EPHC’s friend and colleague, Erin Switalski, Executive Director of Women’s Voices for the Earth, recently highlighted the linkages between environmental justice work on toxic exposures and acts of violence in our current headlines. As Erin says, “Unless we all begin to recognize the systemic connections between health, class, race, gender, and the environment, nobody will be able to live in a healthy environment.”
It’s been a tough couple of months. Amidst the murder of black men by police in Baton Rouge and St. Paul, and the equally horrifying acts of violence that took the lives of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, it’s hard not to feel like our work to eliminate toxic chemicals from the products women use everyday isn’t critical. In a time when the #blacklivesmatter movement (a non-violent, women-led movement) is calling out for basic validity of Black life, I keep returning to this question: is our work critical right now?
So I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about why, in fact, it is, drawing on the lessons I’ve learned from some of the amazing women leaders and organizations of our time. In 2005, Forward Together (formerly Asian Communities for Reprodutive Justice) and SisterSong published a report that outlined a new vision to comprehensively advance women’s health, called the reproductive justice framework.
Stated in the document, “[w]e believe reproductive justice is the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, economic, and social well-being of women and girls, and will be achieved when women and girls have the economic, social and political power and resources to make healthy decisions about our bodies, sexuality and reproduction for ourselves, our families and our communities in all areas of our lives.” Included in this framework is the intersection with the environment, including the right for women to bear and raise children in an environment safe from toxic chemical exposure – at home, at work, or in their communities.
With this in mind, it’s easy to see just how critical our work is. The fact is, Black women’s lives – including their health – have been overlooked for far too long.
Read the rest of Erin’s blog here.