#SRHRyouthblog: Looking back, Looking forward by Marinella Matejčić

Posted on June 13, 2017

Youth blog photo (1)

People who know me have this running joke about how everything I do is sex. I write about sex, talk about sex, tweet about sex, write project proposals that involve sex. Quite frankly, that is true: although it’s not just sex – it’s sexual and reproductive health, rights and justice. Currently, I work in the Association for Human Rights and Active Citizenship (PaRiter) in Rijeka, Croatia; I’m also an advisor for Frida, The Young Feminist Fund, and a journalist for Libela.org, among other commitments. In my life I play a number of different roles and they kind of intersect, so it’s quite hard to write strictly about activism.

So, how did I become an SRHR activist? By accident. In 2012, a portal on gender, sex and democracy (Libela.org) shared a call, looking for volunteer journalists. Libela.org is hosted by the Center for education, counselling and research (CESI) from Zagreb, a feminist CSO that tackles issues around comprehensive sexuality education, abortion accessibility, young women’s employment, and violence against women, among other issues. I applied to the call for volunteer journalists, and started working with the fierce women who run the Libela.org portal. Meetings, articles, projects…it became pretty clear early on that the team was amazing. In 2013 and 2014, CESI organised a training for young women called Young Women Agents of Positive Change, to which I applied in 2014. We learned a lot during the training and at the end of it, they gave us a task: we had to design and implement a small activist action. Violence against women, media representation of women and similar issues are very close to my heart; but a lot of people were already working on those issues, so my team came up with another idea: we decided to do a web page on abortion accessibility. Nobody talked about abortion at the time. It was something that was legal and happened and that’s it. Journalists from Libela.org had previously done a telephone survey in 2013, asking hospitals if they were providing the service, but nothing happened after that.

That’s how the Znajznanje.org, or “Know your Knowing” platform was born. We used the same strategy previously used by Libela.org, where we called hospitals that are supposed to provide abortions – first as potential patients, then I called them as a journalist. We then published an article on the subject on Libela.org, and produced a webpage. Four of us managed to build a webpage from scratch with no funding. The webpage and accompanying Facebook page is about abortion accessibility, contraception, and conscientious objection. We publish articles on our activities, and on issues that are emerging because of the raging conservative contra-revolution that is currently taking place in Croatia.

In the summer of 2015, Croatia was under review by the CEDAW Committee, and the wonderful women from CESI recognised that this could be a good learning opportunity for me. As such, I went to Geneva, Switzerland to participate in the process. After the CEDAW review, my journey into SRHR activism just organically unfolded: I participated in a number of international meetings, became a part of the Women Deliver Young Leaders Program, became a CESI representative in ASTRA Youth (a regional network of CSOs that work in the SRHR field), etc. Meanwhile, I started working with PaRiter, where we work on SRHR, human and minority rights issues. Currently we are conducting trainings for women, plus producing virtual knowledge and sharing knowledge trough our library.Youth blog quote (1)

Unfortunately, reproductive justice and abortion per se are hot potato topics at the moment; and with the earlier mentioned conservative contra-revolution underway there is not much room for improvement, only room for defending our rights. The bright side of everything that’s happening, is that Croatian feminists actually started to work together. On a global level, we need to be more creative, more resilient, less apologetic and more proactive. The global scene is messing with our rights and this is the time to act.

When thinking about my own SRHR activist future, I’m not predicting anything, just letting things take their course. CESI helped me and is helping me in my efforts, Women Deliver is providing certain support as well. FRIDA shows that there is a huge untapped potential of feminist organising that can drive changes in the world. One thing I know for certain, is just that I have been super lucky to work with amazing people who are driving change as we speak.

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