Feminist philanthropy is designed to change the world.
Sometimes it works slowly, dollar by dollar, woman by woman and girl by girl, as we each come to realize that there are issues in this world we strongly disagree with — issues that we can take a stand against. In other cases, feminist philanthropy finds huge momentum in large-dollar donations, and campaigns leap forward with the assistance of celebrity women and female pioneers who hold significant amounts of the world’s wealth.
The rights of women, girls, and LGBTQA+ people around the world are once again coming into question, based on countries’ like the U.S.’s reluctance to commit to championing those rights in the United Nations.
On May 27, 2019, the Women’s UN Report Network (WUNRN) drafted an open letter to United Nations representatives, urging the protection of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) session scheduled for later this year.
The 23-person field vying for the Democratic nomination for president includes six women: Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand, Tulsi Gabbard and Marianne Williamson. Two of them (Harris and Warren) are seen as having decent odds of taking the nomination, while Klobuchar is a potential dark horse.
But will these women be torpedoed by press coverage that holds them to a different standard than their male counterparts? The women’s advocacy organization UltraViolet Action says that is a very real danger, and decries the sexist coverage so far exhibited by the mainstream media.
On May 9th, during the final stop of the tour for Melinda Gates’ new book, The Moment of Lift, audience members in Seattle got a surprise video visit from former President Barack Obama.
In an introductory speech that shocked Melinda herself, her husband Bill Gates revealed that he had been unsure how best to introduce Melinda for the most important event of her tour, so he began “secretly scheming” with the former President to decide on the best method — and posted their “brainstorming” session on Twitter.
Recently I read a post on PRI.org by Rupa Shenoy entitled “The US movement against female genital mutilation is at a crossroads,” which discusses how laws to prevent FGM are developing and facing challenges in the US. The article is very informative about the status of the issue at this time, and helps to explore different ways to address the problem including community education and prevention efforts.
A salient point was made by one of the experts interviewed for the article, Mariya Taher, one of the co-founders of the anti-female genital mutilation advocacy group Sahiyo. With regard to the doctor who performed the genital cutting surgery that was the subject of a federal prosecution on FGM, and who justifies the act as part of a cultural practice, Taher said:
In 2008, over half a million women died from complications stemming from pregnancy and childbirth. After ten years of campaigning, maternal mortality rates have dropped, but as of 2018 there are still more than 300,000 deaths attributed to maternal mortality each year. By the numbers, a woman dies from maternal health issues every two minutes. Over the course of a one-hour seminar, that’s thirty childbirth-related deaths.
And the worst part? Most of these deaths are easily preventable with modern medicine.
Founded in 2010 by Christy Turlington Burns, Every Mother Counts is a nonprofit organization dedicated to making pregnancy and childbirth safe for everyone around the world.
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.
With the fight to keep abortion safe and legal increasingly under threat, fundraising expert Kathy LeMay of Raising Change recently hosted a webinar with leaders from the National Abortion Federation. The goal of the webinar was to help philanthropists take action to support the abortion providers, during increasingly hostile times for providing these vital services.
Kathy introduced the Very Reverend Katherine Ragsdale, former President of the Episcopal Divinity School and Interim President and CEO of the National Abortion Federation. (Longtime CEO of NAF, Vicki Saporta, who put in 23 years at the helm of NAF, announced her retirement this past year.)
A health care foundation, a nonprofit initiative, and a for-profit health information company are collaborating to get tools, data, and a clinically-validated health information into the hands of pregnant women across the country. Launching in the first half of 2019, Ovia Health will be collaborating with the Delivery Decisions Initiative at Ariadne Labs and the California Health Care Foundation in order to help more women and families navigate pregnancy, birth, and parenting.
Recently Ovia Health announced the new collaboration, which aims to add to the 11 million women and families that the company reports have already used their services. Ovia Health reports that its “enterprise solution for employers and health plans” has a measurable impact on clinical outcomes, reducing maternity costs and providing highly personal and clinically-informed guidance.
One of the main missions of Ovia Health is to help pregnant women avoid unnecessary cesarean section (c-section) operations if they are able to safely deliver the child vaginally. “While a c-section can be critical and even lifesaving in certain circumstances, many women are unaware that it is major surgery that comes with serious health risks and should only be performed when absolutely necessary,” said Stephanie Teleki, PhD, MPH, Director of Learning and Impact at the California Health Care Foundation. “With Ovia Health making these materials available via its platform, millions of moms will be able to make more informed decisions about their pregnancy and childbirth.”
As women’s health intersects with technological advancement, women donors can play an important role by supporting research and initiatives that improve communication with women as patients. These improvements for pregnant women and families can potentially reduce unnecessary surgeries and improve the birth experiences of women everywhere.