Asian American Women’s Political Initiative

As the country’s only political leadership organization for Asian American women, AAWPI was founded from a recognition that AAPI women’s unique needs, particularly in mental and women’s health, and domestic and sexual violence, were often unseen and overlooked by government. We built an infrastructure to support low-income and immigrant AAPI women interested in government and politics. Since 2009, over 90% of our alumnae have gone on to volunteer or work on campaigns, become community organizers, or run for office. Now, we are scaling this model nationally to change the face of leadership and political power for AAPI women.

Here's the Issue:

AAPI women and communities have long been underserved, undervalued, and underrepresented at all levels of government, and disproportionately targeted by violence.

52% of AAPI women report experiencing sexual or physical assault, likely an understated figure as AAPI women are also the least likely to report these crimes. Now, xenaphobic COVID-19 propaganda has fueled hate toward AAPI communities, echoing violence perpetrated throughout U.S. history. In the last year, 3,800 anti-Asian hate incidents were reported, 68% against women. Most prominently, the Georgia mass shooting killed eight people, six Asian women.

From the lowest voter turnout to almost complete invisibility in government, AAPI communities are among those with the least political power, leaving AAPIs vulnerable to the targeted hate that we see today. Without a seat at the table, Asian Americans are left out of policymaking that directly affects them and creating lasting change in our communities is impossible.

Our Solution:

Nationally, no infrastructure exists to mentor, train, and support AAPI women at all stages of the political pipeline. AAPI women rarely see their reflections in government: 0.7% of state legislators nationwide are AAPI women. Over 5x as many AAPI women would have to be elected to reflect the population.

Building on our Massachusetts model’s success, we are creating a first-of-its-kind national infrastructure to activate AAPI women, elevating civic engagement from voting, to community organizing, to running for office. Our five-month Civic Impact Fellowship & Incubator funds $10K projects led by young AAPI women in partnership with community organizations, engaging AAPI communities (~250 people per project) in social change. Fellows meet weekly for leadership development, progress checks, training, and grassroots actions. To scale deliberately, we will expand to five states where large/growing AAPI populations can have critical electoral influence: Massachusetts, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, and Northern and Southern California.

We're the right people to do the work because:

For 12 years, AAWPI’s groundbreaking political leadership program for low-income and immigrant AAPI women has been changing the face of political power in Massachusetts. Our 100+ alumni are Dreamers, anti-foreclosure activists who have experienced foreclosure themselves, LGBTQ rights advocates, and nonprofit entrepreneurs. Our model addresses the unique challenges AAPI women face, building community around a shared commitment to social justice. Over 90% of our alumnae go on to work on campaigns, become organizers, or run for office themselves.

Our founder Diana Hwang was the first National Political and Organizing Director for She the People, is a former candidate for Massachusetts state senate and is a nationally-known speaker on Asian American women in politics.

25 women and women of color thought leaders, elected officials and leading activists make up our National Advisory Council, including US Senator Mazie Hirono, US Rep. Pramila Jayapal, and US Rep. Ayanna Pressley.

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