For the young, thirty years is more than a lifetime. For those who have shaped, joined and grown with the Minnesota Women’s Consortium for thirty years the past is prologue, a good start on the steady path to awareness of women’s issues, sound public policy and, ultimately, full equality for women and girls.
Forged by an intrepid band of committed “women’s libbers” of the early 80’s the Consortium originally brought together a small cadre of women’s groups who shared a vision and “common fate”. Today the Consortium is the hub of a wheel that connects, listens to and speaks for over 160 organizations and their members.
After thirty years the Consortium is broader and stronger than ever, with a track record that reflects the changing times and that rivals the impact of any of the legion of high profile and well-heeled advocacy groups that flood the Capitol when it’s convenient then tend to vanish when the spotlight and the media attention fade. Though generations of leadership in the array of member organizations cycle and recycle, the Consortium stays on a course marked by constant vigilance, coupled with a steady focus on that “common fate.”
Clearly, students of political science, better government, women’s studies, or Minnesota history must be plumbing the depths of MWC’s influence. For the moment, a snapshot of MWC today offers a glimpse of the Consortium’s steadfast presence and indefatigable strength.
Though self-promotion is about the last thing on her to-do list, Bonnie Peace Watkins, Executive Director of the Consortium, agreed to take a deep breath and talk a bit about MWC at thirty. Because the list of concerns and possibilities is overwhelming, we focused on just one of MN2020’s priorities, health care.
Watkins cites “woman-centered health care” as one of the “five dreams of women.” With sardonic humor she dismisses some prevailing stereotypes then describes what the Consortium has been doing, including convening an episodic series of conversations with member groups concerned about health care issues.
Looking back on health care and wellness discussions Watkins lists a host of topics explored in collaboration by those MWC member organizations: “choice, of course, but also DES (cervical cancer), breast cancer, the Heart Association Go Red campaign for women’s heart health, the home economists’ assertion that we have to address childhood obesity, better nutrition education and more physical fitness minutes in K-12 schools, disparities special concern to women of color and recent immigrants.” Clearly, the discussions are broad range and anticipatory of issues that have subsequently become mainstream on the public agenda.
Watkins reflects that “we have educated ourselves together and assertively interacted with experts such as former Senator Berglin, Senator Marty, and Nancy Feldman, CEO of UCare among others.” She smiles when she recalls that Senator Franken “convened a special meeting of women’s groups on this issue in our basement in the midst of the crazy town hall meetings elsewhere when Congress was debating ACA…That was a very deep and impressive conversation – we were so glad he recognized the wealth of expertise.”
Woman-centered health care is one of many priorities with which the Consortium and its diverse members grapple every day in myriad ways. Though the persistent work of the Consortium is day-by-day a website, unique, a countless public programs offer the latest on issues and an astounding calendar of relevant events, all access to individuals and organizations who want to learn and to share. MWC sets a pace that proves beyond a doubt that you really can trust an organization over thirty!