Inaugural coalition meeting highlights VA's commitment to women veterans

Kaylah Jackson
September 10, 2018 - 12:20 pm

Photo Credit, Tracy J. Smith, GA Military Women.

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When Service Women Action Network first opened registration for the inaugural Military Women's Coalition meeting in Atlanta, the organization did not expect over 100 women veterans to show up.

The inaugural meeting spurred from research that SWAN started in 2017. They discovered that other women veterans organizations existed in pockets throughout the nation, but were lacking a larger platform. So SWAN along with Women In Military Service For America Memorial, Protect Our Defenders, and Georgia Military Women, among other advocacy groups, decided to partner together. 

“The energy in the room was very excited, we’re hungry for this,” says Lydia Watts of Service Women Action Network (SWAN). “It’s candidly overdue for organizations to be working together and advancing our shared interests both legislatively but I think even more even more so to really share lessons with one another about how best are we serving veterans.”

The meeting, the first of its kind, brought together close to 50 women veteran organizations to tackle the concerns of the female military community. One of the repeated concerns is the evolution of the VA to better serve women, who better to talk about this evolution than VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, who offered opening remarks at the meeting.

“I will leave with you a promise, this is your Veterans Affairs Department. The doors are open, we will be making changes to make sure that the needs of our fighting women will be taken care of and the Department of VA will be walking with you into the 21st century," says Wilkie. “It is my pledge to you that the VA will become a welcoming home to all those who have worn the uniform.”

From discussions on grassroots organizing and social media tactics to small group meetings, the event motivated the groups to work together in order to uplift the voices of women veterans on a bigger platform. "What we found is that most of these groups are tiny, and we thought there might be power in uniting them,” said Dr. Ellen Haring, in an appearance on The Morning Briefing.

“Women have participated in all aspects of the military at all levels...now more than ever women play a larger and more vital role in the success of our armed forces. Women veterans are one of the faster-growing population in the population,” says Mike Roby, Georgia’s Commissioner of Veterans Service.

Following the coalition meeting, the various organizations are putting together a report on their discussions to share how the group will move to build a stronger national community of women in the U.S. Armed Forces. What is clear is that while this was the first Military Women's Coalition event, it won’t certainly be the last.

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