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 virtual 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 90 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.