YWCA is over 220 associations strong across the country, comprising one of the top 25 largest charities in the U.S., and is part of a movement serving over 2 million in the United States and 25 million worldwide. To advance YWCA’s mission, local YWCAs throughout the country offer services and programs in three key areas: racial justice and civil rights, empowerment and economic advancement of women and girls, and health and safety of women and girls. Each association does this in a way that is unique to its community’s needs. Here are some examples of that work in action.
The YWCA has long advocated for the health and safety of women and girls. And, the YWCA is the largest provider of domestic violence shelters and services in the country, serving over 500,000 women and children annually through our safety services. Violence against women can take many forms, including domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. These crimes impact millions of individuals and families in every community in our nation. YWCAs around the country provide a variety of services and programs to address violence against women, ranging from emergency shelters, support groups and crisis hotlines.
Women’s Health Programs
Since 1906, the YWCA has provided health and wellness programs to promote and protect women’s health. Quality, affordable health care is critical to everyone, especially women and children, many of whom have inadequate health care coverage or no health care coverage at all. Health coverage and programs that address women’s health needs, such as reproductive health and breast cancer screening, can be extremely expensive. The YWCA supports quality, affordable healthcare and believes that every woman deserves access to services that will keep them healthy.
The YWCA’s commitment to racial justice is one of the common threads that unites YWCAs across the country. Beginning in the mid-1800s, the YWCA was one of the first institutions to defy accepted societal opinions on race. Eliminating racism is one of the two central principles of the YWCA mission, along with the empowerment of women. And, at the core of the YWCA’s work is the recognition that not all women, or all people, are treated equally. Gender, race and economic equality are social issues that are interconnected and must be addressed in concert. For this reason, the YWCA advocates at the local and national level on racial justice and economic equality issues and also offers extensive programming to address these topics at our local associations.
Job Training and Empowerment
Over 100,000 women annually are enrolled in YWCA job training and empowerment programs. The YWCA provides job education and training to assist individuals in achieving self-sufficiency. Illiteracy, lack of educational achievement (high school diploma/GED) and lack of employment experience are significant barriers to gainful employment, economic security, advancement and self-sufficiency. Educational programming (literacy and job readiness training) empowers adults with the knowledge and skills to advance their educational and economic status. YWCAs around the country are empowering women of all ages in their communities by giving them the tools and the knowledge necessary for employment.
Early Childcare Programs
Since 1868, the YWCA has provided early childhood programs for many children across the U.S., and now serves over 200,000 children annually. Childcare and early education programs promote child development, school readiness and prepare the next generation for lifelong learning and success. These programs are also vital for helping parents obtain and retain employment, knowing that their children are in a positive environment while they are at work. Today, the primary types of care and education for young children are childcare, Head Start and pre-kindergarten programs.
Financial Literacy Programs
The imbalance in female earnings is real: according to a recent report, for every dollar a man earns, a woman earns 82 cents. Closing that gap is one of the YWCA’s most important goals, and, to that end, the YWCA helps over 100,000 women annually gain independence through economic empowerment programs. YWCAs offer financial literacy training, from budget basics to retirement planning. With the support of the Allstate Foundation, every YWCA in the country has been provided with a financial literacy course: “The Allstate Moving Ahead through Financial Management Curriculum.” The course includes tools and information designed to empower victims of domestic violence and people of all incomes to be self-sufficient with their finances.
Military and Veterans Programs
The YWCA has supported members of the military and military families for nearly a century, beginning in World War I when the YWCA and other women’s groups lobbied for a female military corp. The effort paid off during World War II when the first Women’s Auxiliary Corps (WACS) was founded in 1942. Soon after, the YWCA was one of six national organizations that launched the USO. Every year, at YWCAs across the country, over 4,000 military veterans and their families receive emergency housing, health care, career training and counseling. Military women who are victims of sexual assault also receive support.
YWCA STEM/TechGYRLS Programs
In 1997, a program called TechGYRLS was developed by YWCA USA in order to address the still-evident and significant gender gap in girls’ development of interest and skills in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). In 2014, YWCA USA became a partner with the Million Women Mentors initiative in order to strengthen STEM programming for girls and young women across the country. Million Women Mentors® (MWM) is an initiative of STEMconnector®, a company which works closely with corporations and organizations to assist in corporate development, corporate structure and smart STEM investments. The goal of MWM is to captivate one million mentors to link with one million girls and young professionals for their STEM careers.
Young Women’s Scholarships
Every year, the YWCA serves approximately 20,000 young women through leadership development programs and scholarships. Some awards are based on need, others on achievement and community service. All adhere to the goals of the YWCA: to seek peace, justice, freedom, and liberty.