Why We Created Conversations in Community

Friends,

We feel it’s been some time since we last talked and updated you on our journey. Here’s a recap: Last year, we drove 15,000 miles across the US to offer over 60 free reproductive health classes in three months in order to address a systems-wide gap in accessibility to knowledge about our bodies. We named the project The Fifth Vital Sign, because the menstrual cycle is an essential health indicator, a vital sign, like blood pressure or heart rate.

Our mission has always been to use education as preventative care through body literacy and informed choices. Following the November election, we announced a call to action to invite people to resist and respond by sharing our curriculum in their respective locations. We trained more than 50 facilitators and had many conversations and exchanges; we learned a lot. Now, we would like to extend the invitation to converse in more depth with our newest offering: Conversations in Community.

This program is designed to support both informational learning and collective- and self-reflection around different aspects of reproductive health. It is a nine-month program, consisting of six months of bi-monthly, followed by three months of one-on-one mentorship. At the end of the program, each participant will have created a reproductive health curriculum based on their community’s needs. The goal is to present the curriculum in a way that feels most comfortable to them. This may be as a story, theater piece, Powerpoint, essay, podcast, meet up circle–anything you can imagine. Our role is to support you in realizing this goal and in building a logistical framework to bring it into the world.

Through online modules, we will learn  topics including anatomy, physiology, the menstrual cycle, fertility awareness, breast and chest health, contraception, informed choice, hormonal health, and radical consent, as well as ideas about how and why this information is important.

Reflection will play a large role in our learning process. If we don’t have the opportunity to engage with this information on a personal level--if we leave it abstract, just as words and pictures on a slide, without placing it in our own lives--then we are cutting out the heart of this work. We encourage heart-, head-, and hands-on learning, on a human-to-human level, to make social and political change. Integrative learning is vital. In addition to the online modules, we will facilitate reflection with physical, visual, and audio exercises and explore questions like, what is my relationship to my own body; how do I converse with my body; what was my sex education in school like, why was it presented to me that way, and what impact has it had on my life; if I could speak to my 12 year old self, what I tell them about their body?

We feel that continued community learning is key to combating national and worldwide issues that we face. Without telling and hearing our stories in an intimate setting, we risk labeling any experience that isn’t ours as “other;” and therefore move further and further away from humanizing issues and policies that do not cater to our personal needs.

So, why did we decide to do something like this? After our initial facilitator training, we reflected on how personal, even intimate, this information and work are to people. It reinforced our belief that you know your own body best, and you know your community--the body at large--best, too. It’s not possible to make a one-size-fits-all curriculum, just like it’s not possible to have a one-size-fits-all approach to reproductive health care and solutions. While we still would like to share our curriculum far and wide, we would also like to commune with people who are passionate about sharing this work and their own stories. We feel that learning together is key and that reproductive health information must be shared in a thousand different ways on a thousand different days until one day, someone will teach it in a way that is accessible to YOU.

We also feel the urgency to connect, to expand, and to struggle TOGETHER. Reproductive health is a realm that encompasses many different experiences, and by speaking about the provision of care at any of its stages, we will be speaking about and considering the intersections of race, income, gender, sexual orientation, etc. These conversations are not a one-time event, and, as such, we want to invite them in and to stay in them. This journey must be holistic and invite conversations about power structures, politics, social, and cultural constructs and encourage us to ask how the micro and the macro are linked, how they affect each other.

It is important to us to not feel confined to the ways in which we may currently be measuring success in “programs.” This is not an academic setting. For this reason we would like to be transparent about the fact that this learning space is fluid and it is designed to be able to match different learning styles. The “why” is so important that the “how” will go anywhere to get there.  

The way in which we envision and are learning to practice as an organization can be best described as ‘relationship-based.’ This means that no matter how the organization scales, no matter what happens, we will always return to the one-on-one and group relationships to inform this work. We are open to change and to will respond rather than react to systemic, social, political, and personal changes and transitions. If we are going to expand, we will do so together. We promise to strive for relationship-based rather than an exploitation-based business. Ask us about it!

You can sign up for the training here as well as scheduled information sessions. Please reach out to us with any questions – we would love to hear from you!