2021 Digital Capitol Hill Days

Written by YoVanna Solomon, Grassroots Advocacy and Outreach Fellow | Published: March 31, 2021

The pandemic has drastically elucidated the vast inequities within the global public health sphere, particularly crippling access to comprehensive reproductive health care. Our commitment to fighting for reproductive rights and health- albeit digitally-remains unwavering. With a year of virtually gathering experience under our belt, we approached our annual advocacy event, Capitol Hill Days, with innovation and optimism!

Last week, over 200 people from all over the country joined us virtually from the safety of their homes to advocate for reproductive rights around the world. 2021 Digital Capitol Hill Days kicked off on Wednesday, March 17 with participants joining zoom to attend the Voices From the Frontlines: Advocacy and Action for Reproductive Health Worldwide session. Speakers Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng, Sandra Castañeda, and Dr. Michelle Dubón discussed the vital need to pass the Global HER Act and the importance of their work to ensure access to reproductive health and rights for people in the developing world.

Keynote Speaker Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky brought the fire to Thursday evening’s session, Pushing Forward a Bold Agenda on International Reproductive Health and Rights. The Congresswoman was joined by Dara Purvis, Maria Antonieta Alcalde Castro, Zara Ahmed, and Serra Sippel for what was undeniably our most galvanizing session. The zoom chat was blowing up with engagement and insightful questions from our participants!

Friday and Saturday hosted a lineup of incredible panelists who spoke about the environmental and social impacts of the Global Gag Rule in Latin America and East Africa. The Population, Reproductive Health, and Climate Resiliency: Views From Latin America and East Africa session honed in on the resources, populations, and species disproportionately affected by unsustainable population growth attributed to the lack of comprehensive reproductive health care. Participants were offered an invaluable opportunity to learn of the unique barriers facing the LGTBQ+ and sex worker community during The Fight for LGBTQ+ Reproductive Health and Rights at Home and Abroad session.

Activists began to file into the zoom room early Monday morning feeling confident and prepared for their constituent meetings, having attended one of Sunday’s two trainings on how to lobby their members of Congress. Eighty-six participants met with over ninety of their senators and representatives to

advocate for the Global HER Act, and increased U.S. investment in international family planning and reproductive health services worldwide.

Our participants met directly with key members of Congress, including Representatives Ann Kirkpatrick, David Price, Judy Chu, Julia Brownley, Salud Carbajal, and Jamie Raskin. The activists made sure their elected officials understood their desire for global reproductive health to be prioritized. Additionally, roughly 400 people from across the country joined them in flooding offices with over 1,200 emails, phone calls, and social media posts. We also stormed Twitter with a #Fight4HER “rally,” reaching over 5.3 million people.

None of this would have been possible without the support and dedication of our Capitol Hill Days Leads, a core group of volunteers who worked tirelessly to schedule lobby meetings, facilitate participant engagement, help orchestrate sessions, and lead constituent meetings. A sincere and heartfelt thank you to Adjoa Cofie, Colette Picchietti Cragin, Danielle D’Angelo, Josie Erdy, Katie Yeager, Kyrah Hughley, Liz Boucher, Madison Peterson, Nohely Diaz, and Ranjana Iyer.


Population Connection and Population Connection Action Fund hosted our annual advocacy conference, Capitol Hill Days, virtually from March 17–22, 2021. It was a huge success!

Through a series of virtual, hands-on advocacy trainings and informational workshops over 200 participants learned how to:

  1. Advocate for reproductive health and rights for everyone, everywhere.
  2. Urge their elected officials to support an investment in global reproductive health and family planning.
  3. Stay engaged in reproductive rights advocacy locally, year-round.

On Monday, March 22, participants attended 91 virtual meetings with their senators and representatives to advocate for the permanent repeal of the Global Gag Rule and for a greater U.S. investment in international family planning and reproductive health services. Nearly 400 people from across the country joined them in flooding congressional offices with over 1,200 emails, phone calls, and social media posts.

Sessions

Wednesday, March 17

Voices From the Frontlines: Advocacy and Action for Reproductive Health Worldwide

  • Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng “Dr. T”, Medical Doctor, Author, Advocate, and UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health
  • Sandra Castañeda, Lawyer, Human Rights and Feminist Activist, General Coordinator, Red de Salud
  • Michelle Dubón, Medical Doctor, Advocate, and Medical Director of WINGS Guatemala

Thursday, March 18

Keynote: Pushing Forward a Bold Agenda on International Reproductive Health and Rights

  • Keynote speaker: Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-9)
    • Introducing Rep. Schakowsky: Dara Purvis, Associate Dean for Research and Partnerships and Professor of Law, Penn State University School of Law; Vice Chair, Population Connection Board of Directors; Member, Population Connection Action Fund Board of Directors
  • Maria Antonieta Alcalde Castro, Director of Ipas Central American and Mexico
  • Zara Ahmed, Associate Director of Federal Issues, Guttmacher Institute
  • Serra Sippel, President, Center for Health and Gender Equity

Friday, March 19

Population, Reproductive Health, and Climate Resiliency: Views From Latin America and East Africa

  • Rodrigo Barillas, Executive Director, WINGS Guatemala (and Population Connection board member)
  • Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, Founder and CEO, Conservation Through Public Health
  • Steven Bloomstein, President, Turimiquire Foundation
  • Janet Larsen, Founder & Principal, One Planet Strategies

Saturday, March 20

The Fight for LGBTQ+ Reproductive Health and Rights at Home and Abroad

  • Colorado State Representative Leslie Herod
  • Annemarie Kamuyu, Operations Manager, National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
  • Grace Kamau, Regional Coordinator, Africa Sex Workers Alliance
  • Luisa Orza, HIV & Gender Technical Lead, Frontline AIDS