Viewing Policy Through Multiple Lenses

Evaluation Lab News

Posted: Oct 26, 2020 - 12:00am

Dr. Corrine Sanchez grew up in and around the non-profit, Tewa Women United (TWU). She watched its beginnings as her mother and other Tewa women formed a volunteer group, and as it became a non-profit in 2001, and now she is the Executive Director and TWU has a staff of 18.

TWU has had many programs through the years that develop out of the needs of the community. Dr. Sanchez explained that the organization is what it is today because of the members’ lived experiences in the community, and their primary focus remains on programs for indigenous women and youth. These programs consist of: Indigenous Women’s Health and Reproductive Justice; Women’s Leadership and Economic Freedom; and Environmental Health and Justice. All their programs stem from an multi-generational approach to address current community needs, and the desire to create healing and transformative change in the community; to have paths of prevention not just reaction, and work with women and with young people to help them be knowledgeable and empowered.

One way that TWU takes this on is by cultivating meaningful coalition work with other organizations, and networking across races and gender to do policy work that impacts laws and legislation on a larger level. Building these relationships is vital to TWU. Dr. Sanchez told the class that it is very important to know where your partners stand, especially when going into legislative sessions; you need to know their values and priorities and what they are willing to concede. As a voice for their community, TWU is very thoughtful about establishing partnerships.

It also is important to examine potential partnerships through multiple lenses. This is true for the TWU’s research methodology and policy work, as well. Some of the lenses through which the organization views partnerships, research, and policy are gender and native women; mother earth; and a multi-generational lens that helps build and sustain healthy relationships. Dr. Sanchez told the class that as indigenous women, TWU needs to look at policy and its impact on multiple levels, for their organization but also for their community and sovereignty. It is difficult to understand how the state, federal, and tribal systems work and so education and partnerships are very important to comprehend the systems and processes, and TWU really needs to trust the people they are working with.

Dr. Sanchez advised the MPP students to try and look at their own policy work through multiple lenses and to always revert back to their own values. She explained that, “TWU has a list of values, and our values are our air.” As the TWU Director, Dr. Sanchez makes decisions based on the organization’s values, and often revisits them to make sure that they underpin the work they do. She instructed the students that everyone needs to understand their own values, and to ask themselves, what are your non-negotiable values? Are you going to give or stand your ground on your values?