Our Latest Investments in Young Women and Gender-Expansive Youth of Color!

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.

Take Action To Support DC’s Pregnant & Parenting Teens

Our city’s budget decisions have a profound impact on our everyday lives. Affecting everything from trash pick-up to library and recreation center services, DC budget decisions are at the center of community well-being.  Mayor Bowser’s proposed fiscal year 2020 budget allocates some very needed resources to help families and neighborhoods thrive. However, it also includes a significant reduction in funding for an important, evidence-based program that has succeeded in changing the odds for young pregnant and parenting teens in the District.

In recent years, the New Heights Program for Expectant and Parenting Students inexplicably has required an annual battle for funding.  The New Heights Program helps students navigate the challenges of pregnancy, parenthood, and completing high school under challenging circumstances. It is a voluntary school-based program that provides one-on-one intensive supports.  It currently serves students in 15 DC public high schools, as well as a few public middle schools. The program’s goal is to increase school engagement, credit accumulation, and progress toward graduation for expectant and parenting students. In addition, it focuses on building teen parents’ self-sufficiency and resilience, improving and maintaining their and their babies’ health, and preventing secondary teen pregnancies … and it is succeeding in meeting these goals.

Expectant and parenting students are at high risk of poor school attendance and of ultimately dropping out of school, which limits their future economic opportunities. The New Heights program matches expectant and parenting students with a school-based coordinator to integrate advocacy, case management, weekly educational workshops, and incentives into the students’ school day.

Many of the teens who take advantage of the New Heights program are on their own with little to no family support, many without parents nearby. Coordinators take time to get to know students, understand them, and gain their trust. They become part of their village and in some instances their only source of support. A Mathematica Policy Research evaluation concluded that New Heights provides quality work based on a youth development, strength-based approach. It praised the program’s committed team of coordinators, who build strong relationships with students by being present, available, non-judgmental and supportive when pregnant and parenting adolescents ask for help.

This school year alone, the program has served more than 180 expectant and parenting students.  In order for New Heights to continue to provide quality, effective, one-on-one support and services, an additional $375,000 must be added to the program’s FY 2020 budget. These additional funds will allow the program to maintain its current staffing level of seven coordinators (the minimum necessary to ensure continued quality services) as well as provide funding for a database improvement, supplies and incentives. Without appropriate staffing levels, the program will lose its ability to have coordinators available for students when they ask for help – the very thing that makes it effective.

We are disappointed that Mayor Bowser’s FY2020 budget for the DC Public Schools cuts three coordinators from this successful program. Budget cutbacks to New Heights are particularly perplexing given the city’s focus on improving maternal and infant health and well-being.  It makes no sense to hamstring programs that are succeeding in improving the lives of young mothers and their babies. The Women’s Foundation wrote a letter to Council Chairman Phil Mendelson; Committee on Education Chairman, David Grosso; and Committee on Human Services Chairwoman Brianne Nadeau earlier this month to encourage the Council to identify the $375,000 necessary to fully fund this program.  Additionally, members of our Young Women’s Advisory Council also wrote letters of support for the program and encouraged DC City Councilmembers to restore needed funding to support their efforts to successfully thrive in DC.

If you agree that this important program should be fully funded in the FY 2020 DC Budget, we urge you to take one (or more) of the following actions today!

1)      Contact your City Council Member and the four Council Members highlighted below.  Ask them to support the New Heights program with an additional $375,000 which will fund the three staff positions that were cut in the DCPS budget, as well as an update for their data base, incentives and supplies (which the New Heights coordinators have been paying out of their own pockets!).

2)     Share this information with friends and urge them also to send emails or make calls.

3)      Post this information on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media.

3)     Sign up to testify at the DC Council Committee of the Whole hearing on Friday,  April 26 at 10:00 a.m. by contacting Chairman Mendelson’s office (at 202-724-8032 or pmendelson@dccouncil.us)

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

Help Us Celebrate Our 20th Anniversary!

The time is now, to start doing. To stop sitting and start standing. To join us on the frontlines.  It is time to tap into your inner activist, standing up for what is right and just. We invite you to stand with us – to stand together – and to invite your friends to join us, too. This year, at Washington Area Women’s Foundation, we are celebrating our 20th Anniversary. To commemorate the women and girls who have benefited from our work, we want you to join the celebration by participating in our 20for20 Campaign starting on August 20th.

When we think of activists, we often think of someone who has organized sit-ins during the Civil Rights movement or protests like the iconic Women’s March. We think of someone who dedicates their entire life in service of others. But even the smallest acts of kindness or activism have a ripple effect on our communities.

Ask your friends to be an activist too through our 20for20 campaign. In the name of women and girls, we challenge you to get 20 of your friends to give $20 to the women and girls in our region who are living at or below the poverty line.

Tell them that their gift will help ensure that economically vulnerable women and girls in the Washington metropolitan area have the resources they need to thrive. Washington Area Women’s Foundation will ensure that their gift supports the most effective strategies and programs that help women and girls save for their futures, obtain jobs with family-sustaining wages and benefits, and access high-quality and affordable childcare. With the Washington Area Women’s Foundation, your donation never works alone, and it never stops working. Support women and girls as they reach for more.

And, we believe that being an activist should also be fun.  We think you deserve a weekend downtown at the Marriott Marquis, or possibly a night at the theater.  Thanks to our partners, you will be entered in a drawing for fantastic prizes simply by creating your fundraising page.  Then, you get even more chances as you reach your goal.

Click here to create your personal fundraising page, and when you do, you will get a chance to win a fabulous prize.

Then, starting on Monday, August 20th, do some fundraising —  when 20 of your friends give $20 you will meet your goal of $400.  When you reach $400 raised (even if one friend gives the full amount) we will add four more chances for you to win.  And, we will send you a STAND TOGETHER t-shirt, to thank you for standing with us.

Help us continue to set a strong foundation for the resilience and hope for the future of women and girls in the Washington Region!

We have exciting giveaways for all 20for20 Activists:

  • Setting up your personal fundraising page = 1 entry
  • Raising $400+ = 4 entries + 1 “Stand Together” T-shirt
  • All prize recipients will be selected at random.

Be a changemaker! Be an activist today!

Recap: 2018 GirlsLEAD Summit

On March 9, 2018 over 600 young women and girls joined Washington Area Women’s Foundation for the inaugural GirlsLEAD Summit. The all-day event welcomed 300 young women and girls between the ages of 12-24, and was held at the University of the District of Columbia. Over 150 women leaders joined the Summit for Speed Mentoring, and more than 100 women conducted workshops and sessions throughout the day.

Award-winning journalist, media personality and former editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue, Elaine Welteroth, was interviewed by WPGC 95.5.’s Sunni during an intimate Q&A. The girls then participated in a speed mentoring event hosted by WUSA9’s Lesli Foster. Each of the young women had a chance to get one-on-one advice on creating pathways to success from several of the more than 150 dynamic, female business, nonprofit, and government leaders gathered in the room.

DJ Beauty and the Beatz kept the party going during lunch, where are all the girls danced and sang along to the latest hits. The young women and girls experienced workshops and sessions conducted by companies like The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Volkswagen, Audi, National Women’s Law Center, Girls Who Code, Beltway Poetry Slam Team, our Young Women’s Advisory Council and more!

For a photo recap visit Facebook now and read about the GirlsLEAD Summit on The Washington Informer!

The GirlsLEAD Summit was sponsored by Johnson & Johnson, the NoVo Foundation, and the Coca-Cola Foundation.

Thank you to our partners University of the District of Columbia, Samsung, KIND Snacks and Bobbi Brown!

GirlsLEAD Summit Welcomes Over 300 Young Women & Girls

Washington Area Women’s Foundation hosts its inaugural GirlsLEAD Summit on March 9, 2018. The all-day event for young women and girls between the ages of 12-24, will be held at the University of the District of Columbia. Award-winning journalist, media personality and former editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue, Elaine Welteroth, will serve as the keynote speaker.

Hosted by the Young Women’s Advisory Council of the Young Women’s Initiative at the Washington Area Women’s Foundation, the GirlsLEAD Summit will be an opportunity for young women and girls residing in the District of Columbia to learn, connect, gain valuable skills and lift their voices on the issues that are important to them through general sessions, workshops and speed mentoring opportunities.

Find out more about the GirsLEAD Summit on the official website.

Read the full program here!

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

This brief, 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, aims to spark dialogue and spur action in communities and at the local government level to improve health, educational and economic outcomes for girls, young women, transgender young women, gender non-conforming youth of color, and their families.

Using the most recent data available, the brief attempts to shed light on the social and economic conditions of girls, young women, transgender young women, and gender nonconforming youth of color in DC; to paint an accurate picture of the challenges and barriers to long-term success and opportunity for youth; and to identify opportunities for strategic collaboration and support across various communities of practice.

The brief is a part of the Washington Area Women’s Foundation’s commitment to racial equity and building the leadership of girls and young women. Our vision is to build a region where all residents thrive and the economic security and well-being of low-income girls, women and families is assured.

Click the image to read the report or visit our Resources page for more!

Young Women’s Initiative Launch

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.

Young Women’s Initiative Launch

“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.

You can view a full video of the Young Women’s Initiative here: http://wawf.org/YWIVideo 
A short link to the new report: http://wawf.org/AFairChanceReport

Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat 2016 Leadership Luncheon Speech

Good afternoon everyone! Thank you all for being here. I’m always blown away whenever I walk into the luncheon—the energy, excitement and enthusiasm are truly contagious, and I always leave this room feeling inspired.

And really how could you not be inspired by Karen and Juanita? Wow. Thank you both for the courage it took to share your stories with us today.

You know something that Karen said earlier really resonated with me: She said that you can’t find balance after pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, without a community of support.

At the Washington Area Women’s Foundation, this is what we’re all about, building and mobilizing community. And it’s the power of community that unites us of us here today.

It is absolutely no mistake that the theme of our luncheon this year is Together, We Thrive, because we know that when we bring community together, we can achieve better outcomes. And in the 18 years since The Women’s Foundation was created, we’ve certainly made incredible strides. Last year alone, our grant investments reached more than 3,600 women, and we helped them increase their incomes and assets by $3.6 million.

But we all know that the reality of today is that not everyone in our community is thriving, and in particular, women and girls of color face systemic challenges that stand in their way. And rather than lifting up the strength, resilience, and hope that is resident in communities across the country, some of the current public discourse is dragging us down.

And so, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that and trying to figure out what I wanted to say to you today. As a white woman leading this organization in this moment, I’ve thought deeply about my role as a community leader in advancing racial equity. I acknowledge my privilege as a white woman, and I acknowledge the privilege and power that inherently comes with philanthropy. Frankly, on some level, it’s easy to hide behind that and go about my day. It’s hard to have difficult and uncomfortable conversations. It’s hard to confront and challenge the unconscious biases that we all have, but at the end of the day, I can’t honestly look into my daughters’ eyes and say that I did all that I could to create a better community for women and girls if I remain silent when deep injustices are happening around me.

Last year, I stood on this stage, and talked about the need for bold action. I’m a firm believer in – “don’t talk, act. Don’t say, show. And don’t promise, prove.”

And that is why today, The Women’s Foundation is publicly committing to advancing equity for women and girls of color and tackling racism head on so that we can truly advance our mission and ensure that all women and girls in our community have the opportunity to thrive.

We must use our voice, our resources and the community we have created to remove the barriers women and girls of color face.

As you know, the mission of The Women’s Foundation is to mobilize our community to ensure that economically vulnerable women and girls have the resources they need to thrive. Economic security has been central to our mission since our founding, but it’s not enough to simply say that we are working with low-income or economically vulnerable women and girls. We have to be intentional and explicit in our language and our actions. We can no longer leave unsaid the realities facing women and girls of color, and I would argue, it’s time to write a new narrative, one where we celebrate and embrace the contributions of women and girls of color.

While it’s always been implicit in our work, now we are committing to also explicitly applying a racial equity lens to our convening, our research and advocacy agendas, and our grant investments.

But most importantly, we are committed to ensuring that women and girls of color not only have a seat at the table, but are driving the solutions. And we’ll start that by launching a Young Women’s Initiative, which will be co-designed with young women and girls of color and other leaders in our community (many of whom are here with us today), all with the goal of crafting policy recommendations that address racial, gender, and other disparities. I’m pleased to say that we are doing this in collaboration with seven other women’s foundations from across the country as part of a broader effort called Prosperity Together, as well as the White House Council on Women and Girls.

As a first step in this Initiative, we are listening—really, truly listening—to the concerns and challenges facing women and girls of color in our community: Issues that limit their ability to achieve higher paying jobs; issues that threaten their own safety; and issues that jeopardize the health and well-being of their children.

And to be clear, when I say issues, what I am referring to are the policies and practices that disadvantage and disempower women and people of color on a routine basis—in other words systemic and institutional racism.

And so today, every member of my board, and my staff, is taking a public stand and professing their commitment to racial equity.  We are all in—today, tomorrow, and for the years ahead because this is hard work, and this hard work that must continue long after the national conversations have faded.

As we move forward in advancing equity for women and girls of color, I ask you to join us.   Stand with us.

Stand with us as we work together to understand the root causes of inequality and inequity in our city, and develop plans, together, to create change.

Stand with us if you believe that having a bright future means that you can’t predict how well women and girls are doing based on their race and ethnicity.

Stand with us if you believe that, Together, We Thrive.