Renewal of 2015 initiative by coalition supports multi-issue platform to achieve gender and health equity

City Hall, NY – Today, Speaker Adrienne Adams, joined by former Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Girls for Gender Equity (GGE), the New York Women’s Foundation and health and equity advocates, announced the launch of the Council’s Young Women’s Initiative (YWI) 2.0. YWI 2.0 with the theme “Look Back/ Look Forward,” engaging in a retrospective of accomplishments of the previous YWI, started in 2015, to discuss what can be achieved in the initiative’s new configuration, starting within the areas of health.

At today’s convening, Speaker Adams and Council Members invited various community-based and advocacy organizations to the Council Chambers to kick off YWI 2.0 by hosting world café working groups on the following topics: 1) reproductive justice; 2) food and nutritional health; 3) safety in the medical field; and 4) mental health. Participants’ feedback will be incorporated in the initiative’s next steps.

“When women are healthy and have access to opportunity, our children, families, and communities thrive,” said Speaker Adrienne Adams. “Over the last few years, the Council has continued to build upon the work that the Young Women’s Initiative set out to accomplish, responding to crises with comprehensive solutions and multi-layered approaches that better serve all New Yorkers. With today’s launch of the Council’s Young Women’s Initiative 2.0, we have the opportunity to look back on our achievements and look forward to plan for the equitable future we deserve. I thank former Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, my Council colleagues, and all our community partners for their work on this critical initiative.”

“When we founded the Young Women’s Initiative in 2015, the Council had a very clear vision: give New York City young women and girls the platform to share their thoughts and concerns on the issues they face,” said Melissa Mark-Viverito, Speaker of the Council from 2014-2017. “Now in 2023 after #MeToo, the Dobbs decision and the pandemic, we have an opportunity to reflect on what we learned, move forward and revitalize that same mission in this new era. I thank Speaker Adrienne Adams and this historic women majority Council for instituting the Young Women’s Initiative 2.0 and their commitment to improve the lives of women and girls.”

“For over eight years, Girls for Gender Equity has remained committed to the Young Women’s Initiative (YWI) and runs the Young Women’s Advisory Council, a group of young Black girls and gender expansive young people of color who participate in youth organizing and civic engagement strategies to push for transformative change,” said Hollisha Liverpool, Deputy Director of Programs at Girls for Gender Equity. “This is a pivotal moment in New York City herstory as the Speaker of City Council reinvigorates the New York City Council’s Young Women’s Initiative. Today, as we gather, we are demonstrating how we can collaborate cross-sectors to ensure that this critical support to New York’s girls and nonbinary youth continues in the future.”

“The Foundation is excited to join Speaker Adams, former Speaker Mark-Viverito, and Girls for Gender Equity for this important milestone moment to renew our commitment to young women, girls, and gender expansive youth of color,” said Camille Emeagwali, Senior Vice President, Programs & Strategic Learning at The New York Women’s Foundation. “Sustained investment in the transformational leadership and life outcomes of young people is necessary to see generational change.” 

In 2015, then-Speaker Mark-Viverito launched YWI, the nation’s first initiative dedicated to improving outcomes for young women and girls. YWI seeks to build a blueprint for adequately investing in young women and girls in New York City over the long term, especially women from communities of color. Following its launch, YWI formed a task force to focus on the challenges and disparities that young women and girls experience. The task force subsequently released a report that included over 100 budget and policy recommendations, covering health, economic and workforce development, community support and opportunity, education and anti-violence and criminal justice.

The Council, along with philanthropic groups such as the New York Women’s Foundation, also provided $20 million in funds over two years to implement the policies. YWI has remained a Council funding initiative of which relevant stakeholders received funds to fulfill their missions and objectives.

“As Co-Chair of the Women’s Caucus, I am thrilled to be participating in the reconvening of the Council’s Young Women’s Initiative (YWI),” said Council Member Amanda Farías, Co-Chair of the Council’s Women’s Caucus. “This initiative, which is the first of its kind in the nation, was built around the idea that New York City must have a long-term plan to improve the lives of women and girls, especially women of color. This year’s YWI event will center women and girls from across the five boroughs to lead the conversation and inform legislators on the ideas they have for their future in this City. This could not come at a more crucial time as women are facing countless attacks on our healthcare and bodily autonomy. I commend Speaker Adams and this women-led Council for continuing this important initiative and I look forward to working together to craft policies that enhance the lives of women across our City.”

“At a time when young women are facing unprecedented challenges, we must empower them to lead discussions and create solutions,” said Council Member Farah Louis, Co-Chair of the Council’s Women’s Caucus. “That’s why the Young Women’s Initiative 2.0 is so critical. By engaging and supporting young women, we can celebrate their accomplishments and work together to address their needs. By working alongside community-based organizations and young women, we can set new goals to build a brighter and healthier future for all New Yorkers. Together, let’s ensure that every young woman in our city has the resources and support she needs to succeed.”

“I’m very excited for the launch of Young Women’s Initiative 2.0,” said Council Member Tiffany Cabán, Chair of the Council’s Committee on Women & Gender Equity and Co-Chair of the LGBTQIA+ Caucus. “This historic majority-woman Council has a special obligation to spotlight issues experienced by New York City’s women, girls, and gender-expansive youth, especially those disproportionately impacting kids of color and those experiencing poverty. This initiative will help us do that, as we move toward a city that is safe, healthy, and welcoming to all its residents, regardless of their gender, not just those from the communities that have historically held power over others.”

“Every girl and every woman have the potential to make this world a better place. That is why the continuation of the Young Women’s Initiative (YWI), to address the unmet needs of young women, is so important,” said Council Member Lynn Schulman. “Started under Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, this initiative has taken on new meaning in this first female majority NYC Council, led by the first Black female Speaker, Adrienne Adams.”

“National Institute for Reproductive Health applauds the New York City Council’s Young Women’s Initiative for re-committing its efforts to address vital and life-affirming resources for young women and girls who are navigating unprecedented attacks against their bodies, identities, and rights and freedoms to live their lives to the fullest,” said Andrea Miller, President of the National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH). “In a post-Roe era, partnerships between municipal allies and advocates are more important than ever. We look forward to supporting YWI’s ongoing work to address young femmes in a 360 approach that recognizes the interconnectedness of safety, mental, nutritional, and reproductive health.”

“Planned Parenthood of Greater New York is proud of the New York City Council for relaunching the Young Women’s Initiative,” said Wendy Stark, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood of Greater New York. “We applaud Speaker Adams for re-investing in New York City’s young women, transgender and non-binary youth of color. They are our future and deserve equitable access to resources that support their decisions, futures, and dreams. This initiative is an intentional commitment towards working together to ensure everyone, especially young people, has the support they need to live with autonomy. PPGNY proudly supports this historic initiative to build a better, more equitable future for all New Yorkers.” 

“In late April, the CDC released the findings of their Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The results reinforce what we have seen in our Life is Precious™ program since the start of the pandemic. COVID exacerbated an existing mental health crisis. The results of the YRBS showed that 22.8% of Latina teens in NYC seriously considered suicide in 2021 an increase of 20% from 2019 when 18.5% seriously considered suicide. As these statistics are from 2021, during the first year of the pandemic, I can only imagine that a survey conducted today would show even more dire results.  Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, 32 of our highest risk teens have been hospitalized in in-patient psychiatric units 50 times, as compared to 1 or 2 hospitalizations per year prior to COVID. Teens are entering our Life is Precious™ program with histories of hospitalizations and more acute suicide behaviors. For the first time, the survey included statistics the percentage of teens whose suicide attempt resulted in an injury, poisoning, or overdose that had to be treated by a doctor or nurse. In 2021, 3.5% of Latina teens in NYS and 3.6% in NYC required medical attention after a suicide attempt, the highest of any of their peers. Dr. Gil added that this shows two things: 1) that Latina teens need greater access to clinical mental health services and 2) that Latina teens who do attempt suicide are inflicting greater injury to themselves. I am grateful to the City Council’s Young Women’s Initiative’s focus on Health and Mental Health support for young women of color,” said Dr. Rosa Gil, President and CEO of Comunilife.