Young women’s initiative.

Our goal is to amplify the voices of cisgender, gender-expansive youth, and transgender young women of color in the District of Columbia and to center their experiences and contributions in decision-making processes.

The Young Women’s Initiative (YWI) of the Washington Area Women’s Foundation is a District-wide effort to improve life outcomes and increase opportunities for cis and trans young women and gender-expansive youth of color between the ages of 12 and 24.

We are committed to identifying opportunities to open doors to progress and to advancing gender and racial equity. Our Blueprint for Action guides YWI’s research, grantmaking, and advocacy. We work in partnership with two core groups who drive the work of the initiative: the Young Women’s Advisory Council and the Advisory Committee.

Through leadership development programming, advocacy efforts, and the provision of direct support to youth-serving organizations, the Initiative aims to reduce systemic and institutional barriers to success and opportunity for cis and trans young women and gender expansive youth of color so that they may reach their full potential.

About YWI



  • Strengthen and amplify leadership and advocacy skills of young women of color aged 12 to 24 in the District of Columbia, and provide opportunities for them to leverage their leadership to create change.
  • Prepare a Blueprint for Action to strategically create and advance opportunities for and with young women.
  • Work in partnership with key stakeholders, local policymakers, and community-based organizations to improve outcomes for young women of color and their families.
  • Align services and public policies to eliminate systemic level barriers to success for young women of color.
  • Produce original research on young women of color to influence the field and various communities of practice.
  • Invest in organizations and leaders working to meet the needs of young women of color and their families.


Young Women’s Advisory Council : The Young Women’s Advisory Council (YWAC) is an integral part of YWI. It ensures the work of the initiative stays grounded in the lived experiences and needs of young women of color residing in DC, and serves as a leadership development program. In partnership with the YWCA National Capital Area, The Women’s Foundation offers a paid fellowship for cisgender, gender-expansive youth, and transgender young women of color to advocate for gender and racial equity, engage in the decision making process that shapes YWI, and learn about local policy.

Advisory Committee: Comprised of cross-sector leaders from education, philanthropy, and the community, the role of the Committee is to inspire and catalyze resources to move the Blueprint for Action forward. Co-chairs and lead partners include the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Casa Ruby, Mary’s Center, Sasha Bruce, and YWCA National Capital Region.


A Blueprint for Action

The Blueprint for Action outlines recommendations by young women of color with the objective to shift local policies and practices in the District of Columbia in support of young women’s ability to thrive. We facilitated conversations and conducted interviews with fellows from the Young Women’s Advisory Council and community members to understand barriers to success and propose recommendation to the issues young women of color experience.

Blueprint recommendations suggest making changes to the way systems operate and to the established culture, procedures, programs, and policymaking in the District of Columbia.

You can read the Blueprint here


Following the 2015 National Listening Tour on Women and Girls of Color organized by the Obama Administration’s White House Council on Women and Girls, The Women’s Foundation convened a series of Listening Sessions in 2016 and 2017. The sessions served to connect with young women of color in the District of Columbia by providing a platform for them to tell their stories and to allow for deeper conversation around issues that matter to them.

The Women’s Foundation used these learnings to launch YWI and to identify the highest priority policy issues to address moving forward. Those policy issues are:

Economic Security: Strategies and interventions that build pathways out of poverty for young women of color and their families.

Education: Supports and resources young women of color need to succeed in their educational experience, including pregnant and parenting students and young women who have left the school system.

Health and Well-Being: Interventions and supports young women need to be physically and emotionally healthy, including sexual and reproductive health.

Safety and Violence Prevention: Policies and actions to guarantee young women feel safe and free from all forms of violence in private and public spaces including home, school, public transit, work, and the community.

Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice: Solutions to reduce the number of young women who will become involved with foster care or juvenile justice systems, and to support those already in the systems so they can reach their full potential.

Community Support and Opportunities: Supports that facilitate young women and girls’ access to positive role models and a strong cultural and self-identity.

Rock Star Fund

The Rock Star Fund provides young women of color between the ages of 12 and 24 living in DC with up to $2,000 to invest in their own learning, leadership, ideas, and community projects. We designed the Rock Star Fund as participatory grantmaking. It goes beyond traditional grantmaking, it allows YWAC fellows the opportunity to review applications and decide awardees. This strategy engages young women of color as agents of change in their communities on both ends of the grantmaking process. On one end, young women decide which projects to invest in, on the other, young women receive an award to make those projects happen.

A culture of participatory grantmaking is important to advance gender and racial equity, center the experiences of young women of color, and to allow more funding at the grassroots level.

GirlsLEAD Summit

The 2018 GirlsLEAD summit was an all-day leadership event for DC girls of color. The summit brought together girls of color from across the District to participate in workshops, learn from influential speakers—including award-winning journalist and former editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue, Elaine Welteroth—and to engage in career-building and self-care activities such as fashion design, dance, resume-writing, computer coding, and yoga. They also had the opportunity to connect with women mentors drawn from the DC-area business community and to network with other girls of color.

DC YWI Leadership

Co-chairs & Lead Partners

Karma Cottman, DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Ruby Corrado, Casa Ruby
Maria Gomez, Mary’s Center
Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat, Washington Area Women’s Foundation
Debby Shore, SashaBruce
Monica Gray, YWCA National Capital Area

Advisory Committee

Asian American LEAD
Courtney’s House
Crittenton Services of Greater Washington
DC Alliance of Youth Advocates
DC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy
DC Dept. of Human Services
DC Jobs with Justice
DCPS: Project Reign
DC Rape Crisis Center
Empower DC
Generation Hope
Girl Scouts of National Capital Region
Girls Inc. DC
Latin American Youth Center
National Women’s Law Center
The National Crittenton Foundation
Raise DC
Rights 4 Girls
Safe Shores
The Spice Suite
Urban Alliance
Volkswagen Group of America
Young Women’s Project

National Partnership

The Women’s Foundation modeled YWI in DC after the New York City Young Women’s Initiative, launched in 2015 through a partnership between Girls for Gender Equity, the New York City Council, and the New York Women’s Foundation. The success of YWI-NYC inspired women’s foundations from across the country to launch their own Young Women’s Initiatives, creating the National Philanthropic Collaborative of Young Women’s Initiatives (NPCYWI) with a focus on galvanizing resources and creating cross-sector partnerships to advance equity and outcomes for young women of color.

Through YWI, each partnering foundation seeks to support community organizations serving young women of color that are committed to racial and gender equity and that provide leadership opportunities for young women of color. Partnering foundations also invest in organizations led by women of color.