Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has announced a major effort to address disparities faced by young women and girls across underserved communities at Thursday on the City Hall steps.

Amongst advocates, leaders, and organizers of local women’s groups, Mark-Viverito hailed the Young Women's Initiative as the “first effort in the country to deeply examine and combat the systematic inequality faced by many young women.”

Led by advocates, data and policy experts, along with a Young Women’s Advisory Council (YWAC), the initiative is set to produce a blueprint to determine what is working and not working for programming and policy changes. Bridging gaps, it would focus on drawing young women to help create changes in health, education, anti-violence services. 

“While we know that women are underserved and underrepresented, we know shockingly little about how to change them. We need to have young women in the room as we ask these questions because it’s their lives, their experiences and their future that we need to secure,” Mark-Viverito said.

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Mark-Viverito said her office would be doing the research and making recommendations over the next six months. 

Joining the speaker, women from all walks of life held posters with photographs symbolizing their fight for equality, along with the hashtag, “#shewillbe.”

“I stand before you as a Black Latino who became a mom at 15-years-old,” Gloria Malone, said at the launch. “By all account, I was said to not succeed,” 25-year-old Malone said.

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Founder of non-profit Teen Mom New York City, Malone recounted the time when she saw the 2013 campaign from the NYC Human Resources Administration (HRA) that revealed “the real cost of teenage pregnancy.”

Those ads struck her at the time and she says there was a point where her and other young mothers did not want to ride the subways because of them. But today she says she is excited because "NYC is really listening to us."

—Tracy Lee