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.
The election of Donald Trump has sparked a wave of political activism never seen before, particularly among progressive donors.
According to the Center for Responsive Politic’s data, the top 154 donors spent a combined total of over $700 million this election cycle, with Democrats and progressives spending an estimated total of $327 million in this election, and Republicans and conservatives spending an estimated $350 million.
While the Center for Responsive Politics is reporting that this year’s midterms were by far the most expensive in history, with a large share of that spending coming from the right, another large share of that spending involved progressive women donors opening their wallets to fund the protection of key civil liberties including reproductive rights, health care, and social inclusion.
Taking the most recent data from the Center for Responsive Politics, I’ve parsed out the top women donors to progressive causes and candidates. Most of these women gave with their partners, so their decisions to give to progressive causes likely ranged in terms of how much the giving was driven by one or the other in the partnership. The important point here is that women are getting more influential in political giving, both within couples and independently, and in no other election cycle has that been more evident. Women donated an estimated 36% of the funds that fueled the 2018 midterm elections, and yes, that is a big deal.
TOP 5 WOMEN DONORS TO DEMOCRATIC AND PROGRESSIVE CAUSES AND CANDIDATES
1. Katherine A. Taylor (Kat Steyer): Along with husband Tom Steyer, Kat Steyer contributed over $50.7 million in combined hard and soft money going to Democratic and liberal causes and candidates. Tom and Kat Steyer are the founders of the TomKat Foundation, which focuses heavily on financial inclusion (they also run one of the most progressive banks in the nation lending to those who might not otherwise be able to get capital). Kat Steyer also focuses on food and nutrition and funds FoodCorp, which goes into public schools across the nation to help them improve food quality and teach about nutrition and healthy eating habits.
2. Marilyn Simons: In partnership with her husband, James Simons, Marilyn Simons contributed $18.9 million to progressives and Democrats this election cycle. In their foundation work, Jim and Marilyn Simons focus on science and math as well as issues related to Autism (they have family members who have struggled with Autism).
3. Deborah J. Simon: Ms. Simon gave $8.9 million to Democrats and liberal causes for the midterm elections. The daughter of a real estate company magnate, Ms. Simon chairs the Simon Youth Foundation (www.syf.org), a public charity that operating in 13 states to help at-risk high school students stay in school. Ms. Simon is also the founder of The Deborah Joy Simon Foundation, a private foundation making grants for religious, charitable, scientific, literary, and educational purposes.
4. Cari Tuna: Along with partner Dustin Moskovitz (co-founder of Facebook), Cari Tuna made $6.3 million in donations to Democrats and liberal causes for the midterm elections. Tuna and Moskovitz are the co-founders of Good Ventures, where Tuna oversees the Open Philanthropy Project, which seeks to improve grantmaking with more effectiveness.
It’s an election like no other, with record numbers of women running for office at the local, state, and national levels, and women everywhere becoming activist voters who want to see themselves represented in government.
It’s a great time to be publishing about women’s philanthropy, as more women take on funding nonprofits that are supporting gender equality, not only in the U.S. but also globally. So far this year we’ve seen significant growth in new organizations committing to addressing gender-based violence and education for girls worldwide, including Girls, Inc, the Obama Foundation, and the #MeToo Fund headed by Tarana Burke.
And yet so much more can happen to enlarge gender equality movements, and integrate new awarenesses into our daily lives about how we can treat others with less gender prejudice. Tomorrow, I’m excited to be sponsoring a Safe Conversations workshop for licensed mental health professionals at my offices in Cranston, Rhode Island. This is one way that I am trying to enlarge the gender equality practices that we all have the capacity to change — the ways that we speak to and support one another in our communities.
I will be holding subsequent workshops in Safe Conversations over the coming months. Please contact me if you are interested in enrolling in a future workshop.
According to a new study by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, giving by women to progressive causes after the election of Donald Trump took off like never before. In fact, the study shows that women’s giving to progressive causes outstripped men’s by six-fold.
These findings add significantly to the growing evidence that women are using their financial power to drive political change. More from WPI:
It felt great to fall asleep last night to the sound of rain, and even better to wake up this morning to the news that many women progressives prevailed in the primary elections for this year in Rhode Island. Nearest and dearest to me is the win for Lammis J. Vargas for Ward One City Council in Cranston. Beyond that, Moira Jayne Walsh, Marcia Ranglin-Vassell and Bridget Valverde all prevailed, despite not being nominated by the Democratic party here in Rhode Island, which tends to be heavily pro-life and pro-gun.
We wrote about these candidates here on Philanthropy Women earlier in the campaign season, when it was announced that they would not be receiving the Rhode Island Democratic party’s endorsements. Since Rhode Island is a heavily Democratic state, the endorsements from the Democratic party can go a long way to bringing in key blocks of voters. But this year, it appears that the Democratic endorsements did little to improve the chances of candidates that were seriously deficient. Further, the publicity that Nicholas Mattiello received yesterday (it was reported that Mattiello assigned State House workers to hold signs for Moira Jayne Walsh’s opponent) will go a long way to help voters decide whether they want to keep him in his seat in the next election.
We’re talking about these wins here on Philanthropy Women because there appears to be renewed efforts among gender equality philanthropy donors to recognize the political process as a key area of focus. More organizations, both 501(c)3 and 501(c)4, are being founded to help support women candidates in the process of getting elected. Organizations like Higher Heights and Emerge America are helping to diversify the pool of women who are willing to take the risk of running for office in the United States.
Congratulations to all the women who are willing to dedicate their time to service in public office. You are an inspiration to many of us, and we look forward to seeing how you will reshape America for the better!
One of the wonderful things about publishing on feminist philanthropy is getting to meet the folks on the ground in feminism, the people who are growing the movements that need to happen to make our communities more safe, secure, and inclusive.
I’m happy to share an interview I recently did with The Woman Project, a new 501(c)4 organization that started in South County, Rhode Island, and is looking to build the statewide movement to protect reproductive freedom. The Woman Project currently has the General Assembly in its crosshairs and is pushing to pass a bill that would codify protection of Roe V. Wade into state law.
1. We are curious about who you are and what kind of work that you do; would you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a clinical social worker by day and a feminist philanthropy publisher by night. I believe in the power of women to change the world and try to work toward that end professionally. As a therapist, I specialize in treatment for trauma, particularly for sexual assault. I also specialize a number of other issues including emotional issues related to financial problems and helping foster and adoptive families. I feel it is incumbent upon me to continuously update my toolbox as a change-work practitioner. Most recently, I became certified in hypnotherapy, to help refine my skills in communicating more fully with my clients in order to guide them toward wellness.
2. TWP has been working to pass a bill that codifies Roe V Wade into RI state law. We are interested in the ways that Reproductive Freedom impacts your life and the work that you do?
It is essential to the practice of health care at every level that reproductive freedom is maintained. As a therapist, I am perhaps more aware of this essential nature of reproductive health care because I am privy to the difficult decisions that women and men make regarding reproduction. I see it as part of my job to ensure that we have all options available reproductively.
3. When you think about your community what is something you would like them to know about Reproductive Freedom in RI? Why?
Planned Parenthood does an admirable job of continuing to be a resource for people in Rhode Island who need help with reproductive health care. There are also more options available for women reproductively and they need to be aware of all the options. We need to maintain the current levels of access to reproductive services for all women.
4. What are the best ways in your opinion to educate people about this issue?
I think we need to ask people to look at their own lives and notice the times that reproductive freedom played a critical role in ensuring the safety and well-being of themselves or others. When we are honest about how life works, we know that reproductive freedom is a necessity.