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.
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.
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.”
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
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.”
Women funders with an eye on world affairs and human rights, take note: Critics fear that Mike Pompeo’s new “Commission on Unalienable Rights” is nothing more than a device for legitimizing a roll-back of gender, reproductive and LGBTQ rights globally.
In his July 8 “Remarks to the Press,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described the new commission as an “informed review of the role of human rights in American foreign policy.” Opposition to the commission has been swift. Led by New Jersey’s Bob Menendez, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 22 Democratic senators—including presidential hopefuls Bennet, Booker, Gillibrand, Harris, Klobuchar, Sanders and Warren—sent a July 23 letter to Pompeo “expressing deep concern” about the commission. They also noted, “The President’s personal affection for those who have trampled on human rights has stained America’s moral fabric.”
“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.
2020 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris unveiled a $1 billion proposal in early July that could help to clear the backlog of an estimated 225,000-250,000 untested rape kits.
Linking her new proposal to her history as a prosecutor, Harris tweeted to her followers, “We need leaders committed to fighting for justice for survivors of abuse, not protecting predators.” As California’s Attorney General, Harris’ push for more funding to go towards rape kit analysis cleared a 1,300-kit backlog and lowered the average testing time from 90-120 days to just 30, earning her an Award for Professional Innovation in Victim Services from the U.S. Department of Justice.
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.
The rights of women, girls, and LGBTQA+ people around the world are once again coming into question, based on countries’ like the U.S.’s reluctance to commit to championing those rights in the United Nations.
On May 27, 2019, the Women’s UN Report Network (WUNRN) drafted an open letter to United Nations representatives, urging the protection of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) session scheduled for later this year.