Olivia Wells: Quality Support for Women Survivors in Conflict Zones

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Olivia Wells, Director of Programs and Communications for Nadia’s Initiative, a nonprofit founded by Nadia Murad that supports “community-driven and survivor-centric sustainable development programs.” 

Olivia Wells, courtesy of Olivia Wells

1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession? 

Bureaucracy; you learn about it in school, and you begin to see it when you enter the workforce but you don’t realize how many bureaucratic impediments there are to humanitarian work until you’re in the thick of it. You naively think that at the end of the day, we all want the same thing – to help those most vulnerable – so we should streamline processes to get those in need the help they deserve as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. The humanitarian sector is still saturated with top-down approaches to development. Many government and private funders insist on funding large organizations like the various UN entities, rather than investing in local NGOs. Local NGOs have a direct line to the communities they serve and are often able to implement projects more efficiently and for less money. These are the organizations we should be investing in.

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#SayHerName: What Feminist Givers Can Do For Breonna Taylor

On March 13th, the Louisville Metro Police executed a “no knock” warrant at the Kentucky home of Breonna Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker. The exact events of the night have been hotly contested in and out of court, but the end result was that a young woman with a bright future lost her life, and the police who perpetrated the killing did not seem to be held accountable in any way.

Image Credit: Todd Heisler / The New York Times

In the months that followed, protests surrounding Breonna’s death and the deaths of women of color at the hands of police officers have rocked the country, even amidst the most serious pandemic of our time. Bolstered by the Black Lives Matter movement, and further aided by Kimberlé  Crenshaw’s creation of the #SayHerName hashtag, Breonna’s story broke through to mainstream culture and gave America a new awareness about what racism looks like for women of color.

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(Liveblog) Empowering Gender Equality with ERA Coalition

On Wednesday, September 30th, the ERA Coalition held a special “Meet the Chairs” event to raise awareness and funds in support of the Equal Rights Amendment. Founded in 2014, the ERA Coalition works to further along the process involved in ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment, newly focusing its efforts on Black and Indigenous women and women of color, as well as gender-nonconforming people and transgender women and girls.

On September 30, newly established Chairs of the ERA Coalition S. Mona Sinha and Kimberly Peeler-Allen joined Alyssa Milano and a heavy-hitting selection of speakers for a night of discussion. (Image Credit: ERA Coalition)

Kimberly Peeler-Allen, the new Chair of the ERA Coalition, and S. Mona Sinha, the new Chair of the Coalition’s sister organization, the Fund for Women’s Equality, spoke with Alyssa Milano on their motivations, passions, and hopes for their work with the ERA Coalition and beyond.

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Examining Patriarchy with “The Girl Child”: A Six-Month Journey

To those on the outside looking in, the story of women and girls’ social advancement may look like a road paved with victories. To those within the sphere of feminist philanthropy, however, that road has more twists and turns than many realize. We cannot deny the progress we’ve made in recent years, but we also cannot ignore the inequality, violence, and oppression women and girls still face around the world today.

But where does this oppression come from? When did we as a society learn to value boys over girls, to treat women like property or lesser beings? Why do we have to fight against it in the first place?

Imago Dei Fund, through a free program presented by Emily Nielsen Jones and Rev. Domnic Misolo, seeks to answer these questions with a six-month reading journey through the history of patriarchy. Examining the liberation of women through historic and faith-based lenses, “The Girl Child & Her Long Walk to Freedom: Putting Faith to Work Through Love to Break Ancient Chains” offers participants six months a guided tour with readings, group discussions, and reflections centered around the emancipation of girls and women.

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How is COVID-19 Impacting Justice for Women?

In a new report from the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), UN Women, and a collection of sponsors and contributors, the combined crises of women’s justice and COVID-19 come to light.

Image Credit: IDLO

In Justice for Women Amidst COVID-19, Jeni Klugman of the Georgetown Institute of Women, Peace and Security investigates the difficulties women face in seeking justice–difficulties that have been exacerbated, sometimes with disastrous consequences, due to COVID-19.

Drawing on a women’s justice landscape outlined in a 2019 report from the same team (Justice for Women), this new report examines the multiple dimensions of the COVID-19 catastrophe. Common themes in fighting the pandemic–country-wide stay-at-home orders, mass layoffs, closure of businesses that employ low-wage workers–align with troubling themes in women’s justice, such as a rise in intimate partner violence (IPV), lack of access to information via mobile phones and the Internet, and discrimination (both inherent and supposed) against women around the world.

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Workers Lab Announces Innovation Fund $150K Winners

From March to April 2020, The Workers Lab issued an open call for applications to the Innovation Fund, a program co-sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Innovation Fund is designed to grant $150,000 to three winners per investment cycle, awarding these highly sought-after prizes to organizations and individuals with the best ideas for improving the lives of workers.

Image Credit: The Workers Lab

“Our hope in this application cycle was to better understand what innovations are out there reimagining the kinds of support workers lean on to make it all work,” said Tiffany Ferguson, program director at The Workers Lab. “That could mean services, tools, or programs – any range of ideas that, with an investment from The Innovation Fund, could make it easier for workers to access and use their full potential.”

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What Melinda Gates Says, and Doesn’t Say, About Women in COVID

“Architects of a better world” is how Melinda Gates frames the role of women in the age of COVID. In a recent article in Foreign Affairs, the co-founder of the world’s largest philanthropic organization makes the case that women’s leadership is the beacon of light the world needs most right now.

Gates starts off the essay by recognizing the silent pandemic of violence against women happening during COVID. She goes on to detail in full the many ways that women are losing access to health care and jobs, all while being piled with more housework and childcare duties.

(Image Credit: Oladimeji Odunsi at Unsplash)

Maternity Care Needs to Develop Workarounds for COVID

Gates is particularly worried about expectant moms in COVID, and with good reason. She relates some of the staggering losses suffered in the Ebola outbreak of 2014 in Sierra Leone. One suggestion that Gates makes for COVID: separate facilities for COVID and non-COVID pregnant women in some countries so that women can still get maternal care, even if they are COVID positive.

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July 23 Webinar: Lack of Funding for Women & Girls of Color

Join us at 2:00 PM ET on Thursday, July 23rd for the next iteration of our new Philanthropy Women webinar series: “Lack of Funding for Women and Girls of Color: What Donors Can Do.”

The Ms. Foundation for Women has produced a new report showing how rarely funders show up for women and girls of color. In this webinar, we bring three expert opinions in to discuss how to increase funding for this population, both in the United States and globally. Guests for this webinar are Roz Lee, Vice President of Strategy and Programs for the Ms. Foundation for Women, Tessie San Martin, PhD, President and CEO, Plan International USA, and Suzanne Lerner, Donor Activists and President and Co-Founder, Michael Stars Clothing.

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Plan International Details COVID’s Impact on Latina and Caribbean Girls

COVID-19 is imperiling the safety and education of many Latin American and Caribbean girls, reports Plan International, an independent development and humanitarian organization advancing children’s rights and equality for girls. With the closure of schools, many girls have been trapped at home and subject to increasing gender-based violence. Moreover, for some, their education may be derailed permanently with lasting generational effects.

Lucía hopes that at the end of the pandemic, girls will have a better quality of life, be free from violence, and have equal access to all services. Photo Credit: Plan International

Ninety-five percent of girls have been out of school since mid-March, and this has made them highly vulnerable. Amalia Alarcón, Plan’s Regional Head of Gender Transforming and Influencing, explains how the pandemic has a clear gender component. “The control measures for the disease do not take into account the specific vulnerabilities of girls, adolescents and women as the risk of suffering gender-based violence at home, increases. According to Plan International, “There has been a significant rise in reports of physical, sexual and psychological abuse directed towards girls and adolescents, with many more cases likely going under the radar.”

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Tech Giants Partner with UN Women on Gender-Based Violence

Editor’s Note: This post was previously published by UN Women on June 25, 2020.

As billions of people are still under COVID-19 lockdown, the shadow pandemic of violence against women has been growing within homes around the world.

UN Women is partnering with Google, Facebook, and Twitter to get public health messages to women across the world about how to access safety if they are experiencing gender-based violence. (Image Credit: UN Women)

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, violence against women and girls, a gross human rights violation, impacted one in three women worldwide. Recent data from multiple countries already show a spike in reporting of domestic violence through helplines since COVID-19 lockdowns started. As countries now contend with economic crisis, service shortfalls and high levels of stress, many women find themselves trapped in isolation with abusive partners, without access to information and support services that they need.

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