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.
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.”
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.”
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 “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.
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.
Today, in recognition of International Day of the Girl, the Obama Foundation has announced the launch of a new initiative that will empower adolescent girls around the world through education.
The initiative aims to support more than 1,500 grassroots organizations around the world that reduce barriers to education for girls such as early marriage, limited access, and lack of financial resources.
Michelle Obama appeared on the Today Show to make the announcement, emphasizing that “The stats show that when you educate a girl, you educate a family, a community, a country.”
As feminist strategies in philanthropy continue to grow, new organizations are being created to serve the needs of this sector. Among these new organizations is the Secret Sisterhood, founded by Australian entrepreneur and philanthropist Jacquie Love. Launched in the second half of 2017, the enterprise reports already having 40,000 women in its network.
Along with creating jewelry that celebrates gender equality and women’s leadership, the Secret Sisterhood conducts “philanthropic journeys” — travel events in the developing world that offer women an opportunity to see first-hand how philanthropy can aid in gender equality movements. The journeys have four aims — empowering female entrepreneurs in developing nations, reducing human trafficking, eliminating violence against women, and providing education for girls.