Through our Young Women’s Initiative, we make investments in the District of Columbia to dismantle racist and sexist systems that harm young women and gender-expansive youth of color.
We know the most innovative solutions come from youth themselves, as they experience intersecting issues and systems, and are the experts on what they need to succeed. Our strategy is to put young people at the helm of advancing solutions to the problems they encounter in their lives and communities. We do it by providing flexible and reliable funding to organizations that strengthen and amplify youth’s leadership and advocacy skills, and that support youth to advocate for policies and practices that center their needs and solutions. We also engage young women and gender-expansive youth of color as agents of change in their communities through participatory grantmaking with our Rock Star Fund. This fund goes beyond traditional grantmaking, on one hand young people have the opportunity to review applications and decide which projects to invest in, on the other, young people receive resources to make their ideas a reality.
For our latest round of YWI investments, we are excited to support Black Swan Academy and Rights4Girls for a second consecutive year to serve as co-conveners of the DC Girls’ Coalition and co-coordinators of the coalition’s Youth Advisory Board—a group of young people who steers the direction of the coalition and selects awardees on behalf of The Women’s Foundation for the Rock Star Fund.
The coalition strives to reduce the criminalization and adultification of young women and gender expansive youth of color by uplifting them as leaders, making space for them to shape the policy agenda, and ensuring they have the skills and resources to do it. The coalition also brings together a network of organizations dedicated to adopting and implementing policy recommendations young women and gender-expansive youth of color identify themselves and that centers their needs and leadership.
During the past year, we witnessed first-hand the incredible work Black Swan Academy and Rights4Girls undertook to build the coalition’s membership and membership structure, develop an action plan, and communicate with Girls’ Coalitions and Young Women’s Advisory Councils across the country to share best practices and highlight common trends. They also supported youth addressing issues related to Covid-19, convened two youth-led candidate forums, participated in DC Mutual Aid efforts, and advocated for their 2020 advocacy agenda.
We are very proud to put decision making in the hands of young people in our community, to be supporting grassroots efforts that elevate the leadership of young women and gender-expansive youth of color, and to let them lead with what they think is best for their community. As with most of our current grantmaking, funding for the coalition is general operating support with minimal reporting criteria. While we are funding a project, we are operating through a trust-based approach that is transparent, streamlined, and flexible, and we can’t wait to see the great things Black Swan Academy and Rights4Girls will accomplish this year.
Since 2017, the Young Women’s Initiative has:
- Provided awards to 15 young women and gender expansive youth of color to invest in their own learning, leadership, and community projects.
- Strengthened and amplified the leadership and advocacy skills of over 50 young women and gender expansive youth of color in the District of Columbia, and provided opportunities for them to leverage their leadership to create change.
- Provided seed funding to launch the DC Girls Coalition, the only coalition in the District of Columbia that centers the leadership and addresses the needs of young women and gender expansive youth of color.
- Uplifted the voices and priorities for action of young women and gender-expansive youth of color in the District of Columbia through a Blueprint for Action.