On May 24, Washington Area Women’s Foundation officially launched the Young Women’s Initiative, a city-wide effort to improve life outcomes and increase opportunities for young women, girls, transgender women, and gender non-conforming youth of color between the ages of 12-24. With over 200 community leaders, activists, government officials, philanthropists and young girls in the audience, The Women’s Foundation shared the purpose of the Initiative, including key statistics about the state of women and girls in the District of Columbia, and ended the program with a poignant and powerful panel of youth who shared their unique experiences in the District.
“We cannot talk about the needs of, and the opportunities for, young women and girls in DC, without being explicit about the fact that girls and young women, transgender women, and gender non-conforming youth of color face barriers and challenges that many of us, including me, a straight, white cisgender woman, have never faced and will never face,” said Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat, President & CEO, Washington Area Women’s Foundation.
Dr. C. Nicole Mason, Vice President, Programs, Washington Area Women’s Foundation, presented statistics from The Foundation’s new report “A Fair Chance: Improving Outcomes and Reducing Barriers to Success and Opportunity for Girls, Young Women, Transgender Young Women and Gender Non-Conforming Youth of Color in DC.” Girls and women of color in the District experience higher rates of poverty, homelessness, teen pregnancy, and more involvement in the juvenile justice system and are at a greater risk for in-school disciplinary actions and suspension.
“Being a woman of color is the most beautiful experience but growing up, we’re told to handle as much as we can,” said one young panelist. “When you see me, I was always smiling. I’m the person you want to be around but at the same time I got bullied,” mentioned a transgendered teen.
“The fact that you invited me and want to partner with government agency speaks volumes because again, we cannot do this alone,” said HyeSook Chung, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services. “The Women’s Foundation is committed to racial equity, as we are, and to building the leadership of girls and young women who will be the future.”
“Last night was a powerful and inspiring moment for the organization. It was a reminder of the wisdom and courage that our young women possess, and a reaffirmation that we have chosen the right time to launch our Young Women’s Initiative,” said Storme Gray, Program Officer, Washington Area Women’s Foundation. “I’m so appreciative of the young women on the stage and in the audience who spoke their truths with great authenticity and power. It was an amazing sight to see.”
The next event for the Young Women’s Initiative, a community town hall where parents and families of young women and girls of color come together to share their concerns and build solutions to create a city where young women and girls of color can thrive, will take place on June 21st, and will be available on The Foundation’s website in June. Additionally, The Foundation launches it’s “A Day In The Life” storytelling series on May 25th, featuring some of the youth from the panel.
Community leaders and partners can get involved in the Young Women’s Initiative, to build solutions to embolden and support the young women and girls in DC, in several ways. They can nominate a young woman to join the Young Women’s Advisory Council. Nominations are still open, and will be through June 1st. The Women’s Foundation is creating opportunities for girls to lead, and asks that you to nominate a dynamic young woman to participate in this great opportunity. Another way to get involved would be to make a donation to the Washington Area Women’s Foundation to support the Young Women’s Initiative.