Our Bodies Ourselves Update: November 2021

By OBOS — November 8, 2021

By the Our Bodies Ourselves Board of Directors: Diana Namumbejja Abwoye, Aziza Ahmed, Cris Alonso, Sherry Flashman, Miriam Hawley, Elizabeth Levy, Judy Norsigian, Marta Pagán-Ortiz, Mariya Patwa, and Alexandra Spadola

Today, Our Bodies Ourselves (OBOS) is a smaller, largely volunteer-driven organization with no staff and a few paid consultants. Yet with a passionate and committed group of founders, board members, colleagues and other volunteers, we continue to advance a reproductive justice agenda with special emphasis on the health and human rights of women and girls.

This past year, due to Covid-19, most of our work took place virtually. Many events were recorded and are now available for streaming. These videos showcase the work and achievements of OBOS and our collaborators. For example:

Last month, the Coletivo Feminista Sexualidade e Saúde and Our Bodies Ourselves celebrated the publication of the first volume of “Nossos Corpos por Nós Mesmas,” a Brazilian Portuguese adaptation of “Our Bodies, Ourselves.” The bilingual event featured “Nossos Corpos” project coordinator Raquel Pereira; book team member Janine Pimentel, a professor of translation studies at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro; Simone G. Diniz, a maternal and child health professor at the University of São Paulo; Sonia Corrêa, founder of SOS CORPO; and OBOS co-founders Norma Swenson and Judy Norsigian. Learn more about the event and watch the video recording.

In August 2021, OBOS board members Diana Namumbejja Abwoye and Judy Norsigian were invited to speak at a Virtual Radcliffe Book Talk, organized in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the first edition of “Our Bodies, Ourselves.” The archives of the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective (now called Our Bodies Ourselves) are housed at the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America and are used frequently by scholars across the globe.

The discussion, moderated by Wendy Kline, a history of medicine professor at Purdue University who has written extensively about the women’s health movement, covered both the early history of the book as well as more recent translation/adaptations of this iconic text. After Diana described her own role in producing the Luganda adaptation of Our Bodies, Ourselves, several participants asked about how best to support re-printings of this book as well as another project to produce a version in Acholi for women in northern Uganda. If you would like to contribute to one or both of these projects, please donate online or send a check with an earmark notation to Our Bodies Ourselves, PO Box 590403, Newton Center, MA 02459. Watch a video of the event.

In April 2021, the Boston University School of Public Health held an event titled The Women’s Health Movement: Celebrating 50 Years of Our Bodies Ourselves. The panel of experts included Judy Norsigian, co-founder and board chair of Our Bodies Ourselves; Nashira Baril, founder of the Neighborhood Birth Center; Charlie Ruth Castro, co-founder of Fundación Mujeres Con Derechos and former OBOS board member; and Wendy Chavkin, professor emerita at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health. Watch a video of the event.

In March 2021, Suffolk University Summa Society held a webinar on “The Evolution of Our Bodies Ourselves.” Amy Agigian, the director of Suffolk University’s Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights, and OBOS board members Diana Namumbejja Abwoye and Judy Norsigian discussed the history of Our Bodies Ourselves and the forthcoming Our Bodies Ourselves Today online platform based at this Center. Watch a video of the event.

In November 2020, the BBC produced a wonderful hour-long radio documentary on the history and impact of Our Bodies Ourselves. Listen to the full documentary.

And finally, in early October OBOS co-founder Wendy Sanford published her powerful new memoir, “These Walls Between Us: A Memoir of Friendship Across Race and Class.” Porter Square Books celebrated the publication with an online book talk. Watch a replay of the event. Please note: to watch the replay, click on “register” and then enter your email address.

OBOS continues to collaborate with others on selected issues, for example:

  • The Center for Genetics and Society (CGS), which has collaborated long term with OBOS to expand public awareness and engagement on issues in assisted reproduction and human germline modification (HGM). They continue to operate the  Surrogacy360 website launched by OBOS in 2016 and sponsored by CGS since 2019.
  • Nina Coslov, who runs the excellent nonprofit perimenopause website Women Living Better. Most recently, we helped Nina arrange for translators to produce some of the content in Armenian and Spanish (with Portuguese forthcoming).
  • OBOS has also worked with colleagues Dr. Liz Stewart and nurse-midwife Ione Bissonnette (both formerly employed at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates) to assume ownership of their excellent website about vulvovaginal disorders. Liz and Ione continue to work on updates for this resource that serves both clinicians and patients. Both of the above website resources are helping dispel many common myths and misunderstandings about these topics.
  • OBOS continues our midwifery advocacy work, much of it in collaboration with the Bay State Birth Coalition. We are hoping that Certified Professional Midwives will soon be licensed and regulated in Massachusetts (as they are in 33 other states already), that Certified Nurse-Midwives will at long last achieve parity in this state, and that we will make major progress during the coming year toward opening the Neighborhood Birth Center, Boston’s first freestanding birth center designed especially to meet the needs of women of color.

The legacy of both our book and our organization continues to inspire activists and advocates of all ages. If you would like to support our ongoing work, please consider making a donation.

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