-day forum will feature international youth from Ethiopia, Nigeria and Jamaica and train students to effectively speak with policymakers. The Forum will give us the opportunity to learn about the sexual and reproductive health experiences of our global peers and speak to policymakers about what we, as young people, think the US can do to help increase access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information and services for young people worldwide.

Wanna take a peek? Check out the first issue of BODYTALK here and become a fan of BODYTALK on facebook here. The second issue will be out this week; link will be shared on our facebook page as soon as it is launched! For more information about the International Youth Speak Out Tour and Reproductive Health Forums contact Priti@aidemocracy.org.

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