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4 Reasons Why I Am Attending the #NEDA2015 Conference

By Kira Rakova--Prior to interning at NEDA, I had been informally researching and reading about eating disorders for years. I spent time reading research studies, reading books, newspaper articles, and watching shows and films that addressed the topic of eating disorders.  In my own way, I have always been an advocate for eating disorder justice. 

Once I was given the opportunity to intern with NEDA, I was able to further expand both my analysis and language related to the field of eating disorders.  I am grateful for the people I have met, worked with, and learned from throughout my internship. This experience has undeniably propelled me forward and inspired me to continue engaging with mental health and eating disorder advocacy.

However, I believe in the need to continuously grow when it comes to advocacy and community organizing. Thus, from October 1st - 3rd, I will be attending the 2015 National Eating Disorders Conference in San Diego, California. While attending the conference has been circumstantial and informed by my various privileges, such as having access to funding, this decision was largely due to my need to improve my activism.

For me, the four key reasons why I made my choice to attend the conference were as follows:

1.Learning About the Newest Research

Being an undergraduate student, my research resources are limited. There are many research journals that I cannot afford and that my school does not provide me access to. Some of these are up to 400 dollars for a subscription. More specifically, the newer research is the research that is inaccessible to me. In other words, most of what I read is debatably outdated or has since been critiqued.

Attending the NEDA Conference will provide me with the opportunity to learn about the most recent research in the field. More importantly, I will have the opportunity to interact with these very researchers and ask them questions face-to-face.  This means that I will not only be able to learn information that I might never had access to, but also have it be clarified immediately.

2.Gaining the Tools and Language to Work Toward Intersectional and Inclusive Activism

As someone who believes intersectionality is a critical framework for successful advocacy work, I am consistently looking for ways to expand my analysis, particularly in relation to mental health.  NEDA has always impressed me in their commitment to be as intersectional and inclusive as possible.

This remains true in terms of the NEDA Conference. The conference has amazing panels that addresses the intersections of gender, race, ethnicity, and eating disorders.  For me, having the opportunity to hear from individuals such as Dagan VanDemark (the founder of T-FFED: Trans Folx Fighting Eating Disorders) and Gloria Lucas (creator of Nalgona Positivity Pride) is life changing.  Many other speakers at the conference have done (and continue to do) equally amazing work. For me, hearing them speak will be an opportunity to not only learn but also grow and be empowered to continue doing my own activist work.

3.Being Able to Speak In Person To a Variety of Those Affected

While many of us have our reasons for becoming engaged in eating disorder justice work, being able to hear a large variety of narratives is irreplaceable. Not only does hearing different narratives break stereotypes, but it also enriches our understanding of each other (and even ourselves). For some of us, it can also be validating and healing to hear certain narratives that reflect our own. For others, certain narratives can help us reflect on our work and see gaps in our outreach, resources, and events.

4.Connecting with Other Activists

This is perhaps the most exciting reason of all for me. As I mentioned, activism is about growth to me. A big part of this growth is of course the expansion of language, analysis, and known information.  Another big part is building connections, coalitions, and networks.

I believe in community based organizing and advocacy, and I believe in the power of solidarity. Gaining networks of like-minded individuals means having the opportunity to support one another. Such networks are a possibility for not only sharing resources but also symbolically supporting one another.

While I hope everyone interested in attending for the conference registers, I also want to recognize the fact that not everyone has the privileges, opportunities and means to do so. For those who are compelled to attend but may not be financially able to do so, I recommend looking into the possibility of becoming a conference volunteer, which would provide you with a significantly lower-registration fee. For more information about volunteering at the conference, please email ggavito@myneda.org (no later than August 30, 2015). *Conference registration closes on September 7, 2015!

About this blogger: Kira is a senior studying at Macaulay Honors College at the City College of New York, majoring in International Studies and Media Communication Art, with a minor in Anthropology. Her research interests include: gender justice, mental health justice, and community organizing. Apart from school work, Kira is also a part of various community based advocacy organizations at City College of New York, including the Gender Resource Center Campaign and the Student Mental Health Initiative. In the future, Kira hopes to pursue a graduate degree in Anthropology. In particular, she hopes to explore how development organizations include and exclude mental health, in a culturally sensitive and intersectional manner.

Also by Kira:

Everyday Heroes Ensuring Anyone Can Be a Superhero

3 Ways to Expand Your Body-Acceptance Advocacy

Trauma, Social Justice, and Eating Disorders

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