Young women’s initiative.

Compared to other girls in the District of Columbia, young women, girls, transgender women, and gender non-conforming youth of color are more likely to live in poverty, experience homelessness, become young mothers, or reside in communities with fewer resources or bridge opportunities. They are also thirty percent less likely to complete high school and nine times more likely to be on the receiving end of harsh school discipline practices, such as out-of-school suspensions.


The Young Women’s Initiative (YWI) of the Washington Area Women’s Foundation is 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. Young women and girls of color are the primary stakeholders for this Initiative and having their input is critical to effecting positive and lasting change. As such, YWI centers the experiences and voices of young women and girls of color in every aspect of the work. 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 young women so that they may reach their full potential.


Outdoor Portrait of happy youngs african american teenage girl

GirlsLEAD Summit

The GirlsLEAD Summit is a city-wide convening designed in partnership with young women and girls to build the confidence and capacity of other local young women to effect positive change in their neighborhoods and communities. During this Summit, participants will experience interactive workshops on a range of topics; examples include violence, street harassment, reaching educational goals, entrepreneurship, advocacy, social media and technology.

About the 2018 GirlsLEAD Summit

2018 Call For Proposals


YWI Innovation Lab

The YWI Innovation Lab is a unique platform for local service providers, advocates and stakeholders to share and exchange ideas; learn about opportunities and the barriers to effectively serving young women and girls of color in the region; and shed a spotlight on innovative or emerging programs and efforts across the country.

The Innovation Lab also produces original research focused on young women and girls in the region that will be used by the field, local and national policy makers and key stakeholders to inform policy decisions, allocate resources and target efforts.


Young Women’s Advisory Council

The Young Women’s Advisory Council is the vehicle through which young women, girls, transgender, and gender non-conforming youth of color ages 12 – 24 will help develop a city-wide, solution-driven plan to better align direct services, policies, and resources for young women and girls of color and their families. This Council will serve as a leadership development experience for its participants, as they learn about local policy and youth advocacy, develop policy and program recommendations which will direct resources to communities and organizations, experience philanthropy in action through a participatory grantmaking experience, and provide essential thought leadership through shaping the GirlsLead Summit.

The YWI Fund

One of the overarching goals of the Young Women’s Initiative is to funnel necessary resources to local organizations and agencies working to improve the lives of young women and girls in the D.C. Metropolitan Area. The YWI Fund invests in organizations working in five key spheres of influence: violence and safety; healthy and nurturing school environments; reproductive freedom and autonomy; housing resources and emergency shelter; and economic security and upward mobility.

To donate and invest in the future of young women and girls, visit our GIVE page.

YWI Working Groups

The working groups of the Young Women’s Initiative will inform a recommendations report produced by the Women’s Foundation aimed at improving the life outcomes for young women and girls of color in Washington, DC. The working groups are integral part of the Initiative and will help to ensure that the voices and ideas of policy experts, practitioners, advocates, and other key stakeholders working directly with young women and girls of color are the forefront of our efforts.

Once the report is complete, the working groups will continue to inform and shape the advocacy and programmatic work of the Women’s Foundation.

Economic Security

Young women’s and girls’ foundation to thrive is to be and remain economically stable. The Economic Security Working Group will focus on factors that put young women of color at greater risk of poverty throughout their lives. This group will discuss issues related to economic mobility, income and the gender wage gap, family support programs and tax credits, and homelessness.

  • Amanda Andere, CEO, Funders Together to End Homelessness
  • Claire Zippel, Policy Analyst, DC Fiscal Policy Institute
  • Gabrielle Newell, Member-leader, ONE DC
  • Debby Shore, Executive Director, Sasha Bruce Youthwork
  • Gregory Acs, Director, Income and Benefits Policy Center, Urban Institute
  • Adriana Lopez, Social Services Program Manager, Greater DC Tahirih Justice Center
  • Kate Coventry, Senior Policy Analyst, Senior Policy Analyst
  • LaTasha Fonville-Carter, Senior Specialist, Georgia Avenue Family Support Collaborative
  • Lisa Brown, Sr. Diversity and Inclusion Consultant, Volkswagen
  • Tamitha Davis, Deputy Administrator, Department of Human Services Economic Security Administration


Education and Youth Workforce Development

Young women must compete in a regional labor market that increasingly requires postsecondary credentials or specialized training to obtain good jobs. The Education and Youth Workforce Development group will address the supports and resources girls and young women of color need to succeed in school, college and careers, including options for young women and girls who have left the school system. This group will also focus on unfair discipline practices, dropout prevention, and pregnant and parenting students.

  • Abigail Cohen, Senior Associate, Policy and Advocacy, DC Quality Campaign
  • Caroline Griswold Short, Director of Programing, Generation Hope
  • Dawn Leary, Senior Community Investment Officer, Greater Washington Community Foundation
  • Jennifer Nelson, Director, Student Empowerment and Equity Programs, DC Public Schools
  • Judy Berman, Deputy Director, DC Appleseed Center for Law & Justice
  • Kristen Moore, Student Empowerment and Equity Programs, DC Public Schools
  • Lauren Eyster, Senior Research Associate, Urban Institute
  • Laurie Wingate, Executive Director, Raise DC
  • Lindsey Reichlin Cruse, Senior Research Associate, Institute for Women’s Policy Research
  • Lisa Brown, Sr. Diversity and Inclusion Consultant, Volkswagen
  • Marlana Wallace, Policy Analyst, DC Fiscal Policy Institute
  • Megan Gallagher, Senior Research Associate, Urban Institute
  • Myrna Peralta, President and CEO, Centro Nía
  • Nathaniel Cole, DC Executive Director, Urban Alliance
  • Neena Chaudhry, Director of Education and Senior Counsel, National Women’s Law Center

Health and Wellbeing

Health and wellbeing are key to young women’s success and economic stability. The Health Working Group will examine available data on disparities in health outcomes—including mental, and sexual and reproductive health—gaps in coverage for basic healthcare and discuss needed services to ensure all young women are physically and emotionally healthy.

  • Bethany Henderson, Executive Director, DC Scores
  • Bloodine Barthelus, Director, School Climate and SEL, DC Public Schools
  • Elsa Falkenburger, Senior Research Associate, Urban Institute
  • Jodi Kwarciany, Policy Analyst, DC Fiscal Policy Institute
  • Kandis Driscoll, Special Assistant, DC Department of Health and Human Services
  • Lisa Dubay, Senior Fellow, Urban Institute
  • Margie Del Castillo, Associate Director of Community Mobilization, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
  • Shakira Washington, Vice President, National Crittenton Foundation
  • Sophia Kerby, Senior Manager, Advocates for Youth
  • Yair Inspektor, Director of Policy and Planning Health and Wellness, Office of the State Superintendent of Education

Safety and Violence Prevention

Lack of safety and violence can have a devastating impact on young women’s lives. From street harassment to domestic violence, sexual assault and trafficking, the Safety and Violence Prevention Working Group will discuss policies and actions needed to guarantee young women feel safe and free from all forms of violence at home, school, work, and in their community.

  • Andrea Rojas, Strategic Initiative Specialist, Polaris
  • Andrea Powell, Executive Director, Fair Girls
  • Andrea Gleaves, Strategic Parternships Manager, DC Coalition against Domestic Violence
  • Neil Irvin, Executive Director, Men Can Stop Rape
  • Cherice Hopkins, Staff Attorney, Rights4Girls
  • Shakira Washington, Vice President, National Crittenton Foundation
  • Tina Frundt, Executive Director, Courtney’s House
  • Vanessa Chauhan, Strategic Relationship & Engagement Advisor National Hotlines, Polaris
  • Vanetta Rather, Executive Director, My Sister Seed


Juvenile Criminal and Legal System

The Juvenile Criminal-Legal System Working group will provide recommendations to address the deeply rooted and systemic gender injustices in the system to ensure interventions respond to girls’ and young women’s development needs. This working group will also provide feedback and recommendations to improve the experiences of girls and young women in the foster care system.

  • Andrea Powell, Executive Director, Fair Girls
  • Aubrey Edwards-Luce, Senior Policy Attorney, Children’s Law Center
  • Avon Hart-Johnson, President and CEO, DC Project Connect
  • Darby Hickey, Senior Legislative Analyst, Office of D.C. Council Member David Grosso
  • Kisha Bird, Director of Youth Policy, Center for Law and Social Policy
  • Laura Furr, Program Manager for Justice Reform and Youth Engagement, National League of Cities
  • Nadya Richberg, Social Work Program Manager, Child and Family Services Agency
  • Rachel Friedman, Deputy Director, Men Can Stop Rape
  • Rebecca Burney, Equal Justice Works Fellow, Rights4Girls
  • Samantha Paige Davis, Executive Director, The Black Swan Academy
  • Sarah Bryer, Executive Director, National Juvenile Justice Network
  •  Shakira Washington, Vice President, National Crittenton Foundation


Community Support and Opportunities

Significant relationships with caregivers and strong support systems are crucial for building resilience and a brighter future for young women and girls. The Community Support and Opportunities Working Group will provide recommendations that facilitate young women and girls’ access to positive role models and a strong cultural and self-identity. This working group will also address the unique barriers and challenges young women and girls who are immigrants or refugees face due to language, government policies, and discrimination.

  • Angela Calberg, Senior Program Manager, Neighbor Works America
  • Cecilia Dos Santos, Special Projects Manager, Latin America Youth Center
  • Donald Curtis, Founder, Soul
  • Karol Gilmore Dixon, Director of Family and Community Engagement, DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative-Washington, DC
  • Lisa Brown, Sr. Diversity and Inclusion Consultant, Volkswagen
  • Maggie Riden, President and CEO, DCAYA
  • Maria Gomez, President and CEO, Mary’s Center
  • Shannon Babe-Thomas, Executive Director, Community Bridges, Incorporated
  • Vikki Lassiter, Partnership Specialist, Social Science Research Council
  • Adriana Lopez, Social Services Program Manager, Greater DC Tahirih Justice Center

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 Region

Leadership 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

Young Women's Initiative Blueprint For Action

More than 250 young women, policymakers, philanthropists, scholars, service providers, and government officials, shared their knowledge, experience, and insights to develop key recommendations to support young women of color in the District of Columbia.

Join us as we discuss the highlights of the Blueprint on September 28 from 6:00-8:00 pm at Public Welfare Foundation.

We look forward to seeing you!

For questions please contact

On May 24, Washington Area Women’s Foundation launched the Young Women’s Initiative, with an important conversation with young women, girls and gender non-conforming youth on critical issues and strategies for building a more inclusive City.
Click HERE to read about the Young Women’s Initiative Launch!