Magic Awaits: Swatee Deepak on Girl-Led Change

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Swatee Deepak, director of With and For Girls (WFG), a collective that gives financial support to girl-led and -centered groups around the world and engages young women in participatory grantmaking panels.

Swatee Deepak (courtesy of Swatee Deepak)

What is your current greatest professional challenge?

How to best support mergers in the philanthropic sector adhering to the same values and care we place across our work.   

With and For Girls was initially incubated within a private foundation, Stars Foundation. In 2018, as a collective, we worked together with adolescent girls to identify a new home and chose Purposeful. What followed was a merger of WFG from Stars to Purposeful. Progressive philanthropy is filled with discussions about shifting power. Here we are, a funder collaborative, working globally across the global north and south and made up of established funders now being held by a grassroots-based organization with headquarters in Sierra Leone. 

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VIVA Girls: How MADRE Funds Girls on the Margins

Around the world, girls and teens are exposed to violence, environmental devastation, societal exclusion and harm, and other difficulties. MADRE is an international women’s rights organization that typically partners with women-led groups dealing with war and disaster. It is now stepping up to specifically support girls’ growth as they face diverse challenges through a new grantmaking program: VIVA Girls.

Girls from Columbia working with MADRE. (photo credit: MADRE)

With a focus on listening to and uplifting girls’ voices and solutions, MADRE wants to reach “girls from marginalized communities who endure many forms of discrimination; what some people would call ‘girls on the last mile,’” Executive Director Yifat Susskind says. Susskind offered us insights into how VIVA Girls works. MADRE plans to devote about $3 million to this initiative during the next three years.

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Feminist Giving IRL: Next Gen STEM Innovators

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Talia Milgrom-Elcott, Executive Director of 100Kin10, an initiative that aims to train 100,000 excellent STEM teachers in U.S. classrooms by 2021.

What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession? 

Talia Milgrom-Elcott (courtesy of 100Kin10)

I wish I had understood why it’s important to sweat the small stuff. Sweating the small stuff really matters. It means you care, it differentiates you, and it helps you learn about what you’re doing and how to get it done. I double-checked links, proof-read press releases and went over agendas minute-by-minute. But what I’ve learned, with perspective, is that the small stuff itself really is small. It only matters because, in total, it signals something bigger: that you care, that you’ve made the project your own, that you’re committed to excellence. It means you can be trusted to get your stuff done and get it done right. This doesn’t mean you won’t make mistakes. You can, and you will. And, that’s just fine. Because it’s about the trendline, and you’ve proven yourself someone who can be trusted. Realizing this makes it easier to see the big picture and experience joy in the work, too. 

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It’s All About the Divorce Gap: Ending Isolation for Divorcing Women

Edna Gomez-Green of the Fresh Start Women’s Foundation (Photo credit: Fresh Start)

Divorce is often a difficult process, and it disproportionately leaves women struggling with financial challenges. As we covered in regard to MacKenzie Bezos’ settlement, after a divorce, men’s standard of living generally rises by about 33%, while women’s drops by about 20%. Other studies have shown that women’s income after divorce drops by an average of 41%. These stats outline the divorce gap, one of many overlapping economic gaps women continue to face, including the wage, debt, unpaid labor, funding, investing and “pink tax” (consumer pricing) gap.

The Divorce Gap

There are many reasons women can find themselves struggling after a divorce; some stop working to raise kids during marriage and then find it difficult to re-enter the workforce and earn adequately. Others take on full-time caregiving for the first time after a divorce, which can conflict with their career paths and keep them from making enough to support their families. Some women haven’t chosen or been able to invest independently for the future and find themselves without a safety net or backup plan. The other financial gaps all come into play. Women are generally paid less, have more debt, receive less funding, invest less and are charged more for products designed for them. And the unpaid labor gap is significant here; women often take on care giving, housekeeping and other crucial contributions to families and societies that are uncompensated.

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What’s Good for Women is Good for the World: Riane Eisler

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features social systems scientist Riane Eisler, J.D., Ph.D., president of the Center for Partnership Studies (CPS). Please note that Riane Eisler will be joining Helen LaKelly Hunt and other leaders for a webinar on September 12.

Riane Eisler (courtesy of Riane Eisler)

What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

I wish I’d had a feminist consciousness. Instead, I just accepted the status quo when I embarked on my first profession, as a social scientist at an offshoot of the Rand Corporation, and then, after I returned to law school, as an attorney at a Beverly Hills law firm. I had internalized the cultural devaluation of women – so much so, that when the law firm’s senior partner praised me about how I handled a case, telling me, “You don’t think like a woman,” I thought it was a compliment! That was in the late 1960s, before I woke up, as if from a long drugged sleep, and used my legal training to end women’s subordination, including, through the LA Women’s Center Legal Program, which I founded, writing a brief to the US Supreme Court making the then radical argument that legal equality for women should be protected under the 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause. Since then, empowering women has been central to my professional work as a researcher, writer, speaker and organizer. 

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Girl Power: Helping Empower Teen Girls in Grantmaking

Girls participate in the WFG-funded Unearth storytelling project. (Image credit: BRAVE)

“Too few girls have the chance to make decisions about any aspect of their lives – whether they can stay in school, whether and what they can study, when or who they marry, accessing health care, and if and where they can see friends,” Swatee Deepak, director of With and For Girls (WFG) says. WFG is a funding collaborative that seeks to shift the scales of power in teen girls’ favor. It gives financial support to girl-led and -centered groups around the world and engages young women in participatory grantmaking panels. This means, every year, former winning organizations train teen girls to choose the next prize recipients. As we’ve pointed out, girls and young women ages 10 to 24 make up 12.5% of the world’s population — around 900 million people total. But, less than 2 cents of every international aid dollar goes to campaigns directed toward girls in this age group.

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Grateful Every Day: Julie Schwietert Collazo, Immigrant Families Together

Julie Schwietert Collazo (Image credit: Julie Schwietert Collazo)

This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Julie Schwietert Collazo, co-founder and director of Immigrant Families Together.

What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession? 

I wish I had understood the importance of assembling a top-notch legal and accounting team from the get-go. The problem is, when we started Immigrant Families Together (IFT), it wasn’t with the intention of it becoming an organization. I simply envisioned it as a rapid response group of volunteers that was responding to an acute crisis. Having had strong legal and financial counsel early on would have helped us strategically and operationally.

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Relationship-Oriented Leadership: Caryl Stern After 13 Years at UNICEF

Caryl Stern (Image credit: Jessie English for UNICEF USA)

The second interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Caryl Stern, the CEO of UNICEF USA who recently announced she will be leaving the organization after 13 years. 

What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

I wish I had known that I would succeed. I don’t think in my wildest dreams I thought I would end up as CEO, and it would have been great to know that from the very beginning! And, I wish I had known from the very beginning to just be yourself at work. I grew into that and it’s something that I learned from experience in my role – it definitely served me well.

What is your current greatest professional challenge?

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Estate Gift will Research and Expose Historic Women Artists

“Lamentation with Saints,” by Plautilla Nelli (public domain)

The Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art of Indiana University (IU) in Bloomington, Indiana recently received an estate gift of about $4 million from the late art historian and philanthropist Jane Fortune, who died in 2018. Fortune founded the non-profit Advancing Women Artists (AWA) in 2009 with a mission to research, restore and share women’s artwork, particularly in Florence, Italy. She was known to be a passionate explorer and advocate for the preservation of historic pieces by women and was affectionately dubbed “Indiana Jane” by the Florentine press, according to Smithsonian.com. The new gift to the museum consists of a collection of works as well as funds to back future research and initiatives that will support women artists. 

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It’s All About Health for Women and Girls: Ghada Khan on Ending FGM

Ghada Khan (front row, far right) with U.S. End FGM/C members and other attendees of the 63rd United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in March 2019. (Image credit: Ghada Khan)

An estimated 3.9 million girls around the world are at risk of female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C) every year. About 513,000 women and girls in the U.S. are at risk of or have undergone this procedure. Ending FGM/C is an issue that many funders can engage in; those who are interested in gender equality, who want to end gender-based violence and child abuse, who want to defend women’s bodily autonomy, and who want to make sure all girls are safe, educated and empowered.

Dr. Ghada Khan is a health program analyst and the network coordinator for the U.S. End FGM/C Network, a collaborative group of “survivors, civil society organizations, foundations, activists, policymakers, researchers, health care providers and others committed to promoting the abandonment of [FGM/C] in the U.S. and around the world.” She spoke to Philanthropy Women about her work and how philanthropy can be more effective in the fight to end FGM/C.

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