Self Care & Healing Justice
Self Care means taking care of your body, your mind and your spirit on a daily basis. It means checking in with yourself in a regular way to see how you are doing with your job, your relationships, your health and your overall wellbeing. Healing Justice means that we all deserve to heal and that we confront systems that get in our way.
At YWEP, we talk about self care all the time because so often girls are taught that they don’t know how to take care of themselves or their bodies. Sometimes girls are taught that they don’t know what is best for them or are told that they are “their own worst enemy”.
Sometimes, girls forget that they do know how to take care of themselves and that they are really the best person to do it! We encourage girls to think about how they feel about things, how they think they can take care of themselves, and what they think they need from themselves and other people to help them stay as rested, cared for and whole as possible.
Here are some other examples of how we practice Self Care and Healing Justice:
- We ask ourselves and each other how we are doing with things.
- We remind girls that only they know what is best for them.
- We educate people about alternative health care like herbs that girls can use to take care of themselves when they are not feeling well.
- We have a clothing exchange that is free to everyone so that all girls can have access to new clothes and hygiene supplies.
- We share harm reduction information so that people know how to best take care of themselves.
- We think of harm reduction as a life philosophy, not just a practice that people who are doing high risk behaviors need.
Empowerment Model: This means that we believe that girls are the experts in their own lives!
Many times girls are taught that they don’t know what is best for them. A doctor knows what is best for her health, a social worker knows what is best for her emotional health or judge knows what is best for her-period!
At YWEP we strive to create spaces in where girls are in charge.
We don’t tell girls what to do, we don’t give advice and adults don’t take control of youth lead projects. We create as many opportunities as possible for girls to be in leadership positions and adults DO NOT do all the important work and DO NOT make all the important decisions. Being empowered means that girls are active in the decisions they make about their lives.
At YWEP we give girls skills to become active in their lives, by involving them in leadership development as much as possible and by educating them about their rights, their money and their options.
Here are a few examples of how we teach empowerment:
- Girls make program decisions through a weekly group called Girls in Charge. Girls talk to each other about life stressors and help each other find solutions to problems.
- Girls write zines and other project literature that goes out into the general public.
- Girls do workshops and presentations for other girls and service providers interested in knowing more about the sex trade and YWEP.
- We hire girls to become staff members.
- We teach social justice.
At YWEP Harm Reduction means that we give practical options, no judgments, and we respect the choices that girls make. We will work with any girl to find resources that she thinks will be helpful to her. We believe that girls do what they have to do to survive and we don’t question why a girl is involved in the sex trade or street economy, instead we ask them what they think they need to stay safe, feel supported and take care of themselves.
Harm reduction means finding safer ways to practice a risky behavior. We define risk as anything that might put a girl in harms way. HIV, violence, STD’s theft, or depression are all examples of harmful things that might be avoided with information and support.
We help girls take responsibility for their actions and their choices by having honest conversations about real risks and real ways of avoiding risk.
We also believe that harm reduction is a philosophy that can work for any circumstance, not just for high risk situations. For example, wearing a seatbelt in a car is harm reduction. Or taking a day off work to sleep and relax when you are really stressed out is harm reduction too.
Here are some ways we practice Harm Reduction at YWEP:
- We offer realistic information and education about DRUGS and the SEX TRADE to any girl who needs it.
- We offer syringe exchange to any girl who wants it.
- We give out condoms, lube, safer piercing kits, reality condoms and more to any girl who wants it.
- We offer birth control information and abortion information.
- We will help girls find whatever information or resources they might need-like a testing kit for ecstasy or Naloxone to reverse an opiate overdose.
- We give legal information about people’s rights and risks.
- We stress self care and empowerment and incorporate these values into our program.
Social Justice, Transformative Justice and Reproductive Justice:
At YWEP we bring social justice into our work by acknowledging and supporting resistance. We value the rebellion of girls impacted by the system. We encourage girls to look closely at the way things like racism, classism, sexism and homophobia play out and affect girls involved in the sex trade and street economy. We understand that the sex trade is not about one person, but about a system of things that all work together to oppress women, people of color, lesbian and transgender people and others too.
We believe that social justice and empowerment go hand and hand. Empowered girls who are active in their own lives are making change just by being in charge of their choices and destiny.
Reproductive Justice means that YOU are in control of YOUR BODY and that no one should make choices about what happens to you-except YOU. Many times, this isn’t true in our lives. At YWEP we look at all of the ways, big and small, that we can work to take power back and work towards a time when we are always in charge of what happens. Transformative Justice means that even though sometimes systems (like hospitals and shelters) do help us-that sometimes these “helping systems” can cause harm in our lives. At YWEP we work to find solutions to problems that don’t depend on the system for answers-but instead work to come up with solutions that are community based.
Here are some ways we bring social justice to our work:
- We support activism.
- We talk about racism, classism, sexism, transphobia and homophobia.
- We educate ourselves about oppression.
- We offer social justice information and education during our conversations about the sex trade.
- We don’t ever blame girls for being involved in the sex trade, we get that the sex trade is about a larger system.
- We come up with our own solutions- like free clothing exchanges, learning how to do our own self exams and learning as much as we can about herbs.
Popular education is a way of talking about ideas that helps to get people thinking critically about things so that they can act together as a community to address inequalities and injustices.
At YWEP we strive to expand our knowledge about each other and about the stories of social justice movements- our stories about our experience in foster care might sound like someone else’s story too. When we share our stories, we can find common ground to and being to work together to resist and fight back.
We practice popular education by:
- Encouraging girls to write zines and be creative.
- By validating that girls are already educated about their own lives and experiences.
- By drawing on the experience of girls to help teach other girls and providers about the sex trade and street economy.
- By going to high schools and other places where girls are to talk about the sex trade and street economy.
- By valuing that all girls are experts in their own lives and have stories to tell and share.