Futures Without Violence Leadership Award

Futures Without Violence recently presented me and the organization I work for the Futures Without Violence Leadership Award at the National Conference on Health and Domestic Violence in Washington, D.C.  Futures Without Violence called out how our “efforts bridge the gap between advocates and health care providers, and create programs that have improved the lives and safety of countless victims of abuse.” What follows is the speech I gave when presented with this honor.

Leigh-award

I want to thank Futures Without Violence for this award. I also congratulate the other recipients and thank you for your transformative work.

It is humbling to receive this award and I share it with all of you. Each one of us works every day for women, children, and men to have the access and care they deserve.

We are a mighty group and I am so proud to be here with you.

After so many years of advocating for survivors of abuse and working for policies and practices that are shaped by their experiences, I find myself circling back to some of the most important foundations we have.

Self-determination, liberation, bodily-integrity, the freedom to do the things we want—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for everyone.

When I think about what it means to do advocacy, what comes immediately to mind are my twin daughters, Basha and Rebekah.

Four years ago, they were Bat Mitzvahed. And as part of the ceremony, they had to write and deliver speeches about the Torah passages that marked their day.  Reflecting on the teachings and finding contemporary meaning.

Two young women with two singular perspectives. Basha talked about Glee (which she watched obsessively at the time). What she took from the show was not just the drama, fabulous singing, and the outfits—what she took were lessons about bullying and homophobia and young people’s experiences both of injustice and of justice.

Rebekah wrestled with her understanding of living an ethical life. What she came to realize is the importance of having an integrity that allows you to be whole, and directs you to live—publically as you do privately.

I am grateful my daughters had this experience. To think seriously, to speak seriously, to have adults listen and take them seriously.

Fast forward to 17, Basha and Rebekah have helped to organize a Feminist Union at their high school. Every week 30 teens show up, 1/3 of them boys, to hang out and talk. They talk about street harassment, rape culture, healthy relationships, international feminism, and gender equality.

That my daughters have had these experiences is a remarkable gift. It is all we want for every girl and every boy. In my work, and our Coalition’s work, we see the power of partnerships that give women and girls, men and boys, the opportunity to exercise their choices, to write their own futures. And, have lives filled with dignity.

I am so very proud to be a part of this movement—and believe that all of us, together, are creating a world of health and happiness, and justice and hope.

Thank you.

Amor: Un valor fundamental (Love: A fundamental value)

Hace unos días participé en nuestro retiro, un tiempo y espacio donde como organización conversamos sobre nuestros valores fundamentals y cómo éstos marcan nuestro trabajo y decisiones. Un momento inspirador y por supuesto no podría esperar menos cuando el amor fue nombrado como uno de nuestros valores más importantes.

love-graffitti
Cuando uno habla de amor, suele sonar abstracto, o romántico, pero la realidad es que en WSCADV es definitivamente un verbo no un sustantivo y lo digo con toda firmeza pues en cada acción que se lleva a cabo, en cada projecto, en cada palabra, en cada reunión entre nosotros o con nuestros programas miembros, amor es el valor fundamental y el común denominador en nuestras acciones.

 
Para muchos la sola palabra amor no dice mucho, pero déjame te platico como es que personalmente he visto esta palabra en acción: cuando uno de nuestros compañeros esta pasando por un momento difícil y todos los demás ofrecen su ayuda y la organización cambia las políticas internas como el poder ceder tus días de enfermedad para alguien que lo necesite más que tú, eso es amor. O cuando se toma el tiempo necesario para re-estructurar la organización tomando en cuenta la opinión de cada uno y proporcionando el espacio necesario y seguro para procesar cualquier mal entendido, eso es amor. O aún cuando mal entendidos y diferentes puntos de vista surgen, el perdón y la entrega salen triunfantes, eso es amor. O cuando tu directora necesita ese extra apoyo para avanzar como organización donde todos cedemos y nos comprometemos para el crecimiento de nuestra organización, eso es amor.

 
Por que amor, no es solo una palabra, es compasión, es energía, es entrega, es estar presente, es eso que te centra y te impulsa a ser mejor, es apoyo, es entusiasmo, es inspiración, es amistad, es simple y llanamente querer lo mejor para los demás y uno mismo. Aquí en WSCADV cada uno de nosotros pone el corazón en cada acción con la finalidad de algún día erradicar la violencia para vivir en plenitud nuestra AMADA COMUNIDAD, y eso, eso es AMOR.

****

Some days ago I participated in our retreat, a time and space where we, as an organization, could talk about our fundamental values and how those affect our work and decisions. It was an inspirational moment and of course I wasn’t surprised when love was named as one of our fundamental values.

 
When one speaks of love, it often sounds abstract, or romantic, but the reality is that at WSCADV love is definitely a verb, not a noun. I say this because in every action that takes place, in every project, in every word that we use, with each other as a team, at each meeting with our member programs, love is the fundamental value and the common denominator in our actions.

 
For many, the word love does not say much, but let me tell you how I have personally seen this word in action: when one of our colleagues was going through a difficult time and everyone else offered support, and the organization changed internal policies so we could give our sick days to someone who needs it more, that’s love. Or when you take the time to restructure the organization taking into account the opinion of every employee while providing a safe space to process any misunderstandings or concerns, that’s love. Or when misunderstandings and different points of view arise, forgiveness and compassion emerge triumphant, that’s love. Or when your director needs that extra support to move the organization forward and each one of us gives something up and commits to keep growing, that’s love.

 
Because love is not just a word, it’s compassion, it’s energy, it’s to be present, it’s what centers you and makes you better, it’s support, it’s enthusiasm, it’s inspiration, it’s friendship, it’s simply to want the best for others and yourself. Here at WSCADV each one of us puts our whole heart into every action in order to eradicate violence someday and to live fully in our BELOVED COMMUNITY. And that my friends, that is LOVE.

Why aren’t they restricting condoms?

Not exactly on point, but I got what my teenager was asking. Even she gets the double-standard of the Obama administration’s position on emergency contraception. She asked, “If they think that making it easy for girls to get emergency contraception means that they are going to have more sex, then why do boys get to buy condoms without any problems?” This is mind-boggling coming after President Obama’s speech at the Planned Parenthood Conference: “When it comes to a woman’s health, no politician should get to decide what’s best for you.”condoms

Why do I have a problem with the government policy? Because of all the barriers: you must be 15, you must have a government-issued or photo id (not something all schools provide), you must purchase it in a store that has a stand-alone pharmacy (rare in rural and remote communities), and it is expensive—even though Medicaid covers other over-the-counter medicines like condoms.

We have plenty of evidence-based scientific studies proving that emergency contraception is safe, prevents ovulation, and cannot terminate an existing pregnancy. We have research that shows the dramatic decline in unintended teen pregnancy and abortion rates when teens learn how to use contraception more effectively.

We also know that teens who are abused experience birth control sabotage, pressure to get pregnant, and significantly higher rates of unintended pregnancy. Emergency contraception is important because negotiating birth control methods is awkward in any relationship, but it’s nearly impossible if you’ve got an abusive partner who wants control.