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.
Recently when checking in with the Obama Foundation, we learned that they are highlighting the Women’s Global Education Project (WGEP) and its work in helping global communities end the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). To find our more about how this work takes place, Philanthropy Women spoke with Amy Maglio, Founder of WGEP. Maglio founded WGEP over 14 years ago after she was a peace corp volunteer in Senegal, where she lived for three years.
“When I got back from Senegal, I thought about all the girls I knew who weren’t in school,” said Maglio. She was particularly concerned with the reasons that girls weren’t going to school, and wanted to find more ways to ensure that girls got into school and stayed in school in Senegal. Maglio began partnering with local community-based organizations in Senegal that were already working on these questions. Local organizers in Senegal identified that girls ended their education often because of healthy, safety, and cultural issues.
When we last checked in at the newly formed Obama Foundation, the former First Lady Michelle Obama and her husband, President Barack Obama were laying the groundwork for cultivating a new coalition of organizations focused on girls globally.
Through a collaboration with GoFundMe, the Obama Foundation has established the Global Girls Alliance Fund, helping to raise funds for grassroots organizations to make more headway with educating girls. The initiative accepts applications from eligible nonprofits already working to increase educational opportunities for girls.
Now Global Girls Alliance is highlighting a Chicago-based nonprofit named The Women’s Global Education Project and is recognizing the work they are doing both in the field and with a compelling new documentary about female genital mutilation (FGM).
The subject of female genital mutilation (FGM) — the practice of removing a female’s clitoris, sometimes accompanied by sewing together her labia — rarely makes it into the mainstream news, so recent public awareness campaigns like February 6th’s #EndFGM campaign are helping to put it on the agenda.
Ending FGM is central to movements for women to be free to direct their own lives both in the U.S. and abroad. Feminist philanthropists have been working on this issue for decades, and now, with legislation passing to criminalize the practice, there is more potential than ever to realize some bigger gains.
In 2014, Sweden made waves by becoming the first country across the globe to adopt an explicitly feminist foreign policy. Drawing both controversy and acclaim, the foreign policy was the first of its kind to focus so pointedly on international gender equality across every level of government. Since Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven was confirmed to a second term on Jan. 18, 2019, activists have called for even more emphasis on continuing the successes of the feminist foreign policy.
But what exactly is a feminist foreign policy? In Sweden’s case, the policy focused on funding initiatives across the three “Rs” in which women tend to be underserved and neglected: resources, representation, and rights. Donors who are interested in promoting gender equality through their efforts and outreach can look to the Swedish model of feminist foreign policy to know where to begin.
The Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, announced this week the launch of a new $100 million fund that aims to reach half a million women and girls in South Asia with education and professional opportunities in five years.
“The sustainable development goals endorsed by 193 member states at the United Nations cannot be achieved unless radical new approaches are developed,” said Prince Charles, upon unveiling the new fund. “I am very proud that the British Asian Trust is at the forefront of developing such innovations.”
British Asian Trust (BAT) will act as the investment banker for this project, raising capital and implementing the project, and will seek funding for new project from the big bank foundations for the initial risk investment. Added funding will be sought from national governments and other big donors.
The British Asian Trust was founded in 2007 at the suggestion of Prince Charles and is one of the Prince’s 20 charities. For this $100 million investment in women and girls, BAT’s plan is to combine venture capital funding with options contracts that are paid when certain social goals of investment are made.
This “pay for success” type funding innovation has become increasingly popular, as investors look for ways to get a return on their money and also fulfill corporate social responsibility targets.
Prince Charles’ announcement of the new activity for BAT comes at a time when donors are increasingly recognizing the value of both a social and financial return on their investments. Women donors, in particular, may want to be alerted to this new venture impacting the lives of women and girls in South Asia.
Prince Charles referred to the new project as BAT’s “most ambitious to date.” As gender lens investing and gender lens grantmaking continue to evolve, we expect to see much more activity like this announcement from the Prince of Wales.
Eileen R. Heisman, CEO of National Philanthropic Trust (NPT), has a 30 year record of professional achievements in philanthropy, but it all started with being a social worker. I wanted to learn more about Heisman’s early social work origins, and also about how she led NPT from a small nonprofit in 1996 to the $6 billion dollar grantmaking organization it is today, making an indelible imprint on the landscape of modern philanthropy.
When we began our conversation, I asked Heisman to comment on what it felt like to run the country’s largest host organization for Donor Advised Funds. “When I read my own bio, sometimes it feels kind of like an out of body experience,” said Heisman with a chuckle. “But it’s nice to be able to say all those things are true.”
For all the time and energy Heisman has put into growing NPT over the past 22 years, she says the things that have kept her up at night were more parenting-related than work-related. Her children are now young adults and Heisman, now age 64 (“I feel like I’m about 39!”), is still steering NPT toward bigger and better things, with NPT now managing over 7,400 Donor Advised Funds and continuing to grow. NPT has raised over $13 billion in charitable contributions and currently manages $7.4 billion in charitable assets, making it one of top 25 largest grantmaking institutions in the US.
Vision + Decision-Making = Success
With her breadth of experience, I asked Heisman to talk about what attributes she sees as critical to success for philanthropists today.
“Two things are key to success: having a vision and being able to make decisions in a timely way,” said Heisman. “Even if you make a wrong decision from time to time, people want to see leaders who are decisive.”
Heisman emphasized that being able to envision growing the organization is critical, even if plans take a change of direction. “I like planning and I would do a lot of incremental planning about how it was going to work.”
In terms of how to make decisions, Heisman advised, “knowing your conscience and being a great data gatherer,” as a key combination.
While seemingly obvious, Heisman says paying attention to these two key elements — vision and decision-making — will put you leagues ahead as an organizational leader. Next, Heisman credits her ability to hire well and form successful professional relationships with her staff. “Hiring smart people, making sure they have enough resources to do their job, that they’re well trained, and relying on them when you’re not the best person to make a decision,” said Heisman. “I loved the idea of hiring people who were better at something than I was, and giving them the chance to do it.”
Leadership: It’s About the Relationships
I commented on how Heisman depended on relationships to build the strength of NPT as an organization. “I think relationships are almost more important than knowledge sometimes — learning who you can trust, who is a big picture thinker, who is a detail person, who do you go to when you’re upset and angry, who can go to who to process information and they aren’t threatened by it or upset by it.”
For Heisman, this kind of relationship-building is a big key to NPT’s growth over the past two decades. She talked about keeping a close eye on the roster of people around her, choosing carefully who to be in contact with, and what the intent is of the relationship. “I love having those thought partners around me.”
Heisman also described how leaders need to be fluent in dealing with disagreement, and create an environment where people can be different but also stay connected. “So if you have divergent points of view, how do you have civil discourse about it?”
Women’s Leadership and Political Giving
On the role of women in leadership, Heisman expressed frustration at the slow pace of change. “I think that women are really effective leaders, and I’m astounded at how few women are on corporate boards or running publicly traded companies. I find it really sad and unfortunate.”
While criticizing the lack of leadership opportunities for women, Heisman suggested that the most effective way for many high net worth women to influence this problem is through political support for candidates and PACs.
“The way women come to the forefront on topics like gender equality is through PAC’s and supporting campaigns of the leaders taking us there,” said Heisman. She sees tremendous potential for philanthropic women to direct some of their resources toward gender equality political action. “Philanthropy does effect the fringes of how some ideas get started, but the real substantial things happen when the government gets involved.”
Heisman cautioned, though, that NPT’s intent is not to direct donors in giving in any way. “Donors come to us from all different arenas and political points of view,” she said. “I’m in a different position [at NPT] where my personal points of view are really not important. I really have to stay out of that public discourse, and it’s hard sometimes.”
The Potential Chilling Effect of the New Tax Law on Small Nonprofits
I offered Heisman a chance to comment on the effects of the Trump tax laws on charitable giving, particularly the laws which took away the charitable giving deduction for a certain segment of the middle class. “I think small gifts to charities are going to decrease,” said Heisman. “The question is how much. You need two or three or four years of data points to see a trend. Maybe by that time, the tax laws will change back to being more reasonable relative to giving.”
“Another trend is even scarier,” added Heisman. “Twenty million fewer households are giving in the US, but giving is going up. So the wealthier are giving the lion’s share of the gifts in the US and regular everyday households are already giving less. Then we add the tax law change,” said Heisman, and suggested that the new tax law will likely even further exacerbate the trend of reduced giving from small donors and increased giving from the ultra-rich.
“Do we want giving in the US to be only the domain of the ultra wealthy? I think no,” said Heisman. She sees philanthropy’s definition as tied to the definition of a democracy in which people can use charitable giving to organize at the grassroots to improve their communities. “I think the idea that fewer people are giving is concerning,” she said, “And if I were running a small human services charity in a community, I would be concerned right now.”
Heisman described a dynamic whereby high net worth givers get cultivated by hospitals, universities, and research institutions and end up giving large sums in that direction. Meanwhile, small charities have a hard time accessing wealthy individuals, so there is a big division between the haves and the have-nots in how this plays out.
“This is going to be the first time people are trying these new regulations on,” said Heisman. “There’s been a big push on Capitol Hill to have a universal deduction, where people get to deduct every charitable gift regardless of where they stand for income. If I had my wish as a policy maker, that’s what I would be promoting.”
So much of what I worry about with corporate philanthropy is just how much it is used to grease the pill, so to speak, of the public swallowing all the damage that corporations do in the world. Corporate philanthropy asks us to believe, for example, that Nike cares about gender equality, even as much of its subjugation of labor in developing countries puts added pressure on women as both workers and providers, with very little given in wages in return.
The book makes a convincing argument that many corporations are not coming at gender equality in their philanthropy with a genuine interest in changing the circumstances for women. It also shows how much corporations continue to apply pressure to women’s lives, sometimes by demanding that they don’t have children so that they can put work first on their life agenda, or convincing women to take loans and enter into small business, even though they lack the supports and the know-how to ensure that the business has the best chance of success.
I would recommend that anyone interested in women’s empowerment read Moeller’s book, to recognize that the agenda for women’s equality can be seriously skewed by corporate interests.
While we continue to highlight and encourage corporate giving for women and girls here at Philanthropy Women, Moeller’s book helped me develop a more critical eye for where the corporate pressure for profits might be bleeding into the corporate do-goodism.
Similarly, in a recent issue of the New Yorker, Moeller has an essay called The Ghost Statistic that Haunts Women’s Empowerment.With this essay, Moeller brings much of her argument from the book into a more succinct narrative. She questions how one particular statistic came to be: the statistic that says that when women have control of money, they give 90% of it to their children and community. According to the essay, the reliability of this statistic is non-existent, which begs the question of how much we need to do in order for the data on women to become more detailed, validated, and replicated, in order to prove its value.
But Moeller also makes another valuable point. Even if the statistic is true, is that necessarily the recipe for a robust global economy? If women tend to give much of what they have away, how will they accumulate the capital necessary to sustain and grow business ventures? And will they end up in situations where they are simply the conduit for money that goes into the hands of more powerful and controlling entities in their families and communities?
Moeller’s book is provocative and in league with other sharp critiques of philanthropy circulating these days including Anand Giridharadas’Winners Take All and Edgar Villanueva’sDecolonizing Wealth. It’s a must-read for feminist philanthropists who want to take an approach to their work that will truly transform lives and avoids replicating, or further empowering, subjugating corporate systems.
The “Global Financing Facility” (GFF) might not be a familiar name for some in the U.S. philanthropy world, but it ranks among the most important organizations in the ongoing fight for global gender equality. Recently, GFF made a big pledge that is particularly noteworthy for its public/private collaboration, and for its attention to women. GFF is an international organization supported by the World Bank Group, and dedicated to improving the health of the planet’s most impoverished women and children.
In early November, the GFF held a conference, or “Replenishment Event,” in Oslo, Norway. The meeting was hosted by the governments of Norway and Burkina Faso in conjunction with the World Bank Group and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Fourteen donors, including national governments of various sizes, foundations, and multilateral institutions pledged over one billion dollars to improve the health of mothers and children in the world’s poorest countries. The Government of Norway ($360 million) and the Gates Foundation ($200 million) were the two largest donors. The United States did not contribute to the Replenishment Event, nor has it provided any support to the GFF to date.
The Global Financing Facility was founded in 2015 as a mechanism to help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal of ending preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths by 2030. It currently operates in 27 countries, 19 of which are in Africa. The GFF’s mandate is to address the greatest health and nutrition issues affecting women, children and adolescents in the world’s poorest nations. It emphasizes partnerships with countries, civil society organizations, financiers, multilateral bodies and the private sector in funding healthcare systems.
The GFF aims to improve outcomes long-term, as opposed to spending on stop-gap emergency measures which are often not sustained. To this end, not only were there pledges from wealthy countries and foundations at the Oslo conference, the African nations of Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire committed to increasing their health spending by 15% annually, while Nigeria recommitted to its $150 million yearly investment in health and nutrition targeting women, children and adolescents.
The billion dollars pledged is expected to link to an additional $7.5 billion in funds from the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD). GFF calculates that the billion-dollar commitment represents roughly half of what it needs to expand its efforts to finance healthcare in 50 of the world’s lowest income nations, and make progress in meeting the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal on maternal, newborn and child deaths.
The GFF’s boost to health financing in poor countries is three pronged: (i) develop a plan that prioritizes a strong primary health care system and reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health and nutrition; (ii) strengthen a country-led platform that unites key stakeholders around a health and nutrition plan; (iii) work with countries to direct resources at the most vulnerable populations in the hardest-to-reach regions.
The need is great, as over two billion people live in countries that spend less than $25 per capita on health yearly. This lack of healthcare funds has serious consequences: 450,000 children under five die unnecessarily every month, and 830 women die every day from pregnancy and child-birth related complications. The GFF notes that in 50 countries around the world, over five million mothers and children die from preventable conditions due to a lack of resources. The GFF is promoting increased spending on health, but also ensuring that the spending is targeted, and that outcomes are measurable.
The GFF quotes Melinda Gates, who notes the ripple effect generated by increased health care spending on women and children in the Global South: “Healthy women, children and adolescents contribute to a virtuous cycle. With health comes the ability to go to school and learn, which helps people prosper as adults, who are then able to raise empowered children who continue the cycle. That’s why the GFF is such a great investment.”
After leading the DAFNA Fund in Israel for over 15 years, Hamutal Gouri has written an overview of how we can grow funding for feminist philanthropy and accelerate social change that is both inclusive and fair, and that engages the larger systems of government in new ways.
In the article, Gouri calls on leaders invested in Israel to do more to safeguard human rights and equality, which are under threat from growing religious and nationalist extremes. She then outlines the unequal status of women in Israel before offering her vision of the future steps needed. The article considers the particular concerns of Israel, including specific religious, security, and social justice contexts of the nation.
From the article:
Women comprise 51 per cent of Israel’s population, yet according to the Gender Index published by the WIPS Center at Van Leer Institute, the gender gap in Israel remains steady in most areas of life. Less than 30 per cent of Knesset members are women; only three out 19 government ministers are women and only 2 per cent of mayors and heads of local and regional councils. Women in Israel still earn up to 32 per cent less for the same work as men, are more exposed to abusive employment practices and comprise 54.6 per cent of people living in poverty.
While these numbers are true for other countries around the world, women in Israel face two unique challenges: coping with the lack of separation between religion and State and living in a violent conflict zone. While the former accounts for the exclusion of women from public spaces and the subjugation of their rights and welfare to conservative religious laws and practices, the latter accounts for our exclusion from political discourse and decision-making on issues of peace and security.
In this political climate, the leadership qualities and unique assets of women who could offer a gendered lens on society and the conflict are often undervalued. Yet there is a great deal of evidence that the active participation of women in public and political life serves to build stronger societies and economies, especially when the voices of diverse women are heard in policy formation and decision-making.
The article also describes the growth of intersectional approaches in Israel, which have helped to connect diverse organizations that share a commitment to gender equality. The steps that Gouri outlines are vividly articulated and align well with other visions of feminist philanthropy. While the steps outlined are specific to the needs of Israel, they can also provide guidance to other nations or organizations that are looking to grow a more feminist approach to their work.
In her seven steps to funding the feminist ecosystem, Gouri calls on the Israeli community to jointly strategize for action with diverse stakeholders, increase engagement of state agencies, learn from the work on the ground, apply a gender lens, get more political, take risks with big gifts for promising approaches, and have a vision that extends beyond short-term fixes. Read the full article at Fathom Journal.