Our Bodies Ourselves Kicks Off 40th Anniversary Celebration

By Rachel Walden |

In 2011, Our Bodies Ourselves will release the ninth edition of “Our Bodies, Ourselves”.

This important milestone will be accompanied by another.

In 2011, we will celebrate 40 years of activism and the organization’s evolution from a small US-based group to a vibrant international network of social change activists.

“…We never considered writing a book, but simply planned to gather health information, talk with one another about it, hear everyone’s ideas and experiences, and share what we had learned with others…”

~ Jane Pincus, Co-Founder and Co-Author, Our Bodies Ourselves

Our journey started in Boston in 1969. Twelve women came together to talk about their experiences with the medical profession and share knowledge about their bodies, sexuality, and relationships. They published their discussions as a stapled newsprint booklet called “Women and Their Bodies” that sold for 75 cents.

In the midst of the Civil Rights Movement and protests against the Vietnam War, this booklet – renamed “Our Bodies, Ourselves” in 1971 – suddenly placed women’s health and sexuality in a radically new political and social context. It was an instant success. There was no looking back.

Forty years on:

“Our Bodies, Ourselves” has influenced three generations of Americans. It has, according to historian Sandra Morgen, “changed the landscape of women’s healthcare in the United States and throughout the world.” Along with our other resources – “Our Bodies Ourselves Menopause” and “Our Bodies Ourselves Pregnancy and Birth” – and popular website and blog, we continue to provide trusted information and shape public attitudes and policy on the health and rights of women and girls.

Our dynamic Public Voice and Action Program brings a consumer perspective to debates in the media and community, so people are fully aware of the issues that affect their health and decision making. Our Latina Health Initiative develops resources and training materials, organizes outreach, and builds networks in the United States, Latin America, and Caribbean.

“[“Our Bodies, Ourselves”] lends itself to other languages and cultures. It really has no rival in this field”.

~ Sanlaap, Author of a Bangla resource based on “Our Bodies, Ourselves” for India and Bangladesh

Beyond the United States, “Our Bodies, Ourselves” is inspiring women worldwide to create health resources that speak to their cultural needs. As a result, materials based on the book are available in over 25 languages and different print, digital, and social interactive formats in every geographical region – Africa, Latin America, South and East Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.

These resources draw on local knowledge and experience. They increase awareness, encourage self-care practices, build grassroots and institutional alliances, and help secure policies that take the needs of women and girls off the back burner – often in places where health information is hard to find, female sexual behavior heavily regulated, and the work of defending women’s human rights an uphill challenge.

“Instead of ‘importing’ western notions of… feminism, [Our Bodies Ourselves] is creating sustainable grassroots health and women’s rights projects [by] working in cooperation across the world.”

~ Women and Their Bodies, Author of Arabic and Hebrew resources based on “Our Bodies, Ourselves” for Israel, Palestinian Territories, and the Middle East

It is hard to overstate the courage these ground breaking projects demand. Our partners rely on each other to succeed. They also receive dedicated technical assistance and support from the Boston-based staff of the Our Bodies, Ourselves Global Initiative and have constant access to our products, networks, tools, and expertise. Together, we are the Our Bodies Ourselves Global Network. We exemplify the power of voices raised in action and movement building in the 21st century.

Looking ahead:

Our Bodies Ourselves – its staff, board, and founders – is proud of the organization’s history and ongoing role in building women’s collective strength and knowledge; and with more than 22 network partners, we are honored to support the tenacious and visionary women and men behind these transformative projects.

As we gather with friends and colleagues to celebrate our 40th anniversary, it is also the perfect time to recognize the organization’s transition from a women’s health group in the United States to an international coalition indispensible to the global movement for health equality and justice.

On October 1 2011, we are hosting a symposium and reception at the Tsai Performance Center in Boston, a space graciously donated for the occasion by Boston University. This event will be an opportunity to meet our partners and listen to their extraordinary journeys of claiming “Our Bodies Ourselves” to empower their own communities. It will also be an opportunity to celebrate a legacy and support the Global Our Bodies Ourselves Network in its tireless effort to effect change for millions of women and girls over the next 40 years.

We invite you to join us.

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2 Comments

  1. Susan White says:

    Your work was, and continues to be, an inspiration for the Canadian Women’s Health Network. We watch Our Bodies Our Blog and other OBOS sources constantly for information and resources to pass on to women across Canada via our website, http://www.cwhn.ca. We have appreciated your support in the past and look forward to another 40 years (at least!) of working together.

    Susan White

    Acting Executive Director