2023 Digital Capitol Hill Days
Written by Rebecca Harrington, Senior Director of Advocacy and Outreach | Published: April 21, 2023
After a year that’s seen endless assaults on reproductive rights here in the United States, we gathered (online) for our annual Capitol Hill Days advocacy event from April 5–7 to learn about what’s happening with reproductive health and rights around the world.
We were joined for a trivia-game-style opening session by several colleagues from East Africa and South America in an engaging conversation that touched on family planning, conservation, and youth engagement.
Melvine Ouyo, Founder and Executive Director of Hope for Kenya Slum Adolescents Initiative and Population Connection board member, talked about the far-reaching negative consequences of Donald Trump’s Global Gag Rule, which included the closure of clinics that provided family planning and birth control, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections and reproductive cancers, and treatment of tropical diseases.
Dickson Okong’o, Founder and Executive Director of Stretchers Youth Organization in Kenya, discussed the vital importance of providing youth with information, whether through community talking boxes, where people can leave anonymous questions to be answered or through their Adolescent and Youth Empowerment for Health Advocacy Project, where staff discuss sexuality, life skills, and making informed decisions with young people. Stretchers also focuses on good governance as one of its three thematic areas, impressing upon young people that “each and every right comes with a responsibility,” instilling in them a commitment to democracy and empowering them to be in control of their reproductive health.
Cuthbert Maendaenda, Executive Director of Tanzania Men as Equal Partners in Development, talked about his organization’s work to bring men into the conversation about family planning and to make them “agents of change” among other men. Participating men are effectively altering cultural norms in their own communities and changing people’s expectations around family planning, for example, that only men (and not women) will carry and have condoms available.
Sara Lara, Founder and Executive Director of Women for Conservation in Colombia, discussed how women are deeply impacted by natural disasters and how it’s therefore “crucial” for them to be involved in efforts to protect the environment.
Congresswoman Susan Wild (D-PA-7) joined us for a keynote talk where she discussed the fundamental importance of everyone being able to control their own reproductive life and the importance of sticking with the fight for reproductive rights even when things are dire, as they certainly are these days. Rep. Wild is a strong supporter of both international and domestic family planning and reproductive rights, signing on as a co-sponsor of the Global HER Act, which would serve as a permanent legislative repeal of the Global Gag Rule, and as an original co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would protect the right to abortion here in the U.S.
After receiving training from Population Connection staff, our activists took to Zoom to meet with the staffs of strong supporters of international family planning and reproductive rights such as Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Peter Welch (D-VT). Our activists were encouraged by their meetings and enjoyed the opportunity to connect with the offices of their elected officials.
As always, we were inspired by the enthusiasm and commitment of our supporters and activists, and look forward to continuing to work with them to fight for reproductive health and rights for everyone around the world.