Following an election that sent more women to Congress than ever before — including Texas’ first two Latina representatives — a new leadership training initiative aims to grow the number of women of color in leadership positions across the state.
Movement Mujeres, an initiative backed by former state senator and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, is a two-year leadership training program that organizers hope will prepare selected fellows to run for public office, work in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors or be community leaders.
Program manager Tina Chavez said Movement Mujeres will open doors to new opportunities for women of color in Texas.
“What stood out to me the most is how many women have thanked us on social media in the comments section for putting together this project,” Chavez said. “There’s a sense that there really isn’t a leadership pipeline for women across the state.”
The program is a joint effort from Jolt Initiative, a Texas nonprofit that works to mobilize Latino voters, and Deeds Not Words, Davis’ nonprofit.
Ke’Yonna Hall, curriculum development and training coordinator for Deeds Not Words, said that over two years fellows will learn about fundraising, budgeting, public speaking and other skills needed to work in the public arena.
“We’re trying to teach them that leadership isn’t limited to elected positions. We’re trying to develop a pipeline that is multi-faceted and will lead them to doing great work anywhere,” Hall said.
The application asks women what areas of leadership they are interested in, be it elected office, nonprofit work or community organizing. Hall will seek out speakers and develop a curriculum for quarterly summits based on what the applicants indicate.
On top of providing a yearly stipend and covering travel costs for the fellows, Movement Mujeres will help the fellows with some child care costs if the need arises.
“When we were developing the program, this was really a no-brainer. There should be no barriers for a woman building up her potential,” Chavez said. “If a woman does something to build herself up, that’s going to benefit her child or children.”
Cristina Tzintzun, founder and executive director of Jolt Initiative, said the idea for the program was born during conversations with Davis about the lack of leadership training dedicated to women of color in the state.
Tzintzun, who rose to prominence as a co-founder and executive director of Workers Defense Project, said she wishes she’d had a training opportunity.
“This comes from recognizing that I as a young woman of color didn’t really have that support or infrastructure. It made me realize that there is an underinvestment in developing this type of leadership,” Tzintzun said. “Something like Movement Mujeres would’ve made it easier for me to develop these skills, but now we can invest in that next wave of leadership.”
The initiative was made possible by a grant from the Radical Hope Fund from the NoVo Foundation, a social justice philanthropy group that works to advance women’s equality.
Movement Mujeres will receive $2 million from the NoVo Foundation over four years to train at least 50 fellows. Chavez said Movement Mujeres will seek other forms of funding to work beyond the initial four years.
The application process is open until Jan. 9. Organizers have received more than 100 applications. Fellows will be notified of their acceptance at the beginning of February.
“This program will be a real game changer, and I hope it will lead to more women of color and others to take on leadership roles so that our elected offices reflect the diversity of what Texas is today,” Tzintzun said.