Women’s Fund supports single mothers

When a single parent is paid less than a living wage, it is hard for the family to make ends meet. According to the Women’s Fund statistics, this is the situation for three out of four single mothers in Central Texas trying to raise their children on less than a living wage. Across the board, women earn over $9,000 less annually than their male counterparts in the same job.

Although these statistics are new, the Women’s Fund at Austin Community Foundation works to monitor data, track trends, address needs and shrink this gap since 2004.

What is new this year is how teenagers are encouraged to join the Women’s Fund effort to help improve their communities through a new project initiative called Raise Your Voice Award, a part of the Keyholder ’20 event sponsored by the Women’s Fund in Austin.

The Women’s Fund is a nonprofit organization that fundraises to help connect investors who are focusing on economic security for women and who have the financial resources needed with the nonprofits of their choice. They strive to close the opportunity gap between single mothers and the funds needed to support their family through getting the community involved in active participation.

Program manager of the Women’s Fund, Kim Sidey, talks about the strategies used with the investors to raise the donations needed to achieve their goals.
“In the spring, the Women’s Fund administers a request for proposals from the nonprofit community. The Women’s Fund grant committee then vets applications through an extensive application process that is organized by pillar,” Sidey said.

The Women’s Fund has been running for the past 15 years, and two years ago worked to further focus the goals into areas that are more specific around what issues were most present. The four pillars, that are mentioned above, are the areas of struggle in which the proceeds are focused towards. They are education, affordable and safe childcare, affordable housing and pregnancy prevention in Austin.

Each of the four investors are given $50,000 which they can donate to the associated pillar they agreed to contribute to.
“The thing I loved about the Women’s Fund is that they’re very focused on funding organizations where they have proven impact, so they can measure what they’re accomplishing in the city,” chair of the keyholder event Marjorie Clifton said.

Every year, there is a Keyholder event that inspires the community with featured speakers. This year, the Raise Your Voice Award is youth-focused. The project is a chance for high school students in Travis, Burnet, Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays and Williamson counties to brainstorm an original solution on how to effect the gender inequality in their community. The format of the project is a 250 word essay and a one-and-a-half minute presentation that is due at 5 p.m. on Jan. 1. Finalists will be chosen on Jan. 14, and invited to Keyholder ’20 at the Long Center on Jan. 20 where the five winners will be announced. Those who win will have their video shown at the event and will be given a $1,000 grant. The grant will allow the five winning projects to become a reality and help their community.

“The best way to describe this event was if a TED-style talk, a D.J. cocktail party and power networking event got together and had a baby,” Sidey said.

The featured speaker is Ziauddin Yousafzai, Malala Yousafzai’s father. Malala, a Pakastani activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate, was shot in the head for speaking out against the oppression of women’s rights under terrorist control in Pakistan. Although she survived, she can never return home to Pakistan or else she could be killed. She now attends Oxford, and will be skyped in to say a few words to the audience during the event.

“The Yousafzai’s collective effort is a powerful reminder that gender equity is good for women and men, and the Women’s Fund is excited to share their journey with Austin,” Sidey said.

The volunteers and organizers of the Keyholder ’20 event hope for this event to make strides in their efforts.

“[This event is designed to] recognize young change makers in our community, give financial resources to projects across the city that are helping to address those inequities and to meet a change maker on a global level,” Sidey said.

This is not the only chance for a teenager to get involved.

“I think the most motivating way to get involved is through the Raise Your Voice Awards, but I think the other part about getting involved in the Women’s Fund is to become an educated philanthropist yourself,” Sidey said. “Attend issue based educational events, following our work on social media and helping us get the word out about this.”

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