This Health Foundation is Investing in BIRTHRIGHT, a Critical Public Health Film for Women

Leading discussion at the opening New York City screening. Left to right: Luchina Fisher, producer; Lynn Paltrow, Executive Producer, National Advocates for Pregnant Women; Civia Tamarkin, Director, Writer and Executive Producer; and Dr. Ruth Shaber, Founder, Tara Health Foundation and Executive Producer

Collectively, state legislatures passed 288 restrictions on women’s reproductive rights between 2010 to 2015. Now, a new film tells the stories of women’s horrific health experiences, and the imprisonments, both actual and threatened, that are a consequence of these laws.

Birthright: A War Story is a new documentary that exposes the radical religious right’s infiltration state legislatures. This movement’s goal is not only to strike down women’s constitutional right to abortion but also to curb women’s access to birth control. Some seek to put the rights of fetuses above those of women.

This is the Real-Life ‘Handmaid’s Tale’

The 1 hour, 40 minute film just completed a highly successful week’s run in New York City before engaged and enthusiastic audiences. This Friday, July 28 it opens in Beverly Hills at the Laemmle Music Hall for another one week run. These two theatrical runs qualify the film for consideration for an Academy Award, a critical step in a documentary’s path to notoriety and success.

Director Civia Tamarkin, a seasoned television investigative journalist, was motivated to produce BIRTHRIGHT after the Supreme Court’s June 2014 decision in Hobby Lobby. “I was shocked not only by the Supreme Court ruling, but by the lack of awareness from young women that their rights were being jeopardized. People were not taking to the streets.”

Unlike most filmmaking, Tamarkin said, “Ironically, it proved easier to raise money than to get people to go on camera.” The director underscored in an interview with Philanthropy Women, “Practitioners were reluctant to come forward. They were worried about repercussions…..especially about repercussions of violence. ”

Lest we forget, the National Abortion Federation keeps records of this violence. Eleven people have died and 26 attempted murders have occurred due to anti-abortion violence. A federal law, Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE or the Access Act), passed in 1994 to address such violence. Rewire recently produced an informative short video about the daily harassment that continues to occur at clinics.

Dr. Ruth Shaber, after a twenty five year career as an obstetrician and gynecologist, in 2014 created the Tara Health Foundation. The mission of Tara Health is to “improve the health and well-being of women and girls through the creative use of philanthropic capital.” Tara Health Foundation takes a holistic approach to its grant making as well as its capital management.

Most intriguing to this author was Shaber’s focus on bringing the principles of evidence-based health medicine into philanthropy. She explained,“Evidence-based health is conceived using science. You have an intervention, and then you look at the impact on a desired outcome. In philanthropy, on both the granting-making and the investment side, decisions are more driven by intuition. It is not a sufficient scientific methodology.”

At a national meeting, Shaber heard Dr. David Grimes of the Center for Disease Control speak of the threats to public health that regressive abortion laws are creating. Shaber, as a doctor turned philanthropist, came home from that meeting in November 2015 and realized: “We needed to remind people that abortion and contraception were protecting women’s health.”

Shaber started networking like crazy, on a mission to make a movie akin to An Inconvenient Truth for women’s health. “I knew nothing about filmmaking or media, but I put my name out there and let people know that I was interested in doing this work.

Those in film know how exceedingly rare it is for a potential backer to be knocking on the door of a film director, but not long after putting out the word, Dr. Shaber heard of Tamarkin’s project and called her up. By this time, Tamarkin had completed development and shot a few interviews, enough to create a fundraising trailer.

The two women realized their goals were aligned. Instead of a grant, they struck up an equity investment agreement. Dr. Shaber recounted, “I wanted to have more of a business relationship with the film, so we had to  strike new ground.”

Shaber and Tamarkin found very few in the foundation world who could advise them. But by discussing strategies, the two were able to conceive up a straight-up investment plan. The key selling point of the strategy for investors would be that they would be able to say that profits from the film would be returned to Tara Health Foundation and be deployed for the reproductive rights of women and girls. 

The $675,000 equity investment from Tara Health Foundation enabled Tamarkin and her production team to concentrate solely on conducting the interviews, editing and polishing the completed film. Ruth Shaber became an executive producer of the film, in essence leveraging both financial and human capital to produce the film


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

In addition to investing in the production, Tara Health Foundation has also provided a $325,000 grant for community outreach for the film. In this writer’s experience, this promotional work is a most vital component of the process, and is rare in the production of independent advocacy films like BirthrightPicture Motion, with a track record in this arena, has been hired to design the national campaign strategy that will maximize the film’s social impact. 

Dr. Shaber is optimistic about the outreach screenings. “Each one will have its own character whether it is individuals or organizations, whether they do them as fundraisers or awareness builders.” So far, one outreach screening has occurred in Colorado, a very successful event organized by the American Civil Liberties Union in conjunction with numerous other groups. Birthright’s theatrical distributor, Abramorama, just launched the commercial/art house run of the film, which precedes any community campaign. 

Cristina Aguilar, Executive Director of Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), one of the participating organizations in the July 10 community screening, talked about the value of the film in terms of women and maternal health, noting that the U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world where maternal mortality is on the rise. “Women of color are experiencing an increase in pregnancy complications. On top of this tragic and unacceptable public health crisis, the bodies and pregnancies of marginalized communities are a target of unjust and discriminatory laws and policies.”


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Kelly Baden saw the film at the partnering organization, Center for Reproductive Rights. Thirteen partnering organizations, listed in the Take Action pulldown, are the initial core outreach network. Baden is now in a brand new position as the first Director of Reproductive Rights of State Innovation Exchange, a national resource and strategy hub for advancing and defending progressive policies at the state level. 

In an interview with Philanthropy Women, Baden noted that laws restricting abortion and other reproductive rights are often pushed through hostile state legislatures without input from the very women who will feel their impact most. “Anti-abortion legislators should – at the very least – listen to stories like those featured in Birthright and be forced to grapple with the consequences of using women’s healthcare to score political points.”

State legislatures are not the only problem. A fundraising appeal from Jodi Jacobson, publisher of Rewire , sent out July 19, reminds readers that Teresa Manning, who now runs the Office of Population Affairs at the CDC, does not support evidence-based health contraception. “[She] relies on junk science and falsehoods to advocate for anti-choice policies,” the Rewire appeal states. $286 million is at Manning’s disposal in federal family planning funds to low-income Americans. Decades of health progress for women are at stake.


How Are Women More or Less Free? And What Can We Do About It?

When asked about how Birthright fit into the long history of women’s health films like After Tiller and Trapped, director, writer, and executive producer Tamarkan was adamant that “Birthright is an overview. The issue is not abortion. It is about women’s bodily integrity.”

Additional theatrical screenings are in the works. Small Star Art House in York, Pennsylvania, is listed, as is Gateway Film Center in Columbus, Ohio. Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, NY is on the roster, too. None yet have dates. Other potential screenings are in the works in Lincoln, Nebraska: Dallas and Austin, Texas, and Phoenix and Sedona, Arizona.

If you want updates on the screenings, keep checking the Birthright website. If you want a screening in your community, simultaneously contact your local movie theatre and fill out the form on Birthright’s webpage. Make it happen. You’ll be glad you did. Women Make Movies is handling educational distribution for college campus campaigns. 

Fabulously,” was Shaber’s response when asked how the New York opening screenings went. “I think we are really lighting a match under people so they are connecting to an issue that they have not thought about enough.”

(Full disclosure, the author is a co-founder of Women Make Movies, the non-profit, educational feminist film organization.)


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Want to Invest with a Gender Lens? Put this Women-Owned Firm On Your Interview List

Investment experts like Suzanne Mestayer, Managing Principal at ThirtyNorth Investments, are leading the way for gender lens investing to become a larger part of the financial sector.

While estimates are frighteningly low for the percentage of financial assets under management by women and minorities, that number is destined to change. Leading the charge for this change as one of the few women-owned asset management companies is ThirtyNorth Investments, headed by Suzanne Mestayer, Managing Principal, and Blair duQuesnay, Principal and Chief Investment Officer.

How did Mestayer and duQuesnay become gender lens investors? They were basically convinced by the business case for more women in corporate leadership. “It was an interesting confluence of increasing our knowledge on the topic of women in governance, and learning about how few women are on corporate boards,” said Mestayer in a recent interview with Philanthropy Women. “This coincided with our acknowledgement of our own experiences serving on boards, and seeing the benefits of having diversity on those boards.”

The more Mestayer and duQuesnay researched about the benefits of women’s leadership in business, the more they learned that the news was good. “We realized that if in fact companies with board diversity are performing better, then perhaps there is an investment strategy that not only provides visibility and attention, but also provides real financial reward for investors.”

ThirtyNorth has done its own gender lens investing research, which is coming out in the August issue of Investments & Wealth Monitor.  “In doing our research, we were coming to the same directional conclusion, that board diversity correlated with better company performance,” said Mestayer. 

So ThirtyNorth developed a unique strategy that weighs stocks for both financial performance and gender diversity on boards and in executive leadership. “We seeded it in April of last year, and we’re very happy to see the level of interest and attention it’s getting,” said Mestayer.

Blair duQuesnay, Principal and Chief Investment Officer, ThirtyNorth Investments

“Being two women who are asset managers, the research really resonated with us,” added Blair duQuesnay, who leads ThirtyNorth’s investment committee and bears the responsibility of researching the firms strategies. duQuesnay has been frequent commenter in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, InvestmentNews, and Business Insider.

“We know that there are so few asset managers who are women. It’s even smaller than the 20 percent we’re trying to see on boards. Morningstar estimates that less than 10 percent of mutual funds are run by women, and less than 2 percent of industry assets are managed by women, so it really resonated with us personally when we read this research and developed the strategy.”

ThirtyNorth’s product is called the Women Impact Strategy, and it allows investors to reap the potential benefits of 50 company stocks that are leading the way in terms of gender representation on corporate boards and in executive leadership. The collection of 50 stocks has been rigorously screened and balanced for diversity and women’s leadership on boards, as well as diversity across sectors of the economy, in alignment with the Russell 3000 Index. It’s a unique — and hard to find — product in today’s financial markets.

“One of the realities of the industry is that many times, people are learning about other investment opportunities that align with their values, but they’re not necessarily hearing it from their existing financial advisors,” said Mestayer. “They’re either bringing it to the attention of their advisor, or they are taking some of their money and placing it differently.”

ThirtyNorth is looking to be one of those places where investors go to place their money differently, and be rewarded for understanding the value of women’s leadership in business.

“The information on the number of women who are interested in investing on social motivated issues is pretty astounding,” said Mestayer, citing research from the Center for Talent Innovation. “90% of women were interested in making a positive impact  77% specifically want to invest in companies with diversity in leadership. Those are very powerful numbers because women are making decisions on about $11 trillion of investment assets in this country. So it’s a very powerful amount of investment and number of women who are interested in an investment approach like ours.”

 It’s not just the consumer interest that makes this product so important — it’s the end result. One end result is companies that have better decision-making and therefore better performance. Another end result is companies that are healthier work cultures for women, providing role modeling and more perceived opportunities for their women employees who want to move up the corporate ladder. The products and services of these companies, as well, tend to attract diverse consumers.

It’s the synergy of all of these social changes being boosted by the Women Impact Strategy that make it an exceptional product. So how can more foundations, especially those with a mission to move the needle on gender equality, get on board?  “I would suggest that foundations do a search to see what is available in the gender lens investing sphere and have conversations with a number of providers,” said Mestayer.

The lower threshold for investing in the Women Impact Strategy is $250,000, so this is a service built for high capital entities like foundations. “We have a very diversified mix of companies — large, mid, and small, some international — and so it’s a good fit for any foundation that is looking to allocate their stock portfolio with a gender lens,” said duQuesnay.

Mestayer emphasized that in the foundation world, there is still a lot of misinformation about the relative value of gender lens investing. “Many times, foundation board members have said ‘we know we’re making grants for philanthropic purposes and the return on investment in real dollars is not always there, but with the money we invest, we can’t afford to invest it in a way that gets sub-par returns.”

But the compelling thing about gender lens investing is the growing body of evidence that it’s actually a financially sound way to approach investing. “Financial returns do not need to take a back seat to moving forward on social issues,” said Mestayer. “In fact, you can succeed by doing both at the same time. That’s the most exciting part of watching this develop. Financial returns are not taking a back seat. That myth needs to be debunked.”

And, it’s not just women who are interested in the Women Impact Strategy. “We are often discussing our product with men, and many men will talk about how, through their personal relationships, they have seen the issues women have encountered over the years, and they genuinely see the benefit of supporting a gender lens approach,” said Mestayer.

ThirtyNorth’s new Women Impact Strategy picks up on an important global phenomenon: The more economies recognize women as the key point of contact for growing business, the more chance we all have to succeed. Mestayer and duQuesnay are part of a growing ecosystem of women’s leadership in financial sector that may, in time, produce more financial stability for everyone.


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Harvesting Female Empowerment: Florence Reed and the Business of Food

Florence Reed, Founder and President, Sustainable Harvest International

Sustainable Harvest International Founder and President Florence Reed did not encounter many other women leaders in philanthropy when she started the organization in 1997. “I was flying by the seat of my pants. I literally went to a library and checked out a book on how to start a non-profit, and went through it chapter by chapter,” she recalled in a recent interview with Philanthropy Women. Who knew then how successful her initiative would be: Sustainable Harvest International (SHI) was recently named by Charity Navigator as one of the “six highest-ranking charities in the sector making major strides to increase sustainable food production.”

The dearth of women in leadership positions in philanthropy has changed over the past twenty years, largely because women like Florence Reed have pushed hard to involve more women in their endeavors. The two women Reed put on SHI’S first Board of Directors, a professor at the University of New Hampshire and a member of the International Women’s Club of New England, helped her network with other women in philanthropic organizations. She noted that this reaped immediate rewards: “I found SHI’s first treasurer through my connection with the International Women’s Club,” Reed recalled.

Reed’s attention to women’s involvement in the founding of her organization mirrors the work SHI does to improve women’s lives in Central America. SHI was born out of Reed’s desire to halt the decimation of the rainforests by educating farmers on how to replace slash-and-burn agricultural methods with sustainable practices that use their land more efficiently. SHI programs in Belize, Honduras, and Panama teach multi-story cropping and other sustainable farming practices. But Reed soon recognized that her work did more than help prevent the destruction of more rainforests. As she explained, “I did not expect it, and was surprised to learn that the women we work with gained in self-respect and also in the respect they received from others.” SHI has built a unique niche for women in partner communities to provide more for their families and develop their skills and self-confidence.

Self-Worth Grows Among SHI’s Female Farmers

As Reed notes, in the small rural communities where SHI works in Belize, Honduras, and Panama, life follows traditional gender patterns. She explained, “men farm or work at day labor, and women are responsible for caring for various family members and taking care of the home.” In addition to cooking and caring for their families, Reed explained that “rural Central American women collect firewood and build cooking fires, wash all clothing by hand, maintain household gardens, and help their husbands in farm work, especially during harvest season.” Housewifery in this instance bears no resemblance to the way that women run households in the United States and other developed nations. It is rigorous and exhausting work.

Sadly, as important as such work is to the maintenance of society, it has not always been valued. But women in SHI partner communities have discovered renewed self-worth and earned widespread respect through their participation in the programs.

According to Reed, even though SHI programs have always been open to anyone in a community where the organization works, “at first only a few women were interested. Participants were mostly male farmers, responsible for crops like corn and beans that require larger pieces of land.”

Soon, though, women began to participate in larger numbers. “Women’s regular responsibilities prevent them from going too far from home, ” Reed explained. “Women became interested in making their household gardens more productive through bio-intensive and square foot gardening. The practices they’ve learned from SHI training have allowed them to diversify their gardens and improve the nutritional balance of the family’s food supply. They grow many different fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes, peppers, celery, radishes, lettuce, spinach and watermelon, and tend to papaya, citrus, mango and other fruit trees.” Surplus produce is sold in the community, increasing the family’s income.

This corresponds to SHI’s secondary goal of helping Central Americans feed their families and increase their household incomes. Yet Reed noticed that the women who have participated in SHI programs have benefited in many ways beyond basic household economics. She cites three specific examples of the ways that SHI’s work has given these rural women new opportunities to improve the quality of their lives and find their power as individuals:

  • One woman who suffered from severe depression seldom left her house. But the success of her fruit orchard led other villagers to come to her for advice about their own crops and gardens. Now, she told Reed, she “looks forward to waking up each day.”
  • Another woman has been so successful in her endeavors that she has become an important promoter of SHI programs and women’s involvement in them. She has even been invited to a national women’s conference to speak about farming practices.
  • One woman feared for the lives of two of her children when they were born underweight and she was so malnourished she was unable to breastfeed them. After working with SHI, Reed said, “her health improved, she gave birth to a normal weight baby, and was able to breastfeed.”

SHI has changed the lives of these women not only by improving their economic situations and physical health, but also by creating opportunities for them to increase the respect they receive from others. Reed even discovered that, “in many cases their husbands view them as more equal partners because they contribute more directly to the family income.”

How Can Women Support SHI?

Women in the United States can also benefit from work with Sustainable Harvest International. Reed highlights many different ways to contribute to SHI’s important work:

  • Volunteer: Reed said that “SHI offers many opportunities to participate as a volunteer in many different capacities, from translating documents to stuffing envelopes.” At their Ellsworth, Maine headquarters, volunteers perform data entry and package spices. But volunteers can work from many different locations.
  • Fundraise: Anyone can work with SHI staff to hold an SHI fundraiser. Historically, women in the abolitionist movement, the civil rights movement, and the women’s rights movement learned a tremendous amount about finance and politics through fundraising; women today can do the same.
  • Book a Speaker: Florence Reed and her staff travel all over the world to promote SHI’s life-saving work, and welcome invitations to speak about SHI’s programs to women’s groups, civic organizations, churches, schools, and other places.
  • Donate: Women have become vital players in the world of nonprofit philanthropy as their financial profiles have increased. Though women still do not earn equal pay with men, at least 45% of millionaires in the United States are women. The financial power of women is evident can exercise significant economic muscle.
  • Do Field Work: SHI offers open and private guided trips to its program locations, where you can work alongside staff and farming families in hands-on projects to improve their communities. Participants enrich their own lives through new friendships, learning about other cultures, and developing their own sense of self-worth.

Reed’s work at SHI is just one of thousands of successes for women’s leadership involved in philanthropic work. Not only does her work benefit the planet, it brings new confidence and greater independence to the women it serves.


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Built on Partnership: How This Power Couple Champions Gender Equality

Jennifer and Peter Buffett, Co-Founders, Novo Foundation (Photo Credit: Taylor Crothers)

If a foundation’s mission is to build more healthy partnerships in the world, what better place to start than with their own internal partnerships?

In fact, for Peter and Jennifer Buffett of the NoVo Foundation, developing their own partnership as a couple coincided with developing the mission of their foundation, which is to transform relationships across the globe from “domination and exploitation” to “collaboration and partnership.”

I had approached NoVo wanting to talk to either Jennifer or Peter individually, but,  apropos of their partnership approach to philanthropy, I got them both. They spoke to me by phone from their home in the Hudson Valley, about two hours north of New York City.

Spouses Jennifer and Peter Buffett serve as NoVo’s co-presidents. They are highly conscious of gender roles, and how even among seemingly well-meaning and high-minded people, patriarchal attitudes and structures are often still present. They found this to be the case for themselves, “I’m a nice guy and she’s an outspoken woman,” says Peter, “but we were reenacting certain toxic roles,” he says of the early days of their relationship. Namely, that the wife serves as handmaiden supporting her husband in his endeavors. To combat this tendency, the Buffetts, who met in 1991 in Milwaukee, co-lead NoVo, and have assembled a racially and gender-diverse staff of 26 to run the foundation. In 2016, NoVo directed approximately $100 million in grants to organizations in the U.S. and overseas.

“NoVo” is a Latin word that suggests change, alteration and invention. In seeking to counter exploitative attitudes, practices and institutions and replace them with more egalitarian ones, the foundation focuses on the status of girls and women, particularly those in low-income communities, whether in the U.S. or abroad.

In 2016, NoVo announced a seven-year $90 million initiative to advance girls of color in the U.S., and in support of this effort recently concluded a series of “listening sessions” with communities in the Southeast, Southwest and Midwest. These encounters resulted in a collection of narratives illuminating the gender and race-based challenges facing girls of color, particularly in poor areas. (NoVo is accepting letters of inquiry until August 11 from community organizations across the country that are seeking to address such inequalities).

The NoVo Foundation was formed in 2006, the result of a bequest of stock valued at one billion dollars from Peter Buffett’s father, Warren. NoVo’s work on advancing the rights of girls and women (including combating gender-based violence), encouraging sustainability, furthering social and emotional learning, and supporting indigenous communities, came out of several key experiences Peter and Jennifer had in the mid-00s.

In 2005, Peter attended the first meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. Gene Sperling, an economist who served in the Clinton and Obama administrations, gave a talk that Peter describes as a “lightning strike” for him. Sperling spoke about the impact that educating and empowering adolescent girls in post-conflict countries can have on improving the trajectories of entire communities. At the same time, Jennifer was thousands of miles away in Rwanda, where she was learning some of the same lessons, but hearing them from people on the ground in a country still struggling to emerge from genocide.

Jennifer says that in Rwanda, like many places, “When things fall apart, teen girls become heads of households.” This is a tremendous burden for them to carry, and deprives them of educational and other opportunities. Moreover, Jennifer says that when she talked with heads of NGOs in the developing world, she heard that sexual violence and the undervaluing of women and girls “is happening everywhere.”

NoVo attempts to invest in women and change oppressive structures as means of helping not just the women, but also their children, and whole societies. There is no way to boot-strap oneself out of a patriarchal system where every hour is consumed with survival tasks. “It’s a common saying,” says Peter, “If hard work made you rich, then every woman in Africa would be a millionaire.”

Prior to forming NoVo, Jennifer and Peter had already seen the corrosive effects of racism and sexism in their work in Milwaukee with poor teen-aged mothers of color. “We were looking at what perpetuates the cycle of poverty,” says Jennifer, “and trying to create supportive spaces for these girls.” Jennifer notes that Milwaukee, like many U.S. cities, is segregated, and part of her and Peter’s philanthropic education was familiarizing themselves first-hand with the Latino, African American and other communities that make up that city.

NoVo has sought to avoid a top-down mentality in its social and economic justice efforts. “The colonial mindset has people coming in and wiping out indigenous knowledge,” says Peter, who takes a page from his famous father in not replicating such an approach. “My Dad does not buy companies and tell the managers what to do, he trusts that they already know their business.”

Prior to his major gift that launched NoVo, Warren Buffett gave Jennifer and Peter $100,000 as a seed money for a non-profit so that they could learn the philanthropic ropes. “The tone of the gift was trusting and giving, not controlling,” says Jennifer, and NoVo has tried to mirror this approach in its own efforts. Peter, who has a career as a composer and musician, says his work in this area has also helped him. The finish line for a film score might be clear he notes, but it could take some improvising to get there.

Improving the status of girls and women is not easy, given that the mechanisms of global capitalism reinforce patriarchy, racism, inequality, and colonialism, not to mention environmental destruction. “Our current systems and structures are doomed,” says Jennifer. “The West is very extractive. It’s not doing the species any favors. We need to give people the chance to imagine a different and better future.”

Peter states that part of NoVo’s work is “to look under the covers of capitalism,” and that NoVo takes inspiration from indigenous communities in terms of developing locally-based, sustainable solutions. Of course, NoVo owes its existence to a gift from one of the world’s preeminent capitalists. “The irony is not lost on me,” says Peter.

The network of global capitalism can seem impenetrable and abstract, and for this reason NoVo also focuses on individuals and their relationships with one another. Under the rubric of social and emotional learning (SEL), which the foundation describes as “the process of developing fundamental skills for life success within supportive, participatory learning environments,” NoVo is helping students become better people and community members, as opposed to better test-takers.

“Children are soaking in a model that is 150 years old,” says Jennifer of our educational system, adding that, “Kids’ social and emotional needs are not being addressed.” The emphasis on hierarchy, test-taking, and standardization certainly has its pedagogical detractors, but NoVo is exploring the emotional and social toll of this approach. “We don’t ask what we are educating students for,” says Jennifer, arguing that, “We need to cultivate empathy, imagination, and cooperation.”

To this end, NoVo’s SEL Innovation Fund awardees for 2017 comprise a variety of school and district types—urban, suburban, and rural—across all grade levels and student populations. The awardees included 67 teachers, and 30 school districts in 22 states.

The SEL initiatives complement NoVo’s work with girls, whom it describes as “one of the most powerful and untapped forces on the planet.” Investing in this “under-valued asset” in the U.S. and abroad, suggests the Foundation, is perhaps the most significant thing we can do in advancing peace, justice and equality.


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Can’t Get Promoted in Nonprofits? Maybe It’s Because You’re an LGBTQ Person of Color

A new report with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and other partners helps to identify the multiple barriers faced by LGBTQ people of color in the nonprofit sector.

You work in a nonprofit that supports strengthening diversity and being conscious of race and gender bias, and yet you feel discriminated against year after year, as you are bypassed for promotions and other career advancement opportunities.  It’s a familiar story for many LGBTQ people of color, and now a new report has come out that fills a big research gap — the lack of data on leadership of LGBTQ people of color in the nonprofit industry.

“It was tough being one of a couple staff people of color in an LGBTQ organization. I would see things others didn’t and I would name it. That was sometimes really difficult for my superiors to hear,” said a multiracial transgender respondent quoted in the study.

The report, Working at the Intersections: LGBTQ Staff and the Nonprofit Leadership Gap, was recently released by the Building Movement Project (BMP), which is fiscally sponsored by Third Sector New England, which recently changed its name to TSNE MissionWorks. BMP started as a collective of 20 people working in small nonprofits who came together in 1999 in order to maximize impact with up-to-date analysis on issues related to social justice and nonprofit operating practices. BMP was originally housed at the Hauser Center for Nonprofits at Harvard, and moved to Demos in 2003.

The report makes specific recommendations for nonprofits and foundations to address LGBTQ bias in the workplace.

This LGBTQ-focused report builds on the recent release of Race to Lead: Confronting the Nonprofit Racial Leadership Gap, which BMP released last month along with unveiling a new website,, which serves as a new online hub for knowledge and action on the racial leadership gap in nonprofits.

One of the key findings of the study is that most LGBTQ people of color see racial discrimination as the primary barrier to advancement toward leadership positions. Twice as many survey respondents identified race as negatively impacting on their careers compared to sexual orientation, according to the study’s findings.

This finding informs the report’s recommendations that nonprofit agencies take a primary focus on race, in order to lay the groundwork for the organization to begin addressing issues of anti-LGBTQ bias. The report also recommends that funders and nonprofits adopt nondiscrimination policies that include sexuality and gender identity, and establish systems for monitoring and addressing discrimination.

More on the report here. 

How Are Women More or Less Free? And What Can We Do About It?

Emily Nielsen Jones, President and C0-Founder of Imago Dei Fund, examines the status of gender equality within the larger context of freedom.

Fourth of July, 2017 came and went, but Lady Liberty’s vigil continues, reminding us of the brave work required in every generation to truly live as a free people.

As we turn the page on the 4th of July this year, report after report like the Freedom in the World 2017 and the 2017 Social Progress Index confirm a feeling in the air today: freedom is not currently advancing but rather is in decline. According to these reports, 2016 marked the 11th consecutive year of decline in global freedom.

“In past years we generally saw declines in freedom among autocracies and dictatorships,” describes Arch Puddington, one of Freedom In the World 2017’s co-authors, “but in 2016 it was established democracies that dominated the list of countries suffering setbacks.” The US was among a list of “Free” countries – including Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Hungary, Poland, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, and Tunisia – where freedom was found to be in decline as “populist and nationalist forces made significant gains.”

As has been the case in every authoritarian cultural context, a subtext in these reports – and a refrain I have heard over and over again from women’s human rights leaders around the world – is that women and girls have been disproportionately bearing the brunt of freedom’s decline.

We are all in the same boat in freedom’s decline—black, brown, white, male, female and everything in between—and in the work of getting freedom moving forward again. Join us in this two-part post-4th of July reflection and ask yourself how you can be a little more brave, how you can put a little more skin in the game, to get the freedom needle moving forward again for all human beings, in particular the female half of “We the People” who were in fact the longest running group excluded from the ranks of the freeborn here and around the world.

Cross-Posted from Imago Dei Fund’s Inukshuk Blog.

Post #1: Land of the Free, Home of the Brave: Taking Down All “Monuments” to Our Enslaving Past (Not Just Around Race, Gender too)

Post #2: “Women Are The Devil’s Gateway”: Connecting the Historic & Global Dots Between Archaic-sounding “Handmaid’s Tale” Gender Practices Rising Up Around the World and More “Mainstream” Gender “Monuments” that Persist in Our Churches


We-Fi to the Rescue: Will Trump Lead the World With Empowering Women Entrepreneurs?

The World Bank, along with President Donald Trump, recently announced We-Fi, which will finance women entrepreneurs in developing nations.

In another unexpected “first” for our nation, Donald Trump decided to have his daughter, Ivanka sit in for him at the G20 leaders’ summit in Hamburg, Germany. But another, perhaps more important first also took place at this meeting: The World Bank Group announced the creation of an innovative new facility that plans to invest more than $1 billion to advance women’s entrepreneurship. This new facility will give women in developing countries a leg up when it comes to increasing their access to capital and markets that will help them start and grow businesses.

“This incredible facility will have a significant impact on women’s economic development around the world,” United States President Donald Trump said in a recent press release from the World Bank. “It will help increase opportunities and economic growth while addressing unique barriers women entrepreneurs face. I am proud the United States is helping to lead support of this unprecedented initiative.”

Wow. I think that is the most articulate I have ever heard President Trump sound. Is there hope for a gender equality agenda growing out of the Trump White House?

As it turns out, the United States initiated the idea for this new facility, and will serve as a founding member, along with Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. The genesis of this idea came from United States and Germany, who then invited the World Bank Group to create the facility.

The new initiative is called the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) and is a huge public acknowledgement of the advantages men have in the business world. We-Fi aims to remedy that inequality by providing women with access to capital, networks, and knowledge in order to grow female entrepreneurship. Trump said the U.S. would contribute $50 million to the initiative.

The problems women businesses face are staggering. The World Bank estimates that there is a $300 billion annual credit deficit to formal women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises worldwide. That means that seventy percent of these businesses in developing countries are shut out of the financing they need to grow.

Now, with this new initiative, global leaders are giving unprecedented attention to women as the key point of contact in improving and stabilizing economies. This means women are being newly recognized for the critical role they can play in creating jobs and boosting economic growth, particularly in the developing world. According to the press release, “We-Fi fills a gap where there was no significant fund or facility committed to a holistic public and private sector approach to addressing the constraints faced by women entrepreneurs.”

The strategy will unlock $1 billion in financing targeted specifically to women, with the goal of leveraging $325 million in donor grant funding along with the $1 billion in financing.

It is really interesting to see how the issues of women and financial power are coming together on the global scene, even as women and other marginalized populations face unprecedented threats to their human rights and access to health care.  We will be watching the We-Fi initiative closely here at Philanthropy Women, since it so importantly ties together private and public support for women’s empowerment globally.

More information on this new initiative from World Bank.


Women, Hide Your Wallets: The GOP Wants to Defund Your Health Care

A massive defunding for women is now under consideration in the United States Senate. All told, it represents billions of dollars annually that will come straight out of primarily women’s wallets. 

You may not usually think of the federal government as a philanthropic institution. Yet from our country’s start,  congressional acts have subsidized various segments of the population and for a variety of reasons. Take the 1792 Postal Act. A spirited debate went on in the second session of Congress, over maintaining access to information. That Congress voted to create low postal rates for newspapers and to improve roads by creating postal routes to ensure expansion and development of our fledgling country, rather than solely serve existing communities. Americans still benefit from reduced media postal rates today.

The proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) put forth by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the 115th Session is an entirely different matter. It will adversely impact the finances of women – particularly poor women and women of color, and all rural people, especially women. By cutting off funding – just so the wealthy 1% can get tax breaks – American adult women, 126 million strong, will again have to shell out of pocket money for all kinds of basic health care or forego health services, often to the detriment of their own well-being and the well-being of their families. People will die as a result of this bill. The greater proportion of those deaths will be women.

Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, stated it succinctly, “It is outrageous that a group of men are negotiating to make it harder for women to prevent unintended pregnancy, harder to have a healthy pregnancy and harder to raise a healthy child.”

The Impact on Medicaid

The Better Care Reconciliation Act proposes gigantic cuts in Medicaid, rolling back the expansions that were put in place by the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. An estimated $772 Billion will be siphoned off from this program that benefits low income people. This impacts 25 million women in the US, who are 36% of the Medicaid beneficiaries. Their children, under age 18, are another 44% of Medicaid recipients. Over the first 10 years of this proposed bill the deep cuts into medicaid are expected to be 25%, but in the 2nd decade starting after 2027, the cuts go far deeper to 35%.

These Medicaid cuts threaten rural hospitals. Simply, many will close. As a group, 14% of their budgets come through medicaid reimbursements for their services.

Though not named, criteria specifically targets Planned Parenthood for the chopping block, however, at present, only for one year. This vital health service agency provides everything from cancer screenings to birth control. It has historically served one in five women in America. Planned Parenthood would be denied reimbursement, like other health care agencies, for the low income women, who comprise over 50 percent of their patients. In 2015 Planned Parenthood affiliates received $553.7 million in government reimbursements and grants for services. This means some 2.4 million women who regularly use the 600 Planned Parenthood facilities across America will no longer have access to these vital services.

Many conservative lawmakers claim women can as easily be served by other existing clinics.“…[Community health centers] are vastly bigger in network, there are so many more of them, and they provide these kinds of services without all of the controversy surrounding this [abortion] issue,” touted House Speaker Paul Ryan in January. But a report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that these other community clinics could not make up for the flood of uninsured patients to their doors.

Further, in an investigation by Rewire, numerous of these clinics are religious in affiliation and fail to offer a full range of reproductive health care. They restrict family planning. So, in fact they are both in contradiction to the services offered at Planned Parenthood clinics and fail to adhere to the tenets of the ACA.

Being Female, A Pre-existing Condition

The Senate’s BCRA bill, like the House’s version, the AHCA, avoids outright omissions of the essential success of the Affordable Health Act. That is the inclusion of all people in health insurance despite so-called pre-existing conditions. Prior to the ACA women universally had to pay higher premiums solely due to their sex as a pre-existing condition.

The BCRA and the AHCA theoretically keep pre-existing conditions. But the laws pass the political buck to states to allow for waivers that effect various types of pre-existing conditions. “Because they [the states] are closer to the public’s health needs,” numerous Congressional supporters of the two bills disingenuously claim, the states can make the decision on how to handle pre-existing conditions.

But combined with all the fiscal cuts, many states will be hard pressed to shoulder the costs related to pre-existing conditions. Instead, the public will get a hodge-podge of programs that will make some states semi-bright beacons of partial health coverage and others wilting lilies where poor citizens are on the hook personally for the high and rising costs of health care that they cannot afford. This dynamic will have larger ramifications on the impact of businesses to attract workers and other developments and programs within certain states. It is a far cry from the 1792 Postal Act. Or Obamacare.

People of color in larger numbers have historically lacked insurance. The ACA started to close that gap, though there is far more to go. The Groundswell Fund and Ms. Foundation for Women are two foundations that for decades have supported women of color health groups addressing these disparities. It is from these groups that new theoretical frameworks and progressive advancements like Reproductive Justice have emerged and that, in turn, have impacted the international health community.

Teresa C. Younger, President and CEO of Ms. Foundation said, “The bill is called The Bettercare Act but it will only result in worse care for women of color. [ It ] siphons resources to pay for yet another tax cut for rich white men. It’s clear women of color are in Conservatives’ anti-woman, pro-billionaire crosshairs with this bill, but women of color won’t stand for it. We are literally fighting for our survival.”

The Impact on Birth Control

Not until 1965 did birth control become legal. State laws prohibiting it were struck down that year in Griswold v. Connecticutt by the Supreme Court.

Post 1965, with oral contraceptives available since 1961, almost three generations of sexually active women have practiced birth control. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, contraceptions make up an estimated 30-44% of out-of-pocket spendingfor their health care by sexually active women.  The ACA recognizes the unique health needs of women throughout their lifespan. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) created a set of guidelines for women’s care. This includes contraception. An estimated $1.4 billion in the first year alone of Obamacare was saved by 55 million women because they had access to birth control through copayments in their health insurance.

Despite 71% of the US population being in favor of full coverage of birth control, the current administration is not listening. The BCRA does not directly strike down the birth control provision, but already rumors are afoot that the Tom Price lead Health and Human Services Department is about to do away with a component of the benefit.

The first line of attack on this widely acceptable copay is based on religious and moral grounds. In a leaked rule, the Trump administration may be poised to significantly roll back birth control through the ACA. Building on the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling, it would allow any employer or university to deny coverage based on their beliefs. Religious and moral grounds of women are obliterated. Also, there seems to be an attempt to bypass the mandated 60-day public comment period.

$200 Billion in Incentives Luring Senators to Pass BCRA

Women are primary caregivers, tending to the upbringing of children and caring for aging parents. The majority of this work is unpaid labor. Women’s reproductive organs warrant greater health care. Combined, these factors mean women interact with health care providers far more frequently than men. Cutting funds for some of the most essential health needs of women as provided in the ACA is a direct slap in the face to 51% of the US population.

McConnell’s pulling of the BCRA just before the Fourth of July recess was momentary. To understand better the horse trading that the Senate Majority Leader has at his disposal to get Senators on board his health care train wreck, long time Hill correspondent, Michael McAuliff, has written an especially informative article. Hint, the reporter calls it “Candy”. While he makes no mention of women per se, McAuliff explains how the Majority Leader has about $200 billion worth of incentives at his disposal. That’s our tax money at play, being used as inducements to decimate our health care systems.

Gloria Feldt, who for thirty years worked with Planned Parenthood, ten years as President and CEO of the Federation, and is now co-founder of Take The Lead Women, summed it up this way: “Families who thought their company plans would cover a new child’s birth may find themselves paying a very high premium just to have coverage–and then be bankrupted by devastating costs if there are complications of pregnancy or birth. [The BCRA creates] high profits for insurance companies. Now that’s about as foolish a piece of legislation as you can get.”

What Role Can Funders Play in Ending Sexual Abuse of Aid Workers?

A new report from Humanitarian Women’s Network details the percentage of women aid workers who reported and didn’t report gender-based harassment, and the reasons for not reporting.

Here’s a good idea: Encouraging funders to adopt language in their contracts with grantees that spells out how the grantees will prevent gender-based abuse and harassment and provide safety for everyone in the work environment.

An article by Sophie Edwards in Devex discusses some new research from Humanitarian Women’s Network that shows just how serious the problem of gender-based harassment still is in the aid and relief work sector. The Devex article spells out some specific ways that funders of international aid can help protect aid workers from gender-based harassment and abuse.  From the article: 

Funders Have a Role to Play

Aid agencies and NGOs are not the only actors who need to clean up their act when it comes to addressing sexual harassment and abuse within their organizations; aid donors are also to blame, the panelists said, for not doing better due diligence on their grantees.

“How can it be that we subject our money to more scrutiny than the way we care for our people?” Gilmore asked. Scott proposed that funders include provisions in their grant agreements specifically related to tackling sexual assault and harassment of staff.

“I suggest you take critical look at way you disperse money and require concrete prevention [of sexual abuse and harassment],” he said. “That would be a significant benefit to us, put a lot of weight behind what we all agree needs to be done and making sure recommendations are actually implemented,” he said.

This point was supported by a representative from Canada, who agreed that U.N. member states needed to pay more attention to sexual abuse during the due diligence process and not just focus on “fiduciary matters.”

The full five-page report from Humanitarian Women’s Network is available here. 

An earlier article by Sophie Edwards from Devex summarizes the research and findings, as well as the funders and organizations who have collaborated to bring more attention to this problem:

Two advocacy groups formed in the past 18 months by women working in the sector — the Humanitarian Women’s Network and Report the Abuse — have lifted the lid on the problem, collecting survey data from hundreds of female aid workers. The results reveal that sexual harassment, unwanted touching, sexual comments and, in some cases, rape, are a common experience for women working in remote and dangerous humanitarian settings.

More than 800 women responded to the Report the Abuse survey; 67 percent said they had suffered sexual violence while on the job, including 10 percent who said they had been raped and 21 percent who said they had experienced unwanted sexual touching. Similarly, the Humanitarian Women’s Network survey — which received responses from more than 1,000 people working for 70 organizations — found that 4 percent of female aid workers said they have been raped while carrying out humanitarian work. A further 48 percent reported “unwanted touching” and 55 percent reported that they have experienced sexual advances from male colleagues during their professional careers.

The Feinstein International Center, part of Tufts University, has also been investigating the issue and is set to release its report, Sexual Assault Against Humanitarian and Development Aid Workers, later this month.


This Changes Everything: Early American Feminists Were Deeply Religious, Relational, and Race-Conscious

Helen LaKelly Hunt, Author of And the Spirit Moved Them, and movement builder for both gender equality and safe relationships.

For Helen LaKelly Hunt, three central passions drive her work: funding for gender equality, changing the culture of intimate relationships, and rethinking the historical roots of American feminism. These three passions all come together in a new way with the publication of her latest book.

“Jennifer Baumgardner gets much credit. After all, she published this book,” said Helen, in a recent interview with Philanthropy Women. “And as a result of Jennifer’s passion, I always remind her, this book has two mothers.” Baumgardner is the Publisher at The Feminist Press, which released Helen’s book this past May.

The book is called And the Spirit Moved Them: The Lost Radical History of America’s first Feminists and is the culmination of Hunt’s Ph.D work at Union Theological Seminary. Its launch was recently celebrated at in Los Angeles at a Women Moving Million’s Salon. Hunt explained she was particularly gratified by the diversity of women in attendance and what the book meant to them. “Many of the African American women spoke out about women of color being forgotten when the rise of Womens Rights in the U.S was historically documented. They said, ‘We knew we had a place in women’s history, but our stories are usually left out.’ I had never realized this before, and was so touched when they expressed that this book made them feel included.”

Hunt’s book gives feminists of all races and creeds new evidence for why it’s time to embrace both a relational and an intersectional model in creating strategies for social change. When a new piece of history is discovered, it has the capacity to transform the narratives of our collective past, and open up new questions about where we need to go in the future. Hunt’s book has that capacity to infuse the women’s movement with a deeper understanding of why race and gender are so intricately entwined, and why we must embrace thoughtful strategies to address the issues of diverse communities.

Related: Helen LaKelly Hunt: Feminism and Philanthropy Are Converging to Create a New Relationship Culture

As the impassioned excavator of this lost history of American feminism, Hunt brings into the picture a startling fact: the women’s movement began in concert with the abolitionist movement, which sought to end slavery but also catalyzed women into political voice. As a result of this revelation, today’s feminists and progressives have a new opportunity to realign their strategy with a broader vision.

While researching the Seneca Fall’s Convention for her dissertation, Hunt accidentally came across a small dusty booklet called Turning the World Upside Down: The Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women – New York City May 9-12, 1837. It was the proceedings of the relatively unknown first Women’s Convention in the US. It documents the cross-race, cross-class meeting that publically called for greater gender equity; and it predated by 11 years the Seneca Falls Convention, commonly referred to as the birthplace of American feminism.

Sarah Mapps Douglass, Educator, Abolitionist, and Co-founder of American Feminism in Helen LaKelly Hunt’s new account. (Photo credit: African American Registry)

By writing about this meeting and its participants, Hunt revives the voices of American leadership that have been largely overlooked, like that of Angelina Grimke, one of the first women to write and speak out about the wrongs of slavery. She and her sister Sarah and their African American friends Grace and Sarah Douglass became publicly vocal at a time women had no public or political voice. These women in their bonnets and petticoats stepped into political leadership at the 1837 Convention. “I feel that when I am speaking, I am surrounded by a bodyguard of hearts, faithful and true,” wrote Angelina of the deep relational commitment she felt from her abolitionists sisters.

Grimke’s words were not only a deft expression of the bond she felt, but also reflected serious danger these women confronted. Refering to her activists sisters as ‘bodyguard’ takes on darker tones when Hunt’s book tells about the fiery backlash against them. The following year, when the same group of women gathered in Philadelphia, an angry mob surrounded the building, and first verbally harassed them. But then, when the women marched out because they could not hear each other speak, the mob set fire to the building and burnt it to the ground.

Inscription from William Lloyd Garrison to Sarah Mapps Douglass, Abolitionist and Educator discussed in Helen LaKelly Hunt’s new book.

The scholarship and primary sources on the major players in this chapter of history are still surfacing. A recent example of a new find is a book given to Sarah Mapps Douglass, African-American abolitionist and participant in the anti-slavery groups in Philadelphia. A recent article in the Philadelphia Library Company’s blog from Jessica C. Linker, PhD candidate at UCONN, provides the details on how this new find is informing the history of both feminism and science education, since Mapps Douglass was a teacher of science, along with being a leader in the Abolitionist and Feminism movements of her time.

Recovering this lost history and integrating it into the feminist narrative is a role that Hunt seems to relish. But this piece of Hunt’s work must be seen within the larger context of her knowledge and experience in both relational science and the funding of gender equality movements today. Along with recovering this lost history of early feminism, Hunt has also spent much of her life developing a unique expertise in relationships. She and her husband, Harville Hendrix, are experts in the science of relationship, and are now disseminating a new process called Safe Conversations, a structured conversation that facilitates two people, even if they disagree, to stay connected.

And then there is the role that Hunt plays in women’s philanthropy. In tandem with her sister, Swanee Hunt, these two donor activists are major players in the Women’s Funding Movement. Hunt has co-founded some of the largest and most influential women’s funds in the country, including the Dallas Women’s Foundation, the New York Women’s Foundation, the Women’s Funding Network, and Women Moving Millions. In 2007, Women Moving Millions emerged on the scene with a public launch of a two-year campaign to raise $150 million for the global network of women’s funds. During the financial meltdown of 2008, Women Moving Millions became one of the only campaigns to exceed its fundraising goal, with a total of $182 million raised during that economic crisis.

Like many in progressive feminist circles, Hunt is distressed by the political climate since last November, which she sees as more geared toward combat and competition, rather than seeking collaboration and cooperation. “Instead of emphasizing that we’re a ‘We’ on this planet – a global human family, people even in our country are being pitted one against the other. The truth is, we all interconnected and we all need each other. ”

Hunt hopes the unleashing of the words of the Abolitionist’s Feminists will help us resist despair, and inspire us to keep fighting for both race and gender equality. “The visionary women who met in 1837,” she said, “stepped into their power to make change happen. Look at the odds against them! May their words give us the courage to continue to foster greater peace and justice in every way we can today.”