A rare and significant conversation took place recently at Union Theological Seminary, as two thought leaders in feminism — Helen LaKelly Hunt and Rebecca Walker — came together to talk about the history of feminism, and ways that feminism can heal internally and forge healthier relationships, in order to achieve the shared goal of a more just and tolerant world.
The program began with introductions from Serene Jones, President of Union Seminary, and Ana Oliveira, President and CEO of the New York Women’s Foundation.
Then came Rebecca Walker. “I am honored to share this stage with the visionary philanthropist, scholar and activist Helen LaKelly Hunt, in the shadows and on the shoulders of all those who have passed through these halls,” began Walker in her opening comments.
It is with sad heart that I write about the loss of Deborah Holmes. I had the privilege of working with Deborah in March of this year as I prepared to write about the history of women’s funding for progressive change. Deborah was tremendously devoted to her work, and was a fantastic collaborator in creating the ideas for my recent posts published on Inside Philanthropy and The Chronicle of Social Change.
Deborah Holmes will be honored at a memorial on June 14th at 2 pm at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.
Several people have written about Deborah’s legacy since her loss on April 27, 2018. I thought of trying to provide excerpts, but each of the statements about Deborah seems to have its own integrity, so I am providing them in full below.
Cynthia Nimmo, President and CEO of Women’s Funding Network, wrote:
This evening I am writing to you, our many sisters throughout the network, to share the devastating news that Deborah Holmes passed away this morning, April 27.
Deborah learned two weeks ago that she had cancer. She was prepared to fight it with the tenacity she brought to everything. Despite her and her doctors’ best efforts, this final battle was lost. I know this comes as a shock and our team joins you in our grief and disbelief. Deborah was a very private person and had not wanted to share her news while she was on her healing journey. Just a week ago we talked about her wishes to get back to work as soon as possible, however, things turned very quickly and now she is gone.
I spent much of the past 3 days in the ICU with Deborah. It is important to me that you know that Deborah was at peace and she made sure to write that down so we knew. She liked her doctors and knew they were making every attempt to heal her. She was a long-time member of Grace Cathedral and they sent a Reverend over within minutes of her arrival at the ICU to pray with her. This morning we prayed with her to send her on her way home.
In true Deborah fashion, she wanted nothing to do with flowers or cards or people crying over her. When we asked her what her wishes were for her service, she said a service wasn’t important to her but we could all have one if we wanted. Deborah’s brother, Greg Holmes, will plan a service with Grace Cathedral to be held in May. Women’s Funding Network will be honoring her in every way we can think of to reflect the force for good that she was.
Deborah’s focus has always been on helping others, and to right the injustices women face – in particular women of color. We at Women’s Funding Network, will continue this work. For us, Deborah was far more than a Chief Communications Officer. She was my confidante, our big picture thinker, and a voice that ensured the intersection of race and gender was at the forefront at all times. She brought such vibrancy to our office, always playing music, bringing in home-made treats, and yelling out loud at the bad news of the day. As a CEO, it is a gift to work with such a leader. I speak for our team when I say we learned so much from Deborah. I respected her deeply and will miss her always.
Deborah Holmes was a member of the Global Press Board of Directors, which also issued a statement:
It is with great sadness that we share the news that Deborah Holmes, a member of the Global Press Board of Directors, passed away on Friday.
She was diagnosed with cancer just two weeks ago. This has been a shock to all of us who knew and loved Deborah. As we mourn her passing, we are also gratefully acknowledging Deborah’s legacy — her powerful commitment to justice and equality.
A former investigative journalist, Deborah spent the last decade at the Global Fund for Women and Women’s Funding Network where she worked to advance justice and equality for women around the world.
I first met Deborah in 2012 and she instantly became an advocate for the women of Global Press and their journalism. Deborah was always sharing Global Press Journal stories with friends and colleagues, passionately insisting that our journalism could change the world. And as a member of the Global Press board she co-created a strategic communication sub-committee and worked to advance our work in countless ways.
To honor her legacy, Global Press Journal will debut an award for exceptional coverage of racial justice in Deborah’s name. We’ll share more details about the award in the coming months. In the meantime, we extend our deepest condolences to Deborah’s family, friends and colleagues.
Musimbi Kanyoro, President and CEO, Global Fund for Women, also issued this statement:
It is with extreme sadness that I write to inform you that our courageous sister and friend Deborah Holmes died this morning peacefully. Deborah had breast cancer some years ago and it came back with force. Despite medical effort and Deborah’s own bold and good fight, the battle was lost to cancer this morning April 27, 2018. I write knowing that this news will come as a shock to many of you – it was Deborah’s wish that she fight this battle privately until the end, with the fortitude and resilience that all of us knew her for.
I was with Deborah for many hours of her last journey in the past few days. She knew everything about her illness and the medical interventions offered to her. She collaborated to make things better, but once she knew that the course of nature could not be reversed, she was at peace. She motioned me to give her the writing pad we used to communicate with each other and she wrote on it, “ I am at peace”. She died in the presence of her only brother, Gregory Holmes, and his wife Maria Holmes.
At the time of her death, Deborah was Chief Communication and Engagement Officer at the Women’s Funding Network (WFN) and the CEO of WFN gave her every possible support to the last minute.
Deborah worked for the Global Fund for Women from 2008 – 2017, just over eight years. In her time at the Global Fund for Women, she served as the VP of Communications (2008-2014) and as Chief of Staff (2014 -2017).
Deborah was extremely loved and respected by Board, staff, and partners of Global Fund for Women. As VP of Communications, Deborah played a key role in developing and institutionalizing Global Fund for Women’s communications strategy. She positioned Global Fund for Women as a thought leader on women’s rights issues in major media, and she led creative and successful efforts for the 20th and 25th anniversary gala years. She acted as a liaison to the board during the CEO transition in 2009, was an integral part of the leadership team and in the founding of the Staff Council, as well as taking on responsibilities for Human Resources. During her tenure as Chief of Staff and also head of HR, Deborah led the revision of policies to ensure equity and justice in our internal systems.
As a co-leader, Deborah was invaluable: she was our biggest cheerleader and our toughest critic. Her strength was contagious. Nothing could stop Deborah on a mission. She pushed organizations and people to embrace change and think differently. She challenged and supported staff to do better and to see a better future. She cared deeply about justice issues between people and she was not diplomatic about calling out racial injustice in this country and elsewhere. She could not tolerate injustice.
Behind Deborah’s strength also lay deep compassion, thoughtfulness, and kindness. She always welcomed new employees, she baked bread and cakes for the whole staff, she was an ear of wisdom and advice whenever she was called upon. She was a tireless champion of those she managed, and deeply loved by the team she supervised.
As Kavita Ramdas, my predecessor as CEO who hired Deborah, has so movingly and aptly noted, Deborah was: “a small package exploding with warmth, generosity, intelligence, style, and a passionate commitment to fusing beauty with justice…she understood the power of story. The power of women’s voice. The power of lived experience. The power of rising from the ashes and telling others it was possible. And, still we rise.”
Deborah’s savvy and commitment to justice was coupled with flair and incredible personal style. The fun part of Deborah were her shoes. We all wanted Deborah’s chic style, including shoes that matched her attire! She knew how to dress smart and travel light. Deborah never checked in luggage because she made good choices in what she selected and matched for travel.
Before coming to Global Fund for Women, Deborah was Senior Vice President of Fleishman Hillard and the Director of Public Relations & Marketing for the Truman Medical Centers in Kansas City, Missouri. An accomplished television news reporter and analyst for more than 30 years, Deborah worked for local and international news organizations and received numerous awards for investigative reporting and documentaries.
Throughout her life, Deborah was a passionate advocate for causes she cared about including racial and social justice and equity, political empowerment, and freedom of the press. She acted as Board President for Bridging the Gap and the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey, and was the Chair of the Board of Wellesley Centers for Women. She also served on the boards of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Foundation, Bay Area Blacks in Philanthropy, Association of Black Fundraising Executives, Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Black Church Week of Prayer for the Healing of HIV/AIDS, Wesport Ministry in Housing, Global Press Institute, and many others.
To celebrate Deborah’s life, at her family’s request, please make a donation to a cancer organization of your choice in Deborah’s memory.
We have lost a sister and her life illuminates values that unite and inspire us all. As we all come together to mourn Deborah’s passing, let us remember and celebrate her remarkable, bold, and passionate life.
As the global conversation on gender-based violence continues to gain momentum, the New York Women’s Foundation is stepping up to fund more of this unprecedented social change in the U.S. On May 10 at a breakfast celebrating women leaders, Foundation President and CEO announced the launching of a fund in collaboration with Tarana Burke, Founder and Leader of the #MeToo Movement, which will continue the work of ending sexual violence.
It’s not always pretty how the sausage, salad and salmon get made. Low-pay and difficult working conditions are commonplace in the restaurant industry. Many workers are part-timers, and few have benefits. Moreover, workers’ tips are sometimes stolen by management, and wages can go unpaid. These problems are particularly acute for immigrants, who are over-represented in the restaurant industry, and often have little recourse. Women, who comprise over half of industry workers, must further contend with sexual harassment, which is rampant in food-service businesses.
The Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United has been active since 2001 in addressing the challenges facing restaurant industry workers. Recently, it highlighted the long-term costs of sexual harassment in a study it conducted in collaboration with UC Berkeley. On May 8, it held a national press call with actor Sarah Jessica Parker, ROC United co-founder Saru Jayaraman, Oregon House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson, and current and former restaurant workers, to publicize the study’s initial findings.
The Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) was founded in New York in the wake of the 9-11 attacks to help restaurant workers displaced from their jobs. In 2008, it became a national organization advocating for restaurant workers wages and rights. ROC United now has nearly 30,000 worker-members, more than 500 restaurant employer members, and several thousand consumer members nationwide. It has won 15 worker-led campaigns, and recovered $10 million in stolen tips and wages. Co-founder Jayaram is the author of the 2016 book Forked: A New Standard for American Dining, which rates restaurants not on the quality of their beef, but on the wages, working conditions and opportunities they provide workers.
That sexual harassment is prevalent in the restaurant industry is no surprise, but the ROC United/UC Berkeley study goes beyond this fact to address how the experience of being harassed affects young women’s lifelong tolerance for harassment, even in other industries. The study combines qualitative data and quantitative analysis of surveys of several hundred women who worked in the restaurant industry when they were young. Current food-service workers, as well as women in different sectors—including Hollywood, media, politics, and philanthropy—were interviewed for this initial portion of a longer study.
According to ROC United, one in two Americans will work in the restaurant industry in their lifetime. The organization’s research reveals that almost 90 percent of women in the industry experience harassment from customers, managers, and coworkers. ROC United states, “For many women who work in restaurants as their first job, these experiences of sexual harassment shape the rest of their working lives. They learn early that sexual harassment is an unfortunate condition of work that must be tolerated, and even encouraged, in order to earn enough wages through tips.”
The ROC United effort against sexual harassment is linked to the “One Fair Wage” campaign, which would eliminate the lower wage for tipped workers. One Fair Wage represents a concrete policy solution to blunt the prevalence of restaurant-industry harassment. According to ROC United, “Women workers who rely on tips to make ends meet are forced to tolerate inappropriate customer behavior to ensure they take home enough income to feed their families. One Fair Wage ensures that women workers no longer have to solely rely on customer tips to make a living wage.”
In addition to the sexual harassment study and its accompanying press call, in February, ROC United held #NotOntheMenu rallies in Washington D.C., New York, Philadelphia, Seattle, the Bay Area, Detroit and New Orleans to demand an end to sexual harassment in the restaurant industry.
ROC United has received support from a number of granting bodies, including the San Francisco-based, James Irvine Foundation. As part of its Fair Work initiative designed to boost the fortunes of California’s lowest income workers (those making less than $12.50 hourly), in 2016 Irvine provided ROC United a three-year $1.4 million grant. The funds are being used, “… to support low-wage restaurant workers in California by enhancing the occupational skills, leadership development, and civic participation opportunities of workers while engaging employers, policymakers, and consumers to raise industry standards.”
Other funders have included Foundation for a Just Society, which provided $100,000 to ROC of New Orleans, “to support ROC-NOLA’s work to build power and voice for women and LGBTQI restaurant workers in New Orleans’ restaurant industry.” Other prominent supporters of ROC United include the Ford Foundation, which hosted a 2016 event in support of ROC United founder Saru Jayaraman’s book Forked. The event featured a slew of famous chefs and restauranteurs, many of whom have come around to the idea that treating restaurant workers fairly is not just the right thing to do, but it can be good for business as well.
While #MeToo revelations continue to roil the globe, what can we all do in our own sandboxes to say #TimesUp? How can we do work in our own lives that gets at not only the more egregious forms of relational abuse, but also at all the layers of harmful gender dynamics—psychological, social, relational, institutional, and yes spiritual—which create the conditions where abuse happens?
These are questions that gripped my mind and heart, and led me to help organize and participate in two “gender reconciliation” retreats, one in Seattle and one in Boston. The retreats were led by an incredible set of facilitators who are part of a global movement called Gender Equity and Reconciliation International (GERI) that aims to heal the deeper roots of our world’s gender wounds, one circle at a time.
I don’t know how many #MeToo stories you have read, but it is in the heartbreaking details that we find evidence of the “damaging relational dynamic” (to quote speaker Beth Moore in A Letter To My Brothers) of patriarchy. The details of #MeToo stories often reveal more subtle psychological, social, and even spiritual layers of male presumption which create a harmful consolidation of power and honor around a few “great men.” These men are granted excessive sexual and social latitude, making it hard for women to be equally honored and valued.
My gender story is not one that contains abuse, so I went into these gender equity retreats thinking I was there mostly to listen and hold other people’s stories. But just as happened in the Seattle retreat, at the Framingham retreat, I was again able to see how my own gender journey resonated with and became part of a larger tapestry of gender wound stories.
There were tears shed over the course of the three days, but there was much laughter too, like when I shared a story in my home group that involved a ski boat, and which captured vividly one of my early life gender wounds. After I shared my ski boat story, my Rwandan brother shared about some of the gender issues he encountered growing up for 18 years in a refugee camp in Burundi. Then my Indian brother shared about growing up as an untouchable. We all let out a howl of laughter after they shared, noticing that if I had not gone first, I probably would not have shared a story about a ski boat!
So how do we deal with all of the gender pain that exists in the many layers that created all the heartbreaking #MeToo stories? And how do we move forward and become better humans together?
There are many answers to this question, but one very basic way forward is to do what our human ancestors used to do when they didn’t have so many diversions: sit together in a circle. It’s almost like we have to go back to “rug time” where we sat in circles in kindergarten and nursery school. In these circles, we learned the basics of the give and take of how to be in social settings together. Sitting in a circle gives a social gathering a sacred quality that connotes we are all interconnected; we are part of a larger whole.
When we first gathered at the beginning of the three-day retreat in Framingham, the circle of 48 felt a bit stilted and formal since it was so big. What an interesting variety we had around this circle—a potpourri of evangelical pastors from the Boston area, some earthy crunchy types from Western MA, a few Buddhists, a Muslim, a few non-religious, lots of gender equality activists, men and women of all ages and stages, two openly gay men, one openly gay woman, two people from India, and one man from Rwanda who is leading a post-genocide reconciliation ministry there. All of this human diversity in one large circle gathered to hear and feel and in some way heal one another’s gender wounds — a tall task, but one we took on with open hearts. Over the course of three days as we broke into smaller circles and shared our stories, it felt like my own heart opened as I watched other hearts opening, forming a collective heart.
“You gotta feel it to heal it.” I don’t know who said it first, but it is so true. If we don’t tend to our pain, it doesn’t vanish — it just goes underground. To heal a relational wound, you need to allow yourself to feel it. And you can’t short-circuit this healing process. It happens in its own time and in different ways. There is a role for doing this alone in a therapeutic setting, but the wisdom of the GERI approach is to feel and to heal collectively through a carefully facilitated process involving a liturgy of silence, guided meditations, small group conversations, dance, song, and games. The retreat is also comprised of rituals choreographed to open the heart bit by bit, not to tell all of the gory details, but simply to be heard and understood. Together, we grow to understand how gender dynamics create emotional wounds, and find ways to turn our own thoughts and behaviors toward healing.
All this is done sitting in circles of deep listening and trust. Throughout our three days, our circle of 48 was subdivided into a mix and match of smaller circles to get everyone talking, moving, sharing and listening together.
Over the course of those three days, it felt like something very sacred happened. In many settings where gender issues come up, conversation quickly turns to debate, but there was not one debate or argument in these circles — only listening to understand one another’s stories.
It is not easy to open one’s heart, nor does it happen instantly, but what emerges is well worth the time and trouble to get there. In a way, it felt like we healed an ancient divide, that we got to the deeper root of the problem. The women talked about feeling heard and understood, having experienced the kindness and good will of the men who showed up to be allies in the fight for gender equality. The men also spoke of feeling understood as they shared how they too have been harmed by patriarchy.
As I reflect back on #WeHealTogetherNewEngland, I still carry an embodied feeling of the heart of empathy that emerged like a beautiful weave, story by story, as we sat in sacred circles together. Encircling the pain with love and understanding somehow makes the the bad stuff feel lighter and our mutual longings for a “gender healed world” more in reach.
Below is one more glimpse of a creation from the retreat — a poem that was written and shared by the men in a closing ceremony honoring the women.
From the Men, Honoring the Women
Before we were formed in the womb, O God,You knew us. You knitted us together in our mother’s womb.We honor you as our teachers, as our wives, as our daughters,as our friends … as our mothers.May we be re-formed together in love, knitted together in the strength of tenderness, in the power of self-giving, in the hope of re-birth.You have shown us what it meansto be brave and bold, and truthful,and righteously angry.We thank you.
For more on how you can participate in a gender reconciliation circle to do something about the deeper roots that lead to all these #MeToo stories, check out the work of Gender Reconciliation International.
Research has now identified a significant health care gender gap, showing how much less we know about the health of women compared to men. Even more underfunded than women, however, are the specific health concerns of women of color. While Black and Latina women together represent less than a quarter of all U.S. women, they make up the large majority of those currently living with HIV. To fight this disparity, the California Wellness Foundation (Cal Wellness) recently announced $13 million in new grantmaking specifically aimed at helping address the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS on women of color, as well as the health needs of recently incarcerated women reentering society.
Cal Wellness is a Los Angeles-based private, independent foundation dedicated to protecting and improving Californians’ health and wellness by increasing access to health care, quality education, good jobs, healthy environments and safe neighborhoods. Since its founding in 1992, it has awarded over 9,000 grants totaling more than one billion dollars.
Millions of uninsured Californians obtained health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, but with the ACA under strain, those gains are being eroded. Moreover, social services and reproductive rights are also being undermined. “Communities of color are bearing the brunt of these attacks,” says Judy Belk, President and CEO of Cal Wellness. “But there is hope. Philanthropy can play a critical role in advancing wellness for all by fighting the injustices affecting the most vulnerable among us.” Crystal Crawford, Program Director of Cal Wellness, adds that the AIDS/HIV/STIs and prisoner health reentry initiatives represent the “next phase of the Foundation’s long history of boldly confronting injustices based on race and gender.”
According to the National Institutes of Health’s report, Women of Color Health Information Collection: HIV Infection and AIDS, “Compared with females of other races/ethnicities, African Americans and Latinas are disproportionately affected at all stages of infection with HIV and by all reported measures: new cases of HIV infection, annual diagnoses of HIV infection, annual diagnoses of AIDS, and prevalence of HIV infection and AIDS.” In addition, women of color have high rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and are at high risk of acquiring HIV and STIs due to social and economic conditions such as high rates of poverty, ongoing trauma, income inequality and unemployment that make it difficult for them to protect their sexual health.
A key part of the HIV/AIDS/STIs initiative is “Upspoken,” a public awareness campaign, coordinated by the issue-driven communications firm RALLY. “Upspoken,” will engage multi-generational Black women and contribute to new ways of thinking about HIV, AIDS and STIs among direct service providers, advocacy organizations, individual and institutional funders, and policymakers. The campaign also seeks to increase understanding and raise awareness about the disproportionate impact of HIV, AIDS and STIs on women of color, and encourage increased funding and improved public policies in this area.
The initiative is funding two demonstration projects—one in Los Angeles County and one in Alameda County (whose county seat is Oakland) to document and disseminate best practices in prevention and early intervention for women of color at risk for HIV, AIDS and STIs, and to develop innovations in this area. The L.A. County project is being led by Gail Wyatt, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Culture, Trauma and Mental Health Disparities at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. In Alameda County, Women Organized to Respond to Life-Threatening Diseases (WORLD) is partnering with the East Bay Community Foundation on the project.
Cal Wellness is not the only organization supporting the health of women of color. The Oakland, California-based Catalyst Fund/Groundswell Fund is a major funder of initiatives and research surrounding reproductive justice and health, including birth justice with an emphasis on women of color. Catalyst Fund/Groundswell Fund has supported projects in 39 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, including initiatives of Black Women for Wellness (Los Angeles), and COLOR, a Denver-based Latina-led and Latina-serving grassroots nonprofit, among many. Catalyst/Groundswell also partners with other foundations including the Ms. Foundation for Women, the Chicago Foundation for Women, the New York Women’s Foundation, and Third Wave Fund that provide grants to organizations addressing the health needs of women of color.
The health of former prisoners, particularly women of color, is precarious. As is the case with men, women of color are overrepresented among the incarcerated. When they return to their communities, formerly incarcerated women face significant barriers to building stable and healthy lives including unemployment and lack of access to education, permanent housing, health care and support in being reunited with their families. For women of color, these barriers are exacerbated by racial discrimination.
Cal Wellness’ Re-entry and Employment Initiative will enable formerly incarcerated women of color, especially African American and Latina women, to improve their health through financial well-being by increasing their participation in the workforce and building financial assets. The Foundation awarded grants to four organizations (A New Way of Life, Justice Now, Time for Change Foundation and The Praxis Project) to promote local and statewide policies with a gender lens that impact the specific challenges facing re-entry women. One such policy is effective implementation of Proposition 47, which was passed by California voters in 2014 and reclassified sentences for a number of drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. The four grantees have established the Women Organizing Re-entry Communities of Color for Prop 47 (WORCC) Collaborative to target Prop 47 resources to benefit women of color as they seek employment and financial well-being upon re-entry.
As part of the initiative, Cal Wellness also approved grants to support three demonstration projects (Root & Rebound in Fresno County, A New Way of Life in Los Angeles County and Time for Change Foundation in San Bernardino County). The grantees will engage formerly incarcerated women of color, especially Black and Latina women, in comprehensive workforce development services including job training, career advancement and asset-building. The Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), which has offices in six states and focuses exclusively on employment for those with criminal records, also received funding and will provide technical assistance.
On Monday, April 9th, the Sundance Institute and Women In Film (WIF) co-hosted a panel entitled Demystifying Film Financing: Two Case Studies. The panel’s objective was to address the obstacles faced by female filmmakers, especially those of financing. The panel was split into two halves, the first focusing on Unrest, an award-winning documentary directed by Jennifer Brea, and the second on Mudbound, an Academy Award-nominated historical drama directed by Dee Rees. Sundance Film Festival senior programmer Caroline Libresco and WIF president Cathy Schulman moderated the discussion.
The Sundance Institute, founded by Pratt Institute graduate Robert Redford, has made incredible strides in supporting female filmmakers. Through its Women of Sundance program, the Sundance Institute has been able to partially overcome the huge gender gap that women in the film industry face. Over the past ten years, 4.2% of top grossing directors in the United States have been female, while 25% of Sundance Film Festival directors have been female. This group is striving to bring this number up to 50%, and hoping to impact Hollywood statistics as well.
As part of Women at Sundance’s efforts to get more women into film, it offers a year-long fellowship including mentorship and professional coaching. The Harnisch Foundation, in partnership with Renee Freedman & Co, provides grant funding for fellowship participants to travel to Sundance Film Festival and participate in all the activities. Prior Women at Sundance Fellows have included Ava Duvernay, Jennifer Phang, Lyric Cabral, Cristina Ibarra and Jessica Devaney.
Film Funding for Women: Unrest
Brea’s film Unrest documents the struggles of chronic fatigue syndrome, a disease she lives with. Because of her deep awareness of the difficulties experienced by those with her condition, she found herself with a huge drive to create the film. “I knew this film needed to [exist] and I never faltered in my faith in that,” Brea told the audience. Brea’s commitment to creating allowed her to get the opportunity to bring her vision to life. “It’s about finding people in the world who vibrate for [your] film,” she explained.
Among its many honors and awards, Unrest has also been approved for continuing education credits for medical providers. This speaks to the film’s ability to capture not only popular attention, but also the specialized attention of medical professionals who can use the documentary to help inform and improve their work.
Film Funding for Women: Mudbound
For Mudbound director Dee Rees, creating that film became possible because of the outreach of her producer, Cassian Elwes. Mudbound was the first time Rees had been offered the opportunity to create a film by a producer. Rees’ experience suggests another important lesson for women seeking entry into the film industry: if you can’t sell your film idea confidently, find a partner who can. Such efforts lead to great achievements in film, as Mudbound‘s Director of Photography Rachel Morrison became the first woman to be nominated for an Oscar Award for Best Cinematography.
Both Brea and Rees emphasized the importance of having unshakeable confidence in the value of your work, so that the powers-that-be see you as an equal competitor. Ultimately, members of the panel also expressed their shared belief in the community value of women producing art. Female filmmakers are some of the most the most zealous and dedicated creators, and this helps them hang on to their dreams in an industry that stacks the odds against them. Alysa Nahmias, producer of Unrest, comments, “It’s really important to keep in mind that it’s not personal. The more you experience the rejections and then you get somebody who is interested, you start to see that the project doesn’t depend on any one ask.”
Women at Sundance receives leadership support from The Harnisch Foundation and Refinery29, and additional support from these donors. Women in Film has support from corporate sponsors, foundations, and individual donors listed here.
Editor’s Note: The Harnisch Foundation and the Jacquelyn and Gregory Zehner Foundation are lead sponsors for Philanthropy Women.
With so much going on in women’s philanthropy, we love it when gender equality thought leaders come together to talk about where the movement for women’s rights has been, and where it’s going in the future. Issues of sisterhood and how they relate to feminism are an engaging topic to delve into more deeply.
Riffing on the 1970’s anthology edited by Robin Morgan entitled Sisterhood is Powerful, Union Theological Seminary, in partnership with The New York Women’s Foundation and the Feminist Press, are presenting a conversation on April 11th featuring longtime women’s philanthropy pioneer Helen LaKelly Hunt, and one of Third Wave feminism’s leading thinkers, Rebecca Walker. Hunt and Walker will be focusing the discussion on healing some of the divisions within feminism, particularly related to race and class. The goal of this event is to “offer tools to build an affirmative culture that can contain difference and meaningfully address white supremacy.”
The criteria for being chosen for this list are as follows:
The Best Philanthropy Blogs are chosen from thousands of Philanthropy blogs in our index using search and social metrics. We’ve carefully selected these websites because they are actively working to educate, inspire, and empower their readers with frequent updates and high-quality information.
In order to make the top 40, these blogs are ranked based on following criteria:
Google reputation and Google search ranking
Influence and popularity on Facebook, twitter and other social media sites
Quality and consistency of posts.
Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review
Many of my favorite resources for philanthropy are on this top 40 list, including CEP Blog, Philanthropy News Digest, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and HistPhil. Also featured are some international, family, and community blogs that I will definitely need to check out.
“We focus on women at the grassroots, aligning our grant-making strategies and priorities to fit their needs,” says Chandra Alexandre, Global Fund for Women’s Vice-President of Development. The goal is to leverage local knowledge and expertise with donor funds to create system-level change for women in the Global South.
Global Fund for Women is headquartered in San Francisco, but five members of its 41-person staff are in New York, and four more work remotely from various locales. The organization was founded in 1987, and since then has invested in roughly 5,000 grassroots organizations in 175 countries. Its approach encompasses both advocacy and grant-making, with an emphasis on supporting, funding and partnering with women-led groups and movements. According to their website: “Our vision is that every woman and girl is strong, safe, powerful, and heard. No exceptions.”
Chandra Alexandre has been Development VP for over three years, and spoke to me by phone from her office in San Francisco. Alexandre, who is also an Adjunct Professor in the University of San Francisco’s Master of Nonprofit Administration program, has a wide-ranging background. Prior to assuming her position at Global Fund for Women, she was the lead fundraiser at Partners in School Innovation, and has worked in the banking sector and in the U.S. diplomatic corps. Alexandre earned an MBA at San Francisco’s Presidio Graduate School, which focuses on justice and sustainability, and a Ph.D. in Asian & Comparative Studies from the California Institute of Integral Studies.
Alexandre’s doctoral research took her to India, and she says that experience is paying dividends in her current work. “My knowledge gained from living, working, and being with women in India has definitely informed my world view and current position,” she says. “It helped me understand women’s issues globally, and women’s lived reality in the Global South.”
Much of Alexandre’s time is spent talking to people, and not just donors. “Sometimes it’s in-house experts, such as our grants-operation team who are in constant contact with our grantees, and sometimes it’s touching base with an activist board member,” she says. Alexandre also reads grantee reports, and on occasion will go right to the source. “After Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti in 2016, it was me picking up the phone and speaking with one of our grantee partners,” says Alexandre. “It was a statement of solidarity, but also checking on how they were doing. I was trying to see what was happening, and what was most needed.”
Alexandre’s communications with key Global Fund for Women players in the U.S. and overseas enables her to be a conduit of information and perspective about women’s lives in the Global South. “It’s about letting donors know how they can shift the tide in terms of making positive change in women’s lives,” she says.
Global Fund for Women invests in projects of various scales and durations, depending on local needs and conditions on the ground. A major recent initiative was a 2017 partnership focusing on garment workers, undertaken with the NoVo Foundation, C&A Foundation and Gender at Work. The effort is combating gender-based violence and improving working condition for women in major garment-producing countries including India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia.
The aim is to activate local women to become agents of change, with garment workers learning about their rights, acting on those rights, and creating systemic change. The initial round of grants to local organizations were awarded last summer.
Not surprisingly, as Development VP, Alexandre spends an important part of her time cultivating donors. She champions Global Fund for Women’s mission, but also listens to donors, seeing where their interests lie and how these match-up with Global Fund for Women’s programs. She says that some donors are interested in a specific region or country, but many are passionate about an issue like gender-based violence or reproductive health and rights. They want to contribute to change, and trust Global Fund for Women’s expertise and ability to forge relationships with partners and advisors abroad working in these areas.
Alexandre handles donations in the six and seven figures coming from individuals, institutions, and private and corporate foundations. She says that 84 percent of funds go directly to fund programs. Global Fund for Women has over 10,000 donors, so in addition to the major sums, there are many smaller one-time and recurring donations. Global Fund for Women also responds to emergencies, such as the earthquakes in Haiti in 2010 and Nepal in 2015. “We know that when humanitarian organizations respond to crises, the needs of women and girls are often last in line,” she says.
Global Fund for Women’s staff are always in motion, whether on the programming or donor side. “As a public foundation we’re constantly fund-raising. Unlike a private foundation, we don’t have a regular draw against an endowment to rely on to support the whole of our grant-making and advocacy efforts,” says Alexandre. Global Fund for Women’s operating budget is projected to hit $25 million annually by 2020, and in the 2017 fiscal year it awarded ten million dollars in grants, the most ever in the organization’s thirty-plus year history. Global Fund for Women funds new initiatives, but is also aware that past gains can disappear. “We are placing a real emphasis on resistance,” says Alexandre. “We don’t want to see a rollback on women’s gains in areas such as education or reproductive rights.”
Alexandre notes that Donald Trump’s election has spurred activism in the U.S. around women’s issues. While this is laudable, the downside is that mobilizing against the Trump agenda domestically may cause one to forget about the status of women outside the U.S. “Increasing awareness is key,” say Alexandre, suggesting that not just Global Fund for Women, but the women’s human rights sector overall needs more exposure and funding. “We need to support communities in the U.S.,” says Alexandre, “but we also need to look at global issues and stand in solidarity with our sisters in the Global South.”