University of San Diego’s Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice just announced a call for application to its Women PeaceMakers fellowship program. The 10-month fellowship will bring on four women peacebuilders to work in high conflict areas internationally, engaging with four international peace partners on the goal of reducing violence in the community. Each fellow will also be followed by a Peace Researcher who will “document her peacebuilding journey, and specifically, how she engages the security sector.”
Each year, an urgent peacebuilding issue is identified and participants are selected based on their work in that area. During the 2017-18 academic year, the program will focus on Women PeaceMakers working with the local security sector (police, military and other state security forces) to advance peacebuilding, human security, and women’s rights in pre-, during or post-conflict settings. The guiding question that the fellows will work on is: How can Women PeaceMakers and international partners build more effective local/global collaborations in their peacebuilding efforts to engage the security sector? Examples of civilian-led engagement with the security sector to ensure legal mechanisms are upheld and human rights are protected include the following: ● Efforts to enhance accountability (e.g. civilian-led reporting mechanisms and efforts to combat impunity); ● Facilitation of security sector reform (e.g. civilian-supported disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration campaigns of certain military, police or militias); ● Building community-security partnerships ● The work of former female combatants to reintegrate and rehabilitate fellow fighters
Given that Walmart is the largest employer in America, second only to the government, the fact that they are taking an active stance in addressing women’s empowerment is particularly important.
We want to make sure Walmart’s grantmaking gets talked about here on Philanthropy Women because they are such a large and influential company, not just in America, but globally. Because of their size, their ability to influence both the economy and the culture is great, and will likely have a growing impact on issues related to women as time goes on.
Rajasvini “Vini” Bhansali spoke to me by phone from Mumbai, India, where she was working and visiting family, the trip to her homeland compelled by a family illness.
“We attract donors and ambassadors that are thinking about local and global connections,” says Bhansali, Executive Director of IDEX (soon to be renamed Thousand Currents). Bhansali notes that 60 percent of IDEX’s budget comes from family foundations, 20 percent from individual donors, and 20 percent from earned income. Last year, IDEX recorded a 45 percent increase in new individual donors, and as it morphs into Thousand Currents, the organization has added staff positions, including a grants coordinator, a community engagement manager, and directors of “donor organizing” and “diaspora partnerships.”
There is nothing quite like women’s networks to help make rapid-response grants. In an environment where women’s rights are being threatened by atrocious plans such as the Trump administration’s proposed ending of the Violence Against Women Act, we need more women’s networks to come forward like the Women Donors Network and push for increased funding to fight back.
Now, the Emergent Fund, of which the Women Donors Network is a founding member, has announced its next wave of rapid-response grants to community-based organizations resisting the Trump Administration’s regressive policies. This brings the total of grants already issued by the Emergent Fund to $500,000.
As we wrote in January, the Emergent Fund was formed by the Women Donors Network and Solidaire, in order to raise funds for grassroots organization to resist discriminatory policies being proposed and enacted by the Trump administration.
I interviewed Donna Hall about the Women Donors Network (WDN) this past year and was astounded by all this network of women funders has done, and is continuing to do. WDN is particularly nimble and responsive to community concerns and emergencies, so it is great that they are forging the path on new funding to defend vulnerable people in the coming years. The Emergent Fund’s momentum appears to be very strong early on, which is a good indicator of likely ongoing solid growth.
“Everything is on the line — the lives and safety of millions of black and brown Americans, and even our Democracy itself,” said Jenifer Fernandez Ancona, Vice President for Strategy & Member Engagement at WDN.
As one of the member networks of the Emergent Fund, WDN is helping support the Emergent Fund’s ability to combat issues like deportation and Islamophobia. “These local fights are critical to building national progressive power needed for bigger wins,” added Ancona.
The Emergent Fund is now a partnership between Solidaire Network, Women Donors Network, and Threshold Foundation. Governed by an Advisory Council made up of leaders who represent communities most affected by the new administration, the Emergent Fund is making sure resources and advocacy remain available for marginalized groups.
The grantees for this $500,000 in funding are:
Council on American-Islamic Relations, California Chapter (CAIR-CA) - $30,000 For Arab, Middle Eastern Muslim, and South Asian communities, the dangers they feared during Trump's campaign have become a nightmarish reality. In the 10 days after the election, nearly a third of the nation's Islamophobic hate crimes occurred in California. When the travel ban was announced, CAIR-CA was on the forefront of organizing protests at airports all across the country. CAIR-CA will use their Emergent Fund grant to support their immediate civil rights defense work, including legal services, know your rights trainings, and ongoing organizing. NYC #FreedomCities Campaign - $25,000 #FreedomCities is a campaign developed by frontline leaders from the New York Worker Center Federation. New York City workers—immigrants and citizens alike—realize that Trump's attacks on immigrants are only part of a larger oppressive agenda that targets Muslims, African Americans, and other communities of color. #FreedomCities takes a comprehensive approach and calls for safety beyond policing. The Emergent Fund is proud to be #FreedomCities' first funder. Brown Boi Project - $20,000 The Brown Boi Project is committed to changing the way that communities of color talk about gender. Brown Boi wants to ensure the growth of and robust commitment to gender justice during this time of crisis. Brown Boi will use their Emergent Fund Grant to host a four-day, rapid-response training to prepare leaders to resist the current attack on rights, integrate gender justice into direct action, and ensure that women and trans/gender non-conforming people of color are in leadership across our movements. Southeast Asian Freedom Network (SEAFN) - $15,000 In the past few weeks, Southeast Asian refugee communities have suffered an onslaught of ICE raids that are tearing families apart. SEAFN organizers are currently coordinating with families and organizers on the ground almost every day, but there are too many communities strapped for resources. Southeast Asian Freedom Network will use their Emergent Fund grant to hire a coordinator to provide support to Cambodian communities facing deportations and to provide resources for local Cambodian community leaders who are actively fighting to free their people from unjust immigration detention systems. #LeadWithLove - $10,000 #LeadWithLove began as a pledge by more than 100 movement leaders who have committed to accelerating the transition from a world of domination and extraction to one of regeneration and interdependence. #LeadWithLove calls movements to take bold action grounded in fierce love. #LeadWithLove will use their Emergent Fund grant to host a convening this year that will bring together leaders from across the climate, food, education, racial, gender, and reproductive justice movements. To learn more about the project, visit leadwithlove.vision. JOLT - $10,000 Jolt is a Texas-based, multi-issue organization that builds the political power and influence of Latinos in our democracy. It has become a political home base for many immigrant youth, and their programs range from Latina leadership development to civic engagement and grassroots organizing. Jolt will use their Emergent Fund grant to continue their base-building work and support organizing in Latino communities in Texas. Movement for Justice in El Barrio - $10,000 Movement for Justice in El Barrio was founded when Latina immigrant mothers joined together to address negligence and harassment from their landlord. Over the last 12 years, these women have organized around housing issues and developed a strong cohort of immigrant women leaders. Since the election, they have seen an increase in harassment and hate crimes against immigrants. And they are fighting back. Movement for Justice in El Barrio will use their Emergent Fund grant to host a series of bilingual encuentros, or workshops, to educate East Harlem's immigrant residents about their rights and how to protect themselves from ICE raids. Blackout for Human Rights #MLKNOW 2017 Short Film Series - $3,100 Blackout for Human Rights is a collective of artists, filmmakers, musicians, and activists who leverage cultural activism in support of human rights. Blackout has held several high-profile events in the last year, including a #JusticeforFlint concert and #BlackoutBlackFriday. Blackout is creating a series of short advocacy films incorporating content from their recent #MLKNOW 2017 event held at the historic Riverside Church in Harlem. Blackout for Human Rights will use their Emergent Fund grant to produce and distribute their films on social media. SpiritHouse Inc/The Harm Free Zone - $25,000 SpiritHouse Inc, a Durham, North Carolina based cultural arts and organizing organization, has worked with low-wealth families and community members to uncover and uproot the systemic barriers that prevent us from gaining the resources, leverage and capacity for long-term self-sufficiency. Spirit House will use their Emergent Fund Grant to support their Harm Free Zone, rooted in the belief that oppressed people can create accountable, self-directing communities by: healing from systemic racism, eliminating reliance on law enforcement, holding policy makers accountable. Campaign for Southern Equality | Rapid Response Initiative - $10,000 The Campaign for Southern Equality advocates across the South for LGBT rights in all areas of life. Through our Rapid Response Initiative, CSE is working on the frontlines of the LGBTQ South, led by and for LGBTQ Southerners. Nimble and bold, we work for full equality - both legal and lived - from Mississippi to the Carolinas. Melenie Eleneke Grassroots Re-entry Program of the Transgender Gender-Variant Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP) - $20,000 TGIJP is a trans-led, Black-led organization which centers the leadership of currently and formerly incarcerated transgender women of color. Both inside and outside of prisons--TGIJOP works to create a united family in the struggle for survival and freedom. 18MillionRising - $25,000 18MillionRising uses tech and pop-culture organizing to boost Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders as a social justice force, nationwide. Leading Asian American civil rights organization — 18MR will use their Emergent Fund grant to continue their work on responding to hate crimes and developing tech for movement activists. All of Us Initiative @ Organization United for Respect (OUR) - $30,000 OUR’s All of Us initiative will build multiracial communities of support and resistance among people working at Walmart. OUR’s All of Us project will deepen our multi-racial working class base in key areas of the country by connecting to people based on a shared set of values and class experiences and building unity around a vision of economic security. By developing cross racial relationships and exposing how White House policies that target people of color, immigrants and the safety net go against OUR shared visions and values, we will broaden the base of people working at Walmart who are committed to fight back around these policies.
With gender-based violence still a major barrier to women’s equality and empowerment, funders are starting to put more money toward prevention internationally.
The World Bank Group recently announced, in partnership with the Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI), ten awards of up to $150,000 each to organizations who will prevent and respond to gender-based violence worldwide. World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, in announcing the grants, said another $3.5 million will also be invested in the cause of ending physical and sexual violence against women.
Ever wonder why progress for gender equity remains incremental, and constantly faces regression? Well, it might have something to do with our institutions being so entrenched in patriarchy that they aren’t able to effectively carry out a gender equality agenda.
That appears to be the argument of an open letter from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and 25 MENA Women Civil Society Organizations, sent to UN Secretary-General António Guterres. The letter cites a of a growing lack of trust in the Security Council throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). To counter this lack of credibility and action, the group of women’s civil society NGO’s is proposing bold measures “to advance women’s rights and set the UN back on track as an Organization that works for the common interests of our shared humanity.”
The letter asserts that popular sentiment in the Middle East and North Africa “is one characterized by a lack of faith in the United Nations’ ability to implement its mandate in line with the principles of the Charter.” According to an article in In Depth News, this lack of credibility is due to “the Security Council has repeatedly been unwilling to responsibly discuss the situation in numerous countries of the region, including Syria and Palestine, let alone enforce its own resolutions.”
From the article:
Besides, trust in the UN has been lost because of the actions of some UN agencies, funds and programmes in the region and "because of the lack of action on the part of some UN envoys and mediators in the region to implement Security Council resolutions and other provisions of international law which call for the meaningful inclusion of women in their delegations and negotiating parties. Indeed, some envoys have publicly questioned the relevance of CEDAW in the region." CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, is an international treaty adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly. Described as an international bill of rights for women, it was instituted on September 3, 1981 and has been ratified by 189 states. The open letter notes that women are playing an important role in bringing about positive change in the MENA region, often at considerable personal risk to themselves and their family. Thus, following a 10-year campaign by women’s organizations in Yemen, the Yemeni National Dialogue fixed the age of consent to marriage at 18 years for both sexes in the draft constitution. In Morocco they drafted legislation to combat people trafficking, working in alliance with parliamentary blocs to ensure the draft was considered and approved. From Libya through to Iraq, women have provided essential medical, legal, psychosocial and financial support to victims of war and conflict – often without prior experience of rights-based community activism, says the letter. "Despite these gains however, women in the region continue to face grave threats." The set of measures Women Civil Society Organisations urge Guterres to consider are: 1. Include the candidate’s track record in advancing women’s rights as a central criteria in making senior appointments, including envoys, mediators and representatives, as well as the head of the departments of Political Affairs and Peacekeeping Operations. Such appointments should also be gender- balanced and culturally diverse. 2. Ensure that senior staff, including envoys and mediators to conflict countries in the MENA region, as well as representatives and heads of the departments of Political Affairs and Peacekeeping Operations, comply with international law. In particular, Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and its associated resolutions, and CEDAW, including through robustly advocating with negotiating parties to meaningfully include women in their delegations, including through quotas, and to integrate women’s experiences, rights and perspectives through the work of the delegations. 3. Ensure sustained, high level gender expertise to the UN Secretary General including through an ongoing Senior Gender Advisor to the Executive Office of the Secretary General with core support and a high level of influence, in order to ensure that women’s rights and gender issues are integrated across all analysis, planning, policies and activities. 4. Strongly encourage the Security Council to integrate women’s rights and gender throughout its work, including by reporting on the 2015 Global Study on Women, Peace and Security in thematic and country-level work both in and outside of New York. 5. Ensure reliable, accessible, and flexible UN funding to women’s organizations and efforts in support of women’s rights at the grassroots level is prioritised and increased by advocating for other multilateral and bilateral donors to increase their support; encouraging substantial increase in development assistance allocated to women-led civil society for gender equality (CRS code 15170); calling for strengthening of civil society-inclusive UN funds (such as the Global Acceleration Instrument, Peacebuilding Fund WPS Initiative); developing strategies to enhance participation of women led civil society in donor conferences, and; calling for the lifting of restrictions on the work of women’s organisations and human rights defenders due to domestic ‘counter-terrorism measures’, in Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Lebanon especially. 6. Take concrete actions to address the shrinking civil society space in the MENA region as well as the systematic targeting of women human rights defenders. 7. Ensure that UN Women works collaboratively with and in support of women’s grassroots associations, including by adequately investing in gender and peace budgets of UN Women, UN Department of Political Affairs (DPA), Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and other entities; providing training and support and; ensuring monitoring and accountability mechanisms to evaluate such initiatives that enable women to contribute to cycles of learning and improvement for peace. 8. Condemn the proliferation of explosives, small firearms and light weapons in the region, which have immediate and long-lasting effects that include the destruction of civilian infrastructure and increased gender based violence. 9. Strengthen UN support for fragile and conflict affected states to realise the Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 5 and 16 on gender equality and peace. This should include: addressing gender equality and peace data gaps including on arms transfers, which directly impact gender based violence (SDG 16.4); taking action to increase the number of UN funds that include civil society in the leadership and financial allocation of the funds (such as with the Global Acceleration Instrument); building mechanisms with international financial institutions to strengthen women’s meaningful inclusion, and evaluating and improving the impact on women’s human rights in conflict settings of IFIs in post-conflict reconstruction. 10. Establish a women’s civil society board to regularly advise him and his team on issues relating to the advancement of women’s rights. This board should be comprised of representatives of women’s organizations, including youth movements, from across the globe as well as New York-based organizations. 11. The Secretary-General should report yearly to the General Assembly on progress made on (i) the integration of women’s rights and gender issues across the three pillars of the Organization, human rights, peace and security and development and (i) his commitment to reach gender parity across the Secretariat, and Agencies, Funds and Programmes.
“Today, there are more than 40 million smartphones in Iran and a million more are added every month,” said Firuzeh Mahmoudi, executive director of United for Iran (U4I). Today, Mahmoudi announced that he and his organization are planning to make those smartphones into powerful tools of self-agency for marginalized women. “Given all of these regressive efforts by Iran’s rulers to limit the rights of women, they still fail to understand that technology and social media apps will continue to expand the boundaries of what is socially acceptable in Iranian society. This is why Toranj has the potential to be such a vital tool for Iranian women.”
Editor’s Note: This piece is co-authored by Emily Nielsen Jones and Nickey Mais-Nesbeth
Emily: The circle is one of those timeless symbols—one that appears in nature, in mathematics, and in art of all kinds—that says something wise and true about the world. It is also a unique symbol, we think, for what philanthropy is all about.
Philanthropy on one level is about giving money away. Often if can feel sort of linear and transactional from a top-down grid: people with social capital at the top doling out largesse and using fancy sounding words about “scale” and “strategy” in an attempt to help the needy. But today, a powerful movement is on the rise in philanthropy to leave the pyramid of noblesse oblige in the last century and become more democratic. This new concept is about empowering a community to make change from within. To me, it feels very circular and connective, like the processes of change you see in nature.
In nature, circles emanate from an invisible source at the center which creates a spiral motion. This spiral creates a pattern of expansion and contraction, as you see in seashells, tornadoes, and in galaxies and throughout the micro and macro designs of our world.
So too, every community has within it the seeds of its own growth and empowerment–which are what this new approach to philanthropy/development seeks to unleash. This shift has even penetrated large NGOs that deliver aid around the world. Alongside or within their regular programming, organizations like World Vision and Opportunity International now center much of their work around small groups of people, often women, gathering in small collectives where they save money to loan to a different member each month, and also support each other in the ups and downs of life (e.g. a wedding or a funeral or death in the family).
I feel grateful to be a part of this shift happening in philanthropy and global development, which some call “community-driven” or “integral” development. Whatever you call it, it feels circular to me and is rooted in the belief that the real change happens from an invisible center within communities themselves but that this can and should be supported and catalyzed from outside.
My own philanthropic journey has been part of this shift from top-down “aid” to circular “empowerment” even before I had language to name it. About eight years ago, my husband and I decided the time was right to ramp up our philanthropy. We created the Imago Dei Fund by taking a less-traveled path — bucking the professional advice to pick one thing to “do” and build a legacy around. Instead, we followed our intuition and decided to look for movements already happening that seemed worthy of more support and investment.
In many ways, social movements are circular in nature – sometimes you can’t tell where they begin and end and they have a way of growing and expanding in a non-linear fashion beyond any one programmatic silo or sector. Early on, we jumped on the anti-trafficking train and began engaging globally in faraway places like Southeast Asia and Africa. Very quickly this movement drew us outward (yet inward at the same time) toward the “hidden-in-plain-sight” problem that lurks beneath human trafficking: the ancient subjugation of women and girls which is still idealized and encoded in many of our cultural and religious traditions.
As we supported and engaged with some faith-based organizations in our own evangelical pond, we felt the circular nature of social change acutely. We saw many great organizations working to rescue girls from brothels in faraway places, yet in their own pews and their own boards, they were still operating from a gender pyramid which marginalizes and devalues women and girls.
We need to not just support change as if we are on the outside of the process as donors, but rather to be part of this change ourselves: this is the wisdom of the circle.
After a few years, we felt the circle pulling us inward again and and nudging us to attend more to the world in our own backyard: Boston, MA. In the process, I had the great privilege of meeting Nickey Nesbeth. Though I had lived in Boston for over twenty years, I knew little about rich cultural tapestry of our city, and Nickey has helped be something of a gateway for me into the local/global movements in my own city. Every connection one makes expands one’s circle, and Nickey has truly been a force of nature in helping me expand my understanding and connection to diverse women’s groups in Boston.
Nickey: When Emily and I met each other, we quickly bonded over our shared lament about the state of our world’s gender norms—which are still geared toward female submission, even in the 21st century. Despite these challenges, we marveled over how women have always found ways to progress through their own support circles.
These circles facilitated my grandmother’s emigration from Jamaica in 1968. She was co-sponsored by a group of women who helped pay for her passage abroad through their “Susu”— A 400-year-old Afro-Caribbean women’s micro-financing tradition. My grandmother, along with many other Afro-Caribbean women, immigrated to work as housekeepers for wealthy Americans. She later joined a circle of Caribbean immigrant women in Boston and once again, created a new women’s support circle and started their own Susu, to gather the funds needed to pay their children’s passages to America, reuniting their families against tough odds.
Using funds from her Susu, my grandmother later co-sponsored my passage to America, where I was able to complete high school, graduate from college, and build a career giving back to my community. As my grandmother did, I also found myself in various women’s giving circles, all geared towards one thing: lifting up women and girls.
In these circles, Emily and I found shared experiences as women of faith, seeking to create a more just world. A larger circle began forming around us, which has been expanding and building bridges across the challenging divides of race and ethnicity. It is a longer story than we can tell here, but my women’s network in Boston helped open doors for the Imago Dei Fund to get to know and support ethnic-based organizations that empower women and girls in our own communities.
Many women and girls in ethnic communities have the double burden of living with highly patriarchal gender norms and being immigrants, both of which create barriers to opportunity. However, these women and girls persist in their collective agency. They find ways to build new support circles and raise the financial capital they need to start businesses, sponsor relatives’ travel to America, and engage in charitable efforts in their homelands, thus carrying on our centuries-old system of collective impact.
Emily: In a recent conversation, we were talking about women’s giving circles — I am helping to start one here in Boston within the New England International Donor Network — which are a driving force within the larger women’s philanthropy movement. In giving circles, women across the economic continuum come together in living rooms and board rooms to connect, to learn, and to pool resources for greater impact in the world, often targeted toward empowering women and girls. As we were talking, Nickey paused and said, “Women in my culture have been doing this for centuries. It’s called a Susu.”
A Susu is an informal means of collecting and saving money through a savings club or partnership, practiced throughout Africa and the Caribbean. [...] The concept of a susu is used throughout the world and has over 200 different names that vary from country to country.The name is from the Susu from the Twi language to mean 'plan'. The funds are generally gathered with a set amount contributed from family or friends each week. An estimated three quarters of Jamaican immigrants in New York participated in susus during the 1980s.
On a bright April Thursday morning in New York City, David Callahan and Emmett Carson took each other on in a “spirited debate” about the future of philanthropy. In particular, they differed in opinion about whether there are dangers to the lack of transparency and accountability for the new billionaire class.
Discussion time was given to some very rich (no pun intended) topics, including the influence of philanthropy on health care. Callahan discussed a section from his book that shows how right-wing billionaires have essentially used philanthropy to ensure that they win court battles, such as the court battle which allowed states to opt out of Obamacare. This is the kind of civic inequality that Callahan calls out in The Givers as a dangerous new way philanthropy can be used for political gain.