Kamala Harris Unveils $1 Billion Proposal to Clear Rape Kit Backlog

Senator and 2020 Presidential Candidate Kamala Harris. (Photo Credit: US SenateBy United States Senate)

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. 

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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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Women Givers: Support Female Empowerment through UN’s CEDAW

CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is underfunded, and its fourth quarter meeting for 2019 is threatened by budget shortfalls. (Image Credit: CEDAW)

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.

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#GenerationEquality: UN Women Revitalizes 25 Years of Empowerment

Generation Equality is the UN’s new rights campaign for women and girls. (Photo Credit: UN Women on Twitter)

On May 6, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, tweeted:

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of 1995 is the most visionary agenda. #Beijing25 must be both our present & our future for the empowerment of women and girls. That’s why we are all #GenerationEquality.

In 1995, thought leaders around the globe met to create the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, at the time considered one of the most forward-thinking women’s rights and gender equality initiative ever drafted. Developed during the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, the Platform for Action was designed as “a visionary agenda for the empowerment of women and girls, everywhere.” 189 governments committed to making strides in 12 areas of critical concern, but despite the slow progress we have seen over the last 25 years, not a single committed country can accurately claim it has achieved true gender equality.

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More Than Survivors: Developing the Next Generation of Tech Workers

The Foundation for Gender Equality is launching a new initiative aimed at helping female survivors of gender-based violence learn tech skills. (Image Credit: The Foundation for Gender Equality)

The Foundation for Gender Equality aims to foster opportunities and remove obstacles for women and girls facing inequity, and its latest initiative targets female survivors of violence and sexual abuse with a program that teaches them tech skills. The goal is to enable victims to go beyond simple survival to earning a living wage. The Westport, Connecticut-based non-profit, which was founded in 2016 by Richard and Jill Fitzburgh and Theresa Boylan, has partnered with Tech Up for Women to develop the “Give Back” program to achieve this goal.

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Violence is Not Culture: Feminist Philanthropy Draws the Line

Feminist activists and philanthropists are helping to recognize FGM as a form of violence against women. (Image Credit: Global Citizen Video, The Truth About Female Genital Mutilation)

Recently I read a post on PRI.org by Rupa Shenoy entitled “The US movement against female genital mutilation is at a crossroads,” which discusses how laws to prevent FGM are developing and facing challenges in the US. The article is very informative about the status of the issue at this time, and helps to explore different ways to address the problem including community education and prevention efforts.

A salient point was made by one of the experts interviewed for the article, Mariya Taher, one of the co-founders of the anti-female genital mutilation advocacy group Sahiyo.  With regard to the doctor who performed the genital cutting surgery that was the subject of a federal prosecution on FGM, and who justifies the act as part of a cultural practice, Taher said:

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What Can Feminist Philanthropy Do to Address Sexism In Video Games?

Student game makers participate in teams at a Girls Make Games event. (Photo Credit: Girls Make Games)

The video game industry has long been thought of as a “boys’ club.” Even before August of 2014, when the events of Gamergate painted a horrible picture of the worst case scenarios for women in the games arena, representation of women in games and a lack of female game developers left much to be desired.

According to the International Game Developers Association, women make up 47% of the people playing video games, but only 22% of the people creating them. Likewise, women have been historically under- or misrepresented in games. Too often, female characters in games were (and still are) over-sexualized, cast as tired tropes like the “damsel in distress,” or used as reward fodder for gamers who would normally be expected to play males.

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NFL-Supported Raliance Grants to Ten Orgs Fighting Sexual Violence

Raliance continues to support community efforts to end sexual violence with its new round of grants. (Image Credit: Raliance)

“The #MeToo movement has brought significant attention to the widespread nature of sexual misconduct, harassment and abuse,” says Karen Baker, Raliance managing partner and CEO of partner organization the NSVRC. “Now the conversation is shifting to prevention. We’re proud to support these ten innovative projects with concrete strategies that support survivors and make communities healthier and safer.”

Raliance, a Washington D.C.-based national partnership dedicated to “ending sexual violence in one generation,” recently awarded ten grants worth a total of $470,000 to organizations working to prevent sexual harassment, misconduct and abuse.

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Teen Girls are Leading the Way. How Can Philanthropy Support Them?

Greta Thunberg, teen activist from Sweden, has helped amplify climate change movements with her advocacy. (Photo Credit: Greta Thunberg on Twitter)

Teen girls are becoming movers and shakers across the globe in areas like gun violence, environmental activism, and gender equality, as well as advocacy for inclusiveness and systems change of all kinds.

And rather than simply accepting the hands they’ve been dealt, teen girls and young women are taking the lead to change their lives and the lives of those around them. A Swedish teen activist, Greta Thunberg, has recently made waves and garnered well-deserved media attention for her work around climate change. She has protested outside of the Swedish parliament and has spoken about the need to protect the environment for future generations at Davos and the United Nations. Thunberg has also inspired others her age, mobilizing school-based climate change protests in Sweden and worldwide. She was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and stands to be the youngest recipient since Malala Yousafzai if she wins.

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Testing Rape Kits: How Feminist Philanthropy Can Help

End the Backlog, a project of the Joyful Heart Foundation, tracks local, state, and national efforts to test rape kits. (Image Credit: End the Backlog)

A massive backlog of untested rape kits has long plagued the criminal justice system and undermined efforts to foreground sexual assault as a major problem worthy of serious investigation. Sexual assault survivors and activists have estimated that around 250,000 rape kits remain untested.

Crucially, addressing the backlog isn’t just a matter of garnering convictions and getting sexual assault perpetrators off the streets though that’s certainly part of it. It’s also about justice for survivors, putting issues that disproportionately affect women at the fore, and achieving some degree of increased safety for women and girls. And feminist philanthropy efforts have a direct role to play in achieving all of these goals.

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