The Dynamic Women Behind 20 Amazing Nonprofits
Having a publication that works to disrupt traditional media by redefining the way women are represented in the media has introduced me to a world of women who are doing a great deal of social change, but oftentimes don’t get enough praise for the work they do. As a result, I’ve decided to create a weekly series dedicated to honoring the women whose work serves the needs of others. This week, I have curated a list of the women behind 20 of my favorite nonprofits.
Ritu Sharma|Social Media for Nonprofits
Flickr user JD Lasica via Creative Commons
Founded in 2011 by Ritu Sharma, Social Media for Nonprofits hosts conferences around the U.S annually, providing training services and tools for nonprofit organizations on how to increase their visibility on the web through social media outlets. In an article she wrote for the The Huffington Post, Sharma stressed the importance of leveraging connections via the web “[…] one of the most powerful aspects of social media is that it provides an environment and a medium for people to express themselves independently, and yet find community.”
Reshma Saujani|Girls Who Code
Flickr user Alec Perkins via Creative Commons
In late March, The Huffington Post published an article that showed computing jobs for women in the U.S declined by 9 percent, down from 35% in 1990 to 26% in 2013. Saujani, an American lawyer by trade, conceptualized Girls Who Code while running for Congress in New York’s 14th congressional district ( the first South-Asian woman to do so) when she noticed the lack of female students in computer science classes along her campaign route. Since its inception in 2012, Girls Who Code has 150 clubs across the U.S, with over 3,000 girls successfully completing a program–95% who later go on to major in computer science during college, Saujani stated during an interview with NPR.
Kimberly Bryant| Black Girls Code (BGC)
Flickr user BlackGirlsCode via Creative Commons
If the statistics for women in tech didn’t look bleak, of the 26% of women who comprised of 2013’s computing workforce, only 3% of that were African American women. An electrical engineer herself, Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code wanted to improve the statistic by providing more opportunities for African American girls early on in life. Headquartered in San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point, the location is symbolic in itself- in one of the largest hubs of the tech industry in the world, the Bayview, an area historically Black, the neighborhood has long been ignored by the city. BGC offers workshops and after school programs to girls aged 7-17 to ‘prove to the world that girls of every color have the skills to become programmers.’
Susan Mernit, Zakiya Harris, Mary Fuller| Hack the Hood
Together, Zakiya Harris, Susan Mernit and Mary Fuller are the brains behind Hack the Hood, an Oakland based nonprofit organization bringing tech opportunities to low income youth of color through boot camps and hackathons. At Hack the Hood students learn the skills necessary to enter Oakland’s emerging tech industry as web developers. Since HTH’s first bootcamp in 2013, over 150 youth have gone through the program, with a 95% completion rate. Not only does Hack the Hood work to improve diversity in tech, small local businesses in the community HTH benefit by applying to obtain a free website!
Amy DeVita| Third Sector Today
Image via LinkedIn
Amy DeVita is the founder of Third Sector Today, a digital publication bringing the world of nonprofits in one easy to use platform. Also the COO of Top Nonprofits, DeVita’s goal is to provide resources for growing nonprofits, from marketing collateral and strategy, how to catch the attention of donors and angel investors, as well as tips to increase visibility via the web. Both websites have one mission: “To empower today and tomorrow’s nonprofit leaders by providing the insights, tips, best practices and resources that can elevate their missions and help others.”
Caroline Avakian| Source Rise
Flickr user JD Lasica via Creative Commons
Referred to as ‘the publicist of the poor’, Avakian is founder and CEO of Source Rise, a nonprofit whose mission is to improve the quality of news information. Founded in 2014, Source Rise is already off to a great start. The organization words by connecting journalists to on the ground experts from around the world, enabling more factual reporting and exclusive coverage. If you’re a journalist- sign up quick! Opportunities are available for hosting opportunities for you to cover news are available from around the world.
Esther Pearl| Camp Reel
Courtesy Esther Pearl for Wear Your Voice
Esther Pearl began her career in media and entertainment as a teenager. Early on in her career, Pearl realized the unfortunate truth about women in the media-they were misrepresented and lacked leadership roles in the industry ( 16% of decision makers in the film industry are women, with less than 6% women directors). Pearl decided to do something about it, and founded Camp Reel Stories in 2011. “The way women and girls are presented [in the media] isn’t the way they exist in society. We started to think about the direct effect on their psycho development, self esteem & self empowerment […] ‘We aim to give girls pragmatic life and work experience and an understanding on a strong work ethic, these skills will be necessary in order to break into this industry,” Pearl said in a 2014 interview with Wear Your Voice.
Nancy Lubin| Dress For Success
Screenshot image via Youtube
After receiving an inheritance from her great-grandmother in 1996, Nancy Lubin, a then law student, took the money to create a boutique in the basement of a church to provide business attire to women who couldn’t afford it themselves. Today, there are over 140 Dress for Success affiliates in 19 countries (and counting). Lubin went on to take over DoSomething.org, another nonprofit organization motivating young people to tackle local, national and international campaigns and become social change makers in their communities.
Kathy Bruin| About Face
Image via About Face ‘Our Story’
During the height of Kate Moss’s career in 1995, San Francisco based activist Kathy Bruin was tired of seeing unrealistic images of women depicted in billboard advertisements. In an effort to bring awareness to the negative images that were being fed to women by mainstream media, Bruin created wheat posters of Kate Moss at construction sites around the city with the caption “emaciation stinks” and “stop starvation imagery.” The posters went viral (before it was such a thing), and born was About Face. About Face’s mission is to ‘equip women and girls with the tools to understand and resist harmful media messages that affect their self esteem and body image.’ This summer, About Face launched a body positive hashtag campaign, #Bikinis4All.
Judy Vredenburgh|Girls Inc.
Image via Girls.Inc
Founded in 1864, Girls Inc mission is to ‘inspire all girls to be strong, smart and bold.’ Judy Vredenburgh serves as the current president and CEO of Girls Inc, serving the organization for the past five years. Today, Girls Inc. has more than 140,000 girls enrolled across the U.S. and Canada. Last year, Wear Your Voice had the opportunity of speaking with Girls Inc. of Alameda County CEO Linda Boessenecker on how Girls Inc. has impacted the lives of the young women she serves in her community “Providing an opportunity to one girl is not just for that girl, it’s changing the trajectory of not only her life but her children’s.”
Samantha Schell| Oakland Elizabeth House
Image via LinkedIn
Samantha Schell is the President of the Board of Directors at Oakland Elizabeth House, a transitional program for women with children who’ve experienced homelessness, violence, addiction or poverty. Elizabeth house has helped over 500 families since opening its doors in 1991, 90% of mothers who go on to find permanent housing and employment.
Christine Stoner-Mertz | Lincoln Child Center
Image via LinkenIn
Lincoln Child Center has been operating in the Bay Area for over 130 years. Founded in 1883 by Rebecca McWade who used her home to create the first integrated orphanage in Northern California, The mission of Lincoln Child Center is to ‘promote the resiliency and success of children, youth and families impacted by trauma, poverty and other challenging socioeconomic circumstances, through coordinated mental health, education and family support services.’ Since 2006, Christine Stoner-Mertz has served as President and CEO of Lincoln Child Center.
Image screenshot via Maitri Facebook Page
Maitri is a Bay Area based nonprofit that focuses primarily on the needs of families from South Asia facing domestic violence, emotional abuse, cultural alienation, human trafficking and family conflict. Founded in 1991 by a group of Indian women, Maitri’s mission is to ‘help South Asian women make an informed choice about the lives they lead.’
Susan Burgess-Lent| Women’s Centers International
Oakland based women’s rights activist Susan Burgess-Lent is the executive director of Women’s Centers International, a nonprofit organization that develops community centers managed by and for women living in poverty. WCI’s mission is to ‘ignite a dynamic of transformation that honors self help as the foundation of progress.’
Marcia Blackstock| Bay Area Women Against Rape (BAWAR)
For over 40 years, Bay Area Women Against Rape (BAWAR) has worked to address sexual assault in the Bay Area, offering 24 hours crisis center services, counseling , community and advocate for rights of women at risk of human trafficking. Founded in 1971 by Olivia Abrahams, Oleta Kirk Abrams and Julia Schedendinger, the nation’s first rape crisis center has serviced over 9,000 survivors of sexual trauma and human trafficking. Marcia Blackstock serves as the current Executive Director.
Amie Williams, Meena Nanj| Global Girl Media (GGM)
Williams (L), Nanj (R). Image via YouTube
Co-founded by Amie Williams and Meena Nanj, Global Girl Media is a nonprofit organization ‘dedicated to empowering high school age girls from under-served communities around the world through media, leadership and journalistic training to have a voice in the global media universe and their own futures.
Vanessa Scott|Love Never Fails
Image screenshot via Freedom Summit Speech video
Founded in 2011 by Vanessa Scott, Love Never Fails (LNF) is ‘dedicated to the restoration, education and protection of those involved or at risk of becoming involved in domestic sex trafficking.’ A director of Bay Area Youth Dance Team, Scott created LNF after one of her dance students experienced human trafficking firsthand. Today, LNF offers an array of programs and services to address the needs of human trafficking, including education, mentoring services, search and rescues, workforce development, legal services and case management. LNF has partnered with local Oakland pioneer, artist and advocate Regina Evans of Regina’s Door to end human trafficking in Oakland. In an interview with Wear Your Voice Evans said “we need to show that these girls are not just victims. My art does this, it gives a voice to the voiceless.”
Lisa Burger|Independent Arts and Media (IAM)
Image via State and Main
Lisa Burger is the President of Independent Arts & Media, a fiscal sponsor for independent, non commercial artists and media producers. If you’re not in the know, a fiscal sponsorship allows people/companies/organizations who align with IAM’s mission of ‘ building community and civic participation and facilitating cultural engagement and free expression’ to use their tax exempt status to receive funding and grants through special projects. In 2013, IAM increased its charitable fund to $425,000 and sponsors over 40 affiliates and counting. Find out how you can join IAM here.
Nola Brantley, Adela Hernandez Rodarte, Sarai T. Smith-Mazariegos and Emily Hamman| MISSSEY
Image via MISSSEY Facebook
Motivating, Inspiring, Supporting & Serving Sexually Exploited Youth (MISSSEY) is a ‘survivor-informed organization confronting human trafficking in Oakland, in Alameda County, and throughout California.’ Founded in 2007, MISSSEY has served nearly 1,000 survivors of sex trafficking, offering programs such as holistic case management and mentorship and foster youth programs. In 2014, Falilah Bilal became MISSSEY’s Executive Director.
Gloria J. Lane Ph.D | Women’s International Center
Image via Women’s International Center
The Women’s International Center was founded in 1982 by Gloria J. Lane Ph.D-a writer, educator and activist for women’s rights. During her 50th birthday party, Lane received devastating news from her physician, who diagnosed her with Multiple Sclerosis. Out of her own struggle, Lane decided to create WIC to encourage women around the world, that they too can persevere in spite of their own struggles. Although Lane passed away in 2013, her legacy lives on at WIC whose mission is to ‘Acknowledge, Honor, Encourage and Educate Women.’
Know someone I missed? Let me know in the comments below!
Ravneet Vohra is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Wear Your Voice Magazine, an Oakland based publication redefining the way women are represented in the media. She’s a mum, motivational speaker and writer based out of Oakland, CA. Her favorite food is her mum’s home cooked curry, and her favorite time of the week is Wine O’Clock Wednesday. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
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