Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 8.22.40 PMTHE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK
OFFICE OF COMMUNICATIONS

City Hall
New York, NY 10007
(212) 788-7116
**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE**
October 8, 2015

SPEAKER MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO AND THE NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL LAUNCH THE YOUNG WOMEN’S INITIATIVE
First initiative in the nation to specifically target and address systemic disparities faced by young women

Today, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the New York City Council launched the Young Women’s Initiative, a multiplatform coalition aimed at supporting young women in New York City and combating chronic racial and gender inequality in outcomes when it comes to healthcare, education, involvement in the justice system and economic development.

Co-chaired by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Ana Oliveira (President & CEO of the New York Women’s Foundation), Joanne Smith (Founder & Executive Director, Girls for Gender Equity) and Dr. Danielle Moss Lee (President & CEO of the YWCA of New York City) , the Young Women’s Initiative will convene stakeholders from across the City – including community-based organizations, advocates, policy experts and young women themselves – to inform how the City can transform the lives of young women and girls across the five boroughs.

“The Young Women’s Initiative is answering the call of so many to prioritize, resource, and invest in young women. This is the first effort in the nation to deeply examine and combat the systemic inequality faced by many young women, and together we will determine how can help transform the lives of young women and girls across the five boroughs. Our young women are the future of New York City – they deserve equity in their education, healthcare, economic opportunity and access to justice. I thank all the organizations and individuals investing in this crucial work and I look forward to the conversations ahead,” said New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito

The Young Women’s Initiative will analyze available data, examine the City current investments, and identify where the City can make a lasting impact. Together with experts in women’s issues and racial and gender inequality, the Young Women’s Initiative will also determine needs for programming, policy changes, data collection, and long-term research geared towards closing the gaps in outcomes experienced by young women and girls, and young women and girls of color in particular, in New York City.

“The Young Women’s Initiative was born from women and girls of color demanding inclusion in our nation’s racial justice fight of the 21st Century. Our communities will be made whole only when we intentionally address systemic and institutional racism, poverty and sexism while simultaneously creating the conditions for our girls and young women of color [trans and cis] to thrive alongside their brothers. YWI is intergenerational, strategic and visionary. I’m honored to Co-Chair and co-lead another way forward with some of the most intelligent and courageous people in the movement,” said Joanne N. Smith, Young Women’s Initiative Co-Chair and Founder/Executive Director of Girls for Gender Equity.

“I congratulate Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and The New York City Council on their steadfast vision and delivery of the Young Women’s Initiative, which declares that the lives of girls, young women, and gender fluid youth of color deserve greater attention and investment. The New York Women’s Foundation is proud to partner with the Young Women’s Initiative under Speaker Mark-Viverito’s leadership, and remains committed to advancing the lives of girls, young women, and gender fluid youth across New York City as we have for the past 28 years,” said Ana Oliveira, Young Women’s Initiative Co-Chair and President & CE of The New York Women’s Foundation.

“The Speaker and City Council are leading the country with the creation of the Young Women’s Initiative. This launch demonstrates their understanding that a community cannot thrive if it’s girls and young women are not healthy, whole, and thriving. I am truly honored to have this opportunity to lead a conversation aimed at transforming the social, educational, and economic landscape for my daughter and other girls of color in this city who face daunting disproportionalities in their pursuit of the American Dream,” said Danielle Moss Lee, Young Women’s Initiative Co-Chair and President & CEO of the YWCA of New York City.

In 2013, there were approximately 411,339 Black and Latina women between the ages of 12-24 in NYC, out of a total population of approximately 8,407,363.
• 77% live in rental housing, compared to 64% of the entire population
• 41% are on food stamps, compared to 25% of the entire population
• The average household income of the homes they live in is $59,216, compared to $87,420 for the entire population
• Twenty percent of women in this demographic (age 16-24) are out of school and out of work, which translates to approximately 59,133 people (or about 14% of the 2013 estimated target population of 411,339).
• Black and Latino women and girls in the five boroughs have the highest share of new HIV diagnoses among women in New York City at 64.6% and 27.8% respectively.
• Nearly 60% of young black women surveyed by the New York City-based organization Black Women’s Blueprint, experienced sexual violence before the age of 18.
• In New York City, among the close to 60,000 residents who experience homelessness every night, most of these are children or families led by women.

Over the next six months, the Young Women’s Initiative will focus on five broad issue areas through its working groups.
• Health: maternal mortality/ morbidity; sexual and reproductive health; chronic conditions; HIV/AIDS; primary care; mental health
• Education: early childhood; Pre-K; K-12 outcomes; school climate; afterschool programs; higher education
• Economic & Workforce Development: employment readiness; employment opportunity; family-friendly workplace policies; pay equity; financial literacy
• Anti-Violence & Criminal Justice: sexual assault; domestic and/or interpersonal violence; experience in the criminal justice system; human trafficking
• Self-Sufficiency & Mobility: income supports; childcare; supportive housing; foster care; child welfare

The Young Women’s Initiative will be led by a Steering Committee consisting of advocates, data experts, policy experts, Council Members and young women themselves. The City Council has convened a Young Women’s Advisory Council (YWAC) made up of young women between the ages of 14-25. Members of the YWAC will participate in issue-based working groups, communications strategy development, and the Steering Committee. Maya Wiley, Counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, incoming Chair of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, are serving as honorary co-chairs of the Initiative.

“As a member of the NYC Council Women’s Committee, I am enthusiastic and excited to be a part of the Young Women’s Initiative, (YWI), which will be nurtured and led by some of the most dynamic not for profit leaders and visionaries of our city. We are excited to be collaborating with these very capable and passionate leaders to draw our young women and girls into the conversation, about what they feel are the most pressing issues they are facing today. With our collective efforts on this endeavor, we will truly lead the way to opening new pathways and opportunities to help them find their calling, clear the obstacles and succeed in actualizing their dreams,” said Council Member Darlene Mealy, Co-Chair of the New York City Council Women’s Caucus.

“This Initiative will help bring vital resources to young women in underserved communities all over New York City by promoting access to healthcare, education and workforce development. I would like to thank Speaker Mark-Viverito for launching this initiative and for her continued commitment to bringing real opportunities to so many,” said Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, Co-Chair of the New York City Council Women’s Caucus.
“New York City is a frontrunner in women’s issues and this groundbreaking initiative further proves our commitment and respect for women and girls. The Young Women’s Initiative will have laser focus on their health, education and economic needs and finding innovative ways of improving young women’s lives,” said New York City Council Finance Committee Chair Julissa Ferreras.
“As Chair of the Committee on Women’s Issues, I am proud to join Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in launching the New York City Council Young Women’s Initiative to inspire, uplift, and empower the next generation of leaders whose innovative ideas and perspectives will create a better tomorrow for all of us. Every one deserves an equal opportunity to pave their own path towards personal, academic, and professional success. With the support of City agencies, we can invest in the development of young women to realize their full potential and contributions to our society,” said New York City Council Women’s Issues Committee Chair Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo.

“All too often young women of color are left out of mainstream dialogue on racial and gender justice issues and are barely included in policy making decisions. The Young Women’s Advisory Council of the Young Women’s Initiative is changing this by centering our work on the lived experiences and realities of young women of color in NYC. We’re supporting young women as policy and thought leaders right now, not just in the future,” said Amanda R. Matos, Young Women’s Advisory Council Co-Chair

“Solving income inequality is job one for Mayor de Blasio and his administration and we are proud to demonstrate how women lead in government,” said Counsel to Mayor and M/WBE Director Maya Wiley. “To end income inequality, we know we must ensure women and girls of all ethnicities get every opportunity economically, socially and politically – from becoming tech titans to living and working safely in our great city. The administration’s Commission on Gender Equity is proud to partner with the Speaker and YWI on this important initiative.”

The Young Women’s Initiative’s final recommendations will generate a blueprint for New York City’s efforts to improve the lives of girls and young women, including:

• Policy and legislative recommendations that promote and support shifts in institutional practice.
• Budgetary recommendations for programs and services that are currently underfunded to serve this population.
• Long-term research on key issues that should be a public priority, but either lack data or merit further investigation.

“I commend Speaker Mark-Viverito for launching the New York City Council’s Young Women’s Initiative”, said Jennifer Jones Austin, CEO and Executive Director at the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies. “To equip our city’s next generation of women leaders and doers with the skills and opportunities needed for them to succeed, it is imperative that we both understand the landscape of services and offerings currently available to women and girls, identify where gaps exist, and take the necessary steps to close those gaps.”

“I applaud Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and her colleagues on the City Council as they launch the nation’s first Young Women’s Initiative to address the challenges young women in New York City face,” said Jessica González-Rojas, executive director at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. “These challenges disproportionately affect Latina youth and include barriers to education and economic opportunity, and inadequate access to affordable preventive and reproductive healthcare. I am particularly excited to see the inclusion of young mothers in the Initiative — since we know that young moms are changing the world, even in the face of tremendous obstacles. I look forward to collaborating with the Initiative to work towards the day that all young women in this City can live with health, dignity, and justice.”

“I am thrilled to collaborate with this dynamic body to drive important change for young women in New York City—particularly young women of color. Joining with government leaders, advocates, policy experts, and young women leaders, we will prioritize and invest in the city’s young women and girls. Together, we can ensure that NYC’s young women and girls have the education, health, and employment opportunities they need to succeed and thrive. Legal Momentum has a long history advancing the personal and economic security of women and girls nationwide and we look forward to working closely with the City Council on the Young women’s Initiative,” said Carol Robles-Román, President and CEO, Legal Momentum.

“I’m honored to join the New York City Council in launching this historic and vital initiative. Through their intellect, creativity, and vibrancy, young women of color keep New York City alive, yet the majority of them are not receiving the support they need and deserve to thrive. We can and must do better. Indeed, our future depends on young women of color and the many talents they have to share,” said Heather McGee, Executive Director at DEMOS.

“The Children’s Defense Fund-New York is honored to join Speaker Mark-Viverito, leaders in the City Council and our advocacy allies in drawing attention to what has gone unaddressed for too long: the unique challenges girls of color face that severely limit their potential,” said Melanie Hartzog, Executive Director of the Children’s Defense Fund-New York. “We know that they are resilient, strong and resourceful, even when encountering tremendous odds. The Young Women’s Initiative —which aims to identify gaps in services, leverage existing strengths and improve outcomes—will let our girls and young women know that New York City believes in them and stands ready to better those odds.”

“At Per Scholas, we have a goal to train 1000 women in technology in the next 5 years. It is critical that we focus on preparing and supporting women in careers like those in technology that have family sustaining wages and significant career growth. Too many of our girls and women are funneled towards low wage occupations and careers and we are thrilled that the Speaker and the NY Women’s Foundation are leading the charge to make sure our City’s girls and women have access to opportunity and the ability to develop 21st century skills that are needed in today’s economy,” said Angie Kamath, Executive Director of Per Scholas.

“The Young Women’s Initiative is an important step towards beginning to address the devastating impact that generations of poverty, violence, and racism have had in fueling injustice and limiting opportunities for girls of color and their gender non-conforming peers throughout New York City. Girls of color and their gender non-conforming peers are dramatically overrepresented among the city’s homeless population, foster care system and juvenile and criminal justice systems. This public-private partnership will ensure that government, the private sector and, most importantly, young women themselves are at the table to work towards ending disparities and building a more just community for us all. The Vera Institute of Justice is pleased to be represented in this critical effort,” said Lindsay Rosenthal, Fellow and Associate at the Vera Institute of Justice.

“It’s not enough to acknowledge the challenges girls face. Through policy, philanthropy and programming, we must create pathways to ensure these girls go from surviving to thriving. We must make reinvesting in girls a priority,” said Cidra M. Sebastien, Associate Executive Director, The Brotherhood/Sister Sol

“At Welfare Rights Initiative, we are thrilled to engage in YWI’s solutions-based work and are grateful for Speaker Mark-Viverito’s leadership and commitment to our communities. We are inspired by the City’s bold vision and investment in young women and girls of color. We recognize the essential need for improving access to education as a core strategy. Our student and alumni leaders are prepared for ongoing, meaningful civic leadership and community-building processes designed to increase economic stability and lead to better opportunities,” said Dillonna C. Lewis, Co-Executive Director WRI.

“Gender injustice comes at women from all directions, but it’s especially true for women and girls of color. The Young Women’s Initiative is the right approach at the right time for New York City to identify workable and effective solutions to overcome the systemic barriers that keep young women from achieving their full potential. One of these barriers is the lack of access to high quality preventative and sexual and reproductive health care. At the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, we serve young women of color who frequently have been denied the care they need — care that is the foundation for a successful adolescence and adulthood. High quality health care isn’t a luxury; it’s essential. Because when women and girls are healthy, our communities are healthier, too,” said Angela Diaz, MD, MPH is the Director of the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, and the Jean C. and James W. Crystal Professor of Adolescent Health and a Professor of Pediatrics and Preventative Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

“I applaud Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and her colleagues on the City Council as they launch the nation’s first Young Women’s Initiative to address the challenges young women in New York City face,” said Jessica González-Rojas, executive director at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. “These challenges disproportionately affect Latina youth and include barriers to education and economic opportunity, and inadequate access to affordable preventive and reproductive healthcare. I am particularly excited to see the inclusion of young mothers in the Initiative — since we know that young moms are changing the world, even in the face of tremendous obstacles. I look forward to collaborating with the Initiative to work towards the day that all young women in this City can live with health, dignity, and justice.”
“While we can document the disparities facing young women in NYC, particularly young women of color, we are so grateful to Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the City Council for creating this initiative aimed at identifying the ways in which we as a City can tackle the disparities. Through this thoughtful process of incorporating quantitative and qualitative data with the stories of the young women in our City, we look forward to crafting concrete recommendations that make New York City a better place for girls and young women,” said Stephanie Gendell, Associate Executive Director for Policy and Government Relations, Citizens’ Committee for Children.

“I am so honored to have been called to work with the Young Women’s Initiative. As a millennial, the mother of a daughter and a journalist, I am hypersensitive to the need for young women and girls to have inspiring images of themselves in social and traditional media and I am confident that this initiative will provide that and much, much more,” said Jamilah Lemieux, Senior Editor at EBONY

“The New York Academy of Medicine is pleased to support the ambitious goals of the Young Women’s Initiative Health Working Group. Protecting girls in New York City from potentially damaging social factors, while safeguarding their physical and mental health, is an invaluable step toward ensuring that they live long, healthy lives. We also appreciate the opportunity to collaborate with the New York City Council and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito,” said Dr. Jo Ivey Boufford, President of The New York Academy of Medicine.

“This initiative is about acknowledging the needs of our girls throughout NYC and making sure that we are working as a collective to empower each of them and give them a voice. The time is now and we are focused on making the changes to improve access and resources for our girls today,” said Nadia Lopez, Principal of Mott Hall Bridges Academy.

“While criminal and juvenile justice reform is underway across the nation, many cities continue to neglect to consider how these reforms impact girls—particularly girls of color and young transgender women. In an effort to address this critical gap here in New York City, the NYC City Council—led by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and a number of community-based organizations—has formed the Young Women’s Initiative. The Young Women’s Initiative brings an intentional gender focus to current system reforms and, in doing so, provides a rare opportunity for gender justice and equity to be considered in the development and implementation of what I hope will lead to not just system reform but system transformation. The Young Women’s Initiative is a chance for policy experts and community leaders to come together and design systems that will advance public safety and support the healing and healthy development of one of New York City’s most precious resources: our girls and young women,” said Rukia Lumumba Director of Youth Programs at CASES.

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