The Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative for Economic and Social Justice (SRBWI) is a collective of women leaders across Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia dedicated to lifting up Black women and families in rural, impoverished areas.
For generations, Black women have been at the very foundations of the South — mothers, aunts, innovators, activists, leaders and inspirations in the very heart of rural communities. They “made a way out of no way” — and that tenacity is far from gone.
SRBWI exists to pursue solutions to poverty and injustice in the poorest counties in America and to improve the quality of life in our communities.
SRBWI works to eradicate historical race, gender, class, cultural and religious barriers facing Southern rural Black women.
The Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative traces its roots back to a meeting convened by the Ford Foundation in New York City in late 2000, where a small group of women from Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi came together to discuss their experience working in the rural South while exploring answers to the most pressing question — What will improve the quality of life for for rural Southern women?
It wasn’t until January 2002 that an expanded group of women met and formally formed the SRBWI. With a planning grant from the Ford Foundation, SRBWI went to work in the areas designated as “persistently poor” for over two decades by the United State Department of Agriculture. Together, they surveyed the growing disparity between rich and poor — and rural women of color were placed at the bottom of every index.
With this in mind, SRBWI works to lift Southern rural Black women out of poverty through sustainable initiatives, leadership development and public policy advocacy.
We serve 77 counties and over 2,500 women across the Mississippi Delta and the Black Belt of Alabama and Southwest Georgia. Although these are among the poorest counties in the nation, the women within them are known for their tenacity.
For the past 11 years, SRBWI has worked to build upon the rich legacy of strong Southern Black women during the Civil Rights Movement by exposing and fighting barriers of race, class and power that trap Black women and their families in the vicious cycle of poverty.
Our work has grown a strong, committed and connected network of women leaders throughout the rural parts of Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. These women are deeply involved in our programs and planning. They tirelessly support Human Rights and advocacy for equitable health care, education, asset-building and job training.
A regional advisory committee made up of representatives from each state are responsible for coordination and oversight.
The Children’s Defense Fund also serves as SRBWI’s fiscal agent and regional administrator.
Oleta Garrett Fitzgerald
Southern Regional Director
Children’s Defense Fund — Southern Regional Office
Southern Coalition for Educational Equity
New Orleans, LA
Former Director of Federation of Childcare Centers of Alabama, Inc.
Southwest Georgia Project