Sexuality educator Isy E. Abraham-Raveson, who specializes in consent, body image, and gender as it relates to children, discussed the history of reproductive rights and advocacy with roughly 20 attendees in Fong Auditorium Thursday evening.
Harvard College ReproJustice Action and Dialogue Collective hosted the event as part of programming for Harvard Sex Week. The discussion focused on how reproductive health issues have affected people of color throughout U.S. history.
Abraham-Raveson opened the discussion by asking attendees how they defined the phrase “reproductive justice.” Audience members responded with answers relating to abortion, consent, menstrual products, and the landmark 1973 abortion rights case Roe v. Wade.
She then asked attendees to reflect on their experiences related to reproductive health. Audience members spent several minutes writing down their thoughts, which they later shared in small groups.
Abraham-Raveson led participants through an exercise in which they constructed a timeline of historical issues related to reproductive violence, like sterilization and eugenics, as well as modern legal restrictions on access to abortion.
In another exercise, she asked attendees to categorize reproductive health issues that particularly affect certain groups, like immigrants, racial minorities, and BGLTQ people. Participants wrote down their ideas on posters and then shared them with the rest of the attendees.
Toward the end of the event, Abraham-Raveson led the group in a discussion on advocacy for reproductive health.
Isabel MarionSims ’23 said she believes one of the most important parts of reproductive health advocacy is education.
“It would act as inspiration for a lot more people to join in advocating, which would work as a catalyst for change in general,” she said. “The more people who know and think it’s a problem, the easier it is for things to change.”
Guadalupe M. Jacobson-Peregrino ’21 agreed with MarionSims and said education enables people to understand their rights and medical options available to them.
Many of the attendees said they found the event to be very educational. Maria Keselj ’23 said she enjoyed learning about the history and context behind reproductive health issues.
Jacobson-Peregrino said she learned a lot from this event, even though she has taken a number of classes on the subject as a Women, Gender, and Sexuality concentrator.
“Now, I’m thinking about it as the colonization of women’s bodies and how, in order to reverse it, we need to decolonize the female body,” she said. “How do we decolonize the female body? It brought a whole new jumping-off point for my mind.”
Abraham-Raveson said after the event that her goal was to educate attendees and encourage them to share their experiences with one another.
“I like to think of myself more as a facilitator than a presenter,” Abraham-Raveson said. “My mission is to get people excited about something important, get them in conversation about it, provide them with some knowledge that they may not have already had, and direct them towards action steps.”