A few weeks ago, on Wednesday, March 24, fifty students at the University of Missouri attended an International Reproductive Health Forum that I organized in collaboration with Americans for Informed Democracy and Advocates for Youth as part of the International Youth Speak Out Project. It was co-hosted by the Feminist Student Union, American Association of Women (AAUW) MU Affiliate and BODYTALK (an e-zine I started last fall) and featured two international reproductive health activists from Nigeria and Jamaica, Fadekemi Akinfaderin and Maxsalia Salmon (respectively).

Fadekemi and Maxsalia are actively working in their countries to mobilize their peers, lobby policy makers and speak at various international conferences to address issues of young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. They screened a short documentary that illustrated the state of reproductive health in their own countries and then led a discussion about the film and about the importance of US-based youth activism in ensuring young people’s access to reproductive health and family planning programs internationally. After the forum ended, a brief advocacy training was held for a small group of Mizzou students to prepare them for a lobbying visit at Senator Christopher Bond’s office. The following day, the student lobbying group asked for Senator Bond’s support of the $1 billion appropriation for international family planning and for sponsorship of a Senate companion bill to the Global Sexual and Reproductive Health Act of 2010, which is expected to be introduced in April by Representative Yvette Clark.

The forum showcased the interconnections of youth from abroad and youth from the United States. Despite our geographical distance, it illustrated that we are united by our experience of fighting for bodily autonomy as young people and that our activism for just global reproductive health policies will impact youth from all over the world. The forum also demystified the process of lobbying and demonstrated how simple (not to mention, how important) it is to take political action as a young person. I had never visited a legislator on the state or national level, and I found the experience exciting, empowering and even a little addictive. The two days were completely inspiring and were a terrific way to wrap up school just before Spring Break. For more information, listen to the radio broadcast on KBIA, the local NPR station, or read the article published in The Missourian, the local student-run community newspaper.

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