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Economic Empowerment at the Nexus of Racial and Gender Equality

As part of our commitment to supporting the economic empowerment of women and girls, we have partnered with FreeFrom and Black Girl Ventures. Nate Brown, director of the PIMCO Foundation, talks to the organizations’ founders about their crucial missions.

Text on screen: PIMCO

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Text on screen: Nathaniel Brown, Director of the PIMCO Foundation

Nate Brown: Today I have the pleasure of introducing two incredible leaders — Sonya Passi, founder and CEO of FreeFrom, and Shelly Omilàdè Bell, we call her Omi, founder and CEO of Black Girl Ventures. Both are visionary leaders who are uncompromising in their pursuit of equality.

We'll take a moment to learn about both of these leaders and their organizations. Omi, let's start with you.

Text on screen: Shelly Omilade, Founder and CEO, Black Girl Ventures

Shelly Omilade Bell: At Black Girl Ventures, we work to create access to capital, capacity, and community for black and brown women founders.

Images on screen: Black Girl Ventures events

We have unique programming centered around Black history, actually, so our pitch program is where we include the community in donating to Black or Brown founders. And it actually comes from during the Great Migration, where Black people were unable to pay their rent due to discrimination. And so they threw these great parties in their homes to actually use the admission fees to pay their rent.

And so we're carrying that history through and noticing that as Black and Brown women founders were starting businesses at six times the national average, yet receiving less than 1 percent of venture capital, we realized that legacy and business growth is a part of the community's vulnerability and wanted to make that stronger.

Images on screen: Black Girl Ventures events

With our fellowship program, we also work in communities to help people map their local ecosystems. Which then addresses some of the disparities in being locked out of information that other people may have historically had access to. And then we have our next-gen program, which is early access to entrepreneurship, where we're working with HBCUs to give student visionaries an opportunity to get their ideas funded and to launch them. So the early access to entrepreneurship, creating community and navigation locally to find resources, and through access to capital we bring these together, and you have Black Girl Ventures.

Nate Brown: Sonya, let's pivot to you.

Text on screen: Sonya Passi, Founder and CEO, FreeFrom

Sonya Passi: FreeFrom is a national organization on a mission to create pathways to economic security, with and for survivors of gender-based violence. 1 in 2 women, and 1 in 2 trans folks in the US will experience intimate partner violence, specifically, in their lifetime. And when you're talking about 1 in 2, 1 in 4, you're really talking about a national crisis. And the number one obstacle to safety for survivors is financial insecurity.

Images on screen: FreeFrom events

Everything that FreeFrom does is to interrupt this nexus between gender-based violence and economic security.

We have a cash assistance program for survivors, where we give folks no-strings-attached cash to spend as they needto support their safety. We have a savings matching program, where we are supporting survivors in building an emergency savings net  to support their long-term safety. We have a social enterprise gifted by from FreeFrom. It is an online store, exclusively selling products made by survivor-owned businesses, and employing survivors

Images on screen: FreeFrom events

to fully operate the store. We do policy work at a federal level, state level.

We work with employers to implement better policies to support employees who are experiencing intimate partner violence. We work with banks. And really want to shift our society's response from this short-term crisis intervention to understanding that this is a structural, economic problem that really requires every pillar of our society to do their part.

Images on screen: FreeFrom events

And, that really understands that we are not going to be able to live in a world free from violence, unless we understand the complexity of the situation, and we are doing more than just offering short-term relief at a moment of acute crisis.

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