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Empower young Black, Latinx, and Transgender women to become leaders in New York City

This program, Young Urban Women: Life Choices and Livelihoods, empowers young women from underserved communities to become leaders.

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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

ActionAid USA, together with BOOM! Health, and Diaspora Community Services, will pilot the Young Urban Women (YUW) program in Brooklyn and the Bronx to empower young Black, Latinx, and Transgender women to become leaders in the battle against inequality in New York City. YUW is a proven intervention that is making space for thousands of marginalized women around the world to flourish as local problem-solvers; to analyze the socio-economic and political forces shaping their lives; and to develop concrete action plans to catalyze change. Bridging the areas of peace and prosperity, this program will offer health and family support services, personal and economic empowerment training, leadership opportunities, and supportive connections that will prepare young women to assess the underlying causes and consequences of inequality, and become effective problem-solvers in their communities. Since 2013, ActionAid has successfully run the YUW program in Ghana, India, Kenya and South Africa. Together with our partners, we are eager to bring the initiative’s measurable success to young women in New York City. In recent decades, Brooklyn and the Bronx have faced mounting levels of inequality. Deeply embedded structural barriers make it particularly challenging for Black, Latinx, and Transgender women to protect their wellbeing, or to position themselves as agents of positive change. Chronic poverty, public health crises, private and public violence, and educational marginalization are all key factors that trap these young women in a cyclical fight for short-term survival, unable to invest in their inherent power for leadership, vision, and transformation, or channel that power into real, sustainable change. In New York, we have tailored the YUW project to the specific context of the young women with whom we will partner, and we are ready to support some of the city’s most powerful but underserved residents in cultivating peace and prosperity in their own communities.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

The YUW project will primarily serve young women (aged 15-35) from the Black Caribbean diaspora, Latinx, and Transgender communities. ActionAid and our partners will identify natural problem solvers in Brooklyn and the Bronx and amplify their vision for themselves and their communities. In doing so, this project will elevate the voices of some of New York’s most marginalized residents and center their unique challenges and experiences. By linking them with resources and opportunities for personal, social, and economic empowerment, we will not only facilitate their personal growth, we will also equip them to evaluate the larger tapestry of inequality in their neighborhoods and lead strategic change initiatives that begin to address its underlying causes. In addition, the YUW project will help counter the divisive, negative stereotyping of women, immigrant communities, and people of color that has only gathered momentum since the 2016 election.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

In order to make our work inclusive and successful, ActionAid partners with communities, people’s organizations, women’s movements, social movements, and other allies, while prioritizing the leadership of women, youth, and other chronically marginalized groups. Through this unique model, we and our partners support natural problem solvers as they chart a pathway to change in their own communities – an approach that is proven to transform stubborn inequalities. In the YUW program, we do not offer only service delivery or only system-wide policy change, but rather employ both tactics simultaneously. This enables at-risk populations to get the short-term support they need, while also addressing the long-term cycle of poverty and exclusion that plagues their communities. Since YUW’s launch in 2013, participants in this program have reported measurable improvement in their personal and economic well-being and empowerment, and in their ability to affect change in their communities.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Early Adoption: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have begun to expand the pilot for early adoption.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

ActionAid is a global justice Federation dedicated to gender equality, poverty eradication, and social justice; we work to strengthen the agency of people living in poverty and exclusion to assert their rights, overcome the structural causes and consequences of poverty and injustice, and ensure that every person can enjoy a life of dignity and freedom from oppression.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

This project was established in 2013 after experts from ActionAid's youth and women's rights teams recognized the gap in support for young women in urban settings. After consultation with young urban women and a baseline study to determine the areas of greatest need, programming began in Ghana, India and South Africa, led by young women themselves, and focused on economic empowerment, sexual and reproductive health rights, and the unpaid care burden of young women in urban settings.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

YUW addresses critical threats to peace and prosperity in the US by supporting some of the most marginalized groups of young women in New York City to claim their rights and become agents of change. Throughout NYC, deeply embedded structural inequalities make it challenging for Black, Latinx, and Transgender women to protect their health and wellbeing, access the opportunities they deserve, and fully exercise their potential. Chronic community concerns ranging from affordable housing, low-cost health care, and street violence, create an experience of poverty that denies the stability and dignity of whole communities – disproportionately affecting people of color and women. The young women with whom we work are inherently powerful, and are key in bridging divides and building prosperity within their own communities. This project will prioritize the leadership of these excluded groups – as a human and civil rights imperative, and as a core component of our collective well-being.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

The YUW pilot in New York City will be anchored by BOOM!Health (Boom!) and Diaspora Community Services (DCS), two partners with a combined 60 years of experience serving some of the Bronx and Brooklyn’s most marginalized residents. Boom! offers a full range of health coordination, prevention, housing, legal, advocacy and wellness services to more than 8,000 Bronx communities. In Brooklyn, DCS provides a wide range of health and social services to approximately 6,800 clients per year, primarily African-American and Hispanic immigrants with some of the poorest indicators in NYC in terms of poverty, health, housing conditions, crime, and public school performance. As with all ActionAid programs, the young women themselves will take the lead. From conducting the baseline study, to leading trainings, to connecting with larger movements for equality and social justice, participants will be empowered to define and pursue their own visions for personal growth and community improvement.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

The people best positioned to build the peace and prosperity of communities facing inequality are the members of those communities themselves. The young Black, Latinx, and Transgender women with whom we will work are creative problem solvers, who have already been working to better their lives and their communities with limited resources. These young women are inherently powerful – our role will simply be to lift up their voices and empower them to become leaders and changemakers.

Geographic Focus

Brooklyn and the Bronx, New York City, New York, USA.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

The pilot phase of this project will be completed in 12 months. In this timeframe, we plan to demonstrate proof of concept that this successful program can be translated from an international context in four countries to a domestic context in New York City.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

Attachments (1)

ActionAid Young Urban Women - In brief.pdf

Young Urban Women (YUW) is a proven intervention that equips leaders from underserved communities to: Identify barriers to social justice, equity, and personal success; Develop long-term solutions; Take collective action for change; Sustain engagement and leadership over the long term. Through a program of: personal & economic empowerment; education & livelihood support; social capital & network-building; leadership & social justice training.


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