Behind a Law Scholar’s Push for More Funding for Women and Girls of Color

Kimberlé Crenshaw, Professor, Columbia Law School and UCLA Law School, Co-Founder, African American Policy Forum

I have spent the past few years observing, writing about, and getting more involved in the world of women’s philanthropy. During that time, multiple experts have referred to the work of Kimberlé Crenshaw as being essential to the changes we now see going on in philanthropy, with more efforts to apply both a gender and race lens when framing problems and funding new strategies.

Indeed, with her scholarship, advocacy, and legal expertise, Crenshaw has helped build and disseminate whole new areas of knowledge including critical race theory and intersectional theory. These concepts have helped philanthropists like Peter Buffett and organizations like the NoVo Foundation apply an inclusive gender and race lens that values and addresses the needs of women and girls of color in the United States.

Crenshaw holds multiple titles on multiple coasts and in multiple countries, including Full Professor at both UCLA Saw School and Columbia Law School, and Centennial Professor at the London School of Economics. On top of that, she is the author of several books and articles. She is also (in her spare time!) co-founder of the African-American Policy Forum (AAFP), and continues to play a vital role with that powerful organization.

In case you don’t know, AAPF is a social justice think tank that brings new voices and broader frames to social justice practice in the U.S. In partnership with the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies, AAPF promotes an intersectional approach to confronting discrimination in order to address the complex needs of marginalized communities. AAPF will celebrate its 20th Anniversary on June 10th honoring Rep. Keith Ellison, Eve Ensler, Joy Ann Reid, and Barbara Smith for their commitment to intersectional activism.

Related: Joy-Ann Reid to Receive African American Policy Forum’s Journalism Award

Crenshaw is widely regarded as the leading scholarly voice to introduce and develop intersectional theory — the study of how overlapping identities, particularly those related to race and gender, interact with social structures of oppression and discrimination. Intersectional theory has been around for over three decades, but only now does it appear to be approaching mainstream influence (Yes, intersectionalism is referred to multiple times in the new season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, when she visits Columbia University, so that, to me, is a sign of breakthrough into popular culture). As the influence of intersectional theory grows, we will likely see more philanthropy and social policy informed by it.

“There’s that famous women’s studies title that starts — “All the Women are White, All the Blacks are Men,” said Crenshaw, in a recent interview with Philanthropy Women. “I added to that, ‘And all the Women of Color are International. For many American philanthropists, they think about women of color existing somewhere else.”

But Crenshaw has already done much to change that thinking, and is poised to do much more as movements for equality come together to fight the regressive political climate.

Crenshaw has been working alongside the NoVo Foundation for the last three years to amplify the need to bring race awareness into gender funding, and also bring gender into race funding. “It’s a two-sided challenge,” said Crenshaw.

“We got a lot of conversation going when President Obama announced My Brother’s Keeper, which is an important undertaking to be sure, but in its exclusive focus on boys of color, it tended to lead to the inference that girls of color were not also in crisis.”

Crenshaw and others began to elevate awareness about what women and girls of color were experiencing by going around the country and conducting town halls to discuss the issues. Through this process of reaching out to the community and providing a safe place for public testimony, says Crenshaw,”We were able to bring into the community more awareness about the challenges women and girls of color were facing that we just didn’t know about.”

One of the revelations unearthed by Crenshaw was about how girls of color are mistreated by school systems. “We found that the racialized risk of suspension for African-American girls was actually higher than for African-American boys. A black girl is 6 times more likely to be suspended than a white girl. So this is troubling, but even more troubling is the fact that no one knew about the added risks that girls of color were facing.”

Crenshaw recognized how girls and women were falling out of the conversation about racial injustice. “It was important for us to put them in the conversation,” said Crenshaw, and doing so opened up new areas of knowledge for philanthropy to explore and consider when developing strategies that lift up marginalized communities.

“Philanthropy often helps elevate a particular framing of a problem, so if there’s an issue with the framing of the problem, then that frame is really doing us an injustice. It’s limiting what we can do to fix the problem.”

“Philanthropy is absolutely essential,” in Crenshaw’s view, to pressing forward for gender equality and developing models for progressive change. But she has a strong piece of advice for women philanthropists who want to do work that cuts across both race and gender in its effectiveness.

“I want women philanthropists to think twice about their theory of change. Many folks have a theory of philanthropy that ‘we need to fix the person’ so the person can better fit into the slots we have for them in society,” said Crenshaw. And while she acknowledges the importance of reaching individuals, she sees a stronger need for strategies that take on the structures that perpetuate inequality.

“It’s not enough to think intersectionally about the problem,” said Crenshaw. “We also need to think about the other partners who should be part of this conversation, so that we can do a better job of creating structural interventions instead of just individual remedies.”

Crenshaw wants to see more philanthropy aimed at infusing women with educational and economic power. “It’s clearly known that the more education that mothers have, the more capability they have to move themselves and their families out of poverty.”

Programs that provide education, job training, and capital resources to women and girls of color, are all areas where Crenshaw sees room for big development.

Regarding the overall prognosis for funding for women and girls of color, Crenshaw acknowledged she is concerned in today’s political climate that the advancements could taper off without more support.

“I’m completely worried about funding for women and girls of color,” she said. “It’s one of those situations where the foundation is not as solid as it should have been, and then there’s an earthquake, and rather than say let’s redouble our efforts to secure the foundation, people are saying we should work on the very top of the building.”

“They say we lost the recent election because we paid too much attention to women and people of color, but the issue is that we didn’t pay enough attention to either constituency,” said Crenshaw. “And we especially didn’t pay enough attention to those who are both women and people of color. These marginalized groups had every reason to be exasperated with politics as usual, yet resisted the scapegoating that other voters seemed to respond positively to. Wouldn’t this suggest that there is much more to be gained by moving closer rather than jettisoning our attention to women and people of color?”

Want to see Crenshaw in action? Below is an episode of the Laura Flanders Show featuring an interview with Peter Buffett. In the video, Buffett discusses, in part, the foundation’s early intentions to develop philanthropy further for women and girls of color. Embedded in the show is a clip of Crenshaw that sums up much of her argument about the need to attend to women and girls of color in philanthropy. The whole video is definitely worth watching, but tf you come in at about 14.10, you can see Crenshaw and her passion for this subject.

Ellevate Holding Conference to Activate Gender Equality Movements

Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and Co-Founder, Ellevest

Since its launch in May of 2016, I have started following Ellevate Network on my Twitter feed, and I am always impressed by the quality of their material on both gender equality and gender lens investing. Now, the new startup that aims to capture the $11 trillion women’s investing market, is holding a conference in June to activate gender equality movements. Sallie Krawcheck, the architect and founder of Ellevest, came to my attention last spring when I was creating a list of 9 Gender Lens Investors to Know About.

Here is my capsule on Krawcheck from that article:

Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and Co-Founder, Ellevest

Known as one of the most senior women on Wall Street, Sallie Krawcheck is a mastermind of finance who has now broken out on her own to make gender lens investing a priority. Formerly president of the Global Wealth and Investment Management division of Bank of America, Krawcheck is widely published on issues ranging from Wall Street regulatory reform to how to manage a start-up. Krawcheck is on a mission to close the gender investing gap, and help women everywhere figure out a good equation for money in their lives. In a recent interview for CNBC about Ellevest, Krawcheck was quoted as saying, “If I were to go very Gloria Steinem on you, I’d say until we get this gap closed, we’re not going to be equal.” Her new platform, Ellevest, is just getting started on cashing in on the $11 trillion market of assets controlled by women.

Now, Ellevate Network is holding an inaugural summit in New York City on June 21st, in order to gather together powerful women  “across business, media, and politics to develop an action plan for accelerating the pathway towards gender equality.”

From the press release:

Ellevate Network’s global chapters host 500 events a year providing professional women with a forum to discuss some of the most difficult questions professional women face today – How do women make more money at work? How do companies better support women employees – including paid leave, sponsorship, and skills development? How can women break into leadership positions and stay there, receive funding, make their voices heard, support other women?

These discussions need a bigger stage. Ellevate Network operates under the belief that bringing communities together with diverse voices will yield unique solutions and result in progress. Ellevate’s Mobilizing the Power of Women Summit will convene some of the most powerful voices in business today: from tech, corporations, entertainment, media, sports, and more. Featured speakers include Sallie Krawcheck, Chair of Ellevate Network; Allison Levine, mountain climber, explorer and NYT best-selling author; Jessica Bennett, author of Feminist Fight Club; Craig Newmark, Founder of Craigslist; Wade Davis II, former NFL player and activist; Erika Ervin (Amazon Eve), transgender activist, model and actress on American Horror Story: Freak Show; and fashion PR legend Kelly Cutrone. 

For those interested in attending, the event will include sessions on:

  • Death of The Queen Bee: Turning Competition Into Collaboration
  • Innovation: If You Can’t Find It, Make It
  • Disrupting Diversity: Creative Ways to Approach an Age-Old Problem
  • Information is Power: How Interconnectedness, Media, and Access to Information Create Change

Ellevate Network President Kristy Wallace said, “Ellevate Network’s very first Summit, Mobilizing the Power of Women, is going to be a groundbreaking event where some of the brightest minds in business today come together to form real solutions. We could not be more pleased with the line-up we’ve secured, and are really looking forward to a productive, inspirational, and actionable event in June. This is exactly what Ellevate Network is all about, and now more than ever we need to be having these conversations about women’s place in business.”

The event will take place at AppNexus in New York City on Wednesday, June 21st, 2017 from 8:30 AM to 7:00 PM. To register or learn more, click here.

For those who are unable to attend live, the event will also be livestreamed.

If you’re interested in sponsoring this event, please contact corporate(at)ellevatenetwork(dot)com. If you’d like to attend the event as media, please contact tina(at)ellevatenetwork(dot)com.

About Ellevate Network: Ellevate Network is a global network of professional women committed to elevating each other through education, inspiration, and opportunity. Our mission is to close the gender achievement gap in business by providing women with a community to lean on and learn from.


Discovering America’s History of Black Female Philanthropy: Madam C. J. Walker

American women have not generally been celebrated for their philanthropic activity, so it shouldn’t be surprising that African-American female philanthropists are especially invisible in contemporary culture.

Madam C. J. Walker

But that wasn’t always the case. In the early 20th century, African-American women were engaged in a literal battle for survival in a segregated and violently racist nation. One African- American woman, however, managed to go from being a laundress who sometimes earned less than one dollar a day to becoming one of the first self-made female millionaires in the United States. Her name was Sarah Breedlove, but she was known far and wide as Madam C. J. Walker, the founder of a hair care empire and a noted philanthropist. Walker used her fortune to champion the YMCA, the Tuskegee Institute, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and other important civic and educational organizations.

A Difficult Start

Born in 1867 in Delta, Louisiana, young Breedlove was the first of her family to be born outside of slavery. But she was no stranger to the harsh realities of life for African-Americans in the United States. Orphaned by age seven, she witnessed both the promise and the betrayal of freedom in the south during Reconstruction. Louisiana was where the first southern African-American newspaper was published, but was also the location of the 1873 Colfax Massacre, where enraged ex-Confederate white supremacists murdered up to 150 black citizens to prevent them from exercising their political rights.

Lacking any other options, like most young African-American women in the South, Breedlove went into the fields. She picked cotton at an early age, worked as a domestic, and married at 14. Widowed by the time she was 20, she and her daughter moved to Missouri in 1888, where she became a laundress. Though such exhausting labor, she scraped enough money together to not only live but also to provide an education for her daughter.

Going into Business

Throughout all of this time, Breedlove took note of the toll that poor working conditions and poverty had on her skin, hair, and scalp. At the time, the harsh and poisonous chemical lye was a common household item, used as laundry and skin soap. It was even used as a form of birth control by women, who soaked sponges or cloth in the deadly chemical and used it as a vaginal and chemical barrier.

Combined with the primitive nature of 19th century bathing facilities, the use of dangerous chemicals in the household and on the body meant that women—especially African-American women—suffered significant health issues. When Breedlove began to lose her hair, she discussed the problem with her brothers, who were barbers. Then, she accepted a position as a salesperson for the Poro Company, an African-American hair-care business owned by Annie Malone, another ambitious black businesswoman.

An early 20th century advertisement for Madam C.J. Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower

After learning the business, Breedlove began to develop her own hair care products for African American women. She married Charles Walker in 1906, and marketed her recipe as Madam C.J. Walker, employing a keen marketing strategy with help from her husband, a newspaper ad man.

She often told the story of how the recipe for her Wonderful Hair Grower came to her in a dream, as she and her husband traveled to tell the story and sell products door-to-door in black neighborhoods all over the south. The couple also gave demonstrations in African-American churches, utilizing the strong community networks of African-American society to promote her products. From Colorado, the family’s home base, her daughter managed the mail orders that came in from the product advertisements.

An Advocate for Women in Business

Madam Walker’s desire to contribute to society was evident early in her business career. She provided African American women with the desperately-needed employment and educational opportunities that she had lacked while growing up. She said, “I am not satisfied in making money for myself. I endeavor to provide employment for hundreds of the women of my race.” Soon she built a factory, beauty school and hair salon in Indianapolis, which trained thousands of African American women as “beauty culturists” to use the “Walker Method” of hair care.

In a way, Madam Walker followed the philanthropic model established by her friend Booker T. Washington, who had advised southern blacks to “cast down your buckets where you are.” She aided her fellow African- American women by providing educational and professional opportunities within their own communities. Like the Avon company but long before Mary Kay, Madam Walker championed women in business, first by providing training and incentive bonuses for successful African-American saleswomen, and then by organizing her sales force into local clubs and the National Beauty Culturists and Benevolent Association of Madam C. J. Walker Agents.

She frequently explained her success by drawing upon her own experience of oppression, and in a 1912 speech to the National Negro Business League said,

“I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South. From there I was promoted to the washtub. From there, I was promoted to the cook kitchen. And from there, I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods and preparations. I have built my own factory on my own ground.”

A Philanthropic Role Model

From her position of influence, she began philanthropic work that focused on service to the larger African-American community. She later said, “You might say that I was the first and caused others to awaken to the sense of their duty in helping deserving causes for the benefit of the race.”

Madam Walker stands next to Booker T. Washington with other leaders of the black community in the United States in 1913.

Madam Walker’s philanthropic activity addressed many African- American needs. She provided a large part of the funds for the establishment of a branch of the YMCA in the black neighborhoods of Indianapolis and funded settlement houses in urban areas.

Education was of particular interest to her, and she funded scholarships for black students at Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute, and supported several African American churches and schools, including Mary McLeod Bethune’s Daytona Education and Industrial School for Negro Girls (today known as Bethune-Cookman University). She also championed African American culture by supporting black musicians, especially after she moved to New York City.

An American Champion

She was also a popular public speaker. During World War I, she helped lead the Circle for Negro War Relief and joined the Executive Committee of the NAACP. She was known for making the preservation of Frederick Douglass’s house possible and for donating $5000 to the NAACP’s anti-lynching campaign, the largest single contribution it had yet received.

Madam C.J. Walker steered her own course both behind the wheel and in business.

Though she died prematurely in 1919 at age 51, Madam C.J. Walker is an inspirational example of how much philanthropic women can contribute in matters that are often overlooked by larger society. She once told an audience:

“I want you to understand that your first duty is to humanity. I want others to look at us and see that we care not just about ourselves but about others.”

Though she was speaking of African-Americans, her words also spoke for American women of all races who began to see outside the domestic sphere in the early 20th century and learned to exercise their growing financial muscle to improve the lives of others.

Warning: Machismo Kills. How One City in Colombia is Putting Women First

Joaquín Sarmiento/FNPI

If you’ve ever had the notion that your big strong male partner is going to protect you and provide for you, you are not alone. This cultural norm runs particularly deep in Latin cultures, where the term machismo is positively identified by traditional men who see it as their duty to protect and provide for their families. But the negative implications of machismo — violence, rigid gender roles, and the expectation that men should maintain financial control of the family — can have devastating impacts for women and children.

This article about The City of Women, a place on the outskirts of the Colombian city Turbaco, is a fascinating window into how women can come together to protect and care for other, more marginalized women in their communities.

The article, written by Marie Doezema, is published by CityLab, a collaborative project with The Atlantic. CityLab also runs a yearly conference, with the 2016 conference having a wide range of sponsors including Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Aspen Institute, GM, JPMorgan Chase, and Knight Foundation as Underwriters, McKinsey & Co. as Knowledge Partners, AARP and BASF as Supporting Partners, and The Miami Foundation, and Pfizer as Contributing Partners. The 2017 conference will be held in Paris, France, from October 22-24, 2017.

The City of Women is a refuge built by women for women and families. It consists of 98 houses that serve as sanctuary for women in need of shelter. Completed in 2006, The City of Women is responding to the increased violence in Colombia over the past decade as fighting has continued between government, paramilitary, and insurgent forces.

The City of Women grew out of the vision of Patricia Guerrero, a human rights lawyer from Bogota, who founded the Liga de Mujeres Desplazadas, or League of Displaced Women, in 1999. Initial funding for the City of Women, which began construction in 2003, came from the Colombian government, the US Congress, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Organizers of the City of Women continue to seek funders to create more housing.

From the article:

One of the first things you notice upon entering the City of Women is how many men there are. In this sense, it could be any other neighborhood; men of all ages sit on porches and on motorcycles, walk the sidewalks and visit the smattering of shops selling cold drinks, snacks, and phone credit. Men are not barred from the City of Women as they, too, are victims of displacement and violence. The difference here, though, is that in a sharp detour from patriarchal traditions, it’s the women who own the houses and the Liga, made up entirely of women, who make community decisions.

Though there have been workshops and anti-machismo training for men living in the community, true change, particularly among older generations, remains a challenge. Machismo has been reduced “very little,” says Guerrero, adding that she holds out hope for the younger generation. “The fact that women own the houses intensifies the violence,” she says. “But the young ones who grew up in the city have seen a different model. They have been raised with a process, but the adults are still machismo; there is still violence and discrimination against women.”

Read the full article here.


NATO: Exhibit A of Why We Need More Gender Equality in the World

President Trump, in Belgium on the fourth leg of his overseas trip, met with NATO and European Union leaders. Analysts said expectations were low.

I will let The New York Times fill you on what happened at this meeting with NATO and European Union leaders, but this picture tells a large part of the story about what global leadership looks like today — it is heavily male-dominated. Hopefully as more philanthropy takes on gender equality, we will see the percentages of women in politics increase.

Source: Highlights: In Brussels, Trump Scolds Allies on Cost-Sharing, and Stays Vague on Article 5

How Philanthropy Can Strengthen Families And Fuel Gender Equality at the Same Time

Can philanthropy align around supporting families, and in doing so, bolster gender equality?

I had an amazing discussion today with Helen LaKelly Hunt about how funders are aligning across the political spectrum to help strengthen families, and within this approach there is huge potential for gender equality agendas to be realized.

In the context of Helen’s work as both a relationship expert and a philanthropy expert, she sees clearly how philanthropy can do more to build relationship skills, and in doing so make progress for gender equality.  As she puts it, “teaching relational skills transforms the family and bring gender equality to the family.”

Right after talking to Helen, I happened upon this article from the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) entitled “Families Can Drive Gender Equality, but Only if We Help Them Evolve.” AWID has been around for over 30 years and describes itself as “an international, feminist, membership organisation committed to achieving gender equality, sustainable development and women’s human rights.”

The article discusses the “deeply paradoxical” nature of family for women, as an environment that brings “love and life but also struggle, inequality and, far too often, violence.”

These are exactly the issues that Helen LaKelly Hunt’s new book synthesizes: How transforming relationships across culture, including within families, is key to moving away from rigid gender norms that reduce life outcomes for women and girls.

Stay tuned for an article I am working on that discusses the implications for philanthropy of Helen’s new book, And the Spirit Moved Them: The Lost History of America’s First Feminists. For now, here’s a snippet of the article by Shahrashoub Razavi on AWID:

In 2012, 47% of all women who were victims of homicide were killed by an intimate partner or family member, versus just 6% of men, according to the United Nations’ Global Study on Homicide.

Evidence also shows that family income and resources are not necessarily pooled or shared equally between partners, practices that can entrench domestic gender inequality. Men in both the developed and developing world are also more likely than women to use family income for personal spending and to have more leisure time.

How can we make families work better for women?

Gender-equal Families

International Day of Families is a good moment to reflect on this question and consider how families might change to become agents of gender equality and female empowerment.

In international law, the protection of the family is closely linked to the principle of equality and non-discrimination, meaning that all members of a family must enjoy the same liberties and rights regardless of gender or age.

As social realities change, perceptions of just what non-discrimination looks like have also evolved.

Today, many countries, including Brazil, Finland and Spain, recognise same-sex partnerships, while others offer legal protections for children born out of wedlock and for single-parent families. That would have been unthinkable just 50 years ago.

Such rapid shifts, though, can incite a backlash from people who fear that new familial structures threaten their personal beliefs, religious values or social norms.

To help families become more gender equal, it is important to be clear about what changes are required and what, concretely, these changes entail. Only doing this will allow policies seeking to empower women and girls really work.

Women Who Wait

Things are already trending in the right direction. Around the globe, women’s voice and agency within the family are growing. In many parts of the world, women are also postponing marriage, in part because they are attending school for longer and building a career.

In the Middle East and North Africa, regions where marriages have tended to be early and universal, women delayed marriage for between three and six years (depending on the country) between the 1980s and 2010s. By 2010, the mean marrying age for the region’s women ranged from 22 to 29 years and in nearly all countries it now surpasses the legal minimum age of marriage without parental consent.

Read the full article here.

The Global Women’s Philanthropy Network Aligning Health with Human Rights for Women and Girls

Maverick Collective, co-chaired by Melinda Gates and H.R.H. Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway , is poised to deploy millions more in philanthropy with a gender lens.

Some of the wealthiest women in the world deploying vast fortunes with gender lens grantmaking: This is the future of philanthropy.

But gender norms of the past still haunt many women philanthropists. “Women told us that they would be at a cocktail party, and people would come talk to their husbands, but not them,” said Kate Roberts, Senior Vice President for Corporate Partnerships with Population Services International (PSI). A global nonprofit “focused on the encouragement of healthy behavior and affordability of health products,” PSI is the host organization for The Maverick Collective.

“They felt that they were expected to give to what their husbands were giving to. And these are educated, empowered women, continues  Women have a different take on philanthropy, though: They have empathy and are learners. So they should definitely be a part of the conversation,” continued Roberts, with a deft summary in this NPR interview of the important reasons that women’s philanthropy is poised for major growth.

Meghan Ball, Associate Program Manager for Maverick Collective, PSI, gives us yet another angle on how women’s philanthropy adds value to the community. “According to a Harvard Business Review study, women in emerging markets reinvest 90% of every dollar earned into “human resources  – their families’ education, health and nutrition – compared to 30-40% by men. Investments into women have an exponential effect, bettering their own lives and those of their sons, husbands and fathers.”

The Maverick Collective appears to be a major new force on the scene of women’s philanthropy that is combining an agenda for women’s health and women’s equality — kind of like a one-two punch to global patriarchy. This means taking on some of the most important issues in health care, including domestic violence, maternal health, and cervical cancer.

The Maverick Collective recently undertook the support of a three-year pilot project called Giving Wings, which seeks to address menstrual health and remove it as a barrier to education and equality for women and girls. This is just one of many ways that Maverick aligns women’s health and human rights in order to advance equality for women and girls globally.

Back in February, we wrote about Ana Morales, one of the founding members of The Maverick Collective in this article by Kathy LeMay. Morales embodies The Maverick Collective’s approach in the empathic and  experience-driven approach she takes with her philanthropy.

We’ll be watching The Maverick Collective closely here at Philanthropy Women, tracking the strategies and grants they are making for women’s health and human rights.



Gender Justice Uncovered — Help Promote Sound Judicial Decisions for Gender Equality

The Gender Justice Uncovered Awards help expose  inequities in the justice system for women and girls.

As a social worker, I know too well how local justice systems do not always render judgements that best serve women and girls. I have had the experience of counseling domestic violence survivors still suffering major injuries from a recent assault, and these victims telling me that the offender is already back on the street, and they are afraid for their lives.

So for me, and the clients I serve, it is exciting to learn about the Gender Justice Uncovered Awards, a way to push for better decision-making in the courts worldwide by giving judges positive and negative reinforcement for their decisions involving women and girls.

Women’s Link Worldwide created the awards “to recognize that the comments made by judges and the courts have a strong influence on the sense of justice and the daily life of all people in countries across the world, whatever their political system or religious traditions and beliefs.”

Women’s Link Worldwide sees the courts as a tool for advancing civil society, and with this projects is working to engage judicial authorities in a meaningful dialogue about the rights and protections of women and girls. The awards are given to “sentences or decisions that have had a positive or negative effect on gender equality, such as, for example, decisions regarding sexual and reproductive rights, gender violence, equality in family relations, and gender discrimination.”

The Awards take a carrot and stick approach to the court decisions involving women and girls. The Gavel Awards serve as the carrot — and are given to decision that are  promote gender equality. The Gavel Award highlights judicial decisions that protect and advance human rights for women. The Bludgeon Awards serve as the stick — and are given to decisions that are retrograde and discriminatory against women and girls.

You can learn more about the Gender Justice Uncovered awards here. Voting is currently open, so check it out, and then vote!


Check Out This Timely Support for Afghan Women from Big Foundations

Women for Afghan Women (WAW) recently received $750,000 in support from five big foundations: Carnegie, Ford, Hewlett, Packard, and MacArthur.

“There are men who mistreat and abuse girls and women who have no place to live,” says one 19-year-old female shelter resident in Afghanistan, who ran away from home when her father tried to trade her for a young bride for himself after her mother died.

It’s stories like these that suggest timing could not be better for donors to pay more attention to the needs of marginalized women in developing nations. Helpfully, some big foundations are entering the fray and deploying funds to help preserve human rights for women in Afghanistan. Five big foundations, Carnegie, Hewlett, Ford, Packard, and MacArthur all recently pledged a package of $750,000 to support Afghan women in the conservative country where women’s rights are limited.

Shelter resources are high demand for Afghan women. As this Associated Press article reports, an organization like Humanitarian Assistance for the Women and Children of Afghanistan, with a monthly operating budget of just $14,000, is struggling to stay open.

The five foundations will support Women for Afghan Women (WAW) with this new infusion of $750,000.  WAW reports that since 2001, it has “assisted 25,479 clients and trained over 304,550 people on women’s rights.”  A full 80% of the women in shelters in Afghanistan are being housed in WAW shelters, according to the nonprofit’s website.

How did this new funding for WAW come about? The five foundation consortium “stems from an introduction by a WAW supporter that led to a meeting between Vartan Gregorian, President of Carnegie Corporation of New York, and WAW’s Executive Director, Manizha Naderi,” according to a press release about the grant. As a result of this meeting, Dr. Gregorian served as a key facilitator of the donation.

The new funding and strategy will build WAW’s sustainability and “strengthen operations, expand programming, and diversify WAW’s funding portfolio.” WAW fills an important niche in supporting Afghan women by operating in both New York and Afghanistan, helping people at diverse points in their lives and bridging the divide between the two nations.

WAW’s Board Chair, Sunita Viswanath, called for more donors to come on board as she acknowledged the leadership of Hewlett, Packard, Ford, Carnegie, and MacArthur. “It is truly remarkable for foundation leaders to make such a generous commitment in WAW’s potential to save more lives and bring dignity to Afghan women, families, and communities,” said Viswanath. “We invite more donors to support WAW during these challenging times.”

Can Philanthropy Do More to Impact Gender Norms for Women and Girls?

It’s always interesting to drill down on a specific population, such as young Latina women, and consider the implications both for that community and for other marginalized communities.

A new report, Gender Norms: A Key to Improving Outcomes Among Young Latinas does just that. The report, prepared in partnership with Hispanics in Philanthropy and Frontline Solutions, takes on the issue specifically of Latina women and how gender norms put them at risk for lower life outcomes.

The paper begins by telling the story of how philanthropy has begun to approach gender in different ways, but still does not integrate gender awareness as broadly as it could.

From the paper:

Few social justice foundations today would seek to create portfolios that were race and class blind, and fewer still fund grantees that offered race- or class- blind programs, particularly in communities of color. That’s because they know that addressing underlying structures of oppression like race and class race and class makes efforts more effective.

Yet most funders still don’t consider gender an essential lens for their funding strategy, although — as international donors continue to prove — reconnecting race, class, and gender in a truly “intersectional” approach.

As funder Loren Harris (an early leader on gender and former director with the Ford and WK Kellogg Foundations) has pointed out, gender impacts every issue funders deal with; yet most funders and grantees overlook or ignore gender norms, or disconnect them from core concerns like race and class.

Now that is finally changing. A core of leading funders like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), California Endowment, Ford Foundation, and Heinz Endowments have moved forward important grants in this area. Leading funder networks like A Philanthropic Partnership for Black Communities (ABFE), Women’s Funding Network, and Women Moving Millions have all published papers placing gender norms at the center of racial, social, and economic justice work.

The paper speaks to three specific areas where gender norms have a negative impact on women and girls:

• Basic health, including health care seeking and depression and suicide;

• Reproductive and sexual health, teen pregnancy, and intimate partner violence; and

• Education, including school pushout policies, economic security, and STEM

It finishes with recommendations, including that funders convene a national conference on how gender norms impact Latina women and girls.  Other recommendations focus on funders supporting more empirical research on Latina women and how they are influenced by gender norms. Still others focus on training grantees about gender norms.

Recommendations also include impacting culture by creating social media campaigns to raise awareness about how gender norms influence problems like the high rate of suicide for Latina women. Finally, the recommendations call for more collaboration between stakeholders, particularly those with legal influence such as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).

This paper helpfully addresses Latina women in the context of the larger problem: that much of philanthropy lacks a gender lens, and this contributes to major gaps in effectiveness. It also gives practical and achievable recommendations for how to address the problems raised.

While problems intersect in different ways, the lessons of this paper could be applied to other marginalized women’s populations, including women of different race and class backgrounds. Now that data is more widely available, it is time for the dominant culture to recognize the damage of rigid gender norms. Armed with data, pressure from many different marginalized communities to address the ill effects of rigid gender norms, may aid the cause of improving civil society.

Final note: The paper is published by an organization called TrueChild, which is a fascinating place to visit in and of itself.  The mission of TrueChild is to “help donors, policy-makers and practitioners reconnect race, class and gender through “gender transformative” approaches that challenge rigid gender norms and inequities.”