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The International Network for the Reduction of Abortion Stigma and Discrimination (inroads) is proud to share insights from the planning and leading process of our recent regional gathering, the inroads Latin American and Caribbean Abortion Justice Circle. A powerful regional convening with over 60 participants from 21 countries, representing diverse organizations and collectives at the forefront of the abortion justice movements in the region.
Embarking on a journey of shared learning and collaboration across movements, this offering goes beyond recounting the event; it’s an invitation to explore the intricacies of planning international gatherings for movement building.
At its core, this article aims to serve as a resource for allies seeking to convene regional or global spaces for social justice to build collective power grounded in community care, equity, and authentic engagement.
At inroads, we envision a world where abortion care is centered around the needs, experiences, and leadership of those who have abortions, and where stigma, fear, and misinformation about abortion can be eradicated through collective culture change to eliminate abortion stigma.
Within the inroads network, gathering and coming together plays a vital role in our work to connect, build relationships, strengthen our sustainability, and power our collective work. Gathering in person is a source of magic, energy, and transformation in our abortion stigma-busting worlds. At inroads, in-person gatherings are safe spaces where the energy to keep on the good fight is replenished, where a sense of community is deeply rooted, and where we are able to deeply reinforce how justice is indivisible and creating supranational alliances is key.
Looking back at our recent inroads Latin American and Caribbean Abortion Justice Circle, we share key components that made this convening a powerful, inclusive, and transformative space for the abortion justice movements, with input and quotes from the evaluation survey at the end of the event.
As a planning team, identifying the goals together with the values-grounded principles we would focus on when crafting our gathering gave us a better sense of direction—allowing us to make decisions and allocate resources that serve our values.
The goals for this gathering included:
The principles of inroads in-person gatherings are:
“It was a very nourishing experience. My soul is grateful for each session and each activity because I feel like it was what my body and soul needed. I was able to exchange opinions, understand contexts, listen to fellow women and activists. We saw the situation in other countries beyond the tabloids, we were able to build solidarity and make connections to continue to support each other. I expanded my network, and others also expanded theirs with me.
I learned to forgive my own abortion activist self – which demands perfection and complete dedication without valuing or taking care of my own body; I learned to accompany myself and seek help from other abortion companions.
This experience has been the best thing I have experienced in terms of advocacy for the autonomy of the bodies that I have participated in recent years; no doubt, every experience nourishes and sustains; it made a lasting impression and gave so much to talk and think about.” participant from the Dominican Republic.
As with all inroads gatherings, we had a collaborative facilitation and a co-created agenda, bringing all members attending together in the process of planning and guiding the space with input from their diverse contexts. During the application process, every person applying to attend had the opportunity to suggest sessions to share their wisdom, needs, and contexts.
As a result, each part of this gathering was largely co-facilitated and co-created by the members present at the gathering. Everything from panels, strategy sessions, arts and community care workshops, training, reflection, and action slots were led by inroads members. To balance the agenda and honor everyone’s wisdom within the available time, members were paired prior to the gathering based on their session proposals by inroads staff. They came together across organizations and regions to co-create powerful sessions. This exercise led to building stronger relationships and fostering mutual learning –even before the official convening, across the diverse collectives that joined forces to co-plan their sessions.
The gathering began in small circles and ended in a huge collective circle– the circle in the name of the gathering and, in practice, was a way of collectivizing the process of the gathering.
“The sessions were participatory in a way that felt organic, and I did not leave a single session feeling unattended or uncertain. I especially enjoyed the sessions about research methods and trans expressions. I left with material and embodied knowledge. I think that connecting with people who are committed to helping their communities find liberation helped me to have a renewed resolve on my own work. I was also very happy to learn that people felt supported by my session and that more people are considering how they would be supported as people who offer support.” Participant from Jamaica.
Aligned with our values and commitment to mobilizing resources to support collectives and grassroots organizations leading abortion justice efforts – often with minimal or non-existent financial support, we prepared to fund and support the travel and participation costs of the majority of the gathering participants, funding 44 out of 60 participants.
After the selection process of the sessions, funding needs were prioritized for folks attending such an international gathering for the first time, for groups at the front lines, and from regions or communities often invisible in this type of space.
We encouraged participants to do an honest review of their funding needs to attend, and those who could pay a registration fee or support part of their own participation costs did so, which in turn allowed inroads to allocate resources to more folks who needed it.
“I am still figuring out how to convey how important this experience with the meeting was for me. At first, when the call came out and I signed up, I didn’t imagine that the funding support opportunity was real. Later, when the date approached, and everything was happening, I was excited to feel that I could also be recognized in this activism, which is usually so lonely in contexts of criminalization. It was an experience of recognition and appreciation of this activism and this work that I (we) have been doing for years. I wanted you to know that it is my first time on a trip like this, with access, with care, in a beautiful place, with incredible and wonderful people like all the people who were at that meeting. I’m still excited.” gathering participant from Brazil.
The gathering location being in Colombia was an intentional choice, given both the recent successes of the Colombian abortion movement, and the location facilitating gathering without visa requirements for most members in the wider Latin America and Caribbean region.
It was, therefore, vital for the gathering to be grounded in Colombian abortion work history and context. The opening day celebrated the diverse parts of the Colombian abortion movement through a panel and a powerful music session led by local collectives and artivists. The second day brought many more local collectives from Bogota to the Arts and Exchange Festival, and the last day took participants on field trips led by local abortion collectives to visit their spaces and significant places for their movements!
As the gathering ended on September 27, many members joined local collectives taking part in the September 28 (International Safe Abortion Day) march and rallies in Bogota, fostering a space of international solidarity in practice!
“It was very timely that the meeting was held in Bogota because of the recent achievements that Colombia brings to the region, and it was very interesting to hear the voices of its protagonists at the table on the first day.” Participant from Argentina
To ensure the accessibility of the space, especially to facilitate dialogue between English-speaking Caribbean participants and Spanish speakers in the region, the gathering had interpretation in every session. All agenda materials were available in the multiple languages needed and in a digital format that facilitated the use of other accessibility tools.
After asking for accessibility requirements in the applications, the logistics and agenda were planned with deep attention to the needs and disabilities of the people attending, including ensuring all events were held on the same floor, all spaces were accessible by elevator; having clear energy and movement requirements of each session stated on the agenda; maintaining art and community care spaces available for rest and creative unwind, and taking dietary requirements into account.
“I like that all of the events happened in a single venue, which made it easier for me to get around. My biggest issue was that there were full days of activities packed into a small time frame; however, I think this was the most generous option considering the varying needs of participants, and I got more out of this than it took from me. Adjustments were also made to session times, and that helped to create more space for everything. “ Participant from Jamaica
Aware of the heightened security risk associated with stigma-driven abortion criminalization in many of our members’ communities, our team visibly centered the privacy and security concerns of members in every space, which included providing name tags with different colors to state photo consent and highlighting being mindful about how and why we share about the event.
In addition, intentionally building a space with a sense of coming together in solidarity and support of each other over anything else, fostered a kind of security that is holistic and mutually ensured over any other kind of technical solution.
“I valued knowing and the recognition of various activists, each one as a fundamental actor in the movement for the fight for the right to abortion in each of their territories, from different axes of action and all so important.” Participant from Colombia.
While the abortion justice movement across Spanish-speaking Latin America is quite strong, and many coalition spaces have been created in the past years, there are still weaker connections to parts of the English-speaking Caribbean, Central America, the Latinx and Caribbean communities in North America, and within rural regions in most territories. A step taken at this gathering, although imperfect and just a beginning, was to strive to represent the region as much and as fully as possible.
Intentionally reaching out to collectives in the less represented regions, collaborating with allies to expand our reach, and allocating resources and funding to maximize representation and accessibility. Each participant then had the opportunity to not only be there, but due to our participatory agenda format, they could also hold a session sharing their communities’ wisdom, needs, and contexts with the wider group.
“The main element that I highlight was the effort that inroads made for the representativeness of the region in this space. It is difficult for a small meeting to have that balance of representation that precisely allows us to understand the local contexts of each country with its opportunities and challenges. Furthermore, the presence of people of sexual and gender diversity added perspectives that we want to gain greater centrality from their own philosophy and in their role as safe abortion companions.” Participant from Argentina.
“Through these connections and experiences, I not only strengthened my understanding of regional challenges, but I also gained a lot of inspiration from the experiences and presentations of others. It was notable how inroads demonstrated a genuine interest in encouraging the inclusion of more people from the Caribbean region, which I consider an important step towards diversity and representation.” Participant from Honduras.
“It was wonderful to be able to meet people from all the contexts of Latin America and the Caribbean. But the most memorable thing for me was finding people from the same state that I didn’t know and the networks that were created. A lot of learning, both emotionally and at the level of proposals, strategies, and knowledge.” Participant from Mexico.
As queer & trans stigma intersection with abortion stigma is one of the most prevalent, it was essential to center queer and trans voices and bodies in the room. There was a queer abortion stigma panel that was led and guided by queer and trans voices, and many other group sessions centered on practices and processes to dismantle this stigma. Recentering the margins to give center stage to the communities and experiences often left out of our movements’ conversations & agendas was a key component of our planning process.
“One of the most memorable moments was participating in the panel discussion on LGBTQI+ rights and inclusion. The openness and commitment expressed in this panel really made an impact on me.” Participant from Honduras
“I think one of the things I should highlight about this meeting is that it was one of the first abortion meetings (that I have attended) in which the participation of several trans people and dissidents of sexuality and gender was evident. I was very happy to connect with many queer comrades <3”– Participant from Colombia
Practices of Arts and Community Care were not an afterthought in the gathering but were deeply embedded in the agenda as powerful sources of energy, inner peace, and joyful connection – all vital to be able to meaningfully engage and sustain our social justice work and the sessions navigating the complex challenges of abortion justice work.
At any time of the gathering, one was sure to see members stretching on the floor, dancing, painting, or creating together in at least one of the sessions. During our Arts and Exchange festival, powerful abortion justice music, poetry, and films from inroads activists in the region took center stage, together with an exchange village with free-to-use tables where collectives were able to distribute zines, booklets, (many) diverse green pañuelos, stickers, prints, and many other arts-based materials that unite and strengthen our movements.
Additionally, there was a permanent care and arts space where members could use art supplies and reflect on the following questions: “What do I need to feel cared for in this space? In our movements? In my body and in my territory?.” There were also care organizers in the space from diverse regions and languages, inroads members who were available for participants to go to for feedback, and who worked with inroads staff to improve and make amends and changes to the pace and plans for each day.
“This gathering has given me the certainty that my art, my project and my voice are powerful and very necessary to fight against abortion stigma. That I am not alone in this struggle, but that there are many people on this path with whom we can share, learn and celebrate. It is very gratifying to be able to reach a space where they look at your art the way you look at it and to be able for a few days to create the world that we dream and that we deserve, in order to recharge us with energy to continue in this fight. ” Participant from Ecuador
“For me, this gathering centering and supporting art spaces means they are super important and needed to bring ideas that do not always come out with words. Therefore, I feel more inspired to propose and continue growing art practices within abortion activism. It also means that I deserve to be part of spaces where activists who are leading the movement gather, that I am able to speak their language, and that I can continue to grow to stay in spaces of creation and international collective action. ” Participant from Mexico.
We are proud to say that due to these components and the wisdom and power brought by all 60 participants who co-created and co-facilitated the space, the inroads Latin American and Caribbean Abortion Justice Circle was rated as providing high value to their work by 100% of the participants of our evaluation survey.
“A very well organized and operated event. I have nothing but recognition and applause for the great work done. I was pleasantly surprised that all the activities were shared by the participants, I had not had such a well designed experience.” participant from Mexico
We hope you find these insights useful for your social justice convening efforts!
With much solidarity and appreciation.
The inroads team
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