Who else used to read the encyclopedia as a child? Wow are we glad that Ambassador Marnie Schwartz-Hanley did! All that information helped her to learn about the universe, our planet, and the biology of animals and humans, particularly sexual and reproductive health. Her friends used to come to her to ask questions they didn’t feel they could ask their parents. Now, as a mother of a 12 year old, she brings this conversation to other parents. She uses her position as an Ambassador to have this conversation in a more legitimate way. Hopefully, other parents will hear Marnie talk about Tell Them and realize they need to be talking to their children about sexual health.
“We need to know how our bodies operate. You need to know how your body works to know when it’s not working.”
So where do we start? Marnie says, “We should be talking to parents of newborns; maybe educate people about human sexuality while they are pregnant? After all, we should tell them that human sexual desire and reproduction are God-given gifts. Let new parents know that their children deserve age-appropriate, medically accurate biological information that includes sex education. Start with your friends, and then it will be easier to have that conversation with strangers.”
“We don’t necessarily even need to legislate it (though that would speed the process), but create a demand. People want and need this information, so it’s going to have to happen, because we demand it.”
Perhaps Marnie’s inspiration for her outspokenness for sexual health advocacy is her great-grandmother. She was a Russian immigrant and an Orthodox Jew. Marnie has a very poignant memory of her wearing pants for the first time in her 80s, where she told Marnie “You see, my Bubbelah, even I can be a modern woman.” Marnie found it very inspiring that she would break from tradition despite her age and upbringing.
One of Marnie’s strengths is her ability to see the interconnectedness of sexual and reproductive health issues with other major issues in our society. She understands that a lot of the domestic violence in our state comes from inadequate sexual health information. People do not have adequate refusal skills or knowledge of healthy boundaries within a relationship, both of which are addressed in comprehensive sex education. When teenagers are having children, it contributes to higher high school a dropout rate which perpetuates a cycle of poverty.
Marnie has been an advocate for a long time, and her best piece of advice for new advocates is, “Be bold and go forth and multiply… in your advocacy!”