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Targum spotlight: RHUT promotes reproductive health education on campus

The Reproductive Health Universal Taskforce (RHUT) is an on-campus student organization that works to increase access to reproductive, maternal and sexual health care. – Photo by Daniel Frank /

The Reproductive Health Universal Taskforce (RHUT) is an on-campus student organization that has hosted informative activities on reproductive rights for the Rutgers community since its founding in 2015.

Manisha Persaud, the president of RHUT and a graduate student in the Rutgers School of Public Health, said RHUT, formerly known as the Douglass Friends of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), regularly works with other on-campus organizations and raises awareness about current reproductive health issues.

RHUT was the first collegiate chapter of the Friends of UNFPA, now known as U.S.A. for UNFPA, a nonprofit organization that seeks to increase access to sexual and reproductive health services and education, according to Persaud.

She said the UNFPA eventually lost connection with the Rutgers chapter of the Friends of UNFPA.

Persaud said she was first introduced to the organization during the sophomore year of her undergraduate studies. She said current events at the time influenced her view on health care disparities, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the U.S. Supreme Court confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who would later contribute to the overruling of Roe v. Wade in 2022.

"I joined this club because it gave me the opportunity to learn more and discuss these issues in a safe space. It also allowed me to be part of a supportive and empowering group of women," Persaud said.

She said RHUT relies on fundraising efforts, as the UNFPA itself also depends on monetary donations. RHUT and the UNFPA share organizational objectives, but RHUT specifically aims to foster a sustainable network within the community, Persaud added.

An additional distinction between RHUT and UNFPA is RHUT's organizational goal of increasing access to abortion services, Persaud said. The UNFPA backs post-abortion care and prevention of unwanted pregnancy but ultimately yields to a state's pre-existing legislation on abortion, according to the UNFPA's "Frequently Asked Questions" page.

Persaud said RHUT has hosted speaker-based and fundraising events, with an example of the latter being the Period Inequality Project.

"From the events that we have previously hosted, we have received lots of positive feedback. Our most impactful project was the Period Inequality Project," Persaud said. "This event fundraised six months of menstrual products to LGBTQ+ homeless shelters, the nonprofit Girls Helping Girls Period and the Rutgers (Student) Food Pantry."

Regarding the future of the organization, Persaud said she envisions hosting topic-based discussion groups for issues such as sexually transmitted infections, abortion, sex education and maternal health. These groups would discuss community needs and search for relevant resources and organizations.

Additionally, Persaud said she hopes RHUT will focus on maternal health education, aided by her own ties to New Jersey Medical School and the School of Public Health. She said she aims to host speakers with experience in the medical field, both in practice and in academia.

"Given the overturning of Roe v. Wade, I think it's really important to have a safe space for women or people who are sexually active or people who identify as being women to have the opportunity to talk about (reproductive and maternal health issues) and to also see there are other people around them on campus that are passionate about this as well and to just mobilize solidarity," Persaud said.

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