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Written By Vanne-Paige Padgett, Senior Director, Girls Initiatives, YWCA NYC | September 24, 2020

Since 2014 the YWCA of the City of New York (YWCA NYC) Girls Initiatives has empowered hundreds of self-identified femmes[1], girls, and gender nonconforming (GNC) youth from across the city to be leaders who inspire others, and courageously act on their beliefs to bring positive change in their community. As our city, nation, and the world unites during this critical moment of Black liberation, Girls Initiatives stands in solidarity with the global demand for “radical, sustainable solutions that affirm the prosperity of Black lives”[2], by launching a special year-long agenda themed: The Year for N.O.W (New Opportunities & Wins).

The Year for N.O.W agenda cultivates traditional Girls Initiatives programming and services to specifically address the effects of intersectional oppression, trauma, and high stress environments that have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and vicarious exposure to the murder of Black bodies. The nation’s most recent events continue to foster many challenges for Girls Initiatives participants – with our Black and Latinx change agents being especially disadvantaged by Covid-19, social isolation, and racialized gender oppression. Many of our courageous young leaders remain resilient despite the emotional toll of such unprecedented times of extreme police brutality and disproportionately high rates of Black and Latinx people dying. “The role of women, and particularly women and girls of color, in leading and shaping change is becoming more pressing, as demographic trends point toward women of color becoming the majority among all women in the United States by 2050”[3] . In anticipation of this shift, The Year for N.O.W uplifts the city’s femme-identified youth, across racial and gender identities, to learn, lead, and liberate.

The Year for N.O.W agenda aims to create safe and inclusive, virtual and physical, community spaces for healing and eradicating the persistent traumas of systemic racism, gender inequity, and the perils of Covid-19. Providing a platform and vehicle for the next generation of activists, all workshops, activities, and services will equip the city’s most vulnerable femme-identified youth with vital tools and resources to improve personal wellbeing and socioemotional development. The Year for N.O.W agenda prioritizes that the needs and rights of all femmes, girls, and GNC youth in New York City are front and center in 2021.

As a racial and gender equity action plan The Year for N.O.W  incorporates principles and frameworks that create a unique definition of leadership centered on racial and gender equity, ensuring that femmes across gender identities have their voices heard and participate fully in our society. The Year for N.O.W agenda confronts serious individual, community, and generational effects of living in social isolation in a city that systematically oppresses femme-identified individuals, people of color, and those living at the intersections of race and gender. In addressing the consequences of racism, gender oppression, and misogynoir this plan seeks to reduce the impact of social stress on the well-being of participants and restore vital relationships with self, community, and society.

[1] Learn more about the term “femme” for gender diversity and inclusivity: https://wearyourvoicemag.com/women-and-femmes-femininity/; Contemporary understandings of femme identities and related experiences of discrimination; Experiences of femme identity: coming out, invisibility and femmephobia; Fear of a Black Femme

[2] Learn more about the Black Lives Matter Movement and the global call to action for racial justice: https://blacklivesmatter.com/

[3] Learn more about why the YWCA focuses on women of color and the benefits of intersectional approaches to gender equity: https://www.ywcasandiego.org/wp-content/uploads/Racial-Justice-Manual.pdf