ChangemakeHERS: My Sister’s Keeper National Policy Summit
A signature program of the Black Women’s Health Imperative is My Sister’s Keeper (MSK), a leadership-building initiative for Black women in college that promotes reproductive justice, builds advocates, and develops leaders.
MSK students are passionate about advocacy, at both the state and federal levels, and seek to engage with their policymakers in order to share their personal stories and testimonies about the importance of affordable access to reproductive health services. For that reason, we decided to host our first-ever MSK National Policy Summit October 23-25, 2017, during which we brought 42 students and their faculty advisors from around the country to Washington, DC. The students were given the chance to participate in a policy conference and visit Capitol Hill where they discussed the importance of reproductive health services, including contraceptives, with their state representatives. Highlights of the summit included:
- Federal and state advocacy training on contraceptive access
- Breakfast in the US Capitol Visitors Center sponsored by Congresswoman Joyce Hannah Beatty and the women of the Congressional Black Caucus
- Moderated Hill staffer panel discussion
- Luncheon remarks by Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, former Mayor of Baltimore
- Visits to 26 Congressional Offices, including 15 Senators (e.g., Senators Elizabeth Warren, Dick Durbin, Bill Cassidy and Bob Corker) and 11 Representatives (e.g. Jan Schakowsky, Jim McGovern, Elijah Cummings, Clay Higgins, Mike Rogers)
- Congressional briefing on Black women’s health, sponsored by Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke and the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls
In a post-summit survey, MSK attendees expressed their excitement to have participated in such an event and an eagerness to get involved in state and local advocacy upon returning home. As one student stated:
“This summit program was nothing short of amazing. I’m very encouraged to move forward within public service. Thank you for an amazing experience and knowledge”.