For the first four years of its existence, members of Women's Voices worked through Focus Groups. These were small groups of women who were drawn together by their passionate concerns about particular issues. Focus groups were convened to concentrate on a variety of issues, including health care, the environment, diversity, media, and church/state concerns.
In 2010, after a period of strategic planning for the organization, members decided to eliminate focus groups and concentrate on two or three specific advocacy efforts each year that the entire membership can work on. For 2011, these advocacy projects include educational programs on the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and an effort to get Missouri legislators to enact the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement. These advocacy projects are designed to have a concrete impact on these issues and produce a demonstrable result.
Two of our first focus groups, involving women who worked on health care and the environment, were particularly successful. Below is some information about the activities those groups undertook.
Women in our organization whose primary interest is health care have worked to bring about reform on the state and national levels.
We have taken leadership roles in the Missouri Health Care For All Coalition (MHCFA), a movement committed to securing access to quality, affordable health care for all Missourians. Members of our group serve on the Executive and Outreach Committees of MHCFA. Women's Voices as an organization has endorsed the principles of MHCFA. Our members have helped secure individual endorsements by attending functions where signatures could be collected.
We have organized town hall meetings, have attended rallies, made phone calls, gone to Jefferson City to lobby legislators, and have written letters to local, state and national representatives as well as to our local newspapers urging the passage of legislation that would bring justice to our health care system. We have brought speakers to our monthly meetings to inform the Women's Voices membership about health care disparities locally and to inform us about state and national initiatives to bring about reform.
Our work was spurred on by our activist member Melanie Shouse who died in January, 2010, after a four year battle with stage 4 breast cancer. Her story drew national and international attention and resulted in a meeting in Washington D.C. with some of our United States Senators.
"Unlike other advanced countries, we treat access to health care as a privilege rather than a right. This attitude turns out to be inefficient as well as cruel." ... Paul Krugman
Environment Focus Group
As Members of Womenís Voices Raised for Social Justice:
We support organizational and legislative initiatives that seek to guard and preserve the earth for our own and future generations. Our health and our childrenís health, the wonders of biodiversity, and the beauty of our world demand concern, effort and corrective steps from each of us.
We support efforts to save wilderness areas, ecosystems, wetlands, rivers, lakes, oceans, forests and parks for their inherent diversity and spiritual value as well as their practical purpose of sustaining life upon this earth.
We support a concerted struggle to slow Global warming with all its accompanying effects. The catastrophic result of inaction mandates that individually and collectively we recognize and, in many cases, modify what and how much we consume, how we travel, and how we heat, cool and maintain our homes. We must be informed about conservation and energy issues, locally and nationally, and let our voices be heard.
We continue to work with the Sierra Club's Cool Cities campaign urging mayors in our area to join the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Initiative. Join us in asking your mayor to sign up or to congratulate and encourage those who have already signed on.
The use of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) is an important energy conservation measure. We have compiled much of the info you need to purchase the right CFLs to meet your needs. In addition, we recommend the Environmental Defense Find a Bulb page which allows you to choose criteria, and they recommend bulbs that match.
Ameren UE, the electric utility that serves the St. Louis area, gave Women's Voices 600 compact fluorescent light bulbs that were distributed in the low-income Hyde Park neighborhood through a program with North St. Louis Youth Build. This project, developed by Alice Serrano, trained members of YouthBuild to distribute and install the bulbs. Two hundred homes in the neighborhood benefitted from the energy-efficient, long-lasting bulbs, which are helping both the environment and the home-dwellers.
We are working, individually and with area retailers, to encourage the use of reusable bags rather than the common single-use plastic bags which are so detrimental to the environment. Buy reusable bags at Environment Focus Group meetings and take them with you when you shop.
Reducing the wasteful and environmentally damaging consumption of bottled water and promoting the use of reusable water bottles made of safe plastics is high on our agenda. See the facts and learn which plastics are safe.
"Environmental protection is pretty much an afterthought in the United States. When it conflicts with growth, growth wins." ... Michael D. Yates