2019 marks the 10-year anniversary of the Oklahoma Women’s Coalition, and this important milestone has afforded us an opportunity to reflect on the growth and success we have experienced throughout the last decade – it has been a time for building coalition, gaining partners and supporters and gaining credibility while not making waves that could have halted progress before this great idea got off the ground. Not an easy task in our state.
Now, 10 years later, the world, and our understanding of it, is in a different place. Now is not the time to sidestep issues or hard conversations, now is the time to dig deep and lean in to the challenges and opportunities of our time. Our new strategic direction is a natural progression of the growth and development of a healthy organization. And more than anything, it is a direct result of the voices and current thinking of our membership and an appropriate compass for the organization to use to navigate our current times.
In order for the Women’s Coalition to continue to be a strong, sustainable, and impactful organization, as we contemplate our next decade, it is our responsibility to look toward the future and dream big, bold, courageous dreams about what we can and need to become to further advance the rights and circumstances of Oklahoma’s women and girls well into the future.
So, for the last 6 months, the Coalition’s Board of Directors has very intentionally undertaken a comprehensive strategic planning process to ensure the organization’s long-term sustainability. The Board’s goal was to implement a process that relied heavily on the voices of Coalition members and supporters to develop themes about the issues that you care most about and want us to pursue, and to draw a picture of what success can look like for us in the future. To this end, our process included surveying our supporter base and conducting listening sessions with key stakeholders representing communities who experience the most disparities in Oklahoma.
Because despite the great work that we have been fortunate to accomplish together, the status of Oklahoma’s women is still dismal. Despite our efforts, women are not equal in Oklahoma. There still are gender-based barriers for Oklahoma women in terms of our self-determination, our access to services and care, our earning power, our ability to make medical decisions, our ability to simply live free from gender-based violence.
And while many of us enjoy lives that afford us the privilege of not crashing up against these gender barriers on a daily basis – we know that for many women, particularly women of color and women with less access to money and power, these barriers are all too real, all too daily, and all to devastating. Until we can successfully remove gender-based barriers in Oklahoma, we cannot say that women are equal in this state.
So – Based on the thoughtful feedback of our network throughout the state and the culmination of a number of strategic planning sessions over several months, our Board of Directors voted to adopt three guiding principles that reflect our values and our theory of change, concepts which will undergird and direct our mission, policy priorities, and education programming moving forward: equity, agency, and representation.
These three principles represent to us the core concepts we must prioritize in order to truly advance the rights and status of women in Oklahoma in our second decade.
Equity – Fairness of treatment for women, according to their respective needs; ensuring opportunity is not limited on the basis of gender. Equity involves ensuring that everyone has access to the resources, opportunities, power and responsibility they need to reach their full, healthy potential as well as making changes so that unfair differences may be understood and addressed.
Agency – The ability to make choices for oneself and to transform those choices into desired outcomes with autonomy and empowerment. We believe that women have a fundamental right to this decision-making authority without undue influence from others, whether those decisions be about home ownership, job opportunities, reproductive wellbeing, financial or any other life decisions. We trust women.
Representation – The full and equitable participation of women in public life as an essential component of building and sustaining a strong, vibrant democracy. We want to support, encourage and empower women to use their voices to hold power, and to make change, whether in our state legislature, in board rooms or in community change efforts, in their own communities and families.
We also pledge to ensure that diverse voices are at the table to challenge us to better understand what representation truly means, truly looks like and sounds like. We want our One Voice to be truly representative of the rich culture and varied stories and traditions of all of our women. And we pledge to broaden our own understanding of how we use and define the term “woman” to represent more diverse ways that our sisters experience gender.
The Board of Directors made these strategic decisions in the context of how our work best serves and reflects our mission to improve gender equity in Oklahoma today. We are excited and ready to embrace the challenges and opportunities this shift will afford us. We will continue to do this work with a commitment to finding common ground, an eye towards evidence and innovation, and always with those we advocate for—women and girls in Oklahoma—at the center. We look forward to working alongside you in our next chapter to improve the quality of life for all women and girls in Oklahoma.