US Plays Hostile, Obstructive Role at UN, More of Same Likely in 2020

Editor’s Note: This opinion piece was written by Barbara Crossette of PassBlue and was originally published on November 26, 2019.

It did not take long after the 74th General Assembly session opened this fall for the Trump team to signal that its strategy in key United Nations meetings would be to act as uncooperative and obstructive as possible, especially on human-rights agendas.

Valerie Huber, a senior adviser to the Department of Health and Human Services, is one of the UN delegates appointed by Trump who is working to restrict reproductive health care for women. (Image credit: Youtube Point of View talk show)

The 2019-2020 UN year — September to September — is likely to be remembered as eventful. It includes the 25th anniversaries of two landmark international conferences that greatly advanced the rights of women, making those gains targets of Republican politicians in Washington, D.C. Plans are being made to celebrate the UN’s 75 birthday next autumn, with much uncertainty surrounding American financial and political commitments to the organization.

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Feminist Giving In the News

We’ve started a new feature here at Philanthropy Women called Feminist Giving in the News. This service combs through the news online to find all the stories that are relevant to the evolving world of feminist funding and women-led approaches to social change, both in the for-profit and nonprofit realms.

With its Feminist Giving In the News articles, Philanthropy Women will be sharing more news on the ripple effects of gender lens giving and investing.

These posts will be interspersed with our original journalism on feminist giving, and will likely add up to about five new posts a week. To start off, here our first two weeks of top stories for Feminist Giving In the News:

“Olympics and Women” Launches in China with Support from Visa

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What Can $20 Million Do For Women’s Funds Internationally?

Four private U.S. Foundations—Foundation for a Just Society, Open Society Foundations, Wellspring Philanthropic Fund, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation —have recently announced that they are joining forces to provide $20 million to women’s funds internationally.

BANGKOK, THAILAND: Neeramol Sutipannapong, a home-based worker, stitches a variety of hand bags and other products to help support her family. (Hewlett Foundation “Images of Empowerment.” Photo by Reportage by Getty Images.)

The $20 million investment was designed in consultation with women’s funds, and the five-year initiative will help the funds maximize their impact in promoting gender equity. “The resources of philanthropies have not always reached enough feminist activists, who we know are leading social change and driving gender equity. To solve this problem, we need to democratize philanthropy,” says Joy Chia, program officer with the Women’s Rights Program at Open Society Foundations. “This means putting more resources in the hands of women’s funds, who are well-placed to equip feminist movements, advocates, and innovators in the field with the tools to sustain change.”

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The Legacy of Jennifer Schlecht and the Tragedy of her Loss

The global reproductive rights community is reeling with the tragic and untimely death of Jennifer Schlecht on November 6, 2019. A devoted and dedicated friend to women and girls everywhere, Schlecht had spent her entire career fostering family planning efforts for women across the globe. In recent years, she directed special attention to the need to provide family planning services for women drawn into humanitarian crises.

Jennifer Schlecht with her daughter Abaynesh. The child’s name means “you are the Nile” in Amharic. (Photo credit: Women’s Refugee Commission)

In April of 2018, Jennifer Schlecht took a new position as Senior Advisor on Emergency Preparedness and Response at Family Planning 2020. For Family Planning 2020, housed under the umbrella of United Nations Foundation’s activities, Schlecht collaborated with CARE on these issues as well as the Inter-Agency Working Group on Reproductive Health in Crisis.

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Finding Comfort in Solitude: Natalie Deehan-Clark

Editor’s Note:  This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Natalie Deehan-Clark, U.S. Communications Coordinator at the Center for Renewable Energy and Appropriate Technology for the Environment (CREATE!). From 2017-2018, Natalie traveled the world solo to explore sustainable solutions and community empowerment in developing countries. Natalie values storytelling as a catalyst for social change, particularly for equality and sustainability movements. 

Natalie Deehan-Clark, U.S. Communications Coordinator at the Center for Renewable Energy and Appropriate Technology for the Environment (CREATE!)

1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in college that you now know?

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Calling All Movement Makers: This Global Women’s NGO Needs You!

The Women’s Global Education Project (WGEP) is challenging every philanthropist and feminist to “Become a Movement Maker.”

WGEP’s one-million-dollar campaign will enable 20,000 girls in remote areas of East and West Africa to get an education. WGEP notes that despite recent gains, women still comprise two-thirds of the world’s illiterate population, and are less likely than boys to attend school. In rural Africa, the situation is particularly bad: only 15 percent of girls graduate from high school.

Credit: Women’s Global Education Project

In its “Become a Movement Maker” campaign, WGEP is appealing to all sectors of the philanthropy community, particularly women donors and family foundations. According to WGEP, Movement Makers “will embark on an exclusive insider’s journey of our growth efforts, culminating with a global celebration in Kenya in the spring of 2021.”

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Women’s Foundation of California Celebrates 40 Years of Social Change

On October 17th, 2019, the Women’s Foundation of California (WFoC) celebrated its fortieth anniversary with a major announcement: the organization pledged $40 million to gender justice, and began its groundbreaking campaign to raise the funds to facilitate another forty years of gender justice grantmaking.

Surina Khan, CEO of the WFoC, celebrates her 5-year anniversary as CEO alongside the Foundation’s 40th birthday. (Photo credit: Women’s Foundation of California)

Less than a month later, the WFoC is more than halfway to its goal of $40 million. This stunning fundraising effort is the result of a steadfast community of donors, supporters, and activists, which the Foundation has built over forty years of campaigning for social change.

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Magic Awaits: Swatee Deepak on Girl-Led Change

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Swatee Deepak, director of With and For Girls (WFG), a collective that gives financial support to girl-led and -centered groups around the world and engages young women in participatory grantmaking panels.

Swatee Deepak (courtesy of Swatee Deepak)

What is your current greatest professional challenge?

How to best support mergers in the philanthropic sector adhering to the same values and care we place across our work.   

With and For Girls was initially incubated within a private foundation, Stars Foundation. In 2018, as a collective, we worked together with adolescent girls to identify a new home and chose Purposeful. What followed was a merger of WFG from Stars to Purposeful. Progressive philanthropy is filled with discussions about shifting power. Here we are, a funder collaborative, working globally across the global north and south and made up of established funders now being held by a grassroots-based organization with headquarters in Sierra Leone. 

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VIVA Girls: How MADRE Funds Girls on the Margins

Around the world, girls and teens are exposed to violence, environmental devastation, societal exclusion and harm, and other difficulties. MADRE is an international women’s rights organization that typically partners with women-led groups dealing with war and disaster. It is now stepping up to specifically support girls’ growth as they face diverse challenges through a new grantmaking program: VIVA Girls.

Girls from Columbia working with MADRE. (photo credit: MADRE)

With a focus on listening to and uplifting girls’ voices and solutions, MADRE wants to reach “girls from marginalized communities who endure many forms of discrimination; what some people would call ‘girls on the last mile,’” Executive Director Yifat Susskind says. Susskind offered us insights into how VIVA Girls works. MADRE plans to devote about $3 million to this initiative during the next three years.

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Leadership for a Changing World: Mary Robinson at #WomenFunded

Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, provided the keynote address for Women Funding Network’s conference, Leadership for a Changing World, held in San Francisco in September. With a message of urgency about our climate crisis combined with a call for more women’s leadership, Robinson brought the audience to their feet with applause for her words.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – September 12 – Mary Robinson and Melanie Allen attend Women’s Funding Network Conference and VIP Reception with Former President of Ireland Mary Robinson on September 12th 2019 at Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco, CA (Photo – Susana Bates for Drew Altizer Photography)

“Unless women take leadership in dealing with the climate crisis, then all the other issues, and I fully believe in the intersectionality of all the other issues, but all the other issues will actually fade, because we won’t have a livable world for our children and grandchildren,” said Robinson. “It’s as simple as that, and as stark as that, and as real as that, and that’s why it’s so important that women are now taking that leadership.”

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