Sexual Rights and Reproductive Justice in Uruguay

Michelle Bernardino '15

Image courtesy of Michelle Bernardino '15

Michelle Bernardino '15

Summer Research Intern, Mujer y Salud en Uruguay (MYSU)

Academic Focus: English Language and Literature, Spanish minor

Senior Symposium Presentation

As a transfer student, the courses I wanted to take were rather limited due to time constraints; however, I knew that I wanted to take courses in Spanish, Latina/o, Latin American Studies Department. The courses that I did take within the department exposed me to women and gender studies more than I could have imagined. I knew that this was a field of study I would want to explore further. While improving my Spanish, I learned about gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health, media portrayals of women and many more topics.

I was unable to travel abroad due to the four-semester housing requirement, and instead, I was encouraged by Professor Romero-Diaz to apply to the Lynk UAF to complete an internship during the summer. She also helped me obtain my summer internship with an internationally-recognized NGO Mujer Y Salud en Uruguay. This opportunity was truly transformative because it reaffirmed my future career path—to work within the field of sexual and reproductive health.

While in Uruguay, I spoke Spanish at all times. We conducted the meetings in Spanish, transcribed notes in Spanish and typed the draft of the platform of demands from other NGOs in Spanish. I conducted research about the most recent policies, gender identity laws, abortion laws, sexual workers, HIV/AIDS communities, and various historically marginalized communities. Without having the ability to speak the language, I do not think I would have been able to perform my duties effectively or create the long-life friendships I did with my co-workers.

The ability to improve my Spanish enabled me to also connect culturally with the people of Uruguay. Furthermore, this experience has geared me toward doing more sexual and reproductive work within the Latina/o community, where a large majority are native Spanish speakers. This is a path I want to pursue professionally and I would encourage anyone to learn Spanish, as it is a language that opens doors to many other countries.