I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

March is Women's History Month


shadow

The I Am Not Invisible (IANI) campaign began in February 2017 in Portland, Oregon. The vision was to bring awareness to the barriers and challenges that women Veterans face in obtaining health care and other services. The program, started by then-Oregon Woman Veterans Coordinator and Army Veteran Elizabeth Estabrooks, also helped recognize Women Veterans.

With support from the Center for Women Veterans this project has crossed 50 States, 75 cities, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and 27Native American/Alaska Native Nations to capture more than 3,053 women Veteran images.

This initiative means different things to different women Veterans. Often, women Veterans express that they are not a Veteran. In recognizing this, and to change cultural mindset, the Center has changed how we ask the question, “Did you serve?” To further change the culture, Center for Women Veterans is sharing the message with as many women Veterans as possible. This includes I Am Not Invisible to #BringWomenVeteransHome2VA, so that all women Veterans can receive the benefits and services they have earned.

In December 2020, photographer Gene Russell took the last IANI photograph in Oahu, Hawaii.

“It is one thing to honor Women Veterans, something completely different and inspiring to show them in the light they so richly deserve,” Russell said. “How very fortunate am I?”

EUGENIA WOODWARD UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN 1943 - 1946 ARIAL PHOTOGRAPHY - WWII VETERAN ROMAY DAVIS UNITED STATES ARMY WWII VETERAN 1943 - 1945 6888th CENTRAL POSTAL DIRECTORY BATTALION IKUMI HIRASHIMA UNITED STATES AIR FORCE VETERAN 2009 - 2014 NURSE

IANI 2.0

With the completion of the photography, it is not the end of IANI. The I Am Not Invisible Campaign 2.0 kicked off in December 2020. The overarching goal is to change the culture of gender-based harassment by strategically placing them in VA medical facilities. This will help ensure women Veterans feel welcome in their own spaces.  IANI 2.0 supports the center’s ongoing mission of recognizing the service and contributions of women Veterans and women in the military, raising awareness of the responsibility to treat women Veterans with dignity and respect, and helping to advocate for positive cultural transformation.

Photos will be in facilities VA-wide soon. Veterans can take a picture and tag @VAWomenVets on FB and Twitter. Also, the library of IANI pictures is available here.

The Veterans Canteen Service supported the effort and the center’s outreach initiatives.


Missina Schallus is the communications manager for Center for Women Veterans.

Editor’s note: this post updated March 9, 2021, to identify Native American/Alaska Native Nations.

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. Natalie J. Stewart-Smith    

    I received mail from the VA was addressed to, “Mister!” VA has not improved! A snarky VA volunteer, wearing his cowboy hat, was filled with glee to inform me that my teacher retirement pension made me ineligible for VA services! So much for even been able to speak to an employee who worked with Women Veterans! The VA had a long way to go and grow before it comes close to 1) respecting 2) acknowledging 3) working appropriately with women veterans. Until each and every woman of every military branch, of every generation, race, color and creed can walk proudly into a VA office/facility and KNOW she is respected, the VA flat out has never come close to doing its job! And all the public relations campaigns in the world cannot fix this. We women veterans deserve better – as women – as veterans.

  2. Melissa. Fix    

    VA has improved greatly since the 80’s. After my first surgery,1984 my recovery room was a cleaned out storage closet – no place for women vets on the orthopedic floor.
    Today the hospital has full women care clinics, with doctors. I get far greater care through the VA health care than on the outside.
    The best tools we have is our voice and contacting your senators. May sound like a waste of time, but that squeaky wheel will bring notice if your VA centers are not giving the care they’re suppose to provide.

  3. TP    

    When I applied for benefits I returned a call and the first thing they said was they needed to talk to the veteran you know your husband, brother, or your father. I had already told them I was returning their call about my claim. I told him that you know that they let women in the military. His reply was that I was being obnoxious. This is the first face of the VA that women see.

    They need to start looking at the interaction of women veterans with front line employees and or contractors to find their problems

  4. Elaine Isles    

    I agree with the other women veterans! The VA recognizes the male veterans but not us! At my VA they don’t even have a gynecologist on staff, they want me to get my female check ups performed by PA’s who took the training…smdh! I want a licensed gynecologist, not someone who was trained to perform paps, no I don’t think so I will go elsewhere for my female check ups! They have everything for males but nothing for us, that’s not right & so unfair, we served just like they did. The other thing that bothers me is they have PA’s doing everything now, performing biopsies, really? Where are your licensed doctors, I don’t want to see anyone unless they’re a doctor in their specialized field! VA you need to make some major changes, very poor service with all these civilians who don’t have a clue as to how to deal with Vets!!

  5. Ellen Ciak    

    When I tried to access IANI site for pictures you have highlighted here, says no longer available!!
    What gives??!!

  6. Aria Belgiume    

    ^^ EXACTLY WHAT *SW* SAID…!!!

    “Often, women Veterans express that they are not a Veteran.”
    ^^ Please cite your sources! That statement is absolute rubbish!!! Fact check time!!!

  7. Terry Hayes    

    Do you have any women vets in wheelchairs? I’m a paraplegic and Paralympic hopeful for this summer Paralympics in Tokyo. The VA bought my fencing wheelchair!

  8. SW    

    Really?? I was just checking out the information and resources on the Center for Women Veterans website. The NEWEST information available on there about research and reports regarding women veterans is from 2015/2016. Women have been intentionally EXCLUDED from studies because the va is a good old BOYS network. IANI is just a ruse to try to get women veterans to believe the va has changed but it has NOT. I allowed Mr. Russell to take my photo for this campaign but quite frankly I wish I hadn’t. I’m not feeling the love. I don’t believe the hype. I’m still just as INVISIBLE now as I was the day he took my picture. My va no longer has any support groups for women veterans but I’m sure they still do for male veterans. Lets see, yes, IF I’m lucky, I get to see my PCP ONCE a year for my annual exam. How’s that for caring?

    1. Aria Belgiume    

      Exactly!!! You nailed it!!! Well said….and well researched!!! Obv this “author” (a random contributor) couldn’t be bothered with any of that….

      [Editor: The author–an Army Veteran–is listed at the bottom of the copy.]

Comments are closed.