Young Women’s Initiative

We put young people at the helm of advancing solutions to the problems they encounter in their lives and communities, to advance gender equity and racial justice in the District of Columbia.

The Young Women’s Initiative (YWI) is a national initiative of eight prominent women’s foundations to ensure all young women—particularly young women of color—lead, prosper economically, and live safe and healthy lives.

About YWI




At Washington Area Women’s Foundation, our comprehensive strategy to achieve YWI’s mission in the District of Columbia includes:

  • Engaging young women and gender-expansive youth of color as agents of change in their communities through participatory grantmaking with our Rock Star Fund.
  • Providing flexible and reliable funding to organizations building youth voice, power, and leadership to advance gender equity and racial justice.
  • Supporting coalitions and groups advocating for policies and practices that center the needs and solutions of young women and gender-expansive youth of color.

Grantee Partners

dc-girls-coalition-1We are excited to support Black Swan Academy and Rights4Girls 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.

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. 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


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, allowing YWAC fellows the opportunity to review applications and decide awardees.

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. 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!

Read below to learn more about their innovative projects to advance the recommendations of our Blueprint for Action.

Meet our 2022 Rock Star Awardees:

Sasha Alston will partner with a local non-profit in DC to encourage and motivate girls of color to engage in STEM field.

Navaeh Bright will develop community gardens with women and girls of color.

Laurice Djepeno will develop time management courses for youth in high school

Valeria Sosa Garnica will develop culturally-relevant, trauma-informed 6-week curriculum for girls, young women and gender expansive youth of color.

Amari Jackson will promote confidence of girls through engaging and exploration of horse care.

Yasmina Konate will create a website to teach other high school students about health education and de-stigmatize sexual health.

Amana Seaton will provide information and expand counseling and grant services for students after high school.

Kennedy Solaru will provide peer-to-peer tutoring services to youth for Mandarin.

Meet our 2021 Rock Star Awardees:

Adjo Evonlah will Advocate for acceptance of natural hair. She plans to create a business plan to launch a hair product startup and launch a website.

Isabella Kaye Mclaughlin Getahun will provide positive role models for young women and girls of color. She will partner with powerful women of color to organize YouTube Live sessions, so girls can ask questions and connect with positive role models.

Aya Settles will help teenage girls battling self-image issues by hosting webinars, workshops and maintaining and expanding the iSeeMe.Love website to offer girls positive affirmations and quotes, as well as self-care routines and girl-power information.

Aras Tobin will launch a mentorship platform to support young women to volunteer, to take part in extracurricular groups and explore different avenues of learning. She plans to bring together motivational speakers who will support young women to grow in their leadership potential.

Nakaia Wells will raise awareness on how retailers can make shopping accessible to visually impaired youth and partner with a store and start a project creating special labels that are friendly to vision impaired people.


rock-star-awardeesFrom L-R: Ronjai Beckwith, Ramani Wilson, Aniyah Redd, Maisha Imam, Madelynn Martin, Morgan Hicks, Maisha Imam, Kayla Holliday, Rebecca York, Achanta’e Clark, Reina Dufore and Marlin Ramos.

Meet our new Rock Star Fund Awardees along with their project descriptions: 

  • Ronjai Beckwith will teach parents and their children how to grow a sustainable garden and how to cook with fresh produce.
  • Ramani Wilson will provide training and education for young women of color to learn to recognize abusive relationships in their lives.
  • Aniyah Redd will film a short documentary of conversations with students, teachers, and administrators, discussing things happening to LGBTQ youth, including statistics on the number of LGBTQ youth who commit suicide or are killed every year.
  • Madelynn Martin will conduct a “Cupcakes and Conversations” series to create spaces for girls of color to find their voice and engage on issues that matter to them. Some of these activities include creating a vision board, writing goals, generating a self-affirmation list, creating a gratitude list, and art therapy.
  • Morgan Hicks will create “Art and Soul,” a student-led safe space for youth of color to express themselves and explore their mental health issues with school social workers and a psychologist through art therapy.
  • Maisha Imam will launch a mentorship platform through Muslim Women’s Professional Network (MWPN) for the marginalized community of Muslim women.
  • Kayla Holliday will help young women of color gain financial literacy—bank accounts, credit cards, basic budgeting and the importance of saving, obtain work readiness skills and learn about job opportunities.
  • Rebecca York will produce UNPACK/ED, a series of free, online facilitation tools to help people begin unpacking issues including but not limited to racism, classism, homophobia, and transphobia in their close networks.
  • Achanta’e Clark will organize a circle of healing and a safety and violence prevention workshop, and create a pamphlet showing the types of services various organizations offer for young women of color who have been abused mentally, physically, or verbally.
  • Reina Dufore and Marlin Ramos will establish a website and print edition for the second issue of Lumxn—a zine that shows people in their most authentic and vulnerable states to better understand themselves and one another.


Since 2017 the Young Women’s Initiative has:

  • Provided awards to 19 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 100 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.

We are part of 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.