It's about time that the United States gets on board with the popular social justice movements in the world, don't you think? It is obvious from previous world social movements that the rest of the world understands the social implications of globalization and neoliberal economic policies. So finally, there is enough progressive momentum in our country to have our own social forum. Pick your type of progressive—crunchy granola types, power suit-wearing lobbyists, vegetarian environmentalists, highbrow academics—they're all showing up to talk about change, and they're all showing up in "HOTlanta" this weekend.
Besides the fact that this historic event is taking place in my hometown some miles away from my highway birthplace (yep, I was born in the car on I-75), I'm excited that I have a very specific role: I'm a Reproductive Justice Youth Ambassador for Choice USA. The title's a mouthful, but basically I want to make sure that amidst anti-globalization, environmental, women's, labor justice jargon, reproductive justice issues are represented at the conference. By creating a presence among the thousands of activists, I and my 34 fellow young ambassadors can make sure that when people leave the intensive 5 days and 900+ workshops that they will understand the connections between reproductive justice and the other justice movements.
"What in the world does reproductive health have to do with flowers?"
I've been getting that question a lot these days after I tell folks that I'm presenting a workshop at the United States Social Forum called "Birds, Bees, Flowers and Trees: Creating Global Connections between Economic, Environmental and Reproductive Justice Movements." The answer, in short, is that companies like Dole use harmful chemicals and pesticides (many of which are banned in the United States) on flowers that are grown abroad, causing harmful reproductive health-related side effects to women. The Fairness in Flowers campaign brings together the labor justice, reproductive justice, and environmental justice movements to create awareness about the issues, encourage fair trade and organic alternatives, and empower the public to pressure Dole to respect their workers. From the Fairness in Flowers Campaign web site:
Most of the roses and carnations produced in [Colombia and Ecuador] are exported to the United States where they are sold in florist shops, supermarkets, and on online retail sites. There are 40,000 flower workers in Ecuador and over 100,000 in Colombia, working to grow, harvest, and package these flowers. These workers routinely experience a number of labor rights violations.
The violations include forbidding labor organizing, sexual harassment, mandatory pregnancy testing, and child labor. What the flower companies are allowed to get away with is disgusting. Many of the policies have gone unchecked until now.
Aside from representing Choice USA in making these inter-movement connections to build solidarity around reproductive justice, I'm representing myself. That is, a young, woman of color of south-Asian descent. I think it's increasingly important for young people of color to speak up because often we are vastly under-represented in the activist circles, but over-represented in the got-screwed-by-international policy circles. Choice USA's ambassadors bring diversity to the movement in both age and color.
How flowers and reproductive justice are related is one small piece of the greater puzzle. The fact that people are coming together to talk about making these types of inter-movement connections will hopefully build a larger, stronger movement where everyone can feel connected.