Clean Water Access and Reproductive Health: The Importance of Intersectionality

Before starting this blogging project, I did not realize how intersectional the Reproductive Justice movement truly must be in order to encapsulate all experiences. Even though I choose this Reproductive Justice because of its intersectionality, there is so much below the surface that connects when a women is confronted with the realities of sexuality, sexual abuse, birth control, pregnancy, abortion, and the idea of raising children.

That is, reproductive health is something that affects us all. The conditions in which you were born, how you were nurtured, and how you were treated by society all comes back to the local and national climate around reproductive health. For my final blog, I want to deviate from the “normal” discussions of indicators of reproductive health (and lack of health), and connect the movement back to another prominent discussion: water.

Water surface

Given the events in Flint, Michigan, as well as around the world, this is an extremely timely discussion. Additionally, water has come to my attention.

This past weekend, I had the honor of attending the Civil Liberties and Public Policy (CLPP) conference at Hampshire College, a weekend-long conference on the topic of reproductive justice. One of the sessions I attended addressed water shortages experienced by indigenous women in California, and their negative effects on pregnant and parenting women. After that experience, viewing the film Good Fortune in class made me realize the disastrous effects that water control have on people, both nationally and internationally.

In Good Fortune, we all learned about how the company Dominion built a dam in Western Kenya that flooded nearby villages and homes (Good Fortune). Despite the fact that the dam was supposed to allieviate poverty in the area, versus applying a “band-aid” (Good Fortune), one woman in the film discussed her miscarriage at 7 months as being a side effect of pesticides applied to the crops, which then got “into the floodwater” (Good Fortune). According to ONE, it seems that little has changed. In sub-Saharan Africa, only 68% of individuals have “access to an improved water source” (ONE). In 2012, three years after the airdate of Good Fortune, The Guardian came out with an article which documented slums near Nairobi, and populations of people that would make their livelihood off of waste located in a nearby “rubbish dump” (Chonghaile). This Western article reminded me of how developers approached Kibera in Good Fortune: as a health hazard, that must be destroyed. While the article sights “miscarriages” as one of the effects of spending days looting through the dump, the article fails to mention how displacement may not better these realities.

Examples of this can be found among indigenous women in the United States. In this concluding blog, I want to make sure that the United States is mentioned as not just the “cause” but as  the “effect” as well, as there are populations that are marginalized in this country, as well as outside of it. At the CLPP conference, speaker Beata Tsosie Peña discussed how water serves a spiritual purpose, as well as a purpose for survival. Enduring decades of marginalization and displacement, forced access to unclean water (and other basic needs) greatly impact reproductive health. Activists Kristen Zimmerman and Vera Miao speak further on some of the environmental implications that affect reproductive health of the Tewa people of the Southwest:

Founded secretly during World War II, the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), is the well-known site of the development of the atomic bomb. Less well-known are the adverse impacts of the laboratory’s activities on the Native people living in the surrounding Pueblos. For more than 64 years, LANL has been dumping toxic and radioactive waste onto Tewa sacred and ancestral lands, including explosives, volatile organic compounds and PCBs. In 2008, the New Mexico Environment Department estimated that approximately 2,093 such dumpsites have been created since the laboratory began operating. LANL itself states that the PCB concentrations in a nearby watershed were 70 times higher than the New Mexico human health standard, and recent research found these toxins within the homes of Pueblo residents. The operation of the laboratory has led to the joint contamination and endangerment of human health and the local ecosystem. (Zimmerman)

In conclusion, reproductive health does not only apply to how a woman experiences sexuality and pregnancy. It applies to the type of life and livelihood that the child will experience. As seen throughout these blogs, actors of development consistently ignore and devalue the importance of reproductive health. That being said, alternatives to development must keep coming into play. As unhealthy as it is for people to be living on or near dumps, or areas with little or unclean water, the issue must be addressed in way that delivers surfaces to marginalized people, particularly women.

With that, here is a mission statement from Tewa Women United, a group dedicated to fighting for reproductive justice with intersectionality:

TWU’s holistic approach combines advocacy, litigation, research, and action with cultural revival. TWU’s Indigenous Women’s Health and Reproductive Justice (IWH) Program encourages Pueblo members and youth to become active participants in their healthcare through all stages of life and aims to revitalize traditional indigenous knowledge and practice in women’s health. This recuperation and sharing of cultural knowledge, values, and practice led by women, is also part of a practice of individual and collective healing from the loss, occupation, and colonization of Pueblo land and culture. … Through this intersectional approach, these leaders are finding innovative ways to connect, frame, communicate, and organize around the issues that matter most to their communities – the health of their children, families, communities, culture, and land. (Zimmerman)

How else do you think intersectionality applies to development?

Works Cited

Chonghaile, Clar Ni. “Kenyan Rubbish Dump Offers Little Money for Much Misery”. The Guardian. The Guardian, 18 Sep. 2012.Web. 16 Apr. 2016.

Good Fortune. Dir. Landon Van Soest. PBS, 2009. Film.

Tsosie Peña, Beata. “Don’t Drink the Water: Water Access is a Human Right and Reproductive Justice Issue”. Hampshire College. Civil Liberties and Public Policy Conference, Amherst, MA. 10 Apr. 2016.

“Water and Sanitation”. ONE. ONE, n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

Zimmerman, Kristen and Miao, Vera. Fertile Ground: Women Organizing at the Intersection of Environmental Justice and Reproductive Justice. Movement Strategy Center, 2009. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

From Development to Deviance: Sexual Exploitation in Tenancingo, Tlaxcala, Mexico


Tlaxcala-Puebla Metropolitan Area

(“Puebla-Tlaxcala (Metropolitan Area, Metropolitan Areas)”)

In extending conversations on Reproductive Health to discuss realities affecting girls and women around the world, it is important to discuss sexual exploitation, especially in the context of development. Sexual exploitation — or, more specifically, commercial sexual exploitation, or prostitution — is a practice that occurs across the world: from New York City, to Tlaxcala, Mexico, to Worcester, Massachusetts. In applying a gender lens, sexual exploitation as a whole disproportionally affects women. While it certainly not only women that contribute to the estimated statistic of 20.9 million sexually exploited persons per year (“Global Sex Trafficking Sheet” 1), girls and women make up 98% of sexually exploited individuals (“Global Sex Trafficking Sheet” 1).

But before discussing how this manifests in Tenancinco, I want to introduce some contemporary discourse around sexual exploitation. Recently, Amnesty International has been known for its call to decriminalize all aspects of “sex work” (Murphy 1).While the organization has firmly stated that it does not ally with “sex work that … involve[s] coersion, sexual exploitation, or abuse” (Murphy 1), the article “Sex Workers’ Rights are Human Rights” features very little discussion on the fundamental power differences involved in sexual exploitation in the vast majority of instances. That is, victims of exploitation are subject to abuse or an unfulfilling lifestyle, in which they are led to believe that prostitution is their only choice. In some cases, people are physically enslaved; held captive to the sex trade industry. Other times, “pimps” will inflict emotional and verbal abuse, leading the victimized person to believe that they do not have any viable options if they were to exit “the life” of prostitution. In any case, sexually exploited individuals are reminded that there will always be a demand for sex each time they are purchased — a moral discussion that Amnesty International directly avoids.

What I want to make very clear is that, while there may be an argument to be made for people who make the informed, enthusiastic choice to engage in “sex work”, the majority of the time, people do not choose to exploited.

Coming back to the theme of the blog, sexual exploitation is worsened with the pressures of development and globalization. A prime example of this takes place in Tenancinco: a small city within the state of Tlaxcala, Mexico — about eighty miles southeast of  Mexico City (Pearson 1). Otherwise surrounded by mountainous areas (“Puebla-Tlaxcala”) consisting of poorer, rural populations (Lakhini 1), Tenancinco is near the metropolitan area of Puebla-Tlaxcala; an area that has been industrialized in the past half-century. The state of Tlaxcala is a major producer of “textiles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, machinery, automotive parts, handicrafts and other goods” (“Puebla-Tlaxcala”).

However, the conditions in Tenancinco worsened as factory jobs throughout the Tlaxcala region proved to be undesirable (OECD). As time went on, more and more of the town’s economy was sustained by sex trade (Pearson 1): first throughout Mexico, and now in New York as well. Today, there are generations of boys that grow up “aspiring to be traffickers” (Pearson 1). The Guardian writes: “This improbable crime story began in the 1950s after industrialisation, when working-age men returned home from neighbouring states to find few opportunities beyond badly paid factory jobs. Pimping and trafficking, which they had seen while working away, was a way to get ahead, and many set up small, family-run sexual exploitation rings” (Pearson 1).

As mentioned before, Tenancinco is surrounded by impoverished regions, extending into Southern Mexico and Guatemala (WBUR). Many of the people in these areas identify as  indigenous; a facet that is not indicative of privilege in Mexico (Lakhini 1). A common practice is for a family of traffickers to send a young man to these neighboring communities, particularly, a man that is trained to entice young women with promises of a better life: more money, a better lifestyle, and love (Lakhini 1). The young women are then brought to Tenancinco, where they are sexually exploited, while physically and emotionally enslaved (Lakhini 1).

Prostitution is so embedded into the culture of Tenancinco, traffickers seem to have no problem with visibility. Across the landscape of modest, working-class dwellings, families of traffickers will have built extravagant properties, adorned with excess decoration, some say in order to block the windows (Moreno-Taxman 20). Additionally, on highways leading out of Tenancinco, “nighclubs and motels” are conveniently placed as areas for “motorists” to solicit sex (Lakhini 1). Even public celebrations will feature “revelers as caped pimps”, that outwardly “parade their prostitutes” (Pearson 1). While Mexico has attempted to take legal action, the culture of sexual exploitation is so prevalent, it has become fairly accepted (Pearson 1).

Recently, sexually exploited individuals have been trafficked into the United States: particularly to the neighborhood of Queens in New York City (WBUR). Since then, United States law enforcement has been involved in the criminalization of families in Tenancinco (Lakhini 1). But once again — is the United States doing the right thing? After all, it is because of powers in the United States that communities in the Pueblo-Tlaxcala area cannot find desirable and sustaining work. While I believe that any trafficker should be criminalized, it is important to look at the societal implications of sexual exploitation.

What would happen if industrialization was never implemented in Mexico? How many girls and women would be saved from sexual exploitation?

Works Cited

“Global Sex Trafficking Sheet”. Equality Now. Equality Now, n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2016.

Murphy, Catherine.”Sex Workers’ Rights are Human Rights”. Amnesty International. Amnesty International, 14 Aug. 2015. Web. 1 Apr. 2016.

Lakhani, Nina. “Tenancingo: The small town at the heart of Mexico’s sex-slave trade”. The Guardian. The Guardian, 4 Apr. 2015. Web. 1 Apr. 2016.

Moreno-Taxman, Karlene. “Human Trafficking Mexico: International Human Trafficking Victims from Mexico to Your Community”. Eastern District of Wisconsin. United States Department of Justice, n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2016.

OECD. OECD Territorial Reviews: Puebla-Tlaxcala, Mexico 2013. OECD Publishing, 2013. Web. 1 Apr. 2016.

Pearson, Erica. “Small Mexican town of Tenancingo is major part of sex trafficking pipeline to New York”. New York Daily News. Daily News, 3 Jun. 2012. Web. 1 Apr. 2016.

“Prostitution Pipeline To U.S. Begins in Tenancingo, Mexico”. Here & Now with Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson. WBUR, 30 Jun. 2014. Web. 1 Apr. 2016.

“Puebla-Tlaxcala (Metropolitan Area, Metropolitan Areas)”.  Instituto Nacional de Estadística Geografía e Informática, Mexico. City Population Data, n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2016.



The Politics of Underwear: Access and Attitudes on Sexuality in Sri Lanka


          Last week, I introduced the topic of reproductive justice in a globalizing world, stressing time and time again the importance of looking at the movement as intersectional with race and nationality. This week, I will be incorporating race by specifically discussing the cultural tensions between white, American women and Sinhalese women in Sri Lanka.

Additionally, last week’s post loosely revolved around themes of sterilization and long-term birth control. However, it is important to keep in mind that the control of pregnancy and birth are not the only facets of the movement. Instead of merely focusing on birth control, conversations about the reproductive justice movement in Sri Lanka will focus on attitudes about sexuality as a whole.


             In a chapter titled The Politics of Underwear in Caitrin Lynch’s Juki Girls, we learn about how globalization and the implementation of export-processing zones comes into conflict with Sri Lankan attitudes on sexuality. The chapter is central to ahinsaka, or “good girls” in Sri Lanka (Lynch 93) — an identifier that is challenged by juki girls, or female workers in EPZs, especially when manufacturing underwear. Lynch claims that in Sri Lanka, the colloquial use of the word underwear is loosely translated to “unmentionables” (Lynch 94). The product is a taboo, and is often made at home rather than purchased (Lynch 94). In connecting to globalization, Lynch claims “the implication was that innocent girls, who should simply be associated with local traditions, were now working in the global capitalist industry. Worse yet, they were sewing immoral products for white women” (Lynch 93).

This is a direct connection for how the influences of powerful nations hinder reproductive justice. Not only has the United States had a hand in implementing the factories that directly conflict with Sri Lankan values, but furthermore, it has served as a place in which the people are a taboo, not just the product. Suddi, or white women, are “hypersexualized figures” in Sri Lanka (Lynch 94). That is, there is a combination of women from a culture with a lack of sexual discourse, combined with both a product and a population that is seen as very sexual.

This conflict of cultures manifests in horrific ways for workers in EPZs. In 2014, one of Sri Lanka’s headline newspapers, ColomboPage, wrote an article on the increase of rape and assault in the country. Often times, sexual assault will occur within the factory, operating on structures of power. One women says “‘I am in search of new work, but I am afraid to take a job at another garment factory. There is no protection for women,’ she said. ‘I was not the first to be raped and I am scared that it will happen again'” (ColumboPage 1). In 2011, the United Nations claimed in a special report that a goal around the world is to “eliminate the exploitation of workers and protect their labour rights through fully enforcing national legislation on labour standards and promoting decent working conditions” (United Nations 6).

However, maybe that is not what Sri Lanka needs. Instead of continuously implementing these factories (and strategies to manage them), superpowers in the United States can stop having underwear produced in Sri Lanka. This is where I recognize my own biases: from a Westernized perspective, my first thought was that Sri Lanka should learn to embrace discussions around sexuality, or at least educate the populous on the idea that “underwear” and “white women” does not necessarily equal “sexuality”. At the same time, though, the Western world seems to generally not care. In my own research, in which I searched “Sri Lanka reproductive health” and “Sri Lanka assault” on BBC, nothing concerning the power dynamics inside and outside the factory appeared. Rather, there was one article on a specific instance of rape and murder (BBC 1).

This goes to suggest that a discourse on sexuality in Sri Lanka cannot be instigated by the Western world, which as a whole, is only doing so for means of production. Instead, I believe that the answer is to fully recognize each factor of the United States’ imposed attitudes of sexuality, whether they are implicit or explicit. It must be looked at an angle in which the reproductive justices of women are more important than manufacturing underwear.

What do you think?


Works Cited

Lynch, Caitrin. Juki Girls, Good Girls. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. 2007. Print.

“Outrage in Sri Lanka over teenager’s rape and murder”. BBC News. British Broadcasting Company, 20 May 2015. Web. 26 Mar. 2016.

“Rapes surge in Sri Lanka amid weak laws”. ColumboPage. ColomboPage, 17 Aug. 2014. Web. 26 Mar. 2016.

United Nations Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality. Gender Equality and Trade Policy. United Nations, 2011. Web. 26 Mar. 2011.

Global Abuse of Women

I am a student interested in the treatment of women as a whole. I want to express that violence against women is a global matter. Women are mistreated in both “developed” and “developing” countries. I want to give the reader an insight as to what women across the globe face on a daily basis.

In the article ” Violence Against Women: An Exploration of the Physical and Mental Health Trends among Immigrant and Refugee Women in Canada” the author states: “Violence against women is a global phenomenon and involves a spectrum of physical, sexual, and psychological acts of control, threat, aggression, abuse, and assault. Violence against women takes many forms, such as female infanticide, (girl) child abuse, incest, rape, sexual harassment, intimate partner violence (IPV), and abuse and neglect of older women…more than one in three women globally have experienced physical and/or sexual partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lifetime.” Women are made as targets to the male eye and these targets are viewed as inferior, giving men the thought that they can treat women as they please. Women are used as “rag dolls” for a lack of a better term, as a way for men to “cope” or “control” their anger as a way to feel better about themselves. This without a doubt causes women to have a lack of self confidence.

In a report about Prevention of Violence Against Girls, As of 2012, it was estimated that approximately 60 million girls are sexually assaulted on their way to or at school every year. In some countries, this translates to a higher probability for a girl to experience sexual violence than to become literate.” Women have a higher chance of being sexually assaulted than becoming literate in third world countries and the article goes on to state that “Within the United States, a report for the National Institute of Justice revealed that approximately 14% of female students (aged 18-25) had experienced sexual violence during her time at university. Violence against women and girls at school is a pandemic issue that must be resolved globally in order to avoid and alleviate the detrimental effects of violence on individuals and communities.” Women are seen as creatures who’s only purpose in this world is to pleasure men. An education is not necessary if women are put on earth for the sake of men. A girls innocence is looked at as sexual in the eyes of some men and therefore results in sexual mistreatment of women. In the end, the blame is put on the girls who were raped, molested, or sexually assaulted in any way shape or form.

In a global news feed called, Violence Against Women Newsfeed, “A more recent analysis of WHO with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Medical Research Council, based on existing data from over 80 countries, found that globally 35% of women have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. Most of this violence is intimate partner violence.” Women are seen as vulnerable and taking out anger on them is seen as the easiest way to lash out. That being said why would a person treat a woman they love with such disrespect and disgust?

In the local news feed, “Say NO – UNiTE to End Violence against Women is a global platform for advocacy and action by individuals, governments, civil society and UN partners which initiates, supports and demonstrates local and national advocacy efforts towards ending violence against women and girls. Through an interactive and social media friendly website, Say NO – UNiTE engages people from all walks of life and links local actions to an expanding global network.” NO! means NO! and many men and young boys take this word as, “If I keep going, she will like it. She just needs to adjust to it”. That is not the case and this site speaks of the act of saying NO! and the importance of expressing comfort empowering women as a whole.

Violence towards women is violence towards the world as a whole. Women are the life of earth and give live to the earth. That being said, women are more connected to the earth than man. Whether “developed” or “developing” every country has women who go through sexual violence and all countries need to be viewed in the same light. Women are women and they are all important.



Reproductive Health: How is Development Hindering this Human Right?


During my senior year of high school, I completed a year-long project on teenage pregnancy. Utilizing scholarly articles, memoirs, and first person accounts, I spent my year developing a reformed curriculum to combat typical American attitudes on sex and sexuality, and offered holistic messages about pregnancy and parenting free of shame and stigma.

However, when I looked at the history behind these ideals, I completely evaded discussions of race and ethnicity. Growing up as a white woman, in an almost completely white, suburban town, I thought that I would not have time to look into specific issues around race and pregnancy (or more broadly, reproductive health). Now, I do not think that anything could be more necessary.


Since my senior year, I have learned that white women and women of color have very different experiences with reproductive health in the United States. While white women have slowly, yet surely, been gaining autonomy in their reproductive choices, women of color have continued to struggle. In addition to having trouble in accessing a wide range of birth control options and abortion, there has been another threat virtually unknown to white women: sterilization. Since the 1940s, the United States has been involved in the sterilizations of tens of thousands of women — so much so, that the lesser known side of Planned Parenthood is that its founder, Margaret Sanger, was formally aligned with the eugenics movement, and that the service was initially created to provide long-term, doctor-controlled birth control to women of color (read more at

For decades, the United States has strictly regulated who does and does not get to have a child. Because of the racist American ideals behind these choices, the reproductive justice movement has privileged white women in insurmountable ways. Just in 2014, President Obama criminalized the rampant sterilizations of California prison inmates (Krase). 2014. This is more evidence that we are not a post-racial society: this is still happening today.

Since taking ID 125, it has become even more clear that the pressures to control women of color have magnified in globalization. For this blog series, I will investigate how the racist and classist ideologies manifest in the developing world. I firmly believe that reproductive justice is a human right, and in turn, I will research reproductive privileges of women all over the world. Furthermore, I am interested specifically in how and why countries of power take away autonomy from vulnerable populations: a prime example being Puerto Rican women.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, over 35% of Puerto Rican women were sterilized in-country, as well as in the United States. The procedure was so common, it is referred to as “la operación” (the operation) ( Stemming from US-centric pressures to assimilate to a certain economic and culture standard, there were huge pressures to control womens’ bodies. The excerpt below explains more of the reasoning behind the movement:

“Beginning in the late thirties, privately funded foundations based in the United States, and later, the Puerto Rican government, with U.S. government funds, have promoted sterilization of women as a way of limiting population growth. In the forties, just when women were joining the work force in large numbers as industrialization opened up job opportunities, sterilizations were provided at minimal or no cost. While women suffered from lack of safe, legal abortion services, other methods of contraception, day care services, and health care services, they were offered sterilizations.” (Rodriguez-Trias)

(

In 1998, United Nations published a list of rights pertaining to sexual and reproductive health, the first line stating that “[recognition of] women’s rights to reproductive and sexual health as being key to women’s health” (Shalev). Now, I am wondering if this ideal is being held up around the world, particularly in a world system based in capitalism and production. As a starting place, McMichael briefly discusses mandated birth control, in order to decrease maternity leave, for female EPZ workers in Southeast Asia (McMichael 109) — women in positions of high-demand are an integral part of this movement. All in all, I hope to uncover the world injustices in reproduction: not solely to tell the stories of privileged women, but as a means to assess the health of those without inherent privilege in the globalized world.

Works Cited

Anti-Palindorme, Annah. “The Pro-Choice Movement has a White Supremacy Program – And Anti-Choice Advocates are Using it to Their Advantage”. Everyday Feminism. Everyday Feminism, 16 Jun. 2016. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.

Krase, Kathryn. “History of Forced Sterilization and Current US Abuses”. Our Bodies Ourselves. Our Bodies Ourselves, 1 Oct. 2014. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.

“La Operación”. F&H Film and History. F&H Film and History, n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.

McMichael, Philip. Development and Social Change: A Global Perspective. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2012. Print.

Rodriguez-Trias, Helen. “Puerto Rico, Where Sterilization Became ‘La Operación'” Committee on Women, Population, and the Environment. 15 Jul. 2006. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.

Shalev, Carmel. Rights to Sexual and Reproductive Health – the ICPD and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. 18 Mar. 1998. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.