Breaking Barriers

As we close out January and Poverty Awareness Month, AWF’s Executive Vice President of Mission DiShonda Hughes writes about the challenges facing low-income women and girls in our community and how AWF is helping to break the barriers. 

Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.” ― Martin Luther King, Jr.

As I reflect on the work that The Atlanta Women’s Foundation has accomplished to eradicate poverty in our community over the last 35 years, I am disheartened, yet hopeful. Georgia still has high rates of women with incomes below the federal poverty line (an annual income of $25,750 for a four-person household) compared to other states. Women make less money than men, leaving them more likely to live in poverty. Across metro Atlanta, poverty rates are particularly high for single women raising children; more than one in four single mothers are living below the poverty level. With the ever-rising cost of childcare, healthcare, housing, and transportation, poverty is a cycle many find difficult to break. For women impacted by poverty, one of the best pathways to success is a quality program that creates jobs and advancement opportunities.

As the only funder in Georgia dedicated exclusively to women and girls, AWF exists to help women and girls thrive. AWF also is an educator and convener on critical issues that impact women and girls in our community. It is our goal to support organizations that lift women and girls up and out of poverty by increasing their access to services and opportunities for advancement. AWF also encourages the community to share resources, experiences, and expertise to advance the work of organizations committed to women and girls through our collective impact grantmaking strategy. Collective Impact is an effective strategy for gathering shared knowledge, building relationships, and laying the groundwork for collective action. AWF plays an essential role in creating the space for collaboration and supporting nonprofits as they work together to break barriers for women and girls across our entire community.

To date, The Atlanta Women’s Foundation has invested over $17 million to programs designed to move women and girls from poverty to prosperity. While the poverty rate has fallen from 17% to 14%, there is still so much work to do.

Metro Atlanta’s diverse women are an essential part of the state’s labor force, which requires a more inclusive intersectional policy approach that boosts incomes, expands educational opportunities, and promotes thriving, equitable communities. To create lasting change, women must be empowered to realize their full potential.

DiShonda Hughes is the Executive Vice President of Mission for The Atlanta Women’s Foundation and will be celebrating twenty years with AWF in April. She is responsible for effectively managing various grantmaking initiatives, fostering legislative and public action that will support the elimination of generational poverty among women and girls, and increasing the number of women on nonprofit boards through the Women on Board program. She has extensive experience in grantmaking in the areas of Women’s Health, Economic Justice, Homelessness, and Prevention of Violence Against Women, and she has managed the distribution of over $17 million to local nonprofits serving women and girls impacted by poverty.