MacKenzie’s Pledge: Leaders Driving Change to Fix Inequality

Last June, MacKenzie Bezos (now MacKenzie Scott)’s $37 billion divorce settlement made headlines — as did her signing of the Giving Pledge, committing to give away at least 50% of her wealth while still alive.

MacKenzie Scott has pledged to donate at least 50% of her wealth within her lifetime. (Image Credit: The Giving Pledge)

This $18.5 billion commitment bodes well for philanthropy (although the true 50-50 split that was rumored would have boosted that number to something like $69 billion for MacKenzie and $34.5 billion for philanthropy). To date, MacKenzie appears to be putting her money where her mouth is when it comes to fulfilling the Giving Pledge.

On July 28, MacKenzie published a list of her contributions to 116 nonprofits around the world. This list is exciting not only because of her deep-set and clear commitment to feminist philanthropy, but because a number of the nonprofits and NGOs on MacKenzie’s list are organizations we’ve worked with here at Philanthropy Women.

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How is COVID-19 Impacting Justice for Women?

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.

Image Credit: IDLO

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.

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What Melinda Gates Says, and Doesn’t Say, About Women in COVID

“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.

(Image Credit: Oladimeji Odunsi at Unsplash)

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.

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Merck Seeks Grantees to Improve U.S. Childbirth Safety


Americans often think of high childbirth mortality rates as a problem plaguing low-income countries, but U.S. maternal mortality rates, particularly for African American and Native women, are high. Merck for Mothers’ “Safer Childbirth Cities” initiative is combating this trend, and its latest call for proposals is expanding its efforts beyond its initial ten-city cohort.

Merck for Mothers has issued an important new report on maternal mortality called “Insights from the States Report.” (Image Credit: Merck for Mothers)

While the U.S. maternal mortality rate is substantially lower than most countries of the Global South, according to the World Health Organization, the U.S. maternal death rate of 19 deaths per 100,000 live births it is substantially higher than Canada (10 per 100,000), the United Kingdom (7), Japan (5), Spain (4) and Italy (2). Countries comparable to the U.S. include Russia (17), Turkey (17) and Romania (19). Moreover, the U.S. is the only high-income country with a rising level of maternal mortality.

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Heidi Gonzalez: “Every Day is an Opportunity to Do Better”

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Heidi Gonzalez, Executive Director of Adoptions From The Heart (AFTH). In addition to her duties as the new Executive Director, Heidi is the Regional Supervisor of Wynnewood, PA, Allentown, PA, and Wilmington, DE for AFTH.

Heidi Gonzalez is the Executive Director of Adoptions From The Heart, the first open adoption agency on the East Coast. (Image Credit: AFTH)

1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

I never really thought about it. In fact, I take each day as it comes. I try not to look back and get caught up in a “woulda shoulda coulda” mentality. Instead, I focus on the future and what I can do to improve my agency and myself. Every profession has its challenges: it’s all in how you handle them, and if I don’t think I did a bang up job the first time, I try to look at where I made mistakes and try to correct them the next time. Every day is an opportunity to do better–so that’s what I aspire to do.

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Liveblog: Funding to End Violence Against Women of Color

Kiersten Marek, editor and publisher of Philanthropy Women, opened up today’s webinar, “Funding to End Violence Against Women of Color,” with a welcome to the speakers and audience.

She introduced the webinar with a discussion on the idea behind Philanthropy Women. Partially inspired by NoVo Foundation’s bold commitment of $90 million in funding for women and girls of color in 2016, Philanthropy Women launched in January of 2017 to cover this kind of intersectional feminist giving approach and others like it. However, with NoVo’s recent shuttering of programs for women and girls of color, the funding landscape for addressing domestic violence against women of color is facing some big changes.

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UAF Launches COVID Crisis Fund For Feminist Activists

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, feminist activists, institutions, and individuals around the world need immediate access to funding and other forms of support. Many aid packages have already been deployed to the people who need them most, but some other lesser-known populations are in danger of falling by the wayside.

Kate Kroeger, Executive Director of the Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights (UAF). (Image Credit: UAF)

One of these groups of vulnerable people includes feminist activists: people who have lost their jobs or livelihoods yet are still fighting for protection and social change. In the midst of a pandemic, these rights battles can’t simply be put aside.

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Support for Women Business Owners from Your Friends in New York

In the midst of so much chaos and uncertainty, it’s inspiring when companies gather their resources to support small business. Through its upcoming project Your Friends in New York, apparel brand Pyer Moss has announced $10,000 in PPE funding and $100,000 in funding for women- and minority-owned small businesses through the Your Friends in New York Business Relief Fund. Grants from the fund will be presented to creative-based businesses struggling to stay open in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

Your friends in New York
Fashion brand Pyer Moss announced the launch of the Your Friends In New York Business Relief Fund. (Image Credit: Pyer Moss)

“For our friends with independent businesses,” wrote Pyer Moss in an Instagram announcement on March 18. “We are setting aside $50,000 for minority and women owned small creative businesses who are currently in distress. If you cannot make payroll or cannot cover pressing costs to keep your business afloat, please reach out, let us know what you do and how we can help.”

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Celebrate Dignity for All with #PledgeYourPeriod

At first, Megha Desai thought there was no way girls and women would take to social media to tell stories about their first periods. But as education, dignity, and confidence grew in a small town in India, the local women and girls surprised her.

Megha Desai, President of the Desai Foundation. (Image Credit: Desai Foundation)

Four years ago, the Desai Foundation held an awareness campaign about menstrual health and hygiene in the small town of Untdi, Gujarat–the village Desai’s father grew up in.

“We had all these signs laid out on tables, saying things like ‘Happy to Bleed,’ ‘Proud to be a Woman,’ and ‘Proud of my Womanhood,” remembers Desai, President of the Desai Foundation. “I looked at those signs and I thought, ‘Nobody is going to hold these signs up. We’re in a tiny little village where no woman would talk about her period. But by the end of the campaign, the women and girls were so confident and proud that they posed for pictures with these signs. It blew me away. I thought to myself, if these girls in this little village can hold these signs and pledge their periods, then we ought to be able to do that, too.”

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Gates Leaders on COVID: Liveblogging New IUPUI Series

On May 21st, attendees gathered for IUPUI’s first webinar in the Perspectives on Philanthropy Discussion Series. The series asks, “As we search for context in our transforming world, what role does philanthropy play? Broadly understood to encompass the human voluntary spirit, philanthropy is responding in a variety of ways to the current global crisis today. How is it doing and what role will it have in the world that is emerging?”

Gates leaders on COVID
Jennifer Alcorn and Victoria Vrana were the first guests on the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy’s new discussion series, Perspectives on Philanthropy. (Image Credit: IUPUI)

Today’s webinar started with an introduction from Amir Pasic of IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. The morning’s guests were Jennifer Alcorn (Deputy Director, Philanthropic Partnerships) and Victoria Vrana (Deputy Director, Giving By All) of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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