There is a general perception that California is the land of wealth, tech, progressive policy, and equality; but, when you look at the data and hear the lived experiences of women, girls, and LGBTQ+ populations, a whole different story is revealed.

In April 2019, 20 visionary leaders working to improve gender equity and advance social justice in the Central Valley and the Bay Area gathered for Rise Up’s first-ever Advocacy and Leadership Accelerator in California. Leaders highlighted how issues like sexual harassment, gender-based violence, lack of access to healthcare, discrimination, mass incarceration, and human trafficking impact women, girls, and LGBTQ+ populations across California. Their lived experiences and stories closely resemble those shared by Rise Up Leaders about the lives of women and girls in Nigeria, India, Mexico, and Kenya.

Upon returning to their organizations, the Rise Up California Leaders refined strategies to improve gender equity in their communities, and across California and submitted proposals to us. Rise Up is funding the six projects below, which aim to improve girls’ education, reduce gender-based and sexual violence, increase LGBTQ+ access to healthcare, tackle gaps in California’s incarceration system, and protect the rights of women and girls in the Central Valley and the Bay Area:

Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission – Central Valley Against Human Trafficking: Protecting human trafficking survivors by creating an advisory board to oversee all 75-100 human trafficking direct service providers and ensuring caseworkers are properly trained so they do not re-traumatize victims and survivors in Fresno County.

Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission – Sanctuary and Support Services: Improving access to quality healthcare for the transgender community in Fresno by advocating for the creation and implementation of trans-friendly healthcare service guidelines across Fresno County.

Girls Inc., West Contra Costa County: Increasing girls’ access to education by working with the district to establish strong anti-sexual harassment policies and implementation guidelines for the West Contra Costa County School District.

HIVE: Preventing the separation of families at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital by advocating for a new collective-impact driven Child Protective Services referral protocol to be adopted by all hospital staff.

Monterey County Rape Crisis Center: Improving access to justice for sexual assault survivors by advocating for the creation of a Sexual Violence Task Force to investigate and shepherd reported cases of sexual assault through the criminal justice system in Monterey County.

Young Women’s Freedom Center: Protecting the rights and safety of female prisoners in California by establishing an independent Women’s Oversight Committee to ensure proper reporting and handling of incidents by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.