Do you have a question about your sexual and reproductive health? Meet our virtual educators below who have been working for years to educate others about sex and sex education.
Hello. It’s me. I was wondering if after reading this you’d like to email me.
My name is Sahar Pirzada and I am currently working as the Youth Development Manager for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Greater LA Chapter. Before moving to LA to work for CAIR, I lived in Singapore for three years where I worked on a project to promote gender-equitable interpretations of Islam with gender advocates in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. I passionately believe Islam is a religion that is sex positive and promotes healthy sexual relationships. I was blessed with the experience to work with scholars in Indonesia to study the texts of Islam and how religion can be used as a tool for women’s empowerment. As part of our program, I conducted sessions with youth and women about menstrual hygiene and health, sexual and reproductive rights, healthy relationships and comprehensive sexual education from a culturally relative and sensitive perspective.
While in Singapore, I came to learn about HEART Women & Girls and jumped on the opportunity to get involved. Since I’ve been back, I’ve been working as a peer educator with HEART in Southern California and am proud to play a role in this important cultural shift with such amazing women in our Muslim American community.
To ask Sahar a question, email her at email@example.com. To hear more about Sahar’s work and why she thinks it’s important for women and girls to be informed about their sexual health, watch this short Girl Talk piece.
Hey y’all! Born and raised in Miami, I’m a Pakistani Guyanese/West Indian Muslim woman with experience as a peer sex educator and reproductive justice advocate. I never planned on being either of those things, but growing up, I saw reproductive and sexual health that made me really think about my identity and the ways these topics were silenced and shamed. As I grew older, I saw the silence and shame manifest, and I wanted to change that.
I didn’t really know what to do, so I started reading about sex on my own and what it means to have sex as a Muslim woman, a brown woman, and a brown Muslim woman. This, in turn, led me to work with some cool organizations, like Planned Parenthood, Fenway Health, SaheliBoston (a South Asian interest intimate partner violence organization), Advocates for Youth, the National Minority AIDS Council, and the Repeal Hyde Art Project.
Most of my work in sexual and reproductive health and destigmatization is in communities of color, but I’m excited to start doing this work in the Muslim community! When I’m not discussing race, class, ability, religion, and everything in between, I love to read memoirs, watch Naruto, belly dance and kick box, and travel! To ask Sadia a question, please email Sadia@heartwomenandgirls.org.
As an educator with HEART since 2011, I have facilitated safe spaces with many young middle school and high school girls on topics such as media literacy, self-esteem and sexual violence awareness. I am trained as a sexual violence advocate and was invited to contribute to Let’s Talk about Sex (Education): A Guide to Effective Programming for Muslim Youth – a culturally sensitive toolkit for educators and adult allies.
I grew up with a pretty warped perspective on sexual and reproductive health – that it was something to be explored, but with limitations rooted in respect for tradition and culture, so that it could not essentially be explored. When I did eventually start to explore it, I realized how full of contradictions my understanding was, and so I began unlearning and redefining some things. I believe that safe, inclusive spaces are integral to communal wellness, and that matters such as sexual and reproductive health need to be approached with respect for the emotional, mental and physical well-being of both the individual and the community.
With a background in Psychology and Education, I am currently a designer of learning by morning, and a raiser of awareness by night. My advocacy interests lie in sex education for youth development, body image and self-esteem, sexual violence, healthy relationships, and media literacy. My personal interests include art that makes me think or dance, genuine conversations regardless of setting, consuming tea in large quantities, and losing my sense of the present through spontaneous bouts of daydreaming. To ask Sarah a question, please email Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Growing up, I was always searching for spaces to discuss the unique spiritual and social challenges that Muslim-American women are faced with in school, work, and home settings. (This was before the internet happened). In college, I was finally able to gain access to resources and information that helped me make informed decisions about my body, health, and relationships. My life experiences have taught me to be understanding, reflective, and resilient. Moreover, I have found that having awesome, culturally-sensitive mentors makes everything a little easier to navigate – that’s why I am a peer educator. Often times, we have our own answers, but we just need to be connected to the right resources.
A little background info: writing is one of my favorite things to do and I have blogged about young women, Islam, and self-esteem for the last six years. I have a strong interest in public health, women’s empowerment, nurturing the Muslim-American identity, and “started from the bottom now we here” narratives. All of these topics are connected by the thread of increased self-awareness. The best advice I have ever read is, “It’s important to live your truth, to surround yourself with people who will listen and affirm you, and to make sure that you show up fully – as you are – in every space you enter.” To ask Vanessa a question, please email Vanessa at Vanessa@heartwomenandgirls.org.