The global reproductive rights community is reeling with the tragic and untimely death of Jennifer Schlecht on November 6, 2019. A devoted and dedicated friend to women and girls everywhere, Schlecht had spent her entire career fostering family planning efforts for women across the globe. In recent years, she directed special attention to the need to provide family planning services for women drawn into humanitarian crises.
In April of 2018, Jennifer Schlecht took a new position as Senior Advisor on Emergency Preparedness and Response at Family Planning 2020. For Family Planning 2020, housed under the umbrella of United Nations Foundation’s activities, Schlecht collaborated with CARE on these issues as well as the Inter-Agency Working Group on Reproductive Health in Crisis.
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.
Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, provided the keynote address for Women Funding Network’s conference, Leadership for a Changing World, held in San Francisco in September. With a message of urgency about our climate crisis combined with a call for more women’s leadership, Robinson brought the audience to their feet with applause for her words.
“Unless women take leadership in dealing with the climate crisis, then all the other issues, and I fully believe in the intersectionality of all the other issues, but all the other issues will actually fade, because we won’t have a livable world for our children and grandchildren,” said Robinson. “It’s as simple as that, and as stark as that, and as real as that, and that’s why it’s so important that women are now taking that leadership.”
The final lineup of WFN’s conference Leadership for a Changing World felt like a fireworks finale of feminist brilliance across philanthropy, art, business, and politics. Let’s take a look at these amazing blasts of thought and strategy leadership one at a time.
Whose Story Is It?
Cristi Hegranes, CEO of Global Press and the Publisher of Global Press Journal, and Jeanne Bourgault, President and CEO of Internews, discussed how having more women creating and distributing media can have a significant influence on how we interact with, interpret, and change the world.
In the fall-out around MIT’s prestigiously respected Media Lab over its acceptance of repeated donations from Jeffrey Epstein, a known sexual predator of underaged girls, a number of sheros shine. Each act of these women highlight a different aspect of the larger cultural problem about misogyny and how deeply masculinist views are entrenched at multiple points in society. I list the women here as the chronology of the story unfolded:
Arwa Mboya, MIT graduate student in Civic Media, a division of the Media Lab
One of the best ways to leverage support for a community is by celebrating its culture. Angélique Kidjo and the Batonga Foundation seek to amplify their campaign for women and girls in West Africa through a one-of-a-kind benefit dinner hosted later this month in New York City.
Kidjo, a three-time Grammy Award-winning singer and musician, was born in Benin and grew up steeped in the rich musical and social culture of West Africa. She attended school at a time when girls’ education was not considered socially acceptable. In answer to taunts from boys in her classes, Kidjo would shout back, “Batonga!,” an invented word that has since translated into Kidjo’s music and philanthropy.
The first day of #WomenFunded2019 just wrapped up. With electrifying energy, the 400 people in attendance today engaged with a wide range of issues and topics. Here are some highlights.
MONEY: Where is the Money Going? How Philanthropists, Corporate Leaders, and Investors are Advancing Gender Equity
The panelists spoke from a personal perspective on how they became invested in gender equality. Many spoke of early life experiences of inequality that left a indelible mark. Pamela Shifman, Executive Director of the NoVo Foundation, shared about witnessing domestic violence experiences of friends as a child and young adult and remembered thinking, “This can’t be the reality of so many people I love.”
It would be an understatement to say I am looking forward to arriving in San Francisco today to participate in WomenFunded2019, this year’s annual conference for the Women’s Funding Network.
It’s an auspicious time for gender issues, as feminist givers are rising against a tide of hate and divisiveness, stepping into their power, and urging everyone to join them as they move forward with culture change. Women donors who take a feminist approach are often pivotal in helping to activate others with their leadership. These women listen closely to understand the issues impacting women and girls. To address these issues, they join together and support action that creates a more gender inclusive world.
Where are the effects of climate change felt the strongest?
West Africa shoulders some of the heaviest impacts created by climate change, particularly in communities where families live off the land. Many communities in Sub-Saharan Africa have laid claim to lush, verdant farmlands for hundreds or thousands of years—but today, those families find themselves fighting against the very land they’ve called home for generations.
Between desert encroachment, deforestation, and the effects of a rising global temperature, rural populations in Senegal experience some of the worst effects of climate change. Farming families struggle to cope with a shorter growing season, while communities across the continent suffer from a shortage of clean water, food, and fuel.