This is our first year here at Philanthropy Women, and these our inaugural awards. They go to recipients who have demonstrated exceptional leadership in the field of gender equality philanthropy. These awards draw on the database of Philanthropy Women’s coverage, and are therefore inherently biased toward the people and movement activity we have written about so far. As our database grows each year, we will cover more ground, and have a wider field to cull from for the awards.
Bridge Builders Award for Network and Collaborative Giving Leadership
When I became interested in women’s philanthropy, one of the first questions I wanted to answer was about who started the funding of feminist-strategy giving. It was surprising and disheartening to learn that there were very few accounts of the history of women’s funding for women. So imagine my delight when I heard about the publication of Joan Marie Johnson’s book, Funding Feminism: Monied Women, Philanthropy, and the Women’s Movement, 1870-1967. Her work in creating this history performs the desperately-needed public service of raising the profile of historical women who paved the way for gender equality, and a world where feminist leadership would set higher standards for civil society.
Leaders from eight women’s funds across the country that spearheaded the Young Women’s Initiative received the 2018 Leadership and Diversity Award (LEAD), given by the The Women’s Funding Network at their annual summit, taking place this week in San Francisco.
The New York Women’s Foundation is a 2017 recipient of The Women’s Funding Network’s Leadership and Diversity (LEAD) Award, for launching the first Young Women’s Initiative in partnership with the New York City Council and inspiring similar efforts by women’s foundations across the country.
“We see our members—grass roots organizations—as the experts,” says Emily Bove, Executive Director of the Women Thrive Alliance.
Women Thrive comprises 285 organizations in 53 developing countries. Based in Washington, D.C., Women Thrive supports its member groups in advancing women’s rights globally. “We only work with groups that are engaged in advocacy,” says Bove, citing Women Thrive’s expertise in this area. The other criteria for Women Thrive membership is that the participant organization have female decision-makers at the helm. Given its expansive membership roster and skeleton staff, much of Women Thrive’s work is virtual, including online courses aimed at helping member groups organize around gender and poverty issues.
While Women Thrive prioritizes women’s rights and equal access to education, Bove stresses that all aspects of development are interconnected, and breaking them up into discrete parts is somewhat arbitrary. “Women don’t wake up and say, ‘today my focus is on my child’s education and tomorrow it’s on clean water.’” The goals of women holding political power, controlling their own bodies, receiving fair pay and having access to education are interrelated, and all are key in furthering development.
Women Thrive was founded in 1998; Bove joined the organization in 2014, and has been leading it since 2016. When I spoke to her by phone in late August, she had just returned from a long-delayed visit to her native France. Bove grew up the town of Annecy in the French Alps, attended university in Lyon, obtained a master’s degree in Migration Studies from the U.K.’s University of Sussex, and subsequently came to the U.S. for a graduate exchange program at Georgetown. Along the way, she has worked in Cameroon, the Caribbean, and the Indonesian province of Acheh. “I’ve always been interested in development, but over time found I was increasingly drawn to its connections to women’s rights,” says Bove. Prior to joining the Women Thrive Alliance, Bove worked for the World Bank on climate change issues.
Women Thrive is an umbrella organization, and prospective members typically learn of it from the internet, conferences, and—“most exciting to me,” says Bove—being recruited by current members. While Women Thrive does not engage in direct service or distribute grants, it has provided tailored support to groups in Sierra Leone, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Nigeria. A team from Women Thrive recently returned from the small west African nation of Sierra Leone where it delivered a “Raise Your Voice Workshop” on female genital mutilation. Helping local groups eliminate such practices is a key focus of Women Thrive. The UN has long campaigned against what it has termed “harmful practices” toward women and girls (which, in addition to body mutilation, include early and forced marriages, and “honor” crimes directed at females).
Bove says that one way of pushing governments on issues such as female genital mutilation is to leverage the United Nations’ “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs) which were adopted by 193 countries (including Sierra Leone) in 2015. Of the 17 goals, Women Thrive and its membership are particularly focused on number four (Quality Education) and number five (Gender Equality). Bove argues that “the UN goals can be mechanisms for outlawing genital mutilation.” She notes that advocates in Sierra Leone are increasingly demanding that their leaders fulfill promises they have made regarding outlawing such practices (which were banned in 2014, although enforcement has been lackluster). The workshops that Women Thrive conducted in Sierra Leone aimed to improve female advocacy groups’ messaging, enabling the organizations to better pressure key actors in government and civil society to change attitudes and practices surrounding women’s bodies.
Another aspect of the UN SDGs (which, in addition to education and women’s equality, include goals devoted to reducing poverty, global co-operation, and environmental protection) is their time frame. The goals are to be accomplished by 2030, which, says Bove, goes well beyond the 2 to 3-year periods of many grants and programs. “Long-term processes need to be supported,” she says. “Our development model has failed to do that.” Moreover, one can’t assume that gains in female rights will be maintained over time. Bove cites her experience working in Aceh, the northern Indonesian province devastated by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. “It’s a Sharia-dominated province where women actually had a lot of rights following the tsunami,” she says, “but 10 years later those rights have decreased.”
Women Thrive has never received funding from the U.S. government, counting instead on support from organizations including NoVo Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, New Field Foundation, Imago Dei Fund, and S. Albert Fund at the Philadelphia Foundation, among others. Women Thrive also depends upon “Thrive Ambassadors,” individual donors who leverage their own networks to promote the alliance and its mission.
While Women Thrive is not government-funded, Bove says the U.S. has typically supported empowering women globally. “In the past eight years [prior to the 2016 election], as a U.S.-based organization we could rely on U.S. leadership on these issues.” However, under the current administration, Bove says that “common understanding” has changed, and Women Thrive and like-minded organizations are “back to basics in explaining why supporting women and girls globally is important.” Bove cites a particular example: the latest U.S. delegation to the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women included an explicitly anti-LGBTQI organization (The Center for Family and Human Rights) that has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
A further area of serious concern is the U.S. 2018 fiscal year budget, which proposes reducing the International Affairs Budget by 32 percent, including deletion of the “International Organizations and Programs” line item. Naturally, this would undermine the U.S. commitment to UN Sustainable Development Goals, and other support for women’s rights and development globally. “We are working to find champions to maintain development aid,” says Bove, noting that Women Thrive has been informing members of the Senate and House about how damaging the budget cuts will be to women’s lives. To this end, Women Thrive is putting member organizations directly in touch with lawmakers, and Bove notes that “Members of Congress always seem surprised to hear from women and girls on the ground.”
While the current administration poses a significant threat to women’s rights globally, Bove notes that in the last two decades women have increasingly been acknowledged as central to development efforts. “The agenda of the global women’s movement is being mainstreamed into the fight against poverty,” she says. Finally, female-led grass roots organizations and social movements from around the world are demanding more of their political and institutional leaders, and such increased momentum will likely continue, regardless who occupies the White House.
Editor’s Note: Women Thrive is one of three spotlight organizations for Philanthropy Women. These organizations have been designated by our sponsors for media amplification.Read More
As I continue to survey the landscape of gender equality giving, I am occasionally struck by a particularly effective corporate model for supporting this work. One of the most stunning examples of how corporations can turn their dollars around for the cause of women’s rights is CREDO Mobile, which has been funding gender equality movements for the past three decades.
CREDO Mobile grew out of Working Assets, one of the early corporations to grasp the idea of the potential for funding nonprofits via business. The company started as a long distance provider, and then went into credit cards. One of the company’s first credit card products was a card that generated donations to progressive nonprofits with every use.
Today, CREDO Mobile is led by Ray Morris, who spoke to me from his San Francisco office. Morris has only been CEO of CREDO for a year and a half, but his voice swells with pride and awe at the work CREDO has done, and will continue to do, to fund progressive movements with their business model.
In fact, gender equality accounts for about 11.7% of CREDO’s funding for progressive causes, since the company estimates making a total of $84 million in contributions since its founding, with an estimated $9.9 million of that going to women’s issues. This means CREDO is beating out philanthropy as a whole in its funding of gender equality, since estimates of the percentage of foundation funding going for women and girls range from 5-7%.
How does CREDO do it? “Every month we give $150,000 to 3 groups that are chosen by an internal committee that represents every working department of our company,” said Morris, in a recent interview with Philanthropy Women. These funds go for a wide range of progressive causes, including gender equality nonprofits like Women for Afghan Women, NARAL, and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
In this way, employees of CREDO are actively engaged in decision-making around the company’s giving, and the company’s gender equality giving goes to support a wide range of gender equality nonprofits. CREDO is the largest corporate funder of Planned Parenthood and a significant funder for the Ms. Foundation, the Global Fund for Women, and the Feminist Majority, but it also funds groups doing grassroots work like the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, which takes a multi-dimensional approach to helping women get empowered, from health to education to political involvement. When the National Latina Institute recently presented at CREDO Mobile, Morris said it was a profound experience for him, realizing the power of their work. “It made such an impact on me that I was crying in the background,” he said.
“So from very large to very small, we’re doing everything we can to push into these areas and support women’s empowerment,” he said, which goes beyond reproductive rights and into addressing issues like the wage gap and women in political leadership.
Morris emphasized the value of CREDO’s funding of voter registration and other grassroots activism that impacts political representation, coming back to the point that until we have more women in political leadership, it will be an uphill battle to fund gender equality efforts.
But Morris sees hope for more growth in gender equality funding. “What I find is that everyone is starting to piece it together. Everyone is starting to connect the dots that gender equality in healthcare, pay equality, involvement in the legislative process, is all part of the same story of women’s empowerment.”
“The only way it changes is with more women in the legislative process,” said Morris. “If there were more women involved, would there be having an all-out war on women’s reproductive rights? Probably not.”
So how is CREDO working to get more women into government? By funding nonprofits that take a multidimensional approach.
Morris said that due diligence on that funding is key to the process of closing the political leadership gap. “We ask nonprofits, ‘What are you doing with this money?’ and ‘How have our past grants helped you?” We analyze the data, so that when you see the nonprofits we fund year after year, it’s groups that are highly effective, and groups that are highly effective are generally working in a multidimensional way.”
I thought I’d try picking Morris’s executive brain, so I asked him what he would do if he was the CEO of a foundation that was worth $50 million and made $5 million a year in grants for gender equality. How would he portion out the grants, and would he give more weight to getting women into office?
“I would never pretend to be a high level executive woman. My IQ would likely go up by about 100 points,” he quipped. “But we know for a fact that there are national groups that are good at getting headlines, but are not able to point to real social accomplishments. At the same time, we can point to certain groups and say ‘these people move the ball.’ We’re going to look at organizations that are measurably effective at pushing their agenda.”
Morris gave the question a bit more thought and then added, “My guess is, if I were a high level executive woman at a foundation, I would know that my approach needed to be multidimensional, and so that would include opening clinics in underserved areas, it would include people on the ground knocking on doors to get women voting and running for office. And it would also include finding like-minded people, both men and women in the House and Senate, and helping those people campaign effectively so that we can make those changes in the long term.”
In the age of Trump, let’s hope more corporations take a page from CREDO’s playbook and figure out how to be part of the solution, particularly for gender equality. “We know that no one in the world has enough money to solve these problems,” said Morris. “So we know we’re going to need to influence the larger players of business and government.”
Check out this list of CREDO Mobile’s funding for gender equality to get a full picture of how CREDO is working this terrain.
At CREDO, where I serve as CEO, we are executing an aggressive response to Trump that focuses on protecting vulnerable communities at risk, delegitimizing an unqualified candidate who was opposed by a majority of voters, obstructing Trump’s hateful and aggressive agenda and going on the counterattack wherever possible. Our community of more than 4.7 million CREDO activists is mobilized and already fighting Trump. We know firsthand that individual actions can avalanche into large-scale transformation.
We also contribute more than $150,000 every month to progressive nonprofits from revenue generated by CREDO Mobile, our progressive phone company. That adds up to more than $1.6 million this year and over $81 million over our 30+ years in business.
My top priority is to protect America’s least-privileged and most-vulnerable people. In many ways, I feel like I’ve lived the American dream. I grew up poor with a single mother of four kids. She fought every day to put food on the table and build a better life for us. Thanks to her, I was able to achieve success in engineering and the telecom industry.
That path allowed me to see my own privilege and understand how doors that I walked through in the past were less open for those of different races and ethnicities. I am afraid that even those small openings are slamming shut.
Women in philanthropy: Check out Hala Ayala in Virginia, as part of an inspiring wave of women running for office in the state, which is having its elections this year. Hala Ayala is doing the very important work of standing up for what is right in an environment increasingly hostile to women and immigrants.
In Prince William County, Hala Ayala is hoping to bring her values of empowerment for women and equality for all to Richmond, and at the same time, send home one of Virginia’s leading anti-choice, anti-immigrant delegates.
Collectively, state legislatures passed 288 restrictions on women’s reproductive rights between 2010 to 2015. Now, a new film tells the stories of women’s horrific health experiences, and the imprisonments, both actual and threatened, that are a consequence of these laws.
Birthright: A War Story is a new documentary that exposes the radical religious right’s infiltration state legislatures. This movement’s goal is not only to strike down women’s constitutional right to abortion but also to curb women’s access to birth control. Some seek to put the rights of fetuses above those of women.
If a foundation’s mission is to build more healthy partnerships in the world, what better place to start than with their own internal partnerships? In fact, for Peter and Jennifer Buffett of the NoVo Foundation, developing their own partnership as a couple coincided with developing the mission of their foundation, which is to transform relationships across the globe from “domination and exploitation” to “collaboration and partnership.”
I had approached NoVo wanting to talk to either Jennifer or Peter individually, but, apropos of their partnership approach to philanthropy, I got them both. They spoke to me by phone from their home in the Hudson Valley, about two hours north of New York City.
A massive defunding for women’s health care is now under consideration in the United States Senate. All told, it represents billions of dollars annually that will come straight out of primarily women’s wallets.
You may not usually think of the federal government as a philanthropic institution. Yet from our country’s start, congressional acts have subsidized various segments of the population and for a variety of reasons. Take the 1792 Postal Act. A spirited debate went on in the second session of Congress, over maintaining access to information. That Congress voted to create low postal rates for newspapers and to improve roads by creating postal routes to ensure expansion and development of our fledgling country, rather than solely serve existing communities. Americans still benefit from reduced media postal rates today.
The proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) put forth by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the 115th Session is an entirely different matter. It will adversely impact the finances of women – particularly poor women and women of color, and all rural people, especially women. By cutting off funding – just so the wealthy 1% can get tax breaks – American adult women, 126 million strong, will again have to shell out of pocket money for all kinds of basic health care or forego health services, often to the detriment of their own well-being and the well-being of their families. People will die as a result of this bill. The greater proportion of those deaths will be women.
Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, stated it succinctly, “It is outrageous that a group of men are negotiating to make it harder for women to prevent unintended pregnancy, harder to have a healthy pregnancy and harder to raise a healthy child.”
The Impact on Medicaid
The Better Care Reconciliation Act proposes gigantic cuts in Medicaid, rolling back the expansions that were put in place by the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. An estimated $772 Billion will be siphoned off from this program that benefits low income people. This impacts 25 million women in the US, who are 36% of the Medicaid beneficiaries. Their children, under age 18, are another 44% of Medicaid recipients. Over the first 10 years of this proposed bill the deep cuts into medicaid are expected to be 25%, but in the 2nd decade starting after 2027, the cuts go far deeper to 35%.
These Medicaid cuts threaten rural hospitals. Simply, many will close. As a group, 14% of their budgets come through medicaid reimbursements for their services.
Though not named, criteria specifically targets Planned Parenthood for the chopping block, however, at present, only for one year. This vital health service agency provides everything from cancer screenings to birth control. It has historically served one in five women in America. Planned Parenthood would be denied reimbursement, like other health care agencies, for the low income women, who comprise over 50 percent of their patients. In 2015 Planned Parenthood affiliates received $553.7 million in government reimbursements and grants for services. This means some 2.4 million women who regularly use the 600 Planned Parenthood facilities across America will no longer have access to these vital services.
Many conservative lawmakers claim women can as easily be served by other existing clinics.“…[Community health centers] are vastly bigger in network, there are so many more of them, and they provide these kinds of services without all of the controversy surrounding this [abortion] issue,”touted House Speaker Paul Ryan in January. But a report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that these other community clinics could not make up for the flood of uninsured patients to their doors.
Further, in an investigation by Rewire, numerous of these clinics are religious in affiliation and fail to offer a full range of reproductive health care. They restrict family planning. So, in fact they are both in contradiction to the services offered at Planned Parenthood clinics and fail to adhere to the tenets of the ACA.
Being Female, A Pre-existing Condition
The Senate’s BCRA bill, like the House’s version, the AHCA, avoids outright omissions of the essential success of the Affordable Health Act. That is the inclusion of all people in health insurance despite so-called pre-existing conditions. Prior to the ACA women universally had to pay higher premiums solely due to their sex as a pre-existing condition.
The BCRA and the AHCA theoretically keep pre-existing conditions. But the laws pass the political buck to states to allow for waivers that effect various types of pre-existing conditions. “Because they [the states] are closer to the public’s health needs,” numerous Congressional supporters of the two bills disingenuously claim, the states can make the decision on how to handle pre-existing conditions.
But combined with all the fiscal cuts, many states will be hard pressed to shoulder the costs related to pre-existing conditions. Instead, the public will get a hodge-podge of programs that will make some states semi-bright beacons of partial health coverage and others wilting lilies where poor citizens are on the hook personally for the high and rising costs of health care that they cannot afford. This dynamic will have larger ramifications on the impact of businesses to attract workers and other developments and programs within certain states. It is a far cry from the 1792 Postal Act. Or Obamacare.
People of color in larger numbers have historically lacked insurance. The ACA started to close that gap, though there is far more to go. The Groundswell Fund and Ms. Foundation for Women are two foundations that for decades have supported women of color health groups addressing these disparities. It is from these groups that new theoretical frameworks and progressive advancements like Reproductive Justice have emerged and that, in turn, have impacted the international health community.
Teresa C. Younger, President and CEO of Ms. Foundation said, “The bill is called The Bettercare Act but it will only result in worse care for women of color. [ It ] siphons resources to pay for yet another tax cut for rich white men. It’s clear women of color are in Conservatives’ anti-woman, pro-billionaire crosshairs with this bill, but women of color won’t stand for it. We are literally fighting for our survival.”
The Impact on Birth Control
Not until 1965 did birth control become legal. State laws prohibiting it were struck down that year in Griswold v. Connecticutt by the Supreme Court.
Post 1965, with oral contraceptives available since 1961, almost three generations of sexually active women have practiced birth control. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, contraceptions make up an estimated 30-44% of out-of-pocket spendingfor their health care by sexually active women. The ACA recognizes the unique health needs of women throughout their lifespan. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) created a set of guidelines for women’s care. This includes contraception. An estimated $1.4 billion in the first year alone of Obamacare was saved by 55 million women because they had access to birth control through copayments in their health insurance.
Despite 71% of the US population being in favor of full coverage of birth control, the current administration is not listening. The BCRA does not directly strike down the birth control provision, but already rumors are afoot that the Tom Price lead Health and Human Services Department is about to do away with a component of the benefit.
The first line of attack on this widely acceptable copay is based on religious and moral grounds. In a leaked rule, the Trump administration may be poised to significantly roll back birth control through the ACA. Building on the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling, it would allow any employer or university to deny coverage based on their beliefs. Religious and moral grounds of women are obliterated. Also, there seems to be an attempt to bypass the mandated 60-day public comment period.
$200 Billion in Incentives Luring Senators to Pass BCRA
Women are primary caregivers, tending to the upbringing of children and caring for aging parents. The majority of this work is unpaid labor. Women’s reproductive organs warrant greater health care. Combined, these factors mean women interact with health care providers far more frequently than men. Cutting funds for some of the most essential health needs of women as provided in the ACA is a direct slap in the face to 51% of the US population.
McConnell’s pulling of the BCRA just before the Fourth of July recess was momentary. To understand better the horse trading that the Senate Majority Leader has at his disposal to get Senators on board his health care train wreck, long time Hill correspondent, Michael McAuliff, has written an especially informative article. Hint, the reporter calls it “Candy”. While he makes no mention of women per se, McAuliff explains how the Majority Leader has about $200 billion worth of incentives at his disposal. That’s our tax money at play, being used as inducements to decimate our health care systems.
Gloria Feldt, who for thirty years worked with Planned Parenthood, ten years as President and CEO of the Federation, and is now co-founder of Take The Lead Women, summed it up this way: “Families who thought their company plans would cover a new child’s birth may find themselves paying a very high premium just to have coverage–and then be bankrupted by devastating costs if there are complications of pregnancy or birth. [The BCRA creates] high profits for insurance companies. Now that’s about as foolish a piece of legislation as you can get.”Read More
Another day, another fascinating report on the status of gender equality philanthropy. Today I came across the report, Aid in Support of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, and read about how the United States stacks up against other Development Assistance Committee (DAC) member nations in terms of funding gender equality.
The data shows that as of 2014, the U.S. was the largest supporter of gender equality and women’s empowerment among the DAC membership. The report shows that of the $40.2 billion committed to gender equality and women’s empowerment, the U.S. was responsible for $26,211,000 of that. Second behind the U.S. is Japan, with a total of $16,817,000 in total aid screened. (It’s a complicated mix of ways this money is calculated, so you should look at the notes in the report to get an accurate sense of what they mean by “total aid screened” and other terms.) Third behind Japan in total aid screened is EU Institutions, with a total of $16,312,000.
My first instinct in taking in this data is to wonder whether, with Trump as President, the U.S. will remain a top funder internationally of gender equality and women’s empowerment. It doesn’t seem likely, given the significant cuts that have already been made to the UNFPA. Trump’s decision to cut $32.5 million from the UNFPA’s budget is one that will absolutely devastate worldwide efforts to help women with services as basic as safe childbirth and shelter for abused women. From CNN:
The decision “could have devastating effects on the health of vulnerable women and girls and their families around the world,” said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres through a spokesman.
Guterres “deeply regrets the decision by the United States to cut financial support for the UN Population Fund (and) believes that the decision is based on an inaccurate perception of the nature and importance of the work done by UNFPA,” said his spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
In Syria, UNPFA said it has helped an estimated 48,000 women with safe childbirth, some 74,700 individuals with gender-based violence outreach, and offered health services and psychological support. It has created 64 women’s centers and safe spaces.
That’s not good. With an estimated 222 million women in the world who still lack access to contraceptive services, this appears to be a rather cutthroat way to downsize movements for equality worldwide.