For Canadians, February 12 marks Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Day. This is followed by a week-long awareness campaign that runs from February 14 -18. It’s an annual campaign to raise awareness about sexual and reproductive health, and to inspire advocacy. This year’s theme is ‘Advocacy in Action.’
As we reflect on the gains made by feminists and advocates who have fought to improve access to sexual and reproductive health care – including access to contraceptives and improved sex education – we must also commit ourselves to continuing the fight for sexual and reproductive rights.
As a social justice union, our advocacy will never cease, because there is always more work to be done.
In recent years, we’ve witnessed a renewed attack on reproductive rights globally, including the right to access safe abortion. We know that restricting or denying the right to an abortion disproportionately affects women; and particularly those from the most marginalized communities in our society. We must continue to take action and advocate.
We know that access to health care is also determined by gender, age, race and sexual orientation. Discrimination in health care is fatal. It’s 2022 and pregnancy-related deaths and maternal mortality rates are still higher in racialized and marginalized groups such as Black and Indigenous mothers. Forced sterilization continues to be inflicted on Black, Indigenous, and racialized individuals. And even the sexual and reproductive health movement is still largely white-dominated, which serves to maintain the status quo in all health system structures within our society.
The fight for health care equality and reproductive justice matters now more than ever. We must continue to listen to the diverse voices of those most affected – including Black and Indigenous women, LGBTQ2S+ and Trans and non-binary persons. We must continue to fight for quality sex education because knowledge is power, and sex education is a powerful tool for positive change.
This week, as we shine a spotlight on the importance of sexual and reproductive health, we must recommit to our advocacy in the fight to build a better, healthier and more just society.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer
Chair, OPSEU/SEFPO Provincial Women’s Committee (PWC)