Omaha – The Midlands Sexual Health Research Collaborative (MSHRC), in partnership with Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, Women’s Fund of Omaha, and Atlanta-based nonprofit organization SisterSong, recently hosted three days of educational and professional training Sept. 6-8. Workshops led by Monica Simpson, Executive Director of SisterSong, introduced concepts of Reproductive Justice, the cornerstone of SisterSong’s work.
Simpson explains, "Reproductive Justice is the term created by a group of black women in 1994 to bridge the gap between reproductive rights and other social justice movements. Reproductive Justice, the human right to not have children, to have children, to parent the children one has in healthy environments and the human right to bodily autonomy and to express one’s sexuality freely, insists that we see reproductive health in the larger context of the overall health and wellness of women, our families and our communities."
To my knowledge, Omaha has never organized such wide-reaching and focused work on reproductive justice for professionals or youth.
- Dr. Sofia Jawed-Wessel
On the first day of training, over 40 youth and teens were empowered as young leaders and provided a framework to strengthen their voices. Training on day two—presented to youth-serving professionals, health educators, sexual health and reproductive health providers, and community members—focused on the core concepts of Reproductive Justice as well as the value of centering the marginalized and amplifying the leadership of people of color.
The week closed with dedicated training specifically for women of color whose work intersects with reproductive health or social justice, offering them a space to speak freely on their unique experiences as professionals in the Omaha community.
Co-organizer Dr. Sofia Jawed-Wessel describes the importance of this event, "To my knowledge, Omaha has never organized such wide-reaching and focused work on reproductive justice for professionals or youth. I am quite proud to have been involved in facilitating this groundbreaking work that I am confident will lead to new collaborations, strengthen leadership, and promote more effective community advocacy."
Participant and Abbott School of Social Work faculty member Liam Heerten-Rodriguez described how the workshops will influence his work, "As an educator, this workshop was invaluable. I want to be able to show students that reproductive justice and racial justice are not separate issues—they’re one and the same. This workshop gave me some concrete tools to make this real in the classroom."
The Midlands Sexual Health Research Collaborative is comprised of faculty and students who conduct innovative research, provide evidence-based education, mentor students and sexual health professionals, and engage the community in initiatives to support sexual health and wellbeing. MSHRC is housed in the School of Health and Kinesiology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
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