Raising Women's Voices

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Founded: 2008

Mission: Raising Women’s Voices is a national initiative working to make sure women’s voices are heard in the health reform debate and women’s concerns are addressed by policymakers developing national and state health reform plans. RWV wants coverage that is lifelong, portable from job to job and from workplace to home, non-discriminatory, user-friendly and affordable for our families. They want it to cover women’s health care across the lifespan, including comprehensive reproductive health care, pre-natal care, maternity care, primary and preventive services, acute care, dental and mental health care, as well as chronic care.

Washington, DC; New York, NY; Provincetown, MA


Cindy Pearson, Byllye Avery, Lois Uttley
Three reproductive justice advocates came together in late 2007 to envision and launch Raising Women’s Voices (RWV): Byllye Avery, who founded the National Black Women’s Health Project and the Avery Institute for Social Change; Cindy Pearson, Executive Director of the National Women’s Health Network (NWHN); and Lois Uttley, Director of the MergerWatch Project. They have extensive experience advocating for improved women’s health, including reproductive health care, at the local, state and national levels.

The RWV national coordinating team also includes Amy Allina, Director of Programs at the NWHN, and Eesha Pandit, Advocacy Director for MergerWatch. RWV’s work is guided by a diverse national advisory board. Its grassroots mobilization efforts are carried out by 22 regional coordinators around the country.

Innovative Approach


The U.S. health care system often fails to meet women’s health care needs. It has created tremendous challenges for the women who coordinate health care for our families, who are the majority of health care workers in this country, and who themselves often live with chronic health conditions and disabilities. It is equally important to note that successful health care reform must have the support of women. Research shows that both men and women see women as key health decision-makers for families.

Innovation / New Solution

They believe women are grassroots experts in what is wrong with the current health system and what it would take to fix it because of their roles as arrangers of health care for their families. So, RWV places a priority on inviting women to tell their personal stories about experiences with health care employing those narratives to shape health reform policy. RWV has a special mission of engaging women who are not often invited into health policy discussions: women of color, low-income women, immigrant women, young women, women with disabilities and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.


RWV has promoted various actions and galvanized other women to do join them. Past actions include a health care reform rally in Time Square and mobilizing against Representative Stupak to prevent a vote on his proposed ban on abortion coverage in health reform. They have also published numerous publications providing information and proposed actions for health reform.


Expert Comments

  • RWV is looking at the effect of Nationalized Healthcare on women and their families. While appreciating the positives, the group is determined to put abortion access and the rights of immigrants back on the table.

  • Raising Women's Voices is a collaborative effort of state level organizations. There has been a tremendous void of national-state interaction for policy advocates and RWV helps fill that void.

  • They educate women about health care reform and access to abortion care.

  • This is a start-up organization (2-3 years old) that is a partnership between Merger Watch, National Women's Health Network and the Avery Institute for Social Change. They do fabulous outreach to non-profits and engage them in collaborative activities. Their focus has been on health care reform to ensure that women get access to high quality health care that meets their needs. They solicited feedback from hundreds of women in the community through town hall meetings and other events. They also have a fabulous blog that calls women to action and keeps them on top of breaking news and issues around health care reform, and it is now related to the implementation of the health care reform bill. They are an organization to watch and have done significant outreach to engage women of color in the health reform discourse. They are excellent communicators.

From the Nonprofit

Dec 13, 2010
RWV’s regional coordinators include a number of independent women’s health groups and coalitions. Examples include Black Women for Reproductive Justice in Chicago, the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health, West Virginia Free, the Access Project in Oakland, Montana Women Vote, the Institute for Women and Ethnic Studies in Louisiana, the Maryland Women’s Coalition for Health Reform, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, the Sistersong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, based in Georgia and the Black Women's Health Imperative, based in Washington, D.C.

Key Endorsements

  • National Partnership for Women and Families
  • Kaiser Family Foundation
  • National Women's Law Center
  • Their advisory board includes Sylvia Henriquez from National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Eleanor Hinton Hoytt from Black Women’s Health Imperative, and Judy Norsigian from Our Bodies, Ourselves.

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