Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN)

Violence Against Women, War and Peace
Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN)

Founded: 2007

Address:

PO Box 1758
New York, NY 10156

Background

Women make up 15 percent of today’s U.S. military. More than 356,000 women currently serve in the Armed Forces (Active Duty, National Guard and Reserves), and more than 255,000 women have been deployed thus far to Iraq or Afghanistan. Additionally, tens of thousands are deployed or stationed elsewhere around the globe.  Although 2.5 million women have served in the military, enormous barriers to equal treatment, equal opportunity and improved quality of life still persist. Few organizations exist to provide gender-specific support and services to address the challenges women face in the military.

SWAN was established in 2007 to provide women veterans with the resources and community support to heal their wounds and readjust to civilian society. SWAN has since become a groundbreaking 501(c)3 human rights organization providing national policy advocacy and direct services to servicewomen and women veterans.

Vision

SWAN’s vision is to transform military culture by securing equal opportunity and the freedom to serve in uniform without threat of harassment, discrimination, intimidation or assault. SWAN also seeks to reform veterans’ services on a national scale to guarantee equal access to quality health care, benefits and resources for women veterans and their families.

SWAN affects change for servicewomen and women veterans by educating and informing policy makers, the media and the public, engaging military leadership and veterans providers, developing healing and empowering community programs, offering personal support and guidance from fellow women veterans and providing pro bono legal referrals from military law experts.

Values

SWAN is a human rights organization. We tackle issues and challenge institutions that deny equal opportunities, equal protections, and equal benefits to servicemembers and veterans.  Similarly, the inclusive approach we take is pivotal to healing the various forms of discrimination and violence faced by women in the military, including sexism, racism, and homophobia.  Women veterans design, supervise and lead SWAN’s programs, in order to foster a sense of belonging, ownership, and community and to build personal skills that increase leadership experience, self-sufficiency, healing and well-being.  The content of SWAN’s work is directly informed by the experiences of the women whom we serve.  SWAN gives voice, agency and opportunity to women veterans, regardless of the context, era, or type of their service.

Work

  • Advocacy:  SWAN advocates for all military women, in order to increase their visibility and access to equal protection, opportunities and benefits. Our public education campaign presents the human rights obstacles and realities that military women experience to both national and local audiences, and across a variety of media outlets.
  • Policy:  While Congress has made some strides in their attention to and effort towards including the needs of military women and veterans in policymaking, gender-specific concerns are more often than not invisible and ignored in the policymaking process. SWAN works to educate policymakers at the local, state, and federal level about the needs of military women and ensure that legislation that would adequately address their needs is supported.
  • Litigation:  SWAN partners with other organizations and law firms to pursue changes in policies and institutions through the courts.
  • Community:  SWAN community programs empower women veterans by helping them heal from military-related trauma. SWAN provides a variety of outlets for women veterans to experience creative and personal growth by learning new activities and acquiring new skills. SWAN provides committed veterans with additional training, thereby fostering the leadership of women veterans in communities nationwide. Programs are designed and, when possible, led by women veterans.
  • Peer Support:  SWAN offers two peer support helplines for servicewomen, women veterans, and their families, as well as any servicemember or veteran who has experienced Military Sexual Trauma. The helpline is staffed by a woman veteran caseworker who will listen to you and, if necessary, will work in consultation with an experienced group of veterans, health providers, and attorneys to determine how we can best assist and help you.