ACRJ (Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice) defines reproductive justice as “the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, economic, and social well-being of women and girls,” a holistic way of approaching reproductive rights. And because there is no way to separate reproductive rights from that which affects them including, health care, the environment and social justice nor those who are affected by women’s benefit or lack of holistic care–including, men, families, and children–ACRJ embraces all of them.
ACRJ has brought together reproductive justice organizations around the country through EMERJ (Expanding the Movement for Empowerment and Reproductive Justice), a national movement to ultimately strengthen the disparate reproductive movements going on nationwide. “Today, eight organizations serve on the EMERJ Strategy Team and are leading Strong Families, a national policy initiative to change culture and policies to support families of all kinds.”
ACRJ was founded with the mission of protecting “reproductive justice through organizing, building leadership capacity, developing alliances and education to achieve community and systemic change.” Their main goal has been to support low-income Asian women particularly because of their unique position as women of color–many of them are employed in areas that expose them to toxins and, because of economic, cultural, and language barriers, many low-income Asian women find that getting medical care can be an enormous challenge.
One of the programs ACRJ has established is called SAFIRE (Sisters in Action for Issues of Reproductive Empowerment), which invites young Asian women in their teens (they’ve also recently developed a program for young men) to talk to one another about sex, sexuality, gender roles, and even the sexual stereotypes they run into because they are Asian. Participants shared their difficulties around parental expectations and with running into stereotypes from the outside world, which, according to the article printed in the East Bay Express, has “allowed the teens to escape the scrutiny of teachers and other authority figures, but also open[ed] them up to persecution from peers and saddl[ed] them with an extra burden in the realm of romance.”
Some of what ACRJ hopes to achieve through their sexuality education program is as follows:
- Sexuality education that has a HOLISTIC view of sexuality & sexual health, including positive body image, self-esteem, gender identity, sexual orientation, and communication and decision-making in relationships.
- Sexuality education that recognizes sexuality as a NATURAL part of human development and does NOT make sexuality seem dirty or dangerous.
- Resources that focus on promoting overall sexual health of all people, including marginalized communities — people of color, LGBTQ folks, people with disabilities, immigrants, etc.
- Resources that include the experience of Asian communities — youth and adults.
- EQUITY in sexuality education for all students and all people.
- Sexuality education JUSTICE.
Besides SAFIRE, ACRJ also offers Strong Families and Forward Stance. Strong Families, “a 10-year national initiative to change the way people think, feel and act in support of families,” encourages us to expand the way we view what family is–something that already seems to be happening all on its own. I would even venture to say that since the 1970s when divorce began to run high and the rights of women, lgbt folks, and people of color began to make steps towards realization, the idea of what made a family began to change. These days family is no longer just–if it ever truly was–about those whose bloodlines we share. Last February an article in the New York Times noted that the shift around what family meant today included:
“More unmarried couples raising children; more gay and lesbian couples raising children; more single women having children without a male partner to help raise them; more people living together without getting married; more mothers of young children working outside the home; more people of different races marrying each other; and more women not ever having children.” (from New York Times blogs, February 24, 2011)
ACRJ wants to bring support to those of us who have never lived within the patriarchal definition of family and to those of us who willfully live outside of it. In this they intend to “generate broad public support for policies on the local, state and national levels to create conditions so that families of all kinds can thrive.” Last year to support this process they encouraged families of all types to video tape themselves so that they could begin to show the many ways family can look today.
Forward Stance is in some ways what supports the direction of the organization going forward. It’s “a mind-body practice developed by ACRJ and Norma Wong [of] Applied Zen Program of the Institute of Zen Studies, that allows us to face movement building challenges and identify strategic solutions with clarity. While Forward Stance applies certain principles of Zen, it isn’t a Zen spiritual practice…We integrate Forward Stance into all aspects of our organization from our internal work as staff, to our work with Asian girls in Oakland through SAFIRE, and to our national movement building initiative, EMERJ…Forward Stance helps individuals and organizations proactively face the personal and professional challenges of organizing and movement building.”
Like many good mind-body practice, Forward Stance develops groundedness in the practitioner so that she can find both the grace and the strength to face what’s challenging. “It provide[s] a daily way to embody the change we hope to see within ourselves, our organizations and our society as a whole. Forward Stance can be done on the individual level through breath and energy development, at the organizational level through strategic visioning and organizational culture, and at the movement level through alliance building and cooperative action.”
Learn more about ACRJ
Read the ACRJ Blog
Check out Tools & Media from ACRJ