21 March 2008

Sexual Scandal of Another Kind

One of the positive side effects of the Eliot Spitzer scandal is that it’s created a bit of media space for oft neglected issues like sex trafficking and sexually transmitted diseases. One of the most depressing side effects, however, is that it delays the progress of everyday governance and legislative innovation. One of our grantees, The Education Fund of Family Planning Advocates of New York State (FPAofNYS), learned this first-hand last week.

As Amy Goodman reported, a group of 1,000 people—including FPAofNYS—gathered on Monday, March 10th at the Empire State Plaza in Albany in hopes of pressuring law makers to pass The Healthy Teens Act (which would guarantee medically accurate, comprehensive sex education).

It became evident very quickly, that Governor Spitzer would not be in attendance. To his credit, Spitzer has proven to be a consistent ally in the movement to get medically accurate, comprehensive sex education in our schools; his rejection of $2.6 million of federal abstinence-only education funding indicated that he would look for more comprehensive alternatives, like The Healthy Teens Act. But, it turns out that our inadequate and unsafe national policy—one out of four young women experiences a sexually transmitted disease, according to recent studies—was not the sexual scandal most forefront in his mind.

FPAofNYS may be discouraged, but they will not be defeated. That’s because they approach social change with the trademark Ms. Foundation philosophy—widen and strengthen your movement, build your skills and celebrate your gifts, and be ready to move when the moment presents itself. It’s sort of our version of the old adage, “Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime.” We don’t just give grassroots organizations cash; we partner with them to build movements and drive policy and culture change that will make our democracy more inclusive and just.

Plus, we suspect that the man (or woman--since women are those primarily responsible worldwide for feeding their families) famously taught to fish in that old adage knew a little something himself. We consider our grantees experts on their own communities and the kind of social change they’re enacting. It is in moments like these (and so many others)—when they’re called on to be resilient and resourceful—that we learn such a great deal from them.

We can only hope that David Paterson, Spitzer's successor, will also be an ally to the growing movement to guarantee medically accurate, comprehensive sexual education--a network of cutting-edge coalitions and organizations across the country, which the Ms. Foundation is proud to support.

Desiree Flores
Program Officer for Health

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