Working alongside a national collective, the Young Women’s Initiative will generate solutions for young women, by young women.

Earlier this week, The Women’s Fund announced the launch of our Young Women’s Initiative of Greater Birmingham (YWIGB) aimed at improving equity and opportunities for and with young women ages 14-24. This is an expansion of our current work to address economic insecurity for women and their children in the Greater Birmingham area.

For this initiative, The Women’s Fund is working alongside a national collaborative of eight women’s foundations to galvanize and invest resources to amplify the collective power of young women—particularly young women of color and low income young women—to achieve gender and racial equity in a world where they are safe, healthy, and economically prosperous.

“Based on the research and focus groups we conducted last year and our extensive work with single mothers over the past four years, we know there is a need to address the economic barriers common for low income women at an earlier age,” says Jeanne Jackson, President and CEO of The Women’s Fund. A striking finding from this research revealed that in Jefferson County, a young woman of color is more than twice as likely to be in poverty as her white male counterpart.

“YWI is innovative and strategic because it is designed to put young women at the helm of making change via the Young Women’s Advisory Council,” said Carla Crowder, Director of Programs and Policy.

The , young women ages 14-24, were selected based on- recommendations and referrals from professionals working with young women. The Council will be coordinated by a youth development professional and meet bi-monthly to:

Highlight challenges and solutions facing young women, especially young women of color

Inspire other young women to take action in their communities

Connect with local leaders, including elected officials, members of the business community, and the YWI Stakeholder Committee

Advocate for policy changes and program investments

Recommend funding for innovative solutions that can impact their communities

The Women’s Fund has established a formal partnership with the YWCA of Central Alabama and formed a Stakeholder Committee comprised of a cross-sector of professionals who work closely with young women, including members representing: Girls Inc., of Central Alabama, Carver High School, Jefferson Co. Family Court, UAB Adolescent Medicine, Children’s Aid Society of Alabama, YWCA Central Alabama, Young Women’s Empowerment Conference, Urban Ministries, Girls Spring, Hope with Grace.

Despite a recent decrease in overall poverty rates, racial and gender gaps still persist in Greater Birmingham. In Jefferson County, 29% of young women ages 15-19 experience poverty, but only 23% of young men do. The racial disparities are even starker: 36% of Latinos and 28% of African Americans experience poverty, compared to just 10% of whites.

Across the spectrum, the data make clear that the greatest predictor of poverty is the combination of three immutable factors:

Being youngBeing a womanBeing a person of color (African American or Latino)

Responses from young women who participated in the echo these challenges while offering an optimistic outlook. One focus group participant said, “As a black female, I’m already stereotyped and looked at differently, so I want to prove people wrong.” Another said, “Education is the greatest need. We want to be successful. We want an education and college. We want to be something, but it is hard and expensive.”

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