Growing from Groundwork

Friday, May 27, 2011

By Kalpana Krishnamurthy, Western States Center
Download the report here

Imagine watching your child enter the world between the chains on your wrists and feet, her cry rising against the squawk of guards’ radios and hollow bite of deadbolts.

Female inmates are shackled as they undergo the most arduous process of childbirth in 40 out of 50 state penitentiaries and numerous county jails in the U.S.

The infant mortality rates for black babies in Oregon is closer to those of Sri Lanka and Botswana than the U.S. average; and black infants are twice as likely as white to be born prematurely and die before one year of age.
Imagine watching your newborn coo and squeal next to her companions in a maternity ward, knowing that she has less of a chance —not at something as amorphous as “liberty” or “freedom,”---at life itself.
These are only a couple of the breathtaking injustices that Western States Center’s Groundwork project have identified and are confronting head-on. [Groundwork was a strategic cohort that was led by Western States Center in collaboration with ACRJ.]

We recently wrapped up our Groundwork cohort with eight organizations:African Women’s Coalition, Chaya, International Center for Traditional Childbearing, Mujeres Unidas de Idaho, NAPAWF (National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum)-Seattle Chapter, POWER (Parents Organizing for Welfare and Economic Rights), Urban League of Portland, and Women of Color Alliance of Idaho. Launched in September of 2009 in partnership with EMERJ(Expanding the Movement for Empowerment and Reproductive Justice), Groundwork is a project of the Center’s Gender Justice program.

“Groundwork was exciting because while we were working with groups across multiple states, we were still able to find ways to connect and link their experiences,” said Center Senior Trainer and Organizer Aimee Santos-Lyons. “Doing reproductive justice work can feel really isolating and lonely because the progressive movement doesn’t talk about these issues. Groundwork helped groups to find community and strength in numbers.”

The goal of Groundwork was to help these groups identify and organize on the reproductive justice polices that most affect their communities. Despite the complexity of this task the Goundwork groups have already won impressive victories: POWER achieved a change in work requirements for parents who receive aid in Washington; the Urban League of Portland conducted research and developed recommendations for improving birth outcomes for black families that the County Health Department will implement; WOCA was instrumental in passing anti-shackling legislation in Idaho.

One of the challenges in achieving these wins was the relative lack of data and appropriate assessment tools for organizations doing reproductive justice work. The Center saw a need for such a resource and developed Growing from Groundwork: Stories and Tools from the Reproductive Justice Movement, a publication that includes case studies and community surveys from five Groundwork cohort groups.
Birth experiences, health care access, domestic violence, and support for comprehensive sexuality education were a few of the areas assessed by groups in Groundwork. The survey tools used by group are featured in Growing from Groundwork.

In looking forward, the Center’s Gender Justice program is currently speaking with community organizations in our region about issues of family planning, reproductive justice, and LGBTQ equality. These groups will work in the new Strong Families Northwest project that will launch in the fall of 2011.  Download Growing from Groundwork: Stories & Tools from the Reproductive Justice Movement.

Links to related blogs:
- Unbound: A Mother's Day Gift
- Why Reproductive Justice is a Black Thing
- No Woman Should Have To Go It Alone: Black Birth Experiences in Oregon

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