Abigail Disney: Feminist Changer, Feminist Changed

Screenshot from a Facebook discussion: Abigail Disney, left, with Rev. Rob Schenck, right, on the release of his book, Costly Grace.

An email arrived from Fork Films. Who can open and read the mountainous volume of emails one receives these days? This one, however, I opened.

There was Abigail Disney sitting with Rev. Rob Schenck. He is the center point of her own first directed film, The Armour of Light, released in 2015. In the process of making the film, the arch-conservative preacher wrestled with his position on guns, and came to the conclusion that gun use was contradictory to his position on right to life. He has now formed The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute to combat present social crises. The current special focus of the Institute is on gun violence in the U.S. from a Christian, ethical perspective. Abigail Disney, filmmaker, activist and philanthropist, is a Governor on his Board of Directors.

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Supporting Women-Led Enterprises in South East Asia: Root Capital Partners with Australian Government

Root Capital is partnering with an Australian Program to provide loans for women in agriculture in South East Asia.

While some feminist thought leaders such as Chief Executive of Women’s World Banking of Ghana, Charlotte Baidoo, are calling on microfinance institutions to do more when it comes to lending to women, Root Capital is beginning a new partnership with the Australian Government to do just that.

Root Capital will partner with the Australian Government’s program,  Investing in Women, to deploy $2 million AUD (approximately $1.49 million U.S. dollars) in a ten-year program to support women business owners in South East Asia.  As a partner of Investing in Women, Root Capital plans to bring in private sector co-investments for women’s small and medium-sized agricultural businesses in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

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How NoVo is Spreading Radical Hope in Africa and Beyond

NoVo Foundation has granted $34 million to organizations across the globe working on social problems, including reducing violence against women.

The NoVo Foundation is one of the largest private foundations to advocate for gender equality and has specifically focused much of its funding on reducing violence against girls and women globally. In their most recent initiative, the Radical Hope Fund, the foundation donated $34 million in grants to 19 different organizations around the world.

The Radical Hope Fund began as a response to the 2016 election. Seeing the increase in attacks on women and girls as well as LGBTQ  populations, immigrants, people of color, and refugees, the foundation felt compelled to take action in a new, bolder way. Thus, the Radical Hope Fund was born, initially pledging to donate $20 million to selected grantees, but eventually deciding to deepen that commitment to $34 million.

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Praising the Deeds of Women: How Gender Equity and Reconciliation Can Change the World

Women encircle men during a closing ceremony at the Gender Equity and Reconciliation Initiative retreat in Framingham, MA.

When I told my husband I was going to a three-day retreat on gender reconciliation, he was genuinely excited for me, but he couldn’t help getting in a sarcastic reference to cliché. “Are you going to hold hands and sing kumbaya?” he asked.

I thought for a moment, and then my eyes lit up. “I think so!” I said.

The Gender Equity and Reconciliation International (GERI) retreat held in Framingham, MA did indeed involve some hand-holding and song-singing. But it also did much more, traveling into a realm of meaningful communication and understanding where I have never been before.

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New Prize Awards $1 Million to Create a Safer World for Women

The team from Leaf Wearables, winner of the $1 million prize in the Anu and Naveen Jain Women’s Safety competition. The prize was facilitated by XPRIZE, a new platform that specializes in “designing and implementing innovative competition models to solve the world’s grandest challenges.” (Photo courtesy of XPRIZE.)

Finding new ways for women to be safe in the community is still a high priority for feminist philanthropists everywhere. Now, with a new competition funded by  Anu and Naveen Jain, more tools will be available for women to access emergency response.

The Anu and Naveen Jain Women’s Safety XPRIZE recently announced the winner of its $1 million competition:  an Indian company called Leaf Wearables, which created a new device for triggering emergency response. The low-cost device, called SAFER, is aimed at making as many as one billion families safer.

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A Healthy World for All: Rachel’s Network Integrates Environmental and Gender Equality Philanthropy

Rachel’s Network distributes $60 million annually to address both climate change and gender equality.

Funders for social progress appear to be increasingly recognizing the intersection of women’s rights and climate change. For example, the million dollar Roddenberry Prize, recently discussed on Philanthropy Women, seeks to support organizations with new solutions to both gender inequality and climate change. Additionally, substantial research, such as  this recent issue of Gender and Development, highlights how environmental issues are closely related to gender equality problems.

Here’s where Rachel’s Network comes in.  One of the most significant funding networks in the ecofeminist space, Rachel’s Network has a mission of promoting women as the leading strategists in addressing environmental issues and climate change. Rachel’s Network is made up of female advocates for environmental justice and women’s empowerment, many of whom work in major environmental organizations across the globe. These women  annually donate about $60 million to organizations and projects that are helping our planet and addressing gender inequality.

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A Novel About a Feminist Foundation: How Interesting is That?

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer takes readers into the world of feminist philanthropy, and captures powerfully the dilemmas and difficulties of the work. (Cover: Riverhead Books. Author photo: Nina Subin)

A novel about a feminist foundation is incredibly rare. A novel about a feminist foundation that is both compelling and reifying is even rarer still. I think it’s safe to say that The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer is the first of its kind: an adventure and social critique novel about feminist philanthropy.

At one point Faith Frank, the central feminist in the story, talks wearily about how saying the words “feminist foundation” usually causes most people to stop listening immediately. But as many of us know, some of the most important and fascinating work is happening in the gender equality funding sector. The Female Persuasion helps to elucidate this strange and powerful world where money and idealism collide.

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Women at Cannes Stress Urgency of Gender Gap in Film

At the final press conference of the Features jury, Ava DuVernay thanks Cate Blanchett for her remarkable leadership of their panel.

“Compton to Cannes. Dreamy!” tweeted Ava DuVernay to her two million followers once she arrived May 8th in Cannes, the globe’s most prestigious film festival. The directors of A Wrinkle in Time, Selma, and Thirteenth joined four other women on the jury of the feature competition, forming the majority of the body that selects the Palme d’Or winner, the festival’s most coveted prize. Just days earlier, Michelle Obama was on stage in Los Angeles – a short distance from Compton – at the United State of Women Summit. Tracee Ellis Ross, star of the TV series Blackish, sat across from the beloved former First Lady, leading her in a womanist conversation. The greatest portion of their 40 minute talk centered on a pointed question the actress asked: “Are girls today dreaming differently than we did?”

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Thought Leaders Discuss Origins of American Feminism, Parallels to Third Wave

Rebecca Walker, Author, Activist, and one of the founders of Third Wave Feminism.

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 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.

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Big Prize Focused on Educating Girls, Women’s Rights, and Climate

The Roddenberry Prize is looking for applications that will work at the intersection of girls’ education, women’s rights, and climate issues related to creating a plant-rich diet and reducing food waste.

Good news for gender equality philanthropy:  another large prize is taking on gender issues this year. The 2018 Roddenberry Prize will go to four organizations ($250,000 each) that have realizable plans to address problems at the intersection of girls’ education, women’s rights, and climate change.

Not familiar with the Roddenberry Prize? It was launched in the fall of 2016 at the Smithsonian, in conjunction with the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek, and in 2017, the first prizes were awarded. The Roddenberry Prize is sponsored by The Roddenberry Foundation, which was founded in 2010 with a mission to support “remarkable people and organizations who can disrupt existing dynamics, challenge old patterns of thought, and discover new ways to help us move towards a better future.” You can learn more about the Roddenberry Foundation here.

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