I think the very first time I got curious about my sexuality and reproductive health, was when I first started menstruating. From there, my family instilled in me the correlation of menstruation, pregnancy, and of being a “legitimate” woman, since then I have protected my body and have been overly cautious – worried about even the slightest touch from others. It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to work in a women’s organization (WomanHealth Philippines) and become involved in an advocacy group (Young Advocates for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights – also known as “YAS”)that I have been able to fully embrace my sexuality and be more aware of my sexual and reproductive health, rights and needs.
YAS has enabled me to meet fellow youth who like me, also believe and push for a more accepting society where young people can access reproductive health services and freely express their sexuality.We believe that sexuality and the reproductive health of an individual should not be exclusive to a certain age bracket or certain group of people. Even young people are free to make decisions for themselves, to know their rights over their bodies and knowing what their choices entail. With YAS, I have been able to experience peer learning sessions on a variety of different SRHR issues including; reproductive health, SOGIE (sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression), SRHR needs of migrants and indigenous people, abortion and abortion stigma in the Philippines.
For a long time, I kept my desires to explore and fight for reproductive rights to myself, thinking that no one would understand me if I asserted myself on these issues, but this changed when I became involved in SRHR activism. Not only did I deepen my understanding on SRHR, but I also realized that as an individual who is now more informed on SRHR, it is also my responsibility to raise awareness and initiate discussions on myths and notions linked to SRHR such as the hearsay that sex is evil, sinful, and will cause you to lose your moral values. My involvement in SRHR activism has enabled me to confront my fears regarding my sexuality and reproductive health, and has allowed me to question and clarify my long-held beliefs which have been influenced from the teachings of my school, family, and church. Now I am able to embrace who I am. I guess, change really starts within one’s self.
From time to time, I also engage other people to talk about sexuality and the right for young people to access reproductive health services. I also explore people’s perspectives on abortion, especially in the Philippines, where abortion is still legally restricted. Knowledge sharing, online campaigning and supporting groups with the similar goals feed my passion for SRHR.
With such sensitive and complex issues at hand, it is still a big challenge for me to clearly explain my stance and views on SRHR, making accurate points and arguments are imperative within discussions or else we risk causing SRHR to be a subject to be antagonized. Another challenge that I realized is that even the most basic issue on reproduction and identity (for this, I refer to sexuality) is still politicized and highly influenced by massive institutions such as media, schools, family, and church. As a result, individuals are disoriented and often, falsely believe in what these institutions present to them. Their inability to discern their needs and rights regarding their sexuality and reproduction are ignored and taken for granted.
Being an SRHR activist requires passion, motivation, strength, and dedication. It requires one to be fully knowledgeable of the issues on hand, as well as being more open and understanding of the various oppositions. It requires a person to fully know his/her self first, and to understand how SRHR works for him/her. With this, rising groups such as YAS along with different allies and networks are emerging to provide new avenues for people to be able to learn more about themselves and their rights as a human being.
As my group explores spaces to campaign for young people’s SRHR, I believe that more and more people will be able to make and exercise informed decisions on their sexual and reproductive health and rights without fear and discrimination.
To learn more about Sarryna’s check out more on her website: https://sarisarina.wordpress.com/