There is nothing quite like women’s networks to help make rapid-response grants. In an environment where women’s rights are being threatened by atrocious plans such as the Trump administration’s proposed ending of the Violence Against Women Act, we need more women’s networks to come forward like the Women Donors Network and push for increased funding to fight back.
Now, the Emergent Fund, of which the Women Donors Network is a founding member, has announced its next wave of rapid-response grants to community-based organizations resisting the Trump Administration’s regressive policies. This brings the total of grants already issued by the Emergent Fund to $500,000.
Ever wonder why progress for gender equity remains incremental, and constantly faces regression? Well, it might have something to do with our institutions being so entrenched in patriarchy that they aren’t able to effectively carry out a gender equality agenda.
That appears to be the argument of an open letter from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and 25 MENA Women Civil Society Organizations, sent to UN Secretary-General António Guterres. The letter cites a of a growing lack of trust in the Security Council throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). To counter this lack of credibility and action, the group of women’s civil society NGO’s is proposing bold measures “to advance women’s rights and set the UN back on track as an Organization that works for the common interests of our shared humanity.”
“Today, there are more than 40 million smartphones in Iran and a million more are added every month,” said Firuzeh Mahmoudi, executive director of United for Iran (U4I). Today, Mahmoudi announced that he and his organization are planning to make those smartphones into powerful tools of self-agency for marginalized women. “Given all of these regressive efforts by Iran’s rulers to limit the rights of women, they still fail to understand that technology and social media apps will continue to expand the boundaries of what is socially acceptable in Iranian society. This is why Toranj has the potential to be such a vital tool for Iranian women.”
Today, United for Iran, a Bay-Area NGO working to promote civil liberties and civil society in Iran, and NetFreedom Pioneers, a nonprofit committed to expanding information accessibility, announced the launch of Toranj, an app to increase safety for domestic violence survivors and help them access legal and health services.
On a bright April Thursday morning in New York City, David Callahan and Emmett Carson took each other on in a “spirited debate” about the future of philanthropy. In particular, they differed in opinion about whether there are dangers to the lack of transparency and accountability for the new billionaire class.
Discussion time was given to some very rich (no pun intended) topics, including the influence of philanthropy on health care. Callahan discussed a section from his book that shows how right-wing billionaires have essentially used philanthropy to ensure that they win court battles, such as the court battle which allowed states to opt out of Obamacare. This is the kind of civic inequality that Callahan calls out in The Givers as a dangerous new way philanthropy can be used for political gain.
“Thousands of people died because of that court decision. And people are still dying. That’s the hard edge of political philanthropy today,” said Callahan. Callahan also referenced the rising size of right wing billionaire money arsenals to carry out civic agendas, such as the Koch brothers fortune, which has grown to over $80 billion, and the Waltons fortune, which is now estimated at $150 billion.
Carson opened with a more personal approach to discussing the topic. He referenced a changing dynamic in the donor-grantee relationship, where donors want to be partners with the organizations they fund, infusing their knowledge on a topic into the philanthropy strategy. He compared the old way of donors and grantees relating to his step-daughter having a health issue and being prescribed a remedy by the doctor and his wife being told, “Call me if she turns purple.” He suggested that today, people like his wife take a much more partnering approach to medicine, questioning the doctor and choosing which medication to accept. Similarly in philanthropy, Carson suggested, donors now expect to have more input into how problems are treated.
Callahan kept his focus on the real changes in trends for philanthropy, noting a recent shift in alumni giving where larger gifts to universities are rising while gifts from middle class alumni have dropped. Carson questioned whether this trend might be partially the result of middle class people see the very rich making the big donations, and figure that their alum school does not need their small donation.
Carson again took a personal approach to discussing the issue and differentiated how he makes his own alumnus donations to maximize impact. As both a graduate of Princeton University and Morehouse College, Carson said he gives a minimal donation to Princeton and the maximum donation he can to Morehouse, because the smaller college needs it more, and its history as a black liberal college is particularly important to him.
Callahan made the case that it is time for a major revisiting of the charitable tax code, noting that it was last revisited in 1969, and “a lot has changed since then. Since then we’ve have seen the rise of massive ideological infrastructure — on the left and right — and fueling this infrastructure is a growing flow of tax deductible dollars,” said Callahan.
“Democracy is tough stuff,” Carson said emphatically, as a prelude to his arguments for why donors still need privacy. He argued that forcing all philanthropic donations to be disclosed could cause many people to opt out of philanthropy, for fear of repercussions from groups that oppose the work they support.
Moderator Ana Oliveira spoke about the need for philanthropy to look more closely at gender issues, and how philanthropy is only just beginning to recognize how the sector itself is impacted by gender inequality.
“There hasn’t been enough shift in purpose of [philanthropic] giving to address issues confining to the lives of women,” said Oliveira, President of the New York Women’s Foundation. Oliveira asked the speakers to comment on philanthropy to invest more in understanding how gender plays a role in reducing opportunity, and to do more strategically to bridge this gender opportunity gap.
David Callahan spoke to the frustration that some women donors in couples feel when their male partner gets all the credit for their hard work. And he briefly discussed the way women are known for being “super networkers,” referencing Women Moving Millions as an example of an extraordinary women’s philanthropy network.Read More
Big News: The NoVo Foundation has narrowed down the scope of its focus for its $90 million in funding to empower girls of color, and the funder is now seeking regional partners to provide support to community agencies doing work for gender equality. NoVo is currently opening up RFP applications for community-based organizations in the U.S. Southeast to get grants for helping girls of color.
This decision was based on the outcome of a year-long listening tour across the country with girls of color, movement leaders, and organizers. During that time, NoVo employed its strategy of getting feedback and solutions directly “defined and driven by girls and women of color” in order to maximize impact for this population.
Am I being watched by the government? Am I the kind of activist/writer who might get detained and questioned at the US border? Across the world, activists and social justice leaders are asking themselves scary questions about what the many repressive events of recent days portend for their safety and security, and for political struggle worldwide.
A new report from the Transnational Institute (TNI) in Amsterdam makes the point that civil society may be shrinking in the coming years, as we face increasing barriers to movement-building from government.
The report was created by a group of eight authors, and also several organizations including “Palestine Link, Women Peacemaker Program, Un Ponte Per, AWID, Africans Rising for Justice, and Peace and Development,” as valuable contributors.
The report cites the recent attempts to suppress Black Lives Matter, as well as the “the criminalization of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement” as examples of activism facing repressive action from “states, corporations and the Far Right.”
This report raises important concerns that are central to the cause of gender equality, and to issues related to how and where women fund social movements. In particular, the report cites donors having higher levels of “risk aversion and securitization,” which will result in “limiting or withdrawal of funding available for both grassroots activism and marginalized causes.” Instead, donors will be more inclined to favor larger, less politicized organizations that are seen as “safer.”
From the report:
The current emergency has been a long time in the making. But only recently has it galvanized a concerted response by organized ‘civil society’, which is now mobilizing to understand and counter what is termed ‘shrinking space,’ a metaphor that has been widely embraced as a way of describing a new generation of restrictions on political struggle. The concept of space itself has different definitions depending on who you talk to. Some understand it as limited to space to influence policy (a seat at the table) while others understand its meaning as political space to organize, to operate, to have a legitimate voice, to protest and to dissent. The former tends to depoliticize contestations while the latter is empowering them. These distinctions concerning how ‘space’ is conceived will shape the type of response warranted, with important implications for who engages in that space and how.
This paper attempts to deconstruct the ‘shrinking space’ narrative by explaining what it means and unpacks some of the problems inherent in the concept. It also considers who is most affected by ‘shrinking space’, and why; where the trend is headed; how it relates to the other dominant paradigms of the 21st century; and how progressive social movements may respond.