Three weeks ago, I was elected as Board Chair of the Equal Rights Amendment Fund for Women’s Equality. As a funder and champion of women’s rights and economic justice, this call to step up could not have come at a more urgent time.
Each one of us has had many moments of reckoning during COVID-19. But as women of color, we have seen that COVID has treated us differently from the rest. Race has been identified as a co-morbidity and a risk factor, just like diabetes or heart disease. Our healthcare systems, our educational systems, and our systems for protecting essential workers are all struggling mightily against a dangerous and mysterious disease. Basic rights and systems have been demolished for women, and women of color are being particularly hard-hit, facing higher rates of job loss while also being expected to bear more responsibility for caregiving and educating children.
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.
1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?
The fundraising field is quite secretive, as organizations fear that sharing their donor experiences would have repercussions on their relationships, or that they would have to compete for funds if they disclosed what opportunities they are working on. It’s so weighty to work in silos, feel isolated and overwhelmed with the “I have to do it all on my own” mentality. That makes fundraising burnout very real, with lasting effects on our well-being and health, and affects so many of us in philanthropy, especially those working in resource mobilization.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
“We have to vote like our life depends on it, because it does,” said Beyoncé in her pre-recorded acceptance speech for the 2020 BET Awards. The performer and philanthropist is 2020’s recipient of the Humanitarian Award, bestowed for her work through the BeyGOOD Initiative and other campaigns.
“Thank you so much for this beautiful honor,” she said. “I want to dedicate this award to all of my brothers out there, all of my sisters out there inspiring me, marching and fighting for change. Your voices are being heard and you’re proving to our ancestors that their struggles were not in vain.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Another corporate funder has stepped in to help small business in this time of economic uncertainty. Verizon recently announced another $2.5 million commitment to small businesses, bringing total funding for the Verizon Small Business Recovery Fund to 7.5 million dollars.
“Small businesses across the country are confronting extreme economic challenges as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic,” writes the communications giant in the description of the program. “Financial support at this critical time can make the difference between staying in business or closing permanently, leading to lost income, jobs and economic stability.”
"Gender-based violence undermines not only the safety, dignity, overall health status, and human rights of the millions of individuals who experience it, but also the public health, economic stability, and security of nations." - United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently released a new report that draws eye-opening–and deeply concerning–connections between gender-based violence (GBV) and environmental issues. In partnership with the United Stated Agency for International Development (USAID), Gender-based violence and environment linkages: The violence of inequality examines why examining gender-based violence with a close focus on the role of the environment is critical to continuing the fight against GBV and its widespread effects.