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Monday, July 14, 2014

SAY! Advocacy University – The FUNdamentals

This past Friday marked day one of our four-week intensive named SAY! Advocacy University. The Advocacy University is meant to prepare our youth to become better leaders and workshop facilitators in order to spread the word about sexual health to others. We kicked off the first workshop by going over the FUNdamentals!

We discussed what human rights were, why they’re important, and how they related to advocacy. There are many human rights doctrines, laws, and treaties that are created to promote the protection of our individual freedoms. These include freedoms like the right to life, liberty, and security of person; the right to health; and sexual and reproductive rights. The issue is that although these documents have great intentions, not only are there countries (including our own USA) that do not follow these guidelines, but international groups like the United Nations do not have the power to enforce them. This is why the push for human rights is also considered a social movement. We as advocates are extremely important because it is our advocacy power that holds governments and leaders accountable for their laws and actions. 

We then had a refresher on how US laws are policies are made. Using The Affordable Care Act (ACA) as an example, we discussed the process of this health care act; including the routes it took through both the House of Representatives and the Senate (The Legislative Branch), President Obama signing the act (The Executive Branch), and the Supreme Court deciding if the act was constitutional (The Judiciary Branch). We then brought it closer to home by talking about sexual health rights and how our laws both promote and hinder them.

The recent Hobby Lobby decision in the Supreme Court stated that corporations can opt out of covering certain medical benefits for religious reasons. For Hobby Lobby (a chain craft store headquartered in Oklahoma), this meant that they were legally allowed to not cover certain types of contraceptives because they were not in line with their religious beliefs. Not only does a decision like this only negatively affect one gender (Hobby Lobby still covers vasectomies and Viagra), but it would be more harmful for poor women and women of color because of the additional inequalities they face. 

This again showed us that our laws and policies don’t necessarily reflect science, and that the rights of some are valued more than the rights of others (the disadvantaged). This is why advocacy is important – we need to fight to make sure our rights as young people and as sexual beings are protected in our country and throughout the world.

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