I've worked to build programs and systems that can provide comprehensive family planning and sexual health services to everyone without discrimination or stigma based on age, membership in a marginalized group, faith, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or any other characteristic. I've designed rights-based service trainings and monitoring tools for providers, built activism and advocacy toolkits and trainings, and helped international structures and organizations better understand how to engage and involve young people as partners, not as targets. Through it all, I've maintained a strong focus on meaningful participation of all people in the programs and policies that effect their lives, and built an incredible network of friends and allies fighting for sexual rights.
I've been working to promote rights-based approaches to sexual and reproductive health my whole life, starting with peer education programs in my home state of Alaska when I was a teenager. Starting with advocating for comprehensive sexuality education, then services for adolescents and young people, I've always been fascinated by the incredible connections between how we think and talk about our own bodies and sexuality and how we work to ensure that all people can enjoy their own rights.
As a field, we're still stuck in an endless feedback loop of discussion about what we know and what we don't know. We know that young people have a right to participation. We know that service provider bias and discriminatory policies and social norms keep young people and other marginalized communities away from services. I've been pushing for us to start implementing the new and rights-based approaches and make the investments in long-term social change approaches that can move us forward.
In many ways, the biggest challenge in the US right now is getting our international aid structures to work together to address a holistic sexual and reproductive health and rights package that includes family planning. We need to recognize our own weight and the ways in which our artificial distinctions between family planning, HIV prevention, girls' education, and other development programs affect the rest of the world, and we need to be bolder in our defense of comprehensive SRHR.
With Torchlight Collective, we're building a new model of collaboration among advocates and a new approach to movement-building within SRHR and youth development. I'd love to spend the next five years working with iNGOs and other development actors to change the way they approach funding and programming focused on young people, and in particular I'd love to work with organizations to better incorporate, support, and build space for new leadership within their own structures.