A Journey of 2200 Miles and Your Bold Investment

Washington Area Women’s Foundation invests in bold, women-led community-based solutions that promote the security, safety, and opportunity for women who are often overlooked — women like Jane*, a 19 year old mother who fled Mexico to Maryland.  

The Women’s Foundation is singularly positioned with a deep understanding of the barriers women and girls of color face in the DMV-region and the opportunities to lift them up by fighting for justice and strengthening cross-cultural alliances. 

But we can’t do this without you. Your support fuels the power of these movements.

Will you join us in creating an equitable and just future for women and girls by investing in the Washington Area Women’s Foundation today?

In 2020 alone, Washington Area Women’s Foundation programs and grants benefited more than 90,000 women, girls, and children throughout the region. 

We connect and convene gender and racial justice experts for issues facing the DMV-area and trust these community partners to know best — like Tahirih, an organization that serves immigrant survivors fleeing gender-based violence. If not for The Women’s Foundation’s funding, organizations like Tahirih and women like Jane* would have been left out of local emergency response funding:

Jane* arrived as a 19-year-old mother from Mexico. At age 13, her mother forced her into a domestic partnership where she experienced domestic violence. She fled to the US with her child, but not before the traffickers who smuggled her into the U.S. imprisoned her and her son, forcing them both to perform domestic work and prostituted her against her will. 

She found an opportunity to escape with her son to Maryland where Tahirih accepted her case. The team pursued visas and defensive asylum so that Jane could find some relief. Through her Tahirih social worker, Jane pursued therapy, ESL classes, and TVAP benefits (provided to human trafficking survivors) to help stabilize her basic needs. 

During the trial, she spoke about what she had suffered and her hopes for safety. After a grueling trial, the judge granted asylum. However, Jane again became a victim of domestic violence in the US. But this time, as soon as the violence erupted, she was determined to break the cycle and hold him accountable. With the assistance of her Tahirih social worker, Jane reported the crime and filed for a protection order, which she later won.

For Jane, coming to Maryland did not prevent her from further victimization. The difference was that in the U.S., through Washington Area Women’s Foundation’s grantee partner, Tahirih Justice Center, Jane gained the tools to leverage the legal system to protect herself. 

Will you amplify more voices of women and girls of color in the DC Metro area like Jane so they can be heard?

Our work advancing gender, racial, and economic justice is far from over — as 16.6% of women in the District of Columbia live in poverty, compared to the national figure of 12%. We know strengthening the communities closest to the challenges these women face is the best way to solve them. 

Thank you for continuing to join us in making a life changing difference for the women and girls we serve so they are not forgotten.

With gratitude,

Interim President and CEO
Washington Area Women’s Foundation
Board Chair
Chief Communications Officer and Vice President-Corporate Affairs at Graham Holdings Company

P.S.: https://thewomensfoundation.org/year-end21/

If you would like to make a gift of stock, please reach out to Sarena Barnes at 202.618.3221 and she will be happy to help coordinate this!

#AskHer/ #AskThem Save The Date

#AskHer / #AskThem is an interview series featuring women and gender non-conforming leaders, and The Women’s Foundation’s partners, community members and supporters who work tirelessly for women and girls. We curate in-depth conversations around complex issues affecting our constituents. Issues ranging from racism, racial justice, women, girls, intersectionality and more will be covered.

While #AskHer is going on hiatus during the month of August, you can look forward to the following webinars in September and beyond. Look out for RSVP links soon!

#AskHer Series: Jacquelyn L. Lendsey, DC Fiscal Policy Institute

Our #AskHer series is an interview with our partners, community members and supporters who work tirelessly for women and girls. This interview is with Jacquelyn L. Lendsey, Interim Executive Director, DC Fiscal Policy Institute. The interview was conducted at the end of 2020 by our President and CEO Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat. 

Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat: Can you tell me a little about yourself/your organization?

Jacquelyn  L. Lendsey: I’ve been a nonprofit executive for more than 25 years. I started my career in education as a classroom teacher, and then went into communications and marketing, and then nonprofit leadership.

I’m a native Washingtonian. I’ve spent my whole life here and went to grad school at Howard University. I’ve worked at both local and national nonprofits, including Women in Community Service, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and DC Children and Youth Investment Trust and that experience has given me an opportunity to be involved in education, policy, health care, and community development. I have served on several nonprofit boards including Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, DC Action for Children, DC Scholars Public Charter School, and the Consumer Health Foundation.

I started working as an Interim Executive Director (IED) for nonprofits in 2012. I’m really proud of the work that I’ve done and blessed that I’m able to do the work for nonprofit organizations in the community where I have lived and work all my life.

I am currently the Interim Executive Director at the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, (DCFPI). The DCFPI promotes opportunity and widespread prosperity for all residents of the District of Columbia through thoughtful policy solutions.

JLS: You recently became the interim ED. Tell us about your transition of leading an organization and making shifts during a pandemic?

JLL: From an interim perspective, I think one of the things that the pandemic has changed in terms of how we do this work is that you’re used to working right next to, and seeing individuals, within the organization on a daily basis. It makes it much easier for an interim to come in on a short-term basis, learn the landscape, get a real quick sense of the staff and at the same time move the organization forward. You get to know each member of the staff professionally and personally. Those little things you get from working together and being in person, are priceless. I had the opportunity to work in person at the DCFPI office for one week, and then we made the decision to go remote.  The pandemic turned our way of working upside down.

I do think that the pandemic requires so much more of an interim because you are now doing all of your work virtually – the tools (Zoom, etc.) make it possible to do so – but even with the tools, the cues that you get from individuals when you are working in person are different from the cues you get through a screen or camera. As an interim you have to be intentional about taking the time to get to know the individuals you are working with.

I like to do individual check-ins periodically. We set a time so I can find out – what is going on with each staff member, what is working, and how can we improve. It is a challenge, but I think one of the things people who do interim work understand is that you are going to have challenges one way or the other. It just so happens that the pandemic has forced us to a virtual world. It is just another challenge that adds another skill to the interim skill bank.

COVID has not stopped the critical work that DCFPI does. We are still doing policy, advocacy, and research. We are still focused on education, budget, revenue, tax, homelessness, housing, etc. We are still looking at those issues and how they impact low-income and moderate-income people, and working with policymakers, coalition partners, funders, and the community.

JLS: How have you/your organization had to shift right now?

Our staff are primarily policy analysts and are working in coalition and with policymakers. The hours are the same, but everything is being done remotely and the number of opportunities to engage with people have increased.

DC government had to truncate its entire budget process, so now instead of a budget process taking place over a period of several months, it took place over a period of two to three months… in a very compressed period of time.

We’ve had to shift the way in which we do work. We couldn’t just run down to the Wilson Building.

We have had to be more deliberate about meetings and conversations with policymakers, coalitions partners and the community. We’ve worked very closely with our coalition partners on a Just Recovery revenue campaign, doing polling, to find out what the community thinks about the budget, the need for revenue generation, making the case that those in our community who could afford to more do so.

We’ve looked at the impact of COVID on Black and Brown residents andon Black businesses.

With our coalition partners, we made a deep dive into the impact of COVID on childcare in our community including the need to stabilize the sector, especially independent child care providers, those home providers who live on that income, and who were horribly impacted by COVID.

JLS: What are your thoughts on budget advocacy right now and the needs in our community?

JLL: DCFPI has been very deliberate in looking at revenue. While all of our revenue ideas may not have come to fruition, the need to continue to look at revenue as an integral part of the budget process must continue.  DCFPI did polling and found that there is support is this community for revenue increases. In other words, there is support for the idea that those who can afford to pay more should pay more to ensure success for all.

How do we marry budget and revenue? And how do we get our community interested in looking at new ways of increasing or raising revenue to deal with some of the issues that have come about because of COVID are doing this in coalition with a number of organizations, through the #JustRecovery Campaign; looking at how those who can looking at ways to provide more revenue to address budget shortfalls and provide targeted recovery support to those individuals and local businesses who have been hardest hit.

DCFPI, with its coalition partners is and will continue to be there with thoughtful policy solutions and pushing the envelope on how we ensure that all of our community has affordable housing, that we deal with homelessness and that we provide that a safety net and public safety for our community.

JLS: Back in 2016, you came and spoke to The Women’s Foundation’s board about racial equity and provided some guidance to us about how to apply a racial equity lens to our work and encouraged us to step out and speak up. Your advice helped pushed us, and we have pivoted and fundamentally changed our work. I’m wondering, from your perspective four years later, what’s changed and what hasn’t changed in terms of racial injustice?

What doesn’t look different is that we are talking about the same issues. It’s just that COVID pushed it to a higher level, but we’re talking about the same issues in terms of equity, race, poverty, homelessness, housing, education, health care. And we’re still talking about the same issues about how those resources are divvied out.

On the other hand, four or five years later, we see more and more organizations and institutions talking about being intentional and deliberate about racial equity. Intentional and deliberate about looking at racial disparities. Intentional about infusing racial equity and social justice within their organizations. Four or five years ago that would have been unheard of.

I was fortunate to serve on the board of the Consumer Health Foundation, a leader in using a racial equity lens to govern its grantmaking work in the Washington region. More and more funders and organizations are infusing racial equity and social justice to advance the health and well-being of everyone in our community.

In other words, some communities are barely surviving, and others are thriving. How do we end that disparity? One way for us to end that disparity is for us to look at it, to be deliberate, to talk about it and to be intentional.

JLS: How does this play out as an Interim ED?

JLL: First of all, the job of an interim is to be very clear that you’re not taking the job, so it frees you. Second, you’re leading through transition, assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the organization, how the mission is actually being delivered, and whether or not there are issues or ways in which it could be done more effectively. You share with the board honestly. You provide the board a bird’s eye view of their organization before they bring in a new leader, allowing them to  make critical decisions on moving forward and setting the stage for the success of the new Executive Director.

JLS: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

JLL: From an interim perspective, I love doing interim work. It is never the same from one institution, one organization, to the next. It is the challenge of being able to step in and transition quickly with a clear understanding to move the organization forward knowing when I am gone I have left the organization ready for new leadership.

Learn more about DC Fiscal Policy Institute here!

Child Care Recovery Letter to the Administration

We joined 200 organizations across the country to sign and send a letter to the administration on building a comprehensive and equitable child care and early learning system. This letter outlines our deep appreciation for the Administration’s leadership on the American Rescue Plan and offers our continued partnership and support. We offer recommendations for ensuring that equitable economic recovery efforts that prioritize child care and early learning take place moving forward. Without a child care system that works for every family, our economy will suffer in the short and long term. We look forward to working with the administration to prioritize child care and early learning as a key facet of our national economic infrastructure.

Testimony to the Committee of the Whole, Education Oversight Hearing

Hello Chair Mendelson and DC Councilmembers. My name is Martine Gordon. I am a resident of Ward 3, a working mom, and Vice President of Programs at Washington Area Women’s Foundation.

The Women’s Foundation is a community-supported foundation that invests in the power of women and girls of color in the region.

I want to talk today about educational infrastructure. DC has demonstrated a commitment to building up its overall education infrastructure. And while we know there is more work to be done, our public education system has a foundation on which to continue to build. In our current reality of pandemic and economic crisis, the question for parents with school-aged children is not if their kids will be able to return to school. It’s “when?”.

We do not, however, have an infrastructure like that for early education. We do not have the level of public investment needed to ensure infant and toddler classrooms will be able to re-open or stay open or to ensure early educators will be available to return to work.

The early education sector needs stronger public investment because, while early education is a public good, it is in crisis. As a society, we have relied on parents paying significant sums and early educators earning poverty wages to finance the system.  Personally, I will share that childcare costs for my family in 2020 equated to about a quarter of my income. On the other side of things, the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment reports that the poverty rate for early educators in DC is 34.4% – 5.8 times higher than for elementary school teachers.[1]

The system doesn’t work for early educators, and it doesn’t work for families.

While DC has invested more in prek, in particular, than other jurisdictions across the country, it is time we dedicated the level of public funding necessary to create an early education infrastructure that meets our economic and education needs. Fully implementing the Birth-to-Three law can help set up that infrastructure.

I want to acknowledge the emergency response funding that Council and the Administration dedicated to early education programs. I also want to recognize OSSE’s leadership, during a time of public crisis and internal transition. I look forward to learning of OSSE’s updated child care subsidy plan, and hope that OSSE and intergovernmental partners are provided with the funding and support needed to make it easier for eligible families to obtain and retain their child care subsidies and for programs to receive subsidy payments timely and in a way that allows them to plan[2].

Like many, I also eagerly anticipate additional federal support for early care and education. My hope is that the emergency funding coming to DC will be turned quickly and provide flexibility to programs[3].

Thank you so much for allowing me this time today. I am happy to answer any questions you may have.

[1] https://cscce.berkeley.edu/workforce-index-2020/states/district-columbia/

[2] For example, paying subsidies to programs based on enrollment instead of attendance to allow for stronger cash flow for programs and expanding the number of allowable absences for children to be able to stay home if sick but still keep their subsidy.

[3] If the funding is used to provide grants to licensed providers, I urge OSSE to ensure grant applications are simple, do not create unnecessary burdens to programs and that smaller programs and family child care providers have support in completing applications.

#AskHer Series: Me Too Movement

On November 19th, Dani Ayers, Chief Executive Officer of me too. International and Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat, Washington Area Women’s Foundation President and CEO had a poignant discussion on the evolution of the Me Too Movement, the protection of women and girls of color and what philanthropy can do to support survivors of sexual violence.

#AskHer is an interview series featuring women leaders, and The Women’s Foundation’s partners, community members and supporters who work tirelessly for women and girls. We curate in-depth conversations around complex issues affecting our constituents. Issues ranging from racism, racial justice, women, girls, intersectionality and more will be covered.

Leading from Behind to Address the Affordable Housing Crisis and Homelessness

This post is second of a two part-series focused on philanthropy’s role in ending homelessness in collaboration with Funders Together to End Homelessness. It originally appeared on The Center for Effective Philanthropy on April 4, 2019.

The affordable housing crisis isn’t new. It isn’t even an “emerging” crisis. Our country has been in the midst of it for decades and neighbors in our communities who are living in poverty are suffering the most from its effects, putting them at risk of experiencing homelessness.

As we embark on the next Presidential election cycle, we are hearing more and more from candidates about affordable housing, or the lack therefore of, and how states across the country are grappling with how to best address it. For those of us working in the homelessness field, this isn’t revolutionary. We’ve been yelling that the sky is falling for years, and we are finally starting to see momentum in both public and political will to give this issue the attention it needs.

The housing and homelessness sector has some of the most passionate and driven advocates. And because of their tireless work advocating for better policies and much needed federal funding, as well as implementing programs that center families and individuals who are most vulnerable, the harmful consequences of this situation, while still at emergency status, have been mitigated. But this work must continue full speed ahead — and then some — if we are to truly end this crisis.

This is where philanthropy is needed. If we are dedicated to providing access to safe and affordable housing to all and ending homelessness, philanthropy must step up to the plate and lead from behind to be part of the solution.


All Funders Should Care about Housing and Homelessness

The lack of affordable housing cannot and should not only be a concern to housing and homelessness funders.

If you fund health, you need to be funding housing. Studies have shown that health outcomes are linked to stable, safe, and affordable housing. Funders like Kaiser Permanente understand this link and are taking action by providing $3 million to address affordable housing and homelessness.

Is education part of your grantmaking portfolio? Then you should be engaging in work on housing. Students who experience homelessness or are at risk of housing instability are more likely than their non-homeless peers to be held back from grade to grade, have poor attendance or be chronically absent from school, have more disciplinary issues, and drop out of school.

Funders prioritizing workforce development need to be thinking about its intersection with affordable housing. Without employment, housing stability is at risk. And without dependable housing, it is near impossible to retain employment.

Are you a funder committed to reforming the criminal justice system? The success of criminal justice reform could result in a new homelessness problem, as returning citizens continue to face barriers to accessing housing.

Without access to safe and affordable housing, all other aspects of life become increasingly difficult for individuals to manage, let alone to sustain the ability to thrive.  It is the underlying issue to many other problems and challenges individuals and families face. And only once stable housing has been established can we begin to successfully address the other challenges. Funders working on all systems and issues areas must make housing a priority in their grantmaking and focus on upstream solutions to prevent homelessness and housing insecurity.

Racial Equity at the Forefront

If we are talking about housing or homelessness and not also prioritizing talking about racial equity, we are setting ourselves up to fail at our mission.  Because of structural racism, both current and historical, people of color disproportionally experience homelessness. In fact, black people account for more than 40 percent of people experiencing homelessness despite comprising only 13 percent of the total U.S. population. And this is by no accident.

Racism in the housing system is rooted deep in our nation’s history and was perpetuated through redlining and mortgage discrimination. Decades later, the effects from these actions are evident today and have created vast disparities within housing, which have an impact across all sectors (think: health, education, employment…sound familiar?). If we don’t think about naming and correcting these disparities at the systems level, we will never touch the surface of meeting housing needs and ending homelessness.

Philanthropy must understand that it isn’t enough to just claim that racial equity is important. Rather, it must implement a commitment to racial equity by centering it and ensuring all grantmaking is done through a racial equity lens. We’ve been encouraged by the energy from both philanthropy and national partners that are naming racial equity as a priority. But it is important to remember that racial equity shouldn’t just be another issue that we add to our plates. Instead, it should be at the center of all issue areas.

Philanthropy’s Responsibility to Act

Philanthropy’s role in this work cannot be overstated and its responsibility cannot be ignored. It is vital for funders to lead from behind and support efforts to address the affordable housing crisis and end homelessness.

Fund what works and innovate. When it comes to homelessness, we know what works. Evidence-based solutions such as Housing First models including rapid re-housing and permanent supportive housing have been proven to both prevent and end homelessness. Funders can invest in these solutions and increase the resources to build capacity for stronger and more robust programs. Likewise, philanthropy must also be bold in its investments. By funding innovative interventions, philanthropy gives communities the flexibility to take risks and prove what can work so those interventions can then be brought to scale.

Collaborate. Funders that collaborate together and build partnerships through public and private relationships provide a critical backbone to this work. This collaboration, both within philanthropy and together with the public sector, can support and ensure that efforts to build strong and sustainable programs throughout communities positively influence and effectively create systems change. To scale impact, funders must build public-private partnerships and leverage public dollars.

Engage in advocacy and policy work. Systems change is multi-faceted and, at its core, happens through enhanced policies that affect the issues we most care about. As funders, many times we are under the impression that engaging in this work isn’t for us. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Funders can educate public officials on what is working in communities, write op-eds to inform the public, and support grantees to build capacity for grassroots organizing. Philanthropy has a unique voice that should be used to push and influence.  Engaging in policy and advocacy work can make all the difference between moving the needle and staying with the status quo.

Center those with lived experience. The true experts in this space are those who have lived experience. Their expertise informs us of what is working and where there are gaps in programs. So why are these individuals not included as part of the solution? As funders, we should ensure that folks with lived experience have a permanent seat at the decision-making table because without their voice, all our best efforts will fall short.  Are we and our grantees giving up power and funding in a way that trusts historically marginalized communities to develop solutions to housing stability that is not rooted in dominant white culture?

Do it all with a racial equity lens. Yes, all. We have largely funded systems and services based on an equality lens. But we haven’t acknowledged the structural and historical racism that will necessitate investing in what people need to ensure race does not determine outcomes, reestablish past inequities, and shift funding to feel more like justice. Not only should funders be sure all grantmaking has a racial equity lens, but they must also do the work internally to examine the organizational structure and acknowledge the white dominant culture philanthropy works within. We cannot expect our grantees to do to this work without putting ourselves under the microscope and making a commitment to addressing equity at our foundations first.

Amanda Andere is the CEO of Funders Together to End Homelessness. She has spent over fifteen years working in the nonprofit and public sector as a leader committed to racial equity, social justice, and housing affordability through advocacy for systemic change. Follow her on Twitter at @AmandaAndere.


Change Starts with Sisterhood…

Growing up, I was always the kid to sign up for free after school activities and events. I loved getting the chance to meet new people, try hands-on activities, and build lasting friendships. Unfortunately, as I grew older, there became fewer free or low cost after school programs for me to attend in my community. My freshman year of high school became bleak. My family couldn’t afford to put me in sports or music classes because the cost of the equipment was too high. My sister, Kelly, informed me of an opportunity at the Smithsonian. They were offering a paid internship for high school students at the National Museum of Natural History. Much to my surprise, after submitting my application and completing my in person interview, I was selected. That year has to this day been one of the most impactful periods of my life. Being surrounded by young kids of color who had similar backgrounds like mine made me realize that we all had the potential to be successful in any field regardless of what mainstream media had told us. My time at the Smithsonian showed me how important mentorship, STEM education, and safe spaces are for young kids of color.

My self confidence in applying to other programs skyrocketed after my time at  the Smithsonian. I became part of Girls Who Code’s DC summer immersion program, Hackathons, Harvard’s MCC Youth Council, and the HerLead fellowship program. I realized that the reason I kept coming back and applying to new programs was because I loved being in spaces that allowed kids in marginalized communities feel like they had boundless potential, and were surrounded by mentors who provided them with guidance and support. I created Your Girl for Good as a HerLead Fellow during my Junior year of High School. I realized that the main reason why kids oftentimes do not consider a career in STEM, art, or politics is because they lack diversity. I wanted to give kids the opportunity that I was fortunate enough to have while at the same time tailoring it specific to young girls of color in the DC area. Your Girl for Good’s mission is to provide our participants with hands on activities and workshops led by successful women of color in STEM, Art, and Political sectors. We held our first Summer Mentorship Program in Columbia Heights in the summer of 2017 and partnered with the ACLU, Emily’s List, the NIH, the Smithsonian, and other local DC area organizations. Even now, our former participants have remained in contact with their mentors from our first program. One of our summer mentorship program participants, Farhana, met her mentor through Your Girl for Good who later wrote her her college letter of recommendation and they remain close to this day. 

Your Girl For Good team members Stephanie Villanueva-Villar, Shams Ibrahim Hamid, Iman Yousfi
Your Girl For Good team members Stephanie Villanueva-Villar, Shams Ibrahim Hamid, Iman Yousfi

In 2018, the Your Girl for Good team and I were invited to attend Washington Area Women’s Foundation’s GirlsLEAD Summit. The day was filled with diverse and prominent speakers, interactive workshops, and lectures focused on different topics that impact communities of color. While scrambling with excitement from classroom to classroom, trying to make our next activity on time, we came across a flyer mentioning that the WAWF was going to be launching their Rock Star Fund for local DC area women and girls who wanted to create change in their community. It felt like fate when holding that flyer for the first time. For so long we wanted to create our own series of Your Girl for Good summits throughout DC. We applied later that year and were selected to be part of the inaugural class of Rock Star Grantees. 

The experience couldn’t have been better, the team at Washington Area’s Women Foundation has stood by us every step of the way to make sure that our Grant project went smoothly. My team members and I got to meet the other awardees and hear about the important work that they’re doing to help their communities in DC. The BluePrint for Action that we were provided with has tremendously helped Your Girl for Good incorporate important data and advocacy methods into our programs moving forward.

YWAC Alum join 'Your Girl For Good' founders
YWAC Fellows join Your Girl For Good team members Shams Ibrahim Hamid & Iman Yousfi

With the help and guidance from Claudia Williams and Martine Gordon, our Rock Star Fund project went amazing! Young girls of color across DC gathered at the Public Welfare Foundation to have an open and honest discussion about the importance of mental health and building healthy relationships through our partnerships with SMYAL and Planned Parenthood. Through our painting and vision board making workshops, we were able to get our participants to focus on their personal aspirations and self-reflect. Our Art & Mental Health summit was a perfect way to end the summer as students return to school later this month. We here at Your Girl for Good are so excited for what’s to come. We know that the future is brighter and stronger when people and organizations stand behind and support  young women of color.

Boycotting the Census is not the Answer #CountDMVIn

Last Thursday, the Census 2020 working group we are part of organized a conference for Grantee Partners and non-profit organizations serving hard-to-count populations. Participants had the opportunity to network and connect with members of the Complete Count Committee of their jurisdiction, brainstorm strategies to count vulnerable populations, and learn about the consequences an inaccurate count will have on the distribution of federal funds the next ten years.

We kicked-off the day with a keynote speech by Vanita Gupta, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights. In her remarks, Ms. Gupta talked about the unprecedented challenges and threats to accuracy the 2020 Census is facing. A last minute introduction of a citizenship question—still being contested—will make the population harder to count, but so too will major demographic changes over the past decade, a lack of predictable funding, and changes in the process that have not been tested adequately.

She assured attendees now is the time to get involved, to identify and engage trusted messengers in the community, and to spread the word about the importance of a fair count. While she acknowledged that the concerns of immigrant communities are very real, she also warned that boycotting the census is not the answer. It would only reinforce a concerted effort to construct a whiter electorate, diminishing diverse communities’ political voice and shared funding. For immigrant communities, participating in the census is about not being invisible. It is a way to say, “I am here, I count.” Ms. Gupta ended her statement making a call to philanthropy to join the effort and to invest in building capacity to engage in census outreach in community organizations that serve populations at risk of underrepresentation.

The Census 2020 working group is aware that funder engagement in support of the census is more important than ever. It is creating a space for funders to learn, strategize, and plan investments together and is actively creating resources and opportunities for grantee partners and non-profit organizations in our region to encourage participation among their staff, clients, families, and communities.

To keep the momentum going the working group wrapped-up the conference by opening a request for proposals for the fund Count DMV In, which will support projects related to outreach, education, and direct assistance focused on hard to count communities. It also released a set of fact sheets with information on basics you need to know about the census next year, including a timeline, ways you can help, and data on census tracks at risk of undercounting in each jurisdiction of the greater Washington region.

We all have a role to play in the 2020 Census. Whether you can commit to a sustained effort or can spare only a couple hours, you can participate in multiple ways—starting today. All hands on deck!

Here are three ways to get involved:

  • Follow @CensusCounts and spread the word about how the census is easy, safe, and important. Use the hashtag #CountDMVIn to raise awareness about the importance of an accurate count in our region.
  • Convene workshops and webinars to develop solutions to Census 2020 challenges in your community, to share resources and information, and to receive important updates.
  • Join the Census 2020 working group or consider investing directly or with other foundations and donors through CountDMVIn—a pooled fund housed at the Greater Washington Community Foundation dedicated to Census 2020.

Claudia Williams is Program Officer at Washington Area Women’s Foundation where she contributes to crafting and executing program strategy and manages the Young Women’s Initiative of Washington, DC

New Report: Family Planning Community Needs Assessment

New Report: ‘Family Planning Community Needs Assessment’ for the

DC Family Planning Project (DCFPP)

The George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health (GW), with support from The Alexander and Margaret Stewart Trust and Washington Area Women’s Foundation, conducted a community needs assessment for the DC Family Planning Project (DCFPP) aimed at providing an in-depth analysis of the family planning landscape for women aged 15–29 in DC. This comprehensive community assessment, which includes both primary and secondary data, was designed, implemented, and analyzed between July 2017 and May 2018.

Nationwide, the rate of unintended pregnancy, defined as those pregnancies that are mistimed or unwanted, is one of the highest in the developed world. Although the unintended pregnancy rate has been declining nationally and locally in recent years in the general population, disparities remain – particularly in the District of Columbia. Poor and low-income women continue to bear the brunt of this disparity.

Access to family planning services, including both privately and publicly funded services is one necessary component to reducing unintended pregnancies, and more importantly, to ensuring women and families in DC have the ability to plan if and when to have a child. At The Women’s Foundation, we won’t rest until all women, especially young women and girls of color, have equal access to economic security, safety and opportunity, which is why the Family Planning Community Needs Assessment report is important.

The report identifies gaps, barriers, and facilitators to family planning services and contraceptive utilization in DC. There are several key findings from this study that provide insights for both service delivery sites as well as for direct outreach to the community, including the following:

  • a disconnect between availability of contraceptive services and utilization of these services;
  • limited availability of adolescent-friendly services;
  • widespread confidentiality concerns regarding adolescent reproductive health services;
  • a significant number of sexually active adolescents and young women in DC who are not accessing
    reproductive health care at all;
  • low levels of knowledge of Long Acting Reversible Contraceptive (LARC) methods (which include
    intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants), particularly amongst 15–19 year-olds, non-Hispanic black
    adolescents/women and adolescents/women living in Wards 4, 5, 7 and 8; and
  • negative perceptions and concerns about the safety, side effects, and comfort of LARC methods,
    which influence many women’s decisions regarding contraceptive methods.

The DCFPP, housed at The Women’s Foundation, will use the results of this needs assessment, along with the input of the DCFPP Community Advisory Board to develop interventions to reduce reproductive health disparities and improve reproductive health outcomes in DC.

To find out more, click here to read the full report!