Making Voices Heard

Advancing Equity for Women and Girls of Color and the Boston Women’s March for America
Panelists at Advancing Equity for Women and Girls of Color: Continuing Progress and Building Towards Change
Panelists at Advancing Equity for Women and Girls of Color: Continuing Progress and Building Towards Change

On the final day of the Obama administration, SIF Executive Director reflects on her recent visit to the White House and the critical need to create ladders of opportunity for ALL Americans, including women and girls of color.

I couldn’t believe it when I opened my email in late November and found an invitation from the White House. It was for a mid-December convening: Advancing Equity for Women and Girls of Color: Continuing Progress and Building Towards Change. Having spent the better part of the last 30 years working on a range of social justice issues, the past 12 of them with the Social Innovation Forum, it was an exciting email both for me and for the SIF team. At SIF, we have worked on a range of social issue topics, amongst them, focusing on women’s and girls’ issues and concerns. We have done this with a broad range of funding partners.

The session in mid-December was on that really cold day, and even in D.C., it was frigid. As the conveners told the group of 150 women who were present, this was the final forum of its kind hosted by President Obama’s White House Council on Women and Girls. The goal was to bring a range of stakeholders from the academic, private, government, and philanthropic sectors together to discuss ways that we could continue to break down barriers to success, and create more ladders of opportunity for all Americans, including women and girls of color. The program that day looked back at the Obama Administration’s work to advance equity for women and girls of color, and helped those of us present to look forward to continue supporting innovative solutions and exciting place-based work that is happening throughout our country.

We need to speak up, we need to help others, and we need to keep the movement going forward.

Highlights for me of the three main sessions included:

An intro by Grace Dolan-Sandrino, a 16 year old LGBATQ activist and advocate, who shared her personal story of moving from oppression to activism. We should all watch for her, as I am sure that she will be a leader in our country. There were comments from Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Woman and Girls, and from Tina Tchen, Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the First Lady Michelle Obama. They both spoke of the challenges they had faced as young women of color and the roads they took to make their voices heard and so that their actions made a difference. As I listened to the 15 speakers at the convening, the messages were clear – we need to speak up, we need to help others, and we need to keep the movement going forward. There is a real need to support and elevate the voices of our women and girls of color.

As many across the country know, Boston is just one of many hubs doing innovative and creative work on issues that affect women and girls. The Social Innovation Forum is proud that during our past 13 years, we to have worked with many such programs, including Strong Women, Strong Girls (2007); Girls Leap (2008), My Life My Choice (2010); Science Club for Girls (2012); GRLZ Radio (2013); Budget Buddies (2016). Just recently, we welcomed Julie’s Family Learning and Room to Grow – both of which support women and their young children – to our 2017 Social Innovator cohort. Additionally, we have served many others who assist women and girls of color in moving forward in their work. As the administration changes this month, and more of the leadership on these issues will be left to community leaders and funders, SIF remains committed to continuing the strong work we’ve begun and to supporting innovative work in this arena. 

For all of these reasons – and more – the Social Innovation Forum has signed on as a community partner for the Boston Women’s March for America. We believe that in these unusual and unprecedented times it is imperative that we make our voices heard and help elevate the voices of those who haven’t historically been heard. I will be marching in Boston on Saturday as others March in D.C. and across the country.

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