Change the Narrative Fellowship Program
In 2020, WOMEN’S WAY received a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Voices for Economic Opportunity Challenge to design, implement and test the Change the Narrative Fellowship Program. The Program seeks to change the predominant narratives of women and poverty by using a women-led, bottom-up, intersectional approach that focuses on the voices and stories of diverse women with lived experiences of poverty. The fellowship trains and empowers women with the lived experience of economic insecurity to share their personal stories through professional-level audio, visual, and print. The purpose of the program is to generate awareness of racial and gender inequities in economic opportunity and spur actions among the public and private sectors that improve economic security in the Philadelphia region. Ultimately, fellows’ stories will be widely promoted and easily accessible through partner organizations, and fellows will convene with journalists, policymakers and philanthropists to identify actions to improve the economic security of women and their families.
By the end of the Fellowship Program, the fellows will:
- Demonstrate increased confidence and knowledge about engaging, speaking up and sharing their stories with media, funders and policymakers.
- Demonstrate increased understanding of how to use a narrative change framework to effect social change in their communities and/or organizations.
- Establish new relationships with, and opportunities to influence, representatives from media, philanthropy, and government.
- Have more opportunities to accelerate their leadership capabilities by being part of a peer support network.
Key Fellowship Components:
The 6-month Fellowship program includes:
- A series of storytelling workshops
- Additional workshops on narrative change, drivers of the gender wealth gap, advocacy and community organizing, communication skills/public speaking, and interacting with media, funders and policymakers
- One-year membership to PhillyCAM. Learn more here.
- Opportunities to network with media, funders, and policymakers;
- Optional process groups
- Peer-peer learning and mentoring
First Cohort- Completed in June 2021
The first fellowship cohort was in January-June 2021 during which 8 women completed the program. Learn more about the fellows and read their bios here.
Below, you can read and watch the stories of the fellows in our first cohort!
Stories of Lived Experience Experts: Listen and Learn
“There once was a girl named Persistence. Persistence had many dreams like having a big stable home with enough bedrooms, a white picket fence to keep the danger out, a college education, a career she was proud of, and enough money to explore the world beyond the barriers that kept her confined. However, she faced many obstacles on the road to pursuing her dreams. But that didn’t stop her, Persistence knew that she was special, she just needed enough people to see it.”
“Every obstacle is an opportunity. When life gives you, lemons make lemonade, look on the Brightside.” Sure, optimism is better than pessimism but how do you expect me to be optimistic after losing four years of my life to a system that failed me?”
“My son was born into a world of trauma, but he has no idea. Like any good Mother I try to shield and protect him as best I can. I protected us both during my pregnancy when my partner is abusive to us, jeopardizing both our lives. I left that relationship with my son and some serious PTSD. I was barely existing, I relied on my own Mother, a non-profit and the State to help me bridge this difficult time.”
“I am doing this to save what is left of my family, a home for my children and a way to turn this pile of debt back to normalcy. This is all because you want out, you no longer want to be with me and you no longer wish to be responsible for our home, our children and me. I mistook your abusive ways for love. I thought I could keep you happy by buying you things. I thought that I could buy your love and your respect and that would stop you from treating me like dirt. I still feel like dirt, and I am paying for in the worst way possible.”
The Experience that I’m just about to share with you is about the cruel reality that my family and I have been subjected to in the USA, for more than 6 years now. About one year after coming to this country with my little children, to be a family with their dad, and when I was still being used to live here, we separated…
…my marital separation meant that I had to start seeing my children supervision and arm guards around…”
“It was on October 23, 2008, that a single life-changing event uprooted my security in ways I could never imagine. It was at this time that my daughter prosecuted her father for sexually molesting her. Not only was this event emotionally pivotal in my life but also financially. I was living below the poverty line without even knowing it. Unfortunately, even though I had two jobs and child support from now my ex-husband these were trying times. I would find out fast how low this line was when my children’s father was prosecuted and I lost all child support.”
“None of the jobs I had were enough to cover my financial responsibilities. Every paycheck was like a raffle, which bill gets paid today. And every paycheck I cried until I had no money left. There were times when I said screw this and treated myself to some retail therapy to help with my depression, the depression that was triggered by my financial insecurity.’
”Years later looking up from the carnage of what my life had become I would try to undo what years of devastation did with no clue as to “How”. How to take care of my family or get out of debt. How to make more money or even how to manage the little money I had. This lack of knowing “How” would leave me working hard with little or no momentum stuck in the cycle of poverty tethered to a life I so desperately wanted to escape.”Read Tracey’s full story here.
***The Fellowship is supported by a $100,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Voices for Economic Opportunity Grand Challenge.
Looking to the Future
GWI will conduct a fellowship program every year for women who live in Philadelphia and the 4 surrounding counties, and in Camden, Burlington and Gloucester Counties of Southern New Jersey. GWI will also build the capacity of organizations located outside the Greater Philadelphia region to implement the Fellowship Program for women in their communities.. By 2026, 210 women will successfully complete the Fellowship and an online repository of 210 stories will be established and easily accessible for distribution.
Second Cohort: January 2022 -June 2022
The next Fellowship Program will start in January 2022. The application process will open in October 2021.