Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Natalie Deehan-Clark, U.S. Communications Coordinator at the Center for Renewable Energy and Appropriate Technology for the Environment (CREATE!). From 2017-2018, Natalie traveled the world solo to explore sustainable solutions and community empowerment in developing countries. Natalie values storytelling as a catalyst for social change, particularly for equality and sustainability movements.
1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in college that you now know?
The Women’s Global Education Project (WGEP) is challenging every philanthropist and feminist to “Become a Movement Maker.”
WGEP’s one-million-dollar campaign will enable 20,000 girls in remote areas of East and West Africa to get an education. WGEP notes that despite recent gains, women still comprise two-thirds of the world’s illiterate population, and are less likely than boys to attend school. In rural Africa, the situation is particularly bad: only 15 percent of girls graduate from high school.
In its “Become a Movement Maker” campaign, WGEP is appealing to all sectors of the philanthropy community, particularly women donors and family foundations. According to WGEP, Movement Makers “will embark on an exclusive insider’s journey of our growth efforts, culminating with a global celebration in Kenya in the spring of 2021.”
On October 17th, 2019, the Women’s Foundation of California (WFoC) celebrated its fortieth anniversary with a major announcement: the organization pledged $40 million to gender justice, and began its groundbreaking campaign to raise the funds to facilitate another forty years of gender justice grantmaking.
Less than a month later, the WFoC is more than halfway to its goal of $40 million. This stunning fundraising effort is the result of a steadfast community of donors, supporters, and activists, which the Foundation has built over forty years of campaigning for social 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.
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.
This week’s essential reading for feminist givers comes from the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) with their report, Toward a Feminist Funding Ecosystem. The report helps to more clearly define the different types of funding that impact feminist movement-building, and makes recommendations for how to increase the most effective forms of funding.
The report cites evidence that, “A remarkable – and disturbing – 99% of gender-related international aid fails to reach women’s rights and feminist organizations directly.” Instead, these funds end up being used by the development agencies that receive them, or get redistributed to mainstream organizations that are not associated with feminist movement builders.
Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Loreen Arbus, producer, writer, author, and disability rights activist. She is the Founder of the Loreen Arbus Foundation, President of the Goldenson-Arbus Foundation, and sponsor of the WMC Loreen Arbus Journalism Program, among other projects. On October 21st, Loreen received the Eagle Award at the Disability Rights Advocates’ 2019 Gala at the American Museum of Natural History. Her work as an advocate for people with disabilities, including her commitment to inclusion and integration of differently-abled people and minorities, spans a lifetime of exemplary philanthropic efforts.
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.
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.
Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Suzanne Lerner, activist, philanthropist, and co-founder and president of fashion brand Michael Stars. She serves on the board of the Ms. Foundation, ERA Coalition, and A Call to Men, as well as being a member of Women Moving Millions and Women Donors Network. To learn more about Suzanne, go to www.suzannelerner.com.
What is the most important message people need to understand about why gender equality is so important?
Much celebration and excitement accompanied Melinda Gates’s recent announcement that she will devote $1 billion in new funding to women and girls over the next ten years.
There is good reason to be excited. This new funding will be disbursed by Pivotal Ventures, the investment and incubation company founded by Melinda Gates in 2015. Pivotal Ventures is going to do things differently, it seems, with the ability to come in with either philanthropic or investment capital. Perhaps Melinda chose to start a new company for this work because she realized it would be easier to start from scratch and be less confined by other Gates organizations in philanthropy or business.
A giant step for gender equality research and knowledge occurred today: the Women’s Philanthropy Institute released its first ever Women and Girls Index (WGI), which measures charitable giving to women and girls’ causes in the United States. This new index helps to establish a baseline for what this giving looks like today, and will help to tally the rate of increase or, (highly unlikely) decrease in the real dollar value of this philanthropy subsector.
These statistics raise a critically important question: American philanthropy talks a good game about wanting more gender equality in our culture, but what are they actually doing about it?