young women’s power

good rainy oakland morning y’all.

i spent the weekend in chicago at my first meeting for the young women’s empowerment project, or YWEP.

“Our mission as the Young Women’s Empowerment Project is to offer safe, respectful, free-of-judgment spaces for girls and young women impacted by the sex trade and street economies to recognize their goals, dreams and desires. We are run by girls and women with life experience in the sex trade and street economies. We are a youth leadership organization grounded in harm reduction and social justice organizing by and for girls and young women (ages 12-23) impacted by the sex trade and street economies.”

some of you know and many of you don’t that some of the first organizing work i ever did was in the harm reduction field. harm reduction, to this day, is the organizing model i find most effective, practical, and transformational. the key point is “Meet them where they’re at”, with “them” being an active drug user in the model. with active drug users, the idea is that rather than coming at people with a goal of them becoming abstinent, you meet them where they’re at and support their journey towards power and self-determination.

harm reduction is about seeing the underlying problems and accepting that those are going to be there, that people don’t make decisions in a vacuum, values the quality of life over adherence to someone’s rules, calls for non-judgment (my favorite thing!), and tries to end the practice of people setting goals for others to live up to. it moves us away from patronizing, colonizing communications and decisions.

harm reduction can be extended to anything, particularly to any behavior that is addictive, or could be endangering. shira hassan, the current co-director of YWEP, pulled me into her world years ago when we were both just starting out in the harm reduction world. she was the first person who told me about fat positivity, inspired the most vulnerable piece i’ve ever written, My Body. My Self., in clamor magazine (which i can’t find online archived anywhere, RIP clamor :( )

i’ve been intentionally trying to get off of boards. for my upcoming project The Reluctant ED, i’ll speak on how silly and overwhelming it is to expect EDs to really be able to hold it down on working boards. but when shira asked me to support this group, it was like an invitation to come full circle, have an active part of my life be in harm reduction work, to return to world of sexual health and safety and power for young girls, which is where my work truly began, 17 years ago.

the meeting was totally inspirational, and though i can play only a limited role from afar, i was so so honored to meet the next leaders of this work, young girls who, at 20, have the analysis that every single woman on this planet, every single person, should have: that they are priceless.

and then, for loooong-term readers of this blog, i got to see the heartbreaker last night. so much time has passed, and it was really wonderful to meet, both as healthy and happy now as we were unrealized and traumatized when we first knew each other. i’ll never get past the healing properties of time, it’s ability to make possible the days you think will never ever ever come.

and to connect the healing from that moment in my life to the work of YWEP, and the power of women and girls, the pattern of disempowering women and girls, and how that pattern shows up in our adult lives until we get the space to lead our own lives. then, with our heads held up high, we can show our true selves, beauty, happiness and love to anyone, we can forgive anyone.

i believe internal transformation is the microcosm of the transformation of the entire universe, and in that vision i can see that interpersonal relationships remind that we are all so deeply connected, impacting each other every day in a million ways, so of course our healing is connected. that we are not many, just unique, distinct parts of one greater body in the process of learning to exist and evolve.

ah whatever, just good to feel good about life. :)

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