As a volunteer and organizer, I often struggled with the appropriate way to move people to action. When I was a senior in college, I had the opportunity to talk to Mukasa Dada, formerly known as Willie Ricks, one of the key members of SNCC. Mukasa, known as the “fiery orator” of SNCC, told me that the key to organizing is in teaching people how to organize themselves. That’s what is effective. You don’t lead people, you teach them to lead. That’s what causes progress. And that’s exactly what the Young Women’s Project is all about.

YWP teens hard at work

YWP teens hard at work

The Young Women’s Project is DC-based organization that operates on the belief that simply giving young women the tools to become leaders is not enough. Leaders are made through practice. And the YWP expects the young women to actually lead. In that way it is simultaneously a mentorship organization and one that focuses on community organizing. The young women are paid to work on two initiatives, the Foster Care Campaign (FCC) and the Peer Health and Sexuality Education Campaign (PHASE).  PHASE is currently focused on making contraceptives available to high school kids and FCC is focused on improving older foster youth programming by educating foster children and their caretakers on their rights. I’m not personally familiar with this issue but I’m told by Samantha Griffin, who works as the Senior Fellow for the Foster Care Campaign, that it is a H.A.M.


While the work is absolutely wonderful, what makes the Young Women’s Project stand out from other organizations that are working to educate and empower youth is that YWP actually pushes the teens to do the work. Samantha tells me that the teens are “self-possessed and ambitious” and that they have made serious strides in improving their city and their position in the city. It seems that YWP has done a tremendous job motivating these young people to exact change in their situation. And that is what will truly make a difference.

Learn more about the YWP.

Help YWP make sexual health education a reality for DC area teens.