advocacy

Mamas on Bedrest: On Some Level, We Are All Yoani Sanchez

August 8th, 2011

Mamas on Bedrest, we must stand in support of Cuban activist and Generation Y Blogger Yoani Sanchez because on some level, we are all Yoani Sanchez.

Who  Is Yoani Sanchez?

Yoani Sanchez was born in 1975 and raised in Havana Cuba. She began her studies in philology, which according to Merriam-Webster is  the study of human speech especially as the vehicle of literature and as a field of study that sheds light on cultural history.However, after receiving her degree in Philology in 2000, she found that her interests were no longer in linguistics so she worked in (required) social service for 2 years before leaving Cuba and traveling to Switzerland in 2002. When a family emergency arose in 2004, Yoani returned to Cuba, against the advice and much to the chagrin of her friends and acquaintances.

After returning to Cuba, Yoani discovered her true love-computer science, and thus began her work in writing, editing and web design. In 2007, Yoani started her own blog, Generation Y, which she herself describes as, ” “an exercise in cowardice” which lets me say, in this space, what is forbidden to me in my civic action.”And while her blog has garnered worldwide accolades, its cador about life in Cuba also caught the eye of the Cuban government. The result is a government imposed filter on her blog nationally so that Cubans on the island cannot read her blog. However, her worldwide connections have created a network such that her blog is distributed worldwide in some 15 languages. She has published three books, De Cuba, Com Carinho, Vivere e scrivere all’Avana and her newest book, Havana Real, published in May 2011.

Currently Yoani is being held within her own country. Because of her writings on life in Cuba, she has had her citizenship documentation seized and she is unable to obtain a visa to travel. She continues on but needs the help and support of readers worldwide to put pressure on the Cuban government to return her proof of citizenship documentation and to authorize a visa for travel.

Why Should Mamas on Bedrest Care About Yoani Sanchez?

This blog post is a departure from my normal posts on high risk pregnancy as it looks at and stands in support of Cuban activist Yoani Sanchez. Many of you who regularly read my blog may be asking, “Why should I care about some Cuban woman?”

Because Yoani is no different from you and me. She is a woman who sees the discriminiation against her people and the inequities among her people and it bothers her, saddens her, angers her. So she lifts her voice and writes her opinions. The greatest difference between Yoani and bloggers here in the United States is that we are protected by the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution which guarantees us freedom of speech. I can blog my frustration at the lack of support for high risk pregnant women. I can openly be a part of a movement advocating for paid maternity leave. As far as blogs go, I may face scathing negative comments or no comments at all, but I can be reasonably certain that I am safe from physical harm and will have no government action against me personally.

But are we here in the US really any freer, or safer than Yoani? She speaks of human rights violations in Cuba. Are the rights for which Yoani advocates really any different than human rights, women’s rights, many advocate for here in the US?

Planned Parenthood stands for the rights of women to have safe, accessible well woman care including access to birth control and safe, legal abortions. Yet, for their stand, they are currently being defunded by state and federal legislative officials.

Dr. George Tiller literally gave his life and career as a physician to provide women with safe, legal abortions. For his efforts he was targeted by anti-abortion extremists; his home and family were threatened, he was shot and wounded in 1993 and finally fatally shot on May 31, 2009.

And as I type many of you mamas on bed rest are wringing your hands wondering if you will lose your job, your income, your health care benefits and potentially your home because we don’t have paid maternity/family leave in the United States. Suddenly the guarantee of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness seems far from reach.

The issues about which Yoani writes are truly no different from issues mamas on bed rest face here in the United States. We struggle long hours in jobs where we give our all yet are still unable to make ends meet. Some of us work several jobs yet don’t have health care benefits. The recent debt debates amongsts our elected legislators held many of us in economic imbalance, wondering if we would slip between the cracks while our elected officials played a political “game of chicken” with our nation’s funds and our individual finances. Mamas on Bedrest, we are no different than Yoani Sanchez. To quote my dearly departed grandfather, its “The same s–t, different day!” (Actually its a different country, but I’m sure you get the gist of what I mean!)

We can’t ignore discrimination and inhumane treatment of people (women) anywhere. We can’t act as if it could never (or isn’t) happening here. It already has. Remember the fight for the right of women to vote? What about the Civil Rights Movement?  Or the battle that ensued for women to have safe, legal abortions? No Mamas, things here aren’t entirely different than they are in Cuba.

Please stand with me in support of Yoani Sanchez and send a message to the Cuban government to return her citizenship documents and issue her a visa so that she may travel internationally. Post a comment on this blog and the blog and its comments will be sent as part of an initiative to have Yoani’s documents returned and her visa granted. Write your legislator. Write the US Embassy or sign a petition. Let the Cuban and United States governments know that we will not stand for discrimination or oppression of people anywhere.

Lend your voice and stand with/for Yoani because in the end, on some level, we are all Yoani Sanchez.

Mamas on Bedrest Meets with Senator Barbara Mikulski’s (D-MD) Office

July 16th, 2010

On July 12, 2010 I had the opportunity to meet with a congressional assistant to Senator Babara Mikulski, D-MD on behalf of all mamas on bedrest and all high risk pregnant women.

If you are an advocate of women’s health issues and don’t know “Senator Barb” you need to. Senator Mikulski is a senior member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP), which oversees issues such as education, labor, health care for seniors, long-term care, women’s health, social, nutritional, information and referral services for seniors, individuals with disabilities, and Social Security. Senator Mikulski is also a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. I requested to meet with Senator Mikulski or one of her representatives to ask that she start the legislative process to amend the Family Medical Leave Act so that family leave (and hence maternity leave) will be extended to 3-6 months and for that leave to be paid. Additionally we asked Senator Mikulski to use her influence to increase research into the causes and treatments for high risk pregnancy. Joanie Reisfeld, executive director of Better Bedrest, Inc., accompanied me to the meeting and together we presented a compelling case for why these topics should be considered.

I learned a lot from this experience, mainly that we have a long road ahead of us if we are to obtain legislation that will make paid maternity leave law.

We met with a congressional assistant, a young single woman who seemed to me not at all in the mindset to discuss childbearing-let alone high risk pregnancy and medical leave for such. Her job is to listen to people who come before her, gather any information that they present and then to compile and summarize the information in a memo to the Senator. 

I was initially disheartened. It sounded like our requests would land in a pile of summaries in some remote corner of the Senator’s office. All the preparation and data collection seemed to be for nothing. Before giving up all hope, I asked the assistant, “What does the Senator need to advance her women’s health initiatives, how could we perhaps fold these requests into these initiatives and how can we help?”

In that moment, the tenor of the conversation changed. We had been focused on presenting an enormous amount of information (a complete binder full of statistics and testimonials) in a short amount of time (30 minutes). But as all the marketers that I respect and follow say, you have to approach your prospective customers with “What’s in it for them”. By simply shifting our approach from “We would like the Senator to consider and act on our requests” to “What is the Senator currently working on and how can we help integrate our requests into those initiatives and help her move them forward?” We go more specific information from the assistant and, now, a direct point of contact in Senator Mikulski’s office.

We learned:

  • It takes about 2 weeks for requests to be processed; i.e. for the congressional assistants to compile the information they receive, summarize it and get it to the next in the chain of command.
  • We can follow up on the status of our request and our meeting by corresponding directly with this assistant.
  • The best way to correspond with her is via e-mail.
  • She can and will find out which specific initiatives Senator Mikulski is working on and will share that information with us so that we can see if we can tailor our requests to better coincide with what is already in motion.
  • I will be the point of contact on this end so that she can contact me directly if she needs more information.

So the first step has been taken. I am sure that it is one of many thousands that will be necessary in order for Family Medical Leave (FMLA) to be extented and to be paid time off.

Add your comments and suggestions to this post in the comments section below.

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And if you are on bed rest, be sure to get your copy of Bedrest Fitness, a set of modified prenatal exercises designed specifically for pregnant women on prescribed bed rest. Order your copy today!