2017 Women of Distinction Awards: Working towards a bold mission, bright future

Starting tomorrow, hundreds of folks from YWCAs across the country will arrive in Washington, D.C., for our 2017 National Conference! Over four days of advocacy work, education, inspiration, and community, we will continue to affirm the strength, courage, and vision of the YWCA network, and to work towards our bold mission and bright future. How apropos that our conference theme this year is just that – Bold Mission Bright Future!

These next few days include not only workshops, presentations, and strategic planning, but also an entire day devoted to bringing the YWCA mission to senators and representatives on Capitol Hill. We will also spend Friday evening celebrating the remarkable, vital work of local associations, as well as incredible women and organizations that work to bring about racial and social justice. During this Women of Distinction Awards Gala on June 16, 2016, we will honor four extraordinary women leaders and nine YWCA organizations who have made a tremendous impact on the lives of women and girls.

The 2017 Women of Distinction honorees are:

The National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) for Advocacy and Civil Engagement

NDWA is the nation’s leading voice for dignity and fairness for the millions of domestic workers in the United States, most of whom are women. YWCA USA is proud to honor NDWA for their work organization and advocating for women, people of color, immigrants, and domestic workers. We applaud their commitment to centering women of color in all their work, and we specifically recognize their #WeWontWait2016 summit that brought together community leaders from around the country to amplify the voices and stories of women of color and low-income women and call for a comprehensive women’s economic agenda. The award will be accepted by Sameera Hafiz, who leads the policy and legal programs team at NDWA and focuses on anti-trafficking and immigration policy.

New York City Council’s Young Women’s Initiative for Women and Girls’ Empowerment

The New York City Council’s Young Initiative is making a real impact to address disparities that young women face in education, workforce development, healthcare, and the criminal justice system. This impressive, city-wide effort to empower young women and women of color is LGBTQ+ inclusive and affords young women decision-making power. This initiative is an impressive effort to empower young women and women of color, and it is a model for intersectional social justice work. The award will be accepted by Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is the speaker of the New York City Council and is the first Puerto Rican and Latina to hold citywide office; she launched the Young Women’s Initiative in 2015.

Nordstrom for Corporate Partnership

Nordstrom has identified YWCA USA as the nonprofit partner for its Treasure&Bond line of clothing, which means that from February 1, 2017 through January 31, 2018, Nordstrom will donate 2.5% of net sales from the line to YWCA associations in the U.S. and Canada. In the U.S., these funds will support our efforts to re-launch the innovative national TechGYRLS initiative. Initially started in 1997, the program addresses the significant gap in girls’ development of interest and skills in the areas of STEM. Partners like Nordstrom help make important programs like these possible! The award will be accepted by Jen Jackson Brown, president of Nordstrom Product Group.

We are also proud to recognize and celebrate the legacy of Dr. Dorothy I. Height by honoring a phenomenal woman whose contributions have had a national impact on racial justice. This year’s Dorothy I. Height Racial Justice Award will go to Charlene A. Carruthers from Black Youth Project.

Charlene A. Curruthers is the national director of the Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), an activist member-led organization of Black 18 to 35-year-olds dedicated to creating justice and freedom for all Black people. Her passion for developing young leaders to build capacity within marginalized communities has led her to work on immigrant rights, economic justice, and civil rights campaigns nationwide.

As we celebrate our bold mission and bright future, we will also recognize and celebrate the work of local YWCA associations in the areas of Advocacy, Racial Justice, and Girls and Women’s Empowerment. All finalists were determined by a vote of the entire YWCA network, and all nominees will most definitely be celebrated at the gala. (And for some added excitement, the final awardees won’t be announced until the event itself!)

Each of these honorees has demonstrated great achievements, and has made significant contributions towards racial justice and women’s empowerment. We are so excited to celebrate these role models and change makers, and are looking forward to Friday night’s gala, which will be hosted by another phenomenal woman, Melissa Harris Perry.

Melissa is the Maya Angelou Presidential Chair at Wake Forest University. There, she is the Executive Director of the Pro Humanitate Institute and founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center. She hosted the award-winning television show “Melissa Harris-Perry” from 2012-2016 on MSNBC, and she is an award-winning author.

We are truly appreciative to all the honorees for their tireless efforts to eliminate racism and empower women. We are thankful for all YWCA local association and national leaders, staff, volunteers, board members, supporters, and partners for all your support of the YWCA mission, and for all the work you all do in communities across the country to fight injustice and improve the lives of women and girls. Together, we can create a brighter future!