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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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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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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Back to School: Women Donors and Higher Education

Roberta “Bertie” Buffett Elliott, who donated $100 million to fund the Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Studies at Northwestern University, recently visited the campus. (Photo credit: Buffett Institute for Global Studies)

Institutions of higher learning are major recipients of philanthropic gifts, and received donations totaling nearly $47 billion in 2018 (a more than seven percent increase from the year previous). This rise is fueled in part by an increasingly wealthy, educated and philanthropically active group of women who are willing to make big ticket donations to colleges and universities.

Major female donors to higher education have included Roberta “Bertie” Buffett Elliott, who in 2015 gave her alma mater Northwestern University $100 million to fund the Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Studies. The gift from Elliott, a member of Northwestern’s class of 1954, represents the single largest gift in the Evanston, Illinois school’s history.

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#WomenFunded2019: A Finale of Feminist Leadership Fireworks

The final lineup of WFN’s conference Leadership for a Changing World felt like a fireworks finale of feminist brilliance across philanthropy, art, business, and politics. Let’s take a look at these amazing blasts of thought and strategy leadership one at a time.

Whose Story Is It?

Jeanne Bourgault, President and CEO of Internews, and Cristi Hegranes, CEO of Global Press, discuss strategies for increasing women’s representation as media creators and subjects.

Cristi Hegranes, CEO of Global Press and the Publisher of Global Press Journal, and Jeanne Bourgault, President and CEO of Internews, discussed how having more women creating and distributing media can have a significant influence on how we interact with, interpret, and change the world.

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Giving Through Celebration: Batonga Foundation Hosts NYC Benefit

One of the best ways to leverage support for a community is by celebrating its culture. Angélique Kidjo and the Batonga Foundation seek to amplify their campaign for women and girls in West Africa through a one-of-a-kind benefit dinner hosted later this month in New York City.

Angelique Kidjo invites YOU to a night of West African flavor in New York City! (Source: Batonga Foundation)

Kidjo, a three-time Grammy Award-winning singer and musician, was born in Benin and grew up steeped in the rich musical and social culture of West Africa. She attended school at a time when girls’ education was not considered socially acceptable. In answer to taunts from boys in her classes, Kidjo would shout back, “Batonga!,” an invented word that has since translated into Kidjo’s music and philanthropy.

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#WomenFunded2019: Highlights from the First Day

The first day of #WomenFunded2019 just wrapped up. With electrifying energy, the 400 people in attendance today engaged with a wide range of issues and topics. Here are some highlights.

MONEY: Where is the Money Going? How Philanthropists, Corporate Leaders, and Investors are Advancing Gender Equity

The first panel of the day included Kat Taylor, President and CEO of Beneficial Bank, Paulette Senior of the Canadian Women’s Foundation, Pamela Shifman, Executive Director of the NoVo Foundation, Mary Chandler, Vice President of the Cummins Foundation, and Ada Williams Prince of Pivotal Ventures. The panel was moderated by Denise Dunning, Founder and Executive Director of Rise Up.

The panelists spoke from a personal perspective on how they became invested in gender equality. Many spoke of early life experiences of inequality that left a indelible mark. Pamela Shifman, Executive Director of the NoVo Foundation, shared about witnessing domestic violence experiences of friends as a child and young adult and remembered thinking, “This can’t be the reality of so many people I love.”

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The International Battle for Women’s Water Rights

Five years later, the battle for clean water still rages in Flint, Michigan. (Photo Credit: Flint Rising)

Superheroes no longer wear capes: they wear gym shoes. 

A few days before we spoke on the phone, Gina Luster represented Flint Rising at an activist event in San Francisco. A red-eye flight took her to Grand Rapids, Michigan, then to her home in Flint at 7:30 in the morning. Next, Gina drove to Detroit for a panel appearance at the NAACP’s annual conference. She arrived in the city exhausted and ready for a shower before our interview, only to find out she couldn’t check into her hotel. 

Gina took my call from the hotel parking lot, sitting under a tree next to the Detroit River. Despite the insanity of her schedule and the flickering cell phone signal, her attitude was overwhelmingly positive. 

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