Hi! My name is Fajer (rhymes with ‘ledger’) and I am an If/When/How Reproductive Justice Fellow in Seattle. I split my time between two organizations; the first is Legal Voice, a feminist nonprofit that does impact litigation and legislative advocacy focused on women and LGBTQ communities. The second organization is Surge Reproductive Justice, a grassroots reproductive justice organization that works on advancing racial justice through community education and advocacy.
This is my eighth year in the States; I grew up in the Kingdom of Bahrain and came to the U.S. for school. Much of my time has been spent living and organizing in the Midwest.
I firmly believe in a reproductive justice approach to activism, advocacy, and legal practice. If/When/How defines reproductive justice as a state that exists when all people can access the resources and exercise the rights they need to thrive and to decide if, when, and how to create and sustain a family with dignity, free from coercion, discrimination, or violence. For me, reproductive justice is rooted in meaningful access to all human rights.
Take Root: What are some of the challenges of red state reproductive justice activism?
The challenges faced exist on multiple levels. First, it can be difficult to find community. Representation may be sparse but visibility can also come at a very real cost to one’s safety—we cannot talk about visibility without also talking about privilege. Transforming fear into empowerment (in the visible, advocate sense of the word) is not always possible, or even responsible.
You also have to deal with generations of law that has cemented marginalized groups as the underclass of that state. Figuring out the most strategic pressure point to hit, with the severely limited set of resources that come with organizing can be challenging to say the least.
Importantly, “progress” doesn’t always look like “progress” in red states. It can be excruciatingly slow. Excruciatingly exhausting. Often, it’s all defense and you can’t help but ask, “Will I ever pass laws that do what we actually need?” It’s hard. But that’s why you remind yourself that this is a marathon and to take the victories when you can. Radical hope sustains movements and joy is a radical expression of resistance.
Take Root: What are the most pressing RJ issues, currently, or on the horizon?
These are trying times, where almost everything is under attack. I am so tempted to answer this question with “literally everything”—everything from immigration to healthcare access to the coopting of religious identity by the radical right. Compensated surrogacy, sex work, and campus sexual assault are particularly pressing to my work right now.
Take Root: Have you been to Take Root before? How many times? Why do you come? Why is a conference like this important?
This is my first time at Take Root, and I am very excited! The time and space to think through the complexities of red state organizing are priceless!
Take Root: What are some ways to get young people involved in RJ?
Young people are involved in RJ; they organize in their schools and neighborhoods, and on their social media accounts. They are open about their complex identities, inviting everyone to use language that most accurately depicts their experience. They create and sustain underground networks to support folks who desperately need help. They have creatively addressed the gaps in their education with zines and other radical grassroots tools. The question is not, “How do we get young people involved in RJ,” but rather, “How do we lift up the work they are already doing?” That starts with challenging the pervasive ageism in many of our spaces and centering their voices in our work.