First Year Showcase: Liliana Rosario ’21 and Jannet Musleh ’23 Advocate for Immigrant Women’s Reproductive Rights

First Year Showcase: Liliana Rosario ’21 and Jannet Musleh ’23 Advocate for Immigrant Women’s Reproductive Rights

First Year Showcase: Liliana Rosario ’21 and Jannet Musleh ’23 Advocate for Immigrant Women’s Reproductive Rights

At John Jay College, research is a key element in our mission to educate for justice and create a fairer more equitable society. “The research that our faculty and students perform has lasting, positive impacts on our society,” says President Karol V. Mason. “Empirical data reveals inconsistencies, highlights disparities, and has the power to open minds and change policies.” At the 12th Annual First Year Student Showcase, coming up on December 11, our students will present their semester-long research projects that focus on current issues and provide recommendations on how to solve them. To gear up for this year’s Showcase, we chatted with some of our student presenters, to learn more about their experience conducting collaborative research and about their hopes for the future. Our next student presenters are Liliana Rosario ’21 and Jannet Musleh ’23, a Criminology and Sociology major respectively, who together have been researching the reproductive rights of immigrant women.

Can you tell me a little bit about your project?
Liliana: Our group project is called “Immigrant Access to Reproductive Rights ‘Contraceptives.’” For this project, we researched how Planned Parenthood has made contraceptives and birth control accessible for immigrant Latinx women, even though many other companies have not. When we were first thinking about this topic, we thought that it would be pretty straightforward. But as we started to conduct the research and looked for information, we realized that there was not a lot of information about this topic available. 

Jannet: When we started this project, it began with just covering undocumented Latinx women. But as we did more research, we expanded our topic to include all Latinx immigrant women, regardless of their legal status. We focused a lot of our research around what Planned Parenthood does to help immigrant women with their reproductive rights, specifically looking at the programs they have like Title X, a federal family planning program that offers affordable reproductive health care, and the Affordable Care Act.

How did you come up with this idea?
Jannet: Our professor, Donald Brown, had us all write an individual paper on a topic that we would want to potentially take on as a group. Once we submitted this, we were put into a group where we came together and selected our topic. One of our group members actually had written her individual paper on this topic, so when we heard about it, we thought it would be perfect to research more about it especially since it touches upon a current issue in our society.

Liliana Rosario
Liliana Rosario

Why does this topic speak to you?
Liliana: As women, we can all relate to needing affordable and accessible healthcare. And that’s why we were so adamant about shining a light on those who are not able to get the proper healthcare that they need. We also wanted to highlight how this problem affects immigrant women, and show the community that this is a problem that can’t be brushed aside.

Jannet: Women, especially immigrant women, now have this fear that they will be detained or deported if they try to seek out medical attention. A lot of these women don’t know that Planned Parenthood has the resources to help them and won’t discriminate against them. They don’t require a Social Security number. They don’t require ID and you can pay in cash so it’s all anonymous. No one will ever ask them about their status, but if this information isn’t advertised, how would they know? Our goal with our project is to make the topic of reproductive rights a mainstream conversation and allow for women, regardless of their status, to feel comfortable getting the medical attention that they need.

“Our goal with our project is to make the topic of reproductive rights a mainstream conversation and allow for women, regardless of their status, to feel comfortable getting the medical attention that they need.” —Jannet Musleh

What were the most challenging aspects of conducting this research?
Liliana: One of the most challenging aspects of this project was gathering the data and evidence in the field. A couple of my group members tried to contact a few centers directly and it was difficult to get information from them and sometimes they didn’t have the information that we needed. Ultimately, we decided that the best route for getting information was going to be for us to use academic journals for our project.

What were some of the most rewarding moments?
Jannet: The most rewarding moment was putting all of our information on the poster. Like Liliana said, we reached out to various places and couldn’t find the information that we needed. This forced us to change course and find a different way to gather data. It was discouraging, because we had this plan and thought that it would be easy to get everything we needed, but we didn’t. There was even a point where we thought we weren’t going to finish, because of the lack of information we were getting. So seeing all of our work come together and be put on this poster, was a very rewarding and proud moment for us.

Jannet Musleh
Jannet Musleh

As a college focused on justice issues, how does your research illustrate the concept of justice?
Jannet: Here at the College, we have an Immigrant Student Success Center and different resources available to women. But something that is important to look at is what is happening worldwide. I recently heard a story from this girl who told me about her Dominican family, and how they don’t talk about birth control because it’s taboo. She said that because of this, often times Latinx women, who have an unwanted pregnancy, have to keep the baby because the culture doesn’t believe in having an abortion—and this happens with a lot of cultures. But we have to work on destigmatizing this topic and openly tell women about the resources and options that they have if they find themselves in these types of circumstances. To me bringing awareness to this topic is illustrating justice.

“Having this experience, and working with a group of people who I’ve had to form a relationship with, has made me feel more confident and a lot better about working in a group setting.”—Liliana Rosario

What has the First Year Student Showcase preparation process done for you as a scholar?
Liliana: This whole First Year Student Showcase has taught me how to work with people more. I never really liked working in groups because I’m shy and have never been that social. And, coming straight from high school to this course, it could be scary to immediately have to jump into a big project, with other people you really don’t know. But having this experience, and working with a group of people who I’ve had to form a relationship with, has made me feel more confident and a lot better about working in a group setting.

Jannet: This research project taught me how to better manage my time. When you start this project, you think that you have a lot of time, and you try to plan things out accordingly. But things can happen during the process that you can’t control and that forces you to not only shift the direction of you project but also change your timeline. Having this experience was important for me to learn how to better plan out my projects, and allow for mistakes or difficulties to happen. I’ve honestly been so grateful for this project and for all the new skills that I have learned.