What is Advocates for Youth’s issue focus?
Advocates for Youth works alongside thousands of young people here in the U.S. and around the globe as they fight for sexual health, rights and justice. We partner with youth leaders, adult allies, and youth-serving organizations to advocate for policies and champion programs that recognize young people’s rights to honest sexual health information; accessible, confidential, and affordable sexual health services; and the resources and opportunities necessary to create sexual health equity for all youth. Advocates recognizes that poverty, homophobia, transphobia, ageism, racism, and sexism fuel sexual health disparities. The organization seeks to redress these social determinants by working in coalition with other social justice organizations and by engaging, empowering, and mobilizing young people from marginalized communities to serve as activists and leaders in the field of sexual health. Advocates’ Youth Activist Network, currently 75,000 strong on 1,200 campuses and in hundreds of communities in the U.S. and more than 120 countries around the world, is core to the organization’s niche and brand.
What is something Advocates for Youth is currently prioritizing? Can you tell our readers a little about the goals of the campaign/project?
Know Your IX, a project of Advocates for Youth, recently wrapped up a pivotal moment for our Hands Off IX campaign, a coalition effort to raise the visibility and take action against the attacks on Title IX and the rights of sexual assault survivors on college campuses. The US Department of Education issue their proposed rule and Notice and Comment period in November 2018. Know Your IX initially started the campaign to hit the goal of 1,000 comments, but in the end, we were able to collect over 6,400 unique and substantive comments! From current estimations, Hands Off IX will have generated 3/4ths of all substantive comments on the proposed rule. And Know Your IX submitted a robust 71- page long comment, including 237 citations, and over 11 stories from survivors.
Another recent project we’re excited to share is Youth Testify. Youth Testify is a collaborative leadership program for young people who’ve had abortions created by Advocates for Youth’s 1 in 3 Campaign and the National Network of Abortion Funds’ We Testify program. Youth Testify provides training and support to equip young people, aged 17-24, with the skills to share their stories with their peers, the media, and legislators, to shift the culture of stigma and center the voices and needs of young people in the fight for abortion access and reproductive justice. Since we started this project in the summer of 2018, Youth Testify storytellers have shared their work and stories in over 20 media outlets, including Teen Vogue. We just wrapped-up their Spring Retreat, which brought all Youth Testify youth to DC where we filmed their stories and brought them to Capitol Hill for an Advocacy Day, advocating for policies that address the unique barriers that young people face when accessing abortion.
Tips and lessons: Do you have an “Advocacy Tip” to share or “Lesson Learned” while organizing this or other campaigns? Do you have any general words of wisdom that you’d like to share with other staff engaged in advocacy?
Whether the issue is about sexual violence or abortion access, those who are most impacted should be leading the way. Know Your IX and Youth Testify are both projects that center young people’s voices, experiences, and needs. For us, success looks like young people, and those most impacted, having seats at the table, leading the tables, and ensuring their voices are heard. Advocates for Youth has worked with young people since we were founded in 1980 and we have learned to be flexible, to constantly listen to our base, and shift strategies and priorities when necessary. Our biggest “advocacy tip”? Listen to young people, and especially those most impacted by the issue you work on!
Many of our member organizations work with both our Bolder Advocacy initiative on c3/c4 advocacy rules and guidance, and our Justice programs on the importance of the courts and judicial nominations. How has either or both most helped you? How have you worked with either or both?
Because of our advocacy and organizing work, we refer to the Bolder Advocacy initiatives resources, as well as the C3 advocacy rules and guidance! Every year, our staff is trained and all AFJ’s resources/tools have always been helpful. This has been particularly great because we have recently increased our interest and work on judicial nominations.
Who inspires you?
Advocates for Youth is inspired by the young people we work with every day. Each year, we bring our core of 130 youth activists to DC for our annual youth conference, the Urban Retreat. And each year, the Advocates’ staff is inspired and in awe of the power and resilience of young people who seek to create transformational change in their communities and speak their truth to power.
Learn more about Advocates for Youth here.