From the Community to the Capitol and Back Again
Originally Published: July 30, 2012
Revised: September 5, 2012
“I became interested in reproductive health because when I was 15 I was sexually active and I did not know anything about contraceptives or protection,” explains 19-year-old Christian Redbird of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Christian started learning about reproductive health, but she didn’t want to educate only herself. “I did not want another teenager to be like me,” explains Christian, who recognized how uninformed she was.
Christian decided to do something to make sure young people in her community and across the country learned about sexuality.
At the age of 16, Christian got involved with Young Women United, a nonprofit organization based in Albuquerque that creates leadership opportunities for young women of color who want to educate and improve the health of their communities. Young Women United provided the perfect space for Christian to grow as a leader and to spread the word about sexuality education. Christian continues to work with Young Women United, and, just recently, Young Women United held a sexuality education class for 120 teens in Albuquerque.
“We wanted teens to have the experience of going into a public health office for contraception information or checkups.” Birth control isn’t just about the Pill or condoms, so Christian was excited that the teens who attended the class got to learn so much more about safer sex and preventing pregnancy.
Christian is one of many teens who have been empowered by advocating for sexuality education and reproductive choice.
“Teens were taught about the fertility awareness method, male condoms, female condoms, spermicide, dental dams, diaphragms, birth control pills, Depo-Provera, the NuvaRing, IUDs, female and male sterilization and abstinence,” says Christian.
Christian also hopes her work with Young Women United allows her to do more educational programs that support pregnant and parenting teens and educate people about sexual orientation and gender identity.
Connecting Teens Across the Country
As a leader with Young Women United, Christian got to attend the Gloria Steinem Membership Conference last fall. Christian’s work with Young Women United had been focused on her local community, but this conference introduced her to working on a national level. At the conference, reproductive rights activists from across the country met to support teens in building leadership skills and having a say in the kind of sexuality education they receive. During the conference, Christian was introduced to Choice USA, an organization that supports young pro-choice leaders.
Christian explains why she was drawn to Choice USA:
“Reproductive choice is important because it allows us access to options—abortion, birth control, etc.—when we need them, even if some women aren’t using them. I believe women should be trusted with their own bodies, and our decisions shouldn’t be limited by politics.”
Christian also liked that Choice USA involved young people in standing up for reproductive choice. She was elected the southwest regional leader for Choice USA at the conference.
“As a regional leader, I connect the chapters in the southwest to Choice USA. I am an ambassador for Choice USA at events and conferences. I also help recruit volunteers and provide social media support.” While Young Women United allows Christian to connect with local teens, Choice USA is able to connect teens across the country.
Empowered by Advocacy
Christian believes that when it comes to important things like sexuality and reproductive choice, teens should be given accurate information and full support.
“Reproductive rights are important because [they] affect our health no matter what age, race, class or gender we are,” says Christian. “Teens should feel comfortable asking questions and seeking guidance. The answers are everywhere,” says Christian.
Christian is one of many teens who have been empowered by advocating for sexuality education and reproductive choice. But, it’s not just about the activism and organizing; it’s also about the people.
“These organizations are important to me because they have helped me grow. Choice USA has gotten me to talk to more people than I would have before, and Young Women United has taught me the importance of the community.”
Interested in getting involved? Go to ChoiceUSA.org to find out how you can make a difference when it comes to reproductive choice.
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