This Women’s Foundation is Fueling Social Change in DC and Israel

The Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation makes grants to organizations in both Washington D.C. and Israel.

A new round of grants from the Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation demonstrates how the foundation is employing its strategy of reaching girls and women both in the Washington D.C. area and in Israel.

The Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation was created in 2004 to improve the lives of Jewish women and girls, both in Washington D.C. and in Israel. Co-founders Robin Hettlemen Weinberg and Liza Levy realized that in order to make an impact, they needed to combine their efforts and coordinate more with other philanthropists to accomplish their goals. Their mission, to change and better the lives of women and girls, both locally in Washington D.C. and in Israel, is being carried out in diverse ways through their grantmaking.

Since inception, Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation has given away over $1 million in grants to more than 42 organizations, particularly focusing on  women and girls in Israel, impoverished immigrant women in metropolitan Washington, D.C., and Jewish women and girls in the D.C. area. The foundation has been awarding grants since 2006.

From the press release, here are the 2018 grants from Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation:


Building Advocacy on the front lines of emerging issues

Avodah: $12,000

This grant for Avodah DC provides funding for the Jewish Service Corps as well as alumni of the program who continue living and working for social justice in the Washington, D.C. area.  The Service Corps, comprised primarily of female participants, trains and supports young social justice leaders.  Participants emerge from the program with a nuanced understanding of the ways that domestic poverty intersects with gender, sexual orientation, race, and other factors. 

Jews United for Justice: $15,000

This grant funds A Better Social Contract: Paid Family Leave, Affordable Housing, and a More Just Montgomery County.  Through their campaigns In DC and Montgomery County, JUFJ works to bring about a more just DC region by working for policies that disproportionately support women.  They develop strong feminist leaders as women grassroots volunteers drive most of their programs and work bringing systemic change to our region.

Prevent re-emerging gender segregation in Israeli society

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI): $14,000

Desegregating Public Spaces in Israel aims to eradicate the increasing barriers that are infringing on women and girls’ participation in the Israeli public sphere through litigation and raising public awareness.  The increased gender segregation in public life has resulted from the increasing integration of the ultra-orthodox population in academia and the workforce. 

Israel Women’s Network: $14,000

Fighting Exclusion—Increasing Equality seeks to halt and eliminate all forms of exclusion of women from public spaces in Israel, focusing on the IDF. IWN will promote policy, legislation and enforcement policies which eliminate the institutionalized exclusion of women in the IDF, participate in a coalition which encourages educators to publicly come out against exclusionary policies, present information regarding cases of exclusion in the IDF to members of the Knesset and other policy makers, and raise public awareness. 

Developing women political leaders

We Power: $14,000

This project, Local Councils 2018—Regional College for Politics, aims to ensure that more women leaders are elected by providing them with training, support and the tools and know-how during and after the election process. Through a Coalition of major women’s organizations, We Power seeks to mobilize more than 3,000 women and successfully encourage them to compete for political office in the municipal elections.  Once elected, they will provide training, support and networking for them to be successful in the political sphere. 

Adva Center: $14,000

Numbers Are Not Enough:  Women Politicians Need a Progressive Feminist Agenda is a new initiative to train incumbent and aspiring female politicians on feminist thought and provide them with an understanding of the implications of policies on women and girls so they will be equipped with the knowledge to work for changes to benefit the diversity of women. 

Providing training and tools to support women advocates

Anu – Making Change: $10,000

This grant supports the Women’s Activist Forum: “Achot, Shtayim, Shalosh” which was established in 2017 to consolidate a visible and influential feminist activist community to take action in solidarity for joint causes.  Through the provision of training and Anu’s action toolkit, Forum participants will advance their campaigns addressing a broad array of issues and bring about long-term improvements.


Protecting Rights of Immigrant Women and Girls

Tahirih Justice Center: $20,000

Protecting Immigrant Women and Girls Fleeing Violence provides access to justice for low-income female asylum-seekers fleeing gender-based violence.  Attorneys represent women and girls and their cases may help set legal precedent. They provide training for professionals in the community who, particularly in an environment with rapidly changing administrative policies, often lack current information and understanding of the legal remedies available.

Freeing women from abusive relationships

Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse (JCADA): $15,000

The AWARE program teaches young people to recognize and avoid unhealthy relationships.  AWARE uses interactive models to create an open environment for discussion while teaching young people, parents and educators the signs of unhealthy relationships and the tools to help themselves or friends.  The goal of the program is to break the cycle of abuse.  Dating violence prevention workshops are presented at public and private schools, camps, and other youth organizations. 

Freeing women from sexual and physical abuse

Sacred Spaces: $18,000

Safeguarding Synagogues aims to empower a cross-denominational cohort of DC-area synagogues to become healthy spaces where sexual abuse and assault are actively prevented and immediately addressed.  Sacred Spaces will provide the participating synagogues with the tools and guidance to develop and implement substantial abuse-prevention measures and develop protocol for responding to complaints.   Their focus on changing institutional culture through concrete policies and training helps to  opportunities for abuse and helps synagogues respond appropriately. 

Asian Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project: $12,000

The Voicing the Unspoken: Addressing Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in the Asian/Pacific Islander Community program addresses domestic violence and sexual assault in the metropolitan DC area’s Asian/Pacific Islander community by leveraging culturally and linguistically accessible and appropriate outreach strategies, including workshops and presentations, while enabling survivors to rebuild their lives.  The outreach program focuses on preventing domestic abuse and sexual assault by shifting community dialogue and traditional beliefs through education of adults and youth, training and promoting awareness in the community. 

Kayan Feminist Organization: $14,000

Ending Violence Against Arab Women in Israel From a Holistic Grassroots Approach addresses the root causes of violence against Arab women in Israel.  The project aims to break the taboos for open discussion, empower women to report violations, create a supportive environment for women to speak out against violence, support women and youth being community leaders in the effort to end violence against women, and put eliminating violence against women on the agenda. 

Haifa Rape Crisis Center: $3,000

#FreeConsent: Teen Leadership Talking About Sexual Violence encourages teenagers to become leaders in their community in condemning sexual violence and working with their peers to end it.  The teen-led advocacy focuses on bettering the lives of girls by fighting gender biases and gender-based violence. 


Improving civil discourse in a politically polarized society

Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom: $12,000

Responding to Hate: Training Muslim and Jewish Women in Spiritual Activism is a one-day workshop for the Jewish and Muslim members of local DC chapters to develop the skills and confidence to respond to hate through spiritual activism.  Spiritual activism is creating social change with a spirit of compassion and a faith-based platform. 

Together Beyond Words: $3,000

Together Beyond Words uses a theater ensemble to enable young Israeli Arab and Jewish women to work as change agents for peace.  Funding of the program From Stage to Change lll: Cultivating Young Jewish and Arab Women Students’ Leadership in Working for Women’s Empowerment and for Intercultural Understanding in Israel supports implementation of the program building relationships and trust between young Arab and Jewish women college students, and empowers them with leadership skills. 


Providing girls with life skills training to break the cycle of poverty

Florence Crittenton Services of Greater Washington: $10,000

Positive Youth Development Programs for Immigrant Teen Girls in Montgomery County, MD provides school-based, positive youth development programs for 6th-12th grade girls from low-income, largely immigrant families that enable them to break the cycle of poverty.  The programs encourage girls to stay in school, avoid pregnancy, graduate from high school, and go on to college and careers. 


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Innovation Symposium Will Look at Gender-Based Giving, Participatory Grantmaking

Innovations in International Philanthropy is sponsored by Fidelity Charitable, Veris Wealth Partners, the Boston Foundation, and many other notable partners in the corporate and nonprofit sectors.

Good news for the philanthropic sector, as mainstream philanthropy appears to be embracing key concepts and strategies related to gender equality and a more relational way to do grantmaking.

The latest example of this trend? New England International Donors (NEID) and The Philanthropic Initiative’s Center for Global Philanthropy have gotten together to co-host  the 2018 Innovations in International Philanthropy Symposium at MIT’s Samberg Center September 6-7, 2018. The goal of this event is to “propel forward the capacity and impact of internationally-oriented philanthropists, including individuals, families, foundations, investors, and corporate funders.”

But here’s the really good part: this symposium will involve systems strategizing, gender-based giving, and participatory grant-making, all key concepts to feminist philanthropy. Lisa Jackson, managing partner of Imago Dei Fund, will be facilitating a workshop on  “Introducing a Gender Lens to Your Philanthropy.” Jen Bokoff of The Foundation Center and Diana Samarasan of the Disability Rights Fund will workshop the subject of “Taking a Participatory Approach to Grantmaking.”

Impact investing will also be discussed, which aligns with feminist philanthropy in that it encourages the use of alternative models for funding social change like Limited Liability Corporations and funding start-up businesses.

The two-day event has an impressive lineup of speakers and workshops. Check it out:


Thursday, September 6, 2018 – at The Boston Foundation

2:00 pm Registration

2:30-2:45 pm Welcome and Opening

Paul Grogan, President, Boston Foundation

Ina Breuer, Executive Director, New England International Donors

Maggi Alexander, Partner and Director of TPI’s Center for Global Philanthropy

2:45-4:00 pm Keynote: Innovations in Global Philanthropy

Raj Panjabi, co-founder and CEO of Last Mile Health

(More to be Announced.)

4:00-5:00 pm Collaborative Exercise

5:00-6:00 pm Welcome Reception 

Friday, September 7, 2018 – at the Samberg Conference Center, MIT

8:00 am Registration

8:30-9:15 am Breakfast

Keynote: Connecting Local and Global Philanthropy

(Speakers To be Announced.)

9:15-10:45 am Funder Workshops

  • Ramping Up Your International Philanthropy
    Maggi Alexander, Partner and Director, The Philanthropic Initiative’s Center for Global Philanthropy
    Rebecca Miller, Global Philanthropic Advisor, The Philanthropic Initiative

  • An Action Plan for Launching Your Impact Investing Strategy
    Vilas Dhar, Social Impact Investor and Founder, Next Mile Project

  • Taking a Participatory Approach to Grantmaking
    Jen Bokoff, The Foundation Center, Diana Samarasan, Disability Rights Fund                                                                                   

  • Understanding Philanthropy’s Role in Launching & Scaling Solutions
    Ina Breuer, Executive Director, New England International Donors 

10:45-11:00 am Coffee Break

11:00 am-12:30 pm Funder Workshops 

  • Building a Culture of Engagement in Global Companies
    Joe McGrail, Chief Operating Officer, State Street Foundation, Inc; Managing Director, State Street Corporation; Leslie Pine, Managing Partner, The Philanthropic Initiative; Lauren Ryan, Employee Community Engagement & Strategic Programs, Global Human Resources & Corporate Citizenship, State Street

  • Leveraging Philanthropy and Impact Investing to Support Social Change
    Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder and CEO, Acumen

  • Revolutionizing Relationships with Your Grantees
    Andy Bryant, Executive Director, Segal Family Foundation
    Tory Dietel Hopps, Managing Partner Dietel Partners

  • What is Systems Thinking – What Is It and How to Apply It to Your Philanthropy?
    Robert Ricigliano, Systems and Complexity Coach, The Omidyar Group

12:30-2:00 pm Lunch

Keynote: (To Be Announced.) 

2:00-3:30 pm Funder Workshops 

  • Developing a Roadmap for Your Next Steps: Models for Corporate Philanthropy
    Leslie Pine, Managing Partner, The Philanthropic Initiative​​;                                  Crystal Barnes, Executive Director, Nielsen Foundation; Senior Vice President, Global Responsibility & Sustainability, Nielsen Foundation

  • Aligning Your Philanthropy with the SDGs
    Natalie Ross, Vice President of External Relations, Council on Foundations

  • Introducing a Gender Lens to Your Philanthropy
    Lisa Jackson, Managing Partner, Imago Dei Fund

  • Empowering Community Foundations to Support Their International Donors
    Maggi Alexander, Partner and Director, The Philanthropic Initiative’s Center for Global Philanthropy with Ellen Remmer, Senior Partner, The Philanthropic Initiative 

3:30-3:45 pm Coffee Break

3:45-5:00 pm Closing Keynote: The Future of International Philanthropy

Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande, Founder, Deshpande Foundation

Early Bird Tickets are available till June 30 and interested parties can register on the symposium website.

Questions regarding the agenda? Contact Odette Ponce, at 


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Meet Attica Scott, Democrat for State Legislature in Kentucky

Attica Scott, Democrat running for re-election in the Kentucky legislature.

In 2010, Representative Scott graduated from the first class of Emerge Kentucky which prepares Democratic women to run for office.

In 2016, Attica defeated a 34-year incumbent to become the first Black woman in nearly 20 years to serve in the Kentucky state legislature. Moreover, Attica is the only woman of color in the entire Kentucky legislature. In 2017, Representative Scott was named to Essence Magazine’s list of #Woke100 women in the U.S. She is running for re-election to the state legislature this year.

Attica is an inspiring person and powerful speaker. Here is her Tedx talk:

She is a rising star in Democracy party circles. We here at Philanthropy Women thought you’d like to get to know her a little bit better.

Here are Attica’s answers to the questions we posted on our blog in May. Responding candidates should keep all answers to no more than 240 characters so that we can repost the answers on Twitter (leaving a few characters for links, etc).

Here we go!

Question: What is one thing most people don’t know about you?

Answer: I am named after Attica prison in upstate New York. 

Question: If you could pass one law today, what would it be?

Answer: One law won’t save enough lives. 

Question: What or who helps you keep going through the criticism and attacks inherent in a political campaign?

Answer: My faith, my family and my friends. 

Question: If you could have dinner with one famous woman (dead or alive) who would it be?

Answer: Harriet Tubman

Question: What’s the first line of your epitaph?

Answer: She loved her children. 

Question: Chocolate or wine?

Answer: Chocolate. 

If you are a female candidate for public office in the U.S. who would like to respond to our questions and gain exposure to our mailing list of over 800 professionals in progressive philanthropy, please send your answers to us via our Contact Page.


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Continuing the Legacy of African American Giving: HERitage Giving Circle

Guest Author and Philanthropist, Dr. Froswa Booker-Drew

Editor’s Note: The following guest post is written by Dr. Froswa Booker-Drew, philanthropist and founding officer of the HERitage Giving Fund.

As a child, I saw my parents in Shreveport, Louisiana helping others.  At the time, I didn’t realize that the trips to visit the sick, the donations to those in need or even delivering cooked meals, were part of philanthropy in my community.  My involvement in service began as a teen volunteering and has not stopped.  I have made a life of giving.  I now call myself a philanthropist, something I would not have called myself years ago because I didn’t realize that, like my parents, I was a part of this work.

I discovered in my nonprofit career that so few foundations support  organizations of color. Foundations also often focus on narratives of brokenness, instead of supporting organizations that are already community assets, but may not have everything on the checklist to get approved for funding.

I got more involved in African-American giving through the work of Tracey Webb, the founder of the now defunct blog,  In this blog, Tracey offered a glimpse into everyday individuals who were making a difference through their giving.  I had the pleasure of writing for the blog for a number of years, which strengthened my awareness of the impact of black philanthropy.

Working with Tracey introduced me to the idea of giving circles.  Tracey started Black Benefactors, a giving circle based in Washington, DC, and was wildly successful at bringing a group of African American professionals together to donate not just money but time and talent to African American causes and leadership.  This year, Black Benefactors made grants to The Black Swan Academy and Scholarchips, two important organizations working in the community to enhance youth opportunities, even for the most marginalized.

I got further inspired about black women’s philanthropy after learning about the African American Women’s Giving Circle in DC, and seeing the success they had in supporting causes for African American women and girls.  Black Philanthropy Month (coming up in August!) was also something that inspired me to get more involved in the space of black giving. 

Ultimately, a documentary called the  The Contradictions of Fair Hope, which won for best long documentary at the Newark Black Film Festival’s Paul Robeson Awards, also reeled me in to the world of black giving. The film provides an example of African American giving by highlighting  the Fair Hope Society in Alabama. Formed by freed slaves in 1888, the Fair Hope society helped those most in need: the sick, the hungry, and those who had lost a loved one and needed funds for burial. The society worked as a form of insurance, where members paid 10 cents a month to be entitled to the services, and leftover funds went toward a yearly celebration.

When Akilah Wallace, the founder of the HERitage Giving Circle approached me and Dr. Halima Leak Francis to be a part of creating the first African American Women’s Giving Circle in Texas, I was reminded of our legacy from the past, and wanted to be part of something even more powerful for the future. HERitage Giving Fund was founded August 2017, during Black History Month. The mission of the HERitage Giving Fund, a giving circle at Dallas Women’s Foundation, is to encourage philanthropy in the African-American/Black community, to contribute in a strategic and meaningful way, and to bring a new source of funding to nonprofit organizations serving African-American women and girls throughout North Texas.

Brooch for HERitage Giving Circle members.

HERitage is committed to engaging Black women of varying economic status and backgrounds, who have a heart for investing in organizations, often grassroots, and/or start ups. Often these organizations have limited access to funding sources to support basic operating needs (staff income, supplies, transportation, etc.), help to increase service capacity and reach, and sustain much-needed program services over time. This is why Heritage Giving Fund and other giving circles are so important.

The HERitage Giving Fund awards grants to organizations that are located in North Texas, led by African American women, using a gender lens to frame strategies, and have a sound mission and objectives for impact. HERitage Giving Fund also serves as a hub for social events and discussion on how to build empowerment through philanthropy.

I serve as a Founding Officer and Grants Committee Chair.  To date, we have raised more than $20,000 (and are still collecting funds through the end of July).  We will accept applications in August and announce those selected to receive funds from the members in the late October/November.  We are successful because of our members’ commitment. It has been amazing to work with a group of women who are so committed in their local community.  It is even more impressive that these community role models use their resources to continue this rich legacy of giving.

For more information on HERitage Giving Circle and ways that you can get involved, please email us at


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Small But Mighty: Women’s Fund of Rhode Island Makes New Round of Grants

Women’s Fund of Rhode Island made $50,000 in grants recently to local organizations doing gender equality work. 

Last Wednesday, the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island (WFRI) announced its 2018 grant recipients. This year, the fund was able to provide $50,000 in grants to invest in several local organizations. While WFRI is not as big as some women’s funds in other states, the fund still does important grantmaking to support gender equality advocacy and female leadership development. Thirty-four nonprofits applied for grants this year, all being asked to address one or more of WFRI’s priorities in feminist advocacy.

The organizations that received grants are doing impressive work for women and girls in Rhode Island.  One of the grantees, Young Voices, has been providing leadership training to low-income youth of color for ten years. The organization gives kids tools, skills, and experiences that will enhance public speaking, networking, analysis, critical thinking, and leadership.

Another grantee, The Center for Women and Enterprise (CWE) has been working with female entrepreneurs in New England since 1995, preparing them for the business world. It educates, trains, supports, and certifies women starting businesses, giving them the tools necessary to getting their foot in the door. With this approach, CWE levels the playing field and opens doors for women business-owners.

A third grantee is doing significant work for refugees, work that is needed now more than ever. Aline Binyungu and Clement Shabani started Women’s Refugee Care in 2016 to provide services and support to refugees, and their work has expanded to encompass gender equality for women and girls as well. Their proposed project receiving funding from WFRI will provide counseling sessions to educate and support female refugees experiencing unplanned pregnancies.

Here is the complete list of grantees:

  • Blackstone Valley Prep– Funding will be provided to host a one month long summer camp in 2019 to cultivate civic engagement and leadership for 8-11th grade girls. The camp will be accompanied by a full year after school component that will help scholars put what they’ve learned into practice. All documents will be translated into Spanish & Portuguese to ensure recruitment is diverse. Activities will include meetings with female elected officials & allies to learn about running for office, how laws are passed and about their personal experiences in office. They will also meet with organizations to learn about policy making through a gender lens and research policies that affect women and families. Ongoing civic engagement is a goal of the program.
  • Center for Women and Enterprise – ‘Community Classrooms: Spanish Language Entrepreneurship Training’ will provide thirty-six hours of community classroom training and follow-up sessions for up to three years. The program targets 25 women who plan to start a business. Within one year, 15 businesses, 22 new jobs, and $583,000 in wages are expected to be generated.
  • Planned Parenthood– Funding will support the work of the RI Coalition for Reproductive Freedom and broaden its efforts by engaging 50+ volunteers in phone banking, canvassing and meetings with legislators, including youth activists. The Coalition will strengthen volunteer leadership in faith communities, including hosting a briefing and trainings designed to support Catholic legislators for reproductive freedom.
  • Sojourner House– Will provide programming to all 10th grade health classes in Providence Public Schools, so that all students can learn about the root causes of abuse and harassment, engage in healthy behaviors and prevent abuse from happening in the future. The training will be augmented with student led awareness activities that will help promote anti-abuse/anti-violence efforts in each school. The training provided is culturally competent and will be available in English and Spanish.
  • Women’s Refugee Care– Women and adolescent girls in displaced settings struggle with unwanted, unplanned and poorly spaced pregnancies due to lack of access to counseling, contraceptives and education, threatening their lives and the long term well-being of their families. This program includes a train-the-trainer session with community liaisons/interpreters. Several two hour group workshops will be held to teach participants about birth spacing, preconception initiation of folic acid, early prenatal care and different contraceptive methods for family planning.
  • Young Voices#RaiseOurVoices has supported low-income girls of color to lead an effort to address the root causes of educational disparities facing their peers in Providence Schools. Funded by WFRI in Year One, the girls learned how to analyze research on what could be done to improve graduation rates, culminating in the creation of a policy brief and meeting with legislators. In Year Two, the girls will work to ensure that the policy recommendations are enacted, working with policymakers to influence change. They will also create an app to ensure students know their rights in the Schools Code of Conduct.


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Abigail Disney: Feminist Changer, Feminist Changed

Screenshot from a Facebook discussion: Abigail Disney, left, with Rev. Rob Schenck, right, on the release of his book, Costly Grace.

An email arrived from Fork Films. Who can open and read the mountainous volume of emails one receives these days? This one, however, I opened.

There was Abigail Disney sitting with Rev. Rob Schenck. He is the center point of her own first directed film, The Armour of Light, released in 2015. In the process of making the film, the arch-conservative preacher wrestled with his position on guns, and came to the conclusion that gun use was contradictory to his position on right to life. He has now formed The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute to combat present social crises. The current special focus of the Institute is on gun violence in the U.S. from a Christian, ethical perspective. Abigail Disney, filmmaker, activist and philanthropist, is a Governor on his Board of Directors.

Abigail Disney, also a mother and wife, and a beacon of ever-evolving feminist consciousness, is prepared for action. Unafraid to tackle difficult issues – she was a major advocate against the Trump tax bill, despite the huge gains she would personally receive. The Disney heiress has metamorphosed into a principled actor on behalf of the issues that concern her: peace and social justice. Evolution is her forte. While she comes from a major U.S. media family, she did not set out to become a media maker herself.

In May 2008, Abigail wrote a piece for the Huffington Post about how she came to produce the documentary, Pray the Devil Back to Hell. The story focuses on the women’s movement for peace in Liberia and its impact on ending fifteen years of war in the country.  In the post, Abigail questions why the mainstream media has been so absent on the job of covering these critical events involving women’s leadership. She wrote: “How was it possible that these Liberian women had accomplished such an enormous feat without having been noticed and reported on by the news outlets I had come to know and trust?”

Her partner in founding Fork Films, Gini Reticker, and director of Pray the Devil Back to Hell, before an audience at the Brooklyn Museum, described early pre-production research on the film. She screened over 80 hours of news footage that captured only a glimpse of the women who daily led peace protests: “I had journalists say to me: ‘I saw the women on the field. But they were so pitiful looking that I didn’t film them,’Reticker recounted. In contrast, boys captured and forced into a warring militia, clutching AK47s, are glorified in hours of footage. I have written before about this egregious gender bias within mainstream media.

One of the key leaders among the Christian and Muslim women who banded together for peace in Liberia is Leymeh Gbowee. Her experience anchors the film. Through the many awards Pray the Devil Back to Hell won and speaking opportunities, Gbowee became widely know in peace circles. The film has had a lasting impact which she believes can inspire more women. Gwobe writes: “This documentary is like a landmark or something that tells other women, ‘People did it before we came, we’ve done it, and they can also do it. It is not a fluke. It can happen. People just need to rise up and rise above the politics that so deeply divide us as women.”

Pre-dawn on a brisk October day in 2011 the Disney-Hauser household was bubbling with excitement. A teenage daughter of Leymeh Gbowee was living with Abigail’s family and attending school in the U.S.  Leymeh Gbowee, too, was in New York promoting her newly released book, Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War. News from Oslo swarmed across the Atlantic before first light, announcing that Leymeh Gbowee was one of three women to win the Nobel Peace Prize. The film Disney had produced three years earlier, her first venture in movie making, had given an international stage to the women’s peace efforts in Liberia. The power of film had an indelible effect.

During this same Fall, 2011, Disney and Reticker teamed up with WNET to create a five-part series, Women, War and Peace, for PBS. At the time, Donna Williams, Senior Publicist for WNET declared, “This series is rare in that it puts women at the center of an analysis of conflict and peace.” The five videos from 2011 can be viewed online.

Vessel, a film about the stellar work of Dr. Rebecca Gomperts and her Women On Waves program that brings abortion services across the high seas, is another important work that Abigail Disney has helped deliver to the film world.  Director Diana Whitten in August 2011 joyously wrote me: “Some exciting news! Abby Disney has joined the Vessel crew as Executive Producer!”  Having a dedicated producer is key for successful film completion, and I was thrilled to see Abigail stepping into such a role in advancing other women’s films.

Official funding is listed as 2013 for VESSEL. By 2013, Fork Films had already supported over a dozen films. A more formalized funding program from Fork Films emerged around the time that VESSEL was released in 2014. Another forty films are featured that have been funded through Fork Film since 2013. All totalled, the company states it has “supported nearly 90 documentaries that support peace and social justice.”  Among the list are highly acclaimed works including Cameraperson, Strong Island, and Roll Red Roll. Grants range from $10,000 to $50,000. The next grant deadline will be in the Fall of 2018.

Ninety productions in less than a decade is a sizable collection of works by women supported by one entity. When you leave the darkness of the screening room, you can see that Abigail Disney is on the move, again. She is not resting on these laurels. In late May, she was a speaker on a recent panel about Violence Against Women at the Women+Money Summit organized by the Women’s Funding Network.

Earlier this month she was again with Rev. Rob Schenck, this time at Harper Collins in New York for the release of his book, Costly Grace: An Evangelical Minister’s Rediscovery of Faith, Hope and Love. In promoting the book, they spent an hour via his Facebook page discussing its content, their friendship and work together. He read from the acknowledgments: “Finally, it was Abby Disney who first prompted me to write this book, then nudged me until I had unstoppable momentum. Abby was the angel behind this undertaking.“

They described their first meeting. Disney voiced, “I was looking for someone who was politically different from me in every conceivable way to try to make common cause. I hoped to take the discussion of gun ownership in America back to its roots and talk about it from a moral, ethical and religious standpoint. Who I met instead of a fire-eating dragon was a menschy guy.” The common thread was that they both “crossed over.” Disney’s family was conservative. Schenck’s family of origin was liberal. So, as Disney underscored, “We are both bilingual. That is what this book is about.”

Schenck went on to describe how his work became over-framed by politics and that he lost his spiritual compass. A whole chapter of the book deals with how Evangelicals made a deal with Donald Trump and lost their moral compass. Later, in discussing Dietrich Bonhoeffer and a crisis in the church in Germany in the early 30s, Schenck discussed how Evangelicals had made a deal with Hitler.

Both Disney and Schenck delved into the conundrum of making people mad as hornets in their different worlds. Disney asked, “How do we reach out to them? How do we help them get past their anger…….not only for the people who are angry with us, but the people who we are angry with.”

“Change is hard for all of us….you’ve changed more than I have. I feel guilty about it sometimes.” Disney prefaced as she asked Rev. Schenck a final question. I queried her further on this and she responded: “Yes, for sure, I truly have changed through the meta-partisan work. It’s made me more kind, it’s made me more prone to approach issues with love instead of hostility, and it has widened my networks and spheres of influence. It’s been nothing but good!”

Watch out. Abigail Disney is on the move. Stretching her own mind and moral compass, lifting the minds and experiences of others as a part of her own expanding experiences. Focusing on common cause, she may just be changing more than she knows. And, as I suspected, she assured me she does have “a glimmer” of a new film bubbling up,“But, I can’t talk about it yet.”

ARIEL’S PITCH: Support independent women’s narrative filmmaking with your dollars. A feature, By Now I’ve Lived A Thousand Lives and None of Them Are Mine, is directed by Britni West. Regional filmmaking is vital to cultural diversity. She has $13,000 more to raise by July 20 in Kickstarters’ “all-or-nothing” process. Over on Indiegogo, is Wonderland, a comedy written by and starring Yetide Badaki. Directed by Jessica Sherif, Zodwa, like Alice, stumbles through the looking glass into Hollywood. Will she survive the madness? Only if you assist to raise the remaining $8,400 by July 9th.


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Supporting Women-Led Enterprises in South East Asia: Root Capital Partners with Australian Government

Root Capital is partnering with an Australian Program to provide loans for women in agriculture in South East Asia.

While some feminist thought leaders such as Chief Executive of Women’s World Banking of Ghana, Charlotte Baidoo, are calling on microfinance institutions to do more when it comes to lending to women, Root Capital is beginning a new partnership with the Australian Government to do just that.

Root Capital will partner with the Australian Government’s program,  Investing in Women, to deploy $2 million AUD (approximately $1.49 million U.S. dollars) in a ten-year program to support women business owners in South East Asia.  As a partner of Investing in Women, Root Capital plans to bring in private sector co-investments for women’s small and medium-sized agricultural businesses in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

Microfinance in general has seen a large increase in funding over the past year, with reports of a 40% surge in capital in the microfinance markets. Now, organizations like Root Capital are taking the lead in helping women enter the economy and succeed in business.

“This is a major step forward for the impact investing and agricultural finance sectors,” says Root Capital’s Founder and CEO, Willy Foote. “Together with Investing in Women, we will catalyze the growth of women-led businesses throughout South East Asia—and in so doing, will significantly improve the livelihoods of both women and men in rural communities.”

The initial investment from Root Capital will fund new loans for women in Indonesia, where the organization has had a presence for the past three years. Root Capital’s work in Indonesia has resulted in more than $23 million in loans to ten agricultural businesses, improving incomes for more than 10,000 producers.

Root Capital launched its Women in Agriculture Initiative in 2012 and has since reached more than 270,000 women producers per year. This new partnership with Investing in Women will help to bring more women into leadership of agriculture in South East Asia. While women make up 50% of the agricultural workforce in South East Asia, they are less likely to be in leadership positions and lack access to training and resources like fertilizer and farm machinery.  According to a press release announcing this new partnership, if access for women to key components of the agricultural business were equalized, “farm yields would increase by up to 30 percent—growth which could significantly increase rural incomes and reduce global hunger.”

Root Capital is a pioneer in both gender lens investing and in feminist philanthropy.  An editorial published on Philanthropy Women last year, written by Charlotte Wagner of the Wagner Foundation and Catherine Gill, Executive Vice President of Root Capital, articulated key concepts in feminist philanthropy that guide the work.


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How NoVo is Spreading Radical Hope in Africa and Beyond

NoVo Foundation has granted $34 million to organizations across the globe working on social problems, including reducing violence against women.

The NoVo Foundation is one of the largest private foundations to advocate for gender equality and has specifically focused much of its funding on reducing violence against girls and women globally. In their most recent initiative, the Radical Hope Fund, the foundation donated $34 million in grants to 19 different organizations around the world.

The Radical Hope Fund began as a response to the 2016 election. Seeing the increase in attacks on women and girls as well as LGBTQ  populations, immigrants, people of color, and refugees, the foundation felt compelled to take action in a new, bolder way. Thus, the Radical Hope Fund was born, initially pledging to donate $20 million to selected grantees, but eventually deciding to deepen that commitment to $34 million.

As Executive Director Pamela Shifman explains, “It’s an experiment — one that seeks to support new collaborations that are imaginative and focused on building the movements we need, not simply what we think is possible right now. Radical Hope aims for transformation rather than solely incremental change.”

Since inception in 2006, the NoVo Foundation has emphasized the way in which systemic change needs to evolve out of the communities affected by the problem. The NoVo Foundation reviewed over 1,000 applications to find the 19 best candidates for this new funding, particularly looking for organizations that are community-based and that bring transformational strategies to the table.

To help the public learn more about this new approach to grantmaking, NoVo also launched the Radical Hope Blog Series. This will allow partners of NoVo’s Radical Hope grantmaking to document their work, share what they have learned, and grow their audiences and support teams.

The 19 grantees NoVo selected all have strong agendas, and many have already accomplished significant work for women. One of these is the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF), a grant-making foundation that works to support women and women’s organizations in Africa, moving closer to gender equality in the process. The mission of AWDF is guided by  five main values: Respect: A basic respect for human rights of all African women; Diversity: An allegiance to non-discrimination and inclusiveness; Feminist Leadership: A dedication to upholding feminist principles and ethics; Professionalism, Accountability and Stewardship: A commitment to be transparent and prudent in administering funds; and Solidarity and Partnerships: A determination to link with other organizations to effect change.

AWDF’s initiative, the Flourish Project, for which they received $985,090, will strengthen feminist movements across Africa. Over the next three years, the Flourish Project plans to accomplish several goals. These goals include inspiring the next generation to be strong proponents of feminism. The initiative also plans to collaborate with AIR, an African professional network addressing trauma and mental health, to implement a pilot model that will allow stressed African feminist leaders to take leave to reflect and heal. The Flourish Project will also work on making connections between feminist activists and organizations working locally and nationally with the African Feminist Forum.

Another grantee is Masimanyane Women’s Rights International, a social justice organization working on gender equality and rights for women on local, regional, and international levels. This organization has worked for over 20 years to make allies in the movement for gender equality across the globe. Much of their work is focused on decreasing crimes against women and girls, providing support to survivors of violence, and helping women affected by HIV and AIDS.

Masimanyane’s project receiving support from the Radical Hope Fund is called International Network to End Violence Against Women and Girls.  Novo’s grant will allow this program to continue and grow as it works alongside other organizations to increase awareness and about the problem of violence against women and girls. INEVAWG identifies failing state accountability as a major contributor to violence against women and will work with government systems to help address this failure. The project will also continue advocacy to increase society’s understanding of violence against women and other crucial issues of women’s well-being.

These two organizations, as well as Novo’s other grantee partners for Radical Hope, have done impressive work for women globally. The grantee partners appear to have clear missions and are taking many creative paths leading toward accomplishing those missions. Many of the grantee organizations also have strong connections with other partners and a commitment to core feminist values like diversity and transparency.


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Praising the Deeds of Women: How Gender Equity and Reconciliation Can Change the World

Women encircle men during a closing ceremony at the Gender Equity and Reconciliation Initiative retreat in Framingham, MA.

When I told my husband I was going to a three-day retreat on gender reconciliation, he was genuinely excited for me, but he couldn’t help getting in a sarcastic reference to cliché. “Are you going to hold hands and sing kumbaya?” he asked.

I thought for a moment, and then my eyes lit up. “I think so!” I said.

The Gender Equity and Reconciliation International (GERI) retreat held in Framingham, MA did indeed involve some hand-holding and song-singing. But it also did much more, traveling into a realm of meaningful communication and understanding where I have never been before.

And yes, the singing and holding hands were a part of that. We sang traditional Christian ballads like Amazing Grace and Taize chants like Ubi Caritas, as well as songs and mantras from different parts of the world. My favorite song, and the song that has stuck with me since the retreat (I taught it to my children, and now we chant it every so often) was a South African Khosa song with the refrain, “Igama lama kosi kazi Malibongwe,” which translates roughly as, “Let us Praise the Deeds of Women.”

Cynthia Brix set the tone for the three days early on, helping the community of 48 women and men understand that their full participation in the retreat program would help provide a protected environment for everyone. We agreed to a list of community rules, including the necessary protocols of maintaining confidentiality and taking responsibility for one’s own experience, and also not engaging in any intimate relationships with people we met on the retreat. All of this helped to establish a shared sense of trust, safety, and healthy boundaries for the three days.

It wasn’t all comfortable, this three days of being in a diverse mix of Evangelical Christian leaders and progressive liberals, plus two young adults who grew up in a community-based orphanage in India who are training as GERI facilitators. Some were there from Rwanda and Lebanon, while others came from Florida and New York.

Some issues were talked about openly, and others were discussed more privately. One woman spoke with me privately about how difficult it was working in a Christian church in New England, after spending most of her career working in media in the southern United States. The mostly male clergy of the church she worked for didn’t seem to hold her in the same high regard as some of their other male colleagues, she said. It was an experience she was accustomed to in other professional settings, but had hoped would be different when working for the church.

For some, I imagine it was much more difficult engaging with people who were colleagues at the retreat. Afterward they would be returning to the hierarchies of their workplaces, so everything they said here at the retreat had to be measured against that. And yet it didn’t feel like people were shutting down or not going into the deeper places in their sharing of experiences. But some were certainly proceeding with more caution than others.

Origins of Gender Equity and Reconciliation International

William Keepin and Cynthia Brix have been facilitating gender equity and reconciliation programs for 26 years, and both come to the work with rich and complex professional histories that bring both science and religion into the mix. Earlier in his career, Keepin was heavily involved in scientific research on global warming and sustainable energy, and his research influenced environmental policies in many countries. Keepin discussed his earlier life in science and gave a presentation on how science and spirituality are related, with pictures of fractals and mini-fractals inside of them. “Fractals are the most complex mathematical structures ever discovered, yet they are precisely ordered by the simplest of principles,” writes Keepin in his 2016 book, Belonging to God: Science, Spirituality & a Universal Path of Divine Love.

Similarly, in a phone interview following the retreat, Cynthia Brix spoke with me about how gender equity and reconciliation facilitates a seemingly simple process, and yet the process reveals deep complexities in human relationships, and gives us the opportunity to shift our perspectives on large categories of thought and behavior. Some of the most in-depth research findings on GERI were presented in 2016 by Dr. Samantha van Schalkwyk, who found that students who participated in GERI programs shifted their underlying “gender ideologies” in a positive direction.

Brix comes to the work as Co-founding Director of GERI after being a campus minister at the University of Colorado-Boulder. She completed seminary at Iliff School of Theology, and has trained extensively in meditation, which definitely showed in how she facilitated the retreat. Along with conducting over 120 gender reconciliation workshops in nine countries, she has also led interfaith spirituality retreats for women and has supported projects for women’s empowerment in India.

Deepening the Conversation with the Home Group

My home group, a randomly-chosen group of four people that would meet several times throughout the workshop, consisted of two male clergy from the same church and a female professor of theology from a seminary in New York. When we were invited to share about how our early lives were shaped by gendered messages, one of the clergy talked about how he did not feel athletic enough as a boy and that this was a difficult challenge for him. We all shared stories like this, some in more general terms and others in more substantive or vulnerable terms, with the end result that we created a sense of community that grew and deepened over time.  

On the evening of the first night, we did group skits to explore some of the toxic dynamics we’ve all experienced in gender relations. I played a pregnant secretary being harassed by a male boss, and tried to look shocked as he told me I would be fired because I wasn’t good enough. We had designed the skit so that an African-American woman advised me to go to Human Resources, but I wouldn’t listen to her. Then an older white woman would give me the same advice, and then I did listen, which highlighted the intersectionalities between gender and racial oppression. Others took roles in the workplace of encouraging me to “go along to get along,” and just get accustomed to the way the boss talked to me. We could all feel ourselves becoming more comfortable with one another as we engaged in the improv, and the process served to validate that sometimes boundaries of behavior could be played with for fun, especially in the service of understanding and transforming these dysfunctional patterns.

Day Two: Wading into More Troubled Waters

On day two, things got a little heavier, as we separated into male and female identifying subgroups. In her own reflections on the retreat, donor-activist Emily Nielsen Jones talks about the power of encircling our gender pain, and on day two we really delved into that process. These separate women’s and men’s groups afforded another level of gender safety, and we each unravelled a story from our lives that continues to have emotional impact related to gender.  One woman spoke of a relationship with a man where he failed to commit to her and how it made her feel both angry and deeply sad.  Another talked about her difficulty expressing anger. As a professional in church, she felt there was little room for her to reveal the full range of her emotions and their intensity.

In the afternoon and evening of day two, the process went more deeply into men’s groups and women’s groups witnessing each other, as we told the stories of how gender had impacted us emotionally. At one point one of the male members got into a little trouble, coming into the women’s group and doing something silly, probably trying to lighten the mood, but a woman called attention to the inappropriateness of this. The man took full responsibility for his faux pas, and ended up impressing me with how carefully and thoroughly he apologized, promising to reflect on the situation and his actions, and do better in the future.

Day Three: Celebration

The last day was the most celebratory. I don’t want to divulge too much about it, but I’ll just offer a tease by saying it involved both singing and chocolate. Throughout the process, both the men and the women created unique ceremonies to praise each other, and to help each other shed toxic cultural ideas about gender identity.

Brix and Keepin generally like to keep to the three-day length of the gender equity and reconciliation work. “We have a variety of program offerings, with the three-day process as our primary introductory program,” said Brix. “Witnessing the transformation that can happen in community in the short space of three days is awe-inspiring, and is something desperately needed in our troubled world today.”  

“We’ve worked in diverse sectors ranging from universities, prisons, NGO’s, and religious organizations to Members of Parliament in South Africa,” said Brix. They have also done more targeted work, helping a group of therapists in Florida specializing in recovery from sexual trauma. “There’s an intimacy that has been lost in our cultures across communities and across the globe, and people are longing for a deeper more meaningful connections.”

Others who attended the retreat also had powerful words for their experiences. “To call my experience transformational is not overstated,” said Jorge Rico, a corporate consultant and trainer who attended the retreat. “I left with a deep and passionate commitment to play an active role in bridging the divide between women and men.”

Craig Parker, a member of the clergy who attended the retreat also spoke about its impact. “Rarely have I experienced such vulnerability, rawness, empathy and grace as I did on this retreat. I will treasure the stories I heard from you, and I plan to implement the lessons learned as I engage with students, young professionals, prisoners and fellow ministers.”

Philbert Kalisa, the Founder and CEO of REACH in Rwanda, had this to say: “The sharing from women to men touched my heart deeply and pushed me to repent for not speaking out some of the injustices I see often in our churches and societies connected with our culture that doesn’t consider women as equal as men. I made my decision not to keep quiet anymore. I will advocate for women created in the image of God as our mothers, wives, daughters, sisters and nieces.”

For me, the process of immersion back into the real world was gradual. I felt I carried the energy of being at the retreat with me for well over a week, imparting bits and pieces of it to my family and my clients — using new words, new phrases, practicing different techniques for facilitating new thinking both in my own life and in my therapy work.

Who Funds Gender Equity and Reconciliation International?

Of course, this work would not get far without funders who recognize its deep value and potential to impact lives. In 2017, those funders include philanthropic foundations including the Novo Foundation ($50,000), the Imago Dei Fund ($50,000) the Kalliopeia Foundation ($50,000), the International Community Foundation ($60,000), the S.C. Rain Foundation ($20,000), and the Roy A. Hunt Foundation ($5,000).  A number of individual donors also contribute substantially.  

Divine Duality: The Power of Reconciliation Between Women and Men, authored by William Keepin with Cynthia Brix and Molly Dwyer, also references foundation support from the San Francisco Foundation, the Shaler Adams Foundation, the Hidden Leaf Foundation, the Cunningham Family Grant Fund, the Tides Foundation, the Giant Steps Foundation, and the Rockwood Fund.

For the recent retreat in Framingham, funders included Imago Dei Fund, where co-founder Emily Nielsen Jones is pioneering new ways to create a more gender-equal world.


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More Sports Funding for Girls? Yes, Please!

Take it from Phaidra Knight, retired professional rugby player, who speaks in the above video about the value of funding initiatives like Sports 4 Life:”It really doesn’t matter your speed, your size, it’s just what you bring, your unique self, to the game,” said Knight. She went on to emphasize that with sports, young people have the opportunity become part of a team, which can lead to personal growth and improved self-confidence. “I think it’s so important, especially that girls from disadvantaged backgrounds have that opportunity. That is sometimes their ticket and access to greater things across the board.”

The Sports 4 Life Initiative is particularly aimed at increasing and retaining African-American and Hispanic girls in youth sports programs. Sports 4 Life was cofounded by the Women’s Sports Foundation and espnW in 2014. This year, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation also joined the initiative, providing regional support to eight organizations in Southeast Michigan and Western New York.

The Women’s Sports Foundation was founded by Billie Jean King in 1974 with guiding mission of strengthening and expanding access for girls and women to all sports.  As many of us know, sports participation can be an important window of opportunity for young girls, but there is such a huge gap in attention given to girls in sports versus men and boys. Every day, just for fun, I scroll through all the sports sections of the news online, just to see how many times I see a woman or a girl. It’s probably less than 10% of the time. How often do I see a woman or girl of color? Probably 5 to 10%. A sliver of a sliver.

Programs like Sports 4 Life are aimed at providing more parity for girls of color across a wide range of sports. “Even more than we believe in the power of sports, the Women’s Sports Foundation believes that all girls – regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, ability, zip code or family income – deserve equitable access to the lifelong benefits of sports,” said Deborah Antoine, CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation.

Since Sports 4 Life began in 2014, the Initiative has awarded 200 grants totaling more than $1.1 million, and reaching more than 50,000 girls nationally. This year, the Initiative’s community partners were particularly successful in increasing opportunities for girls of color, with more than 85% percent of girl participants being African-American or Hispanic.

Learn more about the 2018 grant recipients here.

The Women’s Sports Foundation will begin accepting applications for 2019 this fall. For further information and timelines for the 2019 grant cycle, please visit


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