Youth LEADS: Working to End Gender-Based Violence Among Youth
Youth LEADS (Leverage, Energize and Define Solutions) is a Biden Foundation initiative to combat gender-based violence among youth by providing young leaders with the platforms, network and organizational support they need to create change.
In 2018, the Youth LEADS team facilitated 15 listening sessions across the country to hear from young people with diverse backgrounds and included a visit with YWCA Minneapolis youth.
Youth Panel Discussion in Washington D.C.
Recently, the Biden Foundation released the report of the Youth LEADS initiative and held an event in Washington D.C. to share the findings. YWCA youth who are part of the Beacons program, Taylor B. and Trammela W., had the experience of traveling to Washington D.C. to sit on a panel with six other youth. They talked about their experience participating in the Youth LEADS initiative and how these conversations have helped to shape and direct the work they continue to do in the communities.
Reflections from YWCA youth:
“The Youth LEADS initiative was a good way to talk openly about how I feel about domestic violence. People hearing my voice helps them to speak up about domestic violence. Sometimes, young teens my age or older are scared to tell their stories because they are afraid of what people will think of them. When I went to Washington, D.C. to speak what was on my mind, it felt like a step forward to help others come out and talk about what they are going through. Knowing that there are a lot of people the LGBTQ community that might not want to tell their story because of the fear of getting physically hurt and other bad things happening to them, I am hopeful that being on this panel will help others understand that they are not alone. – Trammela W. (YWCA Minneapolis)
Sometimes, young teens my age or older are scared to tell their stories because they are afraid of what people will think of them.
“The Youth LEADS program has given me even more confidence, and it has taught me not to be afraid to be honest with adults. Also, being on the panel and listening to other people’s stories made me realize that I have to be careful of what I say to other people. I say that because I don’t know what other people are going through in their lives. The Biden Foundation made me more open to other people’s feelings. I think that [Youth LEADS] was a great experience to finally have my voice be heard and for me to be recognized for doing good work for our youth.” – Taylor B. (YWCA Minneapolis)
The Youth LEADS program has given me even more confidence, and it has taught me not to be afraid to be honest with adults.
Combating Gender-Based Violence
While a lot of progress has happened in the effort to combat gender-based violence, the rate has continued to be persistently high for our young people. Eighty percent of sexual assault victims experienced their first assault before they were 25. Some of our youth have experienced date violence in middle school. I was proud that Franklin Middle School Beacons girls were chosen to be a part of the Biden Foundations panel discussion and the Youth LEADS (Leverage, Energize and Define Solutions) project. It was a great experience to see our young people talk about their experiences with others in different states.
Young People Committed to Transformational Work
We are humbled and honored to listen to the stories and reflections of these young women of color. It’s clear that to meet and address the needs of youth, we must listen to and amplify their voices. Young people like Taylor and Trammela are committed to transformational work in their communities and doing the hard work necessary to enact cultural change. Ending gender-based violence takes all of us – and at a time when young people face some of the highest rates of domestic and sexual violence that means centering and uplifting young people’s voices and experiences.
Young people like Taylor and Trammela are committed to transformational work in their communities and doing the hard work necessary to enact cultural change.
Watch the Livestream
You can watch a livestream recording of the event to hear directly from these young leaders and read the Youth LEADS report here.