What would you do if you woke up one morning to find that your home had been cut off from all clean water?
In the United States, the first instinct would be to call your water company, or buy a flat of bottled water — but in societies around the world relying on freshwater rivers for their families’ survival and livelihood, access to clean water is being threatened in new and frightening ways every day.
According to International Rivers, roughly two-thirds of the world’s rivers have been negatively impacted by the 50,000 or so dams that have been built in the last 100 years, funded by supporters of water privatization. Because of this, once-great waterways like the Indus, the Colorado, and the Yellow Rivers no longer reach the sea, and the areas that once thrived on the mix of salt and fresh water can no longer support the diverse communities of life, human and otherwise, that formerly called these deltas home.
On May 6, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, tweeted:
The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of 1995 is the most visionary agenda. #Beijing25 must be both our present & our future for the empowerment of women and girls. That’s why we are all #GenerationEquality.
In 1995, thought leaders around the globe met to create the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, at the time considered one of the most forward-thinking women’s rights and gender equality initiative ever drafted. Developed during the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, the Platform for Action was designed as “a visionary agenda for the empowerment of women and girls, everywhere.” 189 governments committed to making strides in 12 areas of critical concern, but despite the slow progress we have seen over the last 25 years, not a single committed country can accurately claim it has achieved true gender equality.
Recently when checking in with the Obama Foundation, we learned that they are highlighting the Women’s Global Education Project (WGEP) and its work in helping global communities end the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). To find our more about how this work takes place, Philanthropy Women spoke with Amy Maglio, Founder of WGEP. Maglio founded WGEP over 14 years ago after she was a peace corp volunteer in Senegal, where she lived for three years.
“When I got back from Senegal, I thought about all the girls I knew who weren’t in school,” said Maglio. She was particularly concerned with the reasons that girls weren’t going to school, and wanted to find more ways to ensure that girls got into school and stayed in school in Senegal. Maglio began partnering with local community-based organizations in Senegal that were already working on these questions. Local organizers in Senegal identified that girls ended their education often because of healthy, safety, and cultural issues.
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.
So much of what I worry about with corporate philanthropy is just how much it is used to grease the pill, so to speak, of the public swallowing all the damage that corporations do in the world. Corporate philanthropy asks us to believe, for example, that Nike cares about gender equality, even as much of its subjugation of labor in developing countries puts added pressure on women as both workers and providers, with very little given in wages in return.
The book makes a convincing argument that many corporations are not coming at gender equality in their philanthropy with a genuine interest in changing the circumstances for women. It also shows how much corporations continue to apply pressure to women’s lives, sometimes by demanding that they don’t have children so that they can put work first on their life agenda, or convincing women to take loans and enter into small business, even though they lack the supports and the know-how to ensure that the business has the best chance of success.
I would recommend that anyone interested in women’s empowerment read Moeller’s book, to recognize that the agenda for women’s equality can be seriously skewed by corporate interests.
While we continue to highlight and encourage corporate giving for women and girls here at Philanthropy Women, Moeller’s book helped me develop a more critical eye for where the corporate pressure for profits might be bleeding into the corporate do-goodism.
Similarly, in a recent issue of the New Yorker, Moeller has an essay called The Ghost Statistic that Haunts Women’s Empowerment.With this essay, Moeller brings much of her argument from the book into a more succinct narrative. She questions how one particular statistic came to be: the statistic that says that when women have control of money, they give 90% of it to their children and community. According to the essay, the reliability of this statistic is non-existent, which begs the question of how much we need to do in order for the data on women to become more detailed, validated, and replicated, in order to prove its value.
But Moeller also makes another valuable point. Even if the statistic is true, is that necessarily the recipe for a robust global economy? If women tend to give much of what they have away, how will they accumulate the capital necessary to sustain and grow business ventures? And will they end up in situations where they are simply the conduit for money that goes into the hands of more powerful and controlling entities in their families and communities?
Moeller’s book is provocative and in league with other sharp critiques of philanthropy circulating these days including Anand Giridharadas’Winners Take All and Edgar Villanueva’sDecolonizing Wealth. It’s a must-read for feminist philanthropists who want to take an approach to their work that will truly transform lives and avoids replicating, or further empowering, subjugating corporate systems.
The “Global Financing Facility” (GFF) might not be a familiar name for some in the U.S. philanthropy world, but it ranks among the most important organizations in the ongoing fight for global gender equality. Recently, GFF made a big pledge that is particularly noteworthy for its public/private collaboration, and for its attention to women. GFF is an international organization supported by the World Bank Group, and dedicated to improving the health of the planet’s most impoverished women and children.
In early November, the GFF held a conference, or “Replenishment Event,” in Oslo, Norway. The meeting was hosted by the governments of Norway and Burkina Faso in conjunction with the World Bank Group and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Fourteen donors, including national governments of various sizes, foundations, and multilateral institutions pledged over one billion dollars to improve the health of mothers and children in the world’s poorest countries. The Government of Norway ($360 million) and the Gates Foundation ($200 million) were the two largest donors. The United States did not contribute to the Replenishment Event, nor has it provided any support to the GFF to date.
The Global Financing Facility was founded in 2015 as a mechanism to help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal of ending preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths by 2030. It currently operates in 27 countries, 19 of which are in Africa. The GFF’s mandate is to address the greatest health and nutrition issues affecting women, children and adolescents in the world’s poorest nations. It emphasizes partnerships with countries, civil society organizations, financiers, multilateral bodies and the private sector in funding healthcare systems.
The GFF aims to improve outcomes long-term, as opposed to spending on stop-gap emergency measures which are often not sustained. To this end, not only were there pledges from wealthy countries and foundations at the Oslo conference, the African nations of Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire committed to increasing their health spending by 15% annually, while Nigeria recommitted to its $150 million yearly investment in health and nutrition targeting women, children and adolescents.
The billion dollars pledged is expected to link to an additional $7.5 billion in funds from the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD). GFF calculates that the billion-dollar commitment represents roughly half of what it needs to expand its efforts to finance healthcare in 50 of the world’s lowest income nations, and make progress in meeting the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal on maternal, newborn and child deaths.
The GFF’s boost to health financing in poor countries is three pronged: (i) develop a plan that prioritizes a strong primary health care system and reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health and nutrition; (ii) strengthen a country-led platform that unites key stakeholders around a health and nutrition plan; (iii) work with countries to direct resources at the most vulnerable populations in the hardest-to-reach regions.
The need is great, as over two billion people live in countries that spend less than $25 per capita on health yearly. This lack of healthcare funds has serious consequences: 450,000 children under five die unnecessarily every month, and 830 women die every day from pregnancy and child-birth related complications. The GFF notes that in 50 countries around the world, over five million mothers and children die from preventable conditions due to a lack of resources. The GFF is promoting increased spending on health, but also ensuring that the spending is targeted, and that outcomes are measurable.
The GFF quotes Melinda Gates, who notes the ripple effect generated by increased health care spending on women and children in the Global South: “Healthy women, children and adolescents contribute to a virtuous cycle. With health comes the ability to go to school and learn, which helps people prosper as adults, who are then able to raise empowered children who continue the cycle. That’s why the GFF is such a great investment.”
Today, in recognition of International Day of the Girl, the Obama Foundation has announced the launch of a new initiative that will empower adolescent girls around the world through education.
The initiative aims to support more than 1,500 grassroots organizations around the world that reduce barriers to education for girls such as early marriage, limited access, and lack of financial resources.
Michelle Obama appeared on the Today Show to make the announcement, emphasizing that “The stats show that when you educate a girl, you educate a family, a community, a country.”
The initiative will accept applications from eligible nonprofits already working to increase educational opportunities for girls. Through a collaboration with GoFundMe, the Obama Foundation has established the Global Girls Alliance Fund, which will help raise funds for grassroots organizations to make more headway with goals to educate more girls.
Eligible nonprofits must be seeking between $5,000 and $50,000 for this work, and all funds raised must go directly to programs working on education for girls, not for overhead or general operating expenses.
As feminist strategies in philanthropy continue to grow, new organizations are being created to serve the needs of this sector. Among these new organizations is the Secret Sisterhood, founded by Australian entrepreneur and philanthropist Jacquie Love. Launched in the second half of 2017, the enterprise reports already having 40,000 women in its network.
Along with creating jewelry that celebrates gender equality and women’s leadership, the Secret Sisterhood conducts “philanthropic journeys” — travel events in the developing world that offer women an opportunity to see first-hand how philanthropy can aid in gender equality movements. The journeys have four aims — empowering female entrepreneurs in developing nations, reducing human trafficking, eliminating violence against women, and providing education for girls.
One upcoming journey for the Secret Sisterhood will be to Thailand and Cambodia, and involves studying the history of genocide under the Khmer Rouge, as well as witnessing work with at-risk children in the red-light district of Phnom Penh. Over the course of the 11 day itinerary, women learn about strategies for educating girls and micro-financing women entrepreneurs. To delve further into microfinancing, the trip will take participants to the Grameen Australia chicken farm in Siem Reap, Cambodia. With support from Grameen, the chicken farm employs women who were formerly dumpster-scavenging, earning less than $2 a day.
The Secret Sisterhood’s upcoming March 30 to April 8 philanthropic journey will take a deeper dive into the issue of human trafficking by visiting ZOE International, a foundation in Thailand that applies a holistic approach to child victims of trafficking. A video (below) from a survivor of child trafficking shows how the program is able to reach children and give them a chance to recover and pursue a better life.
While these are difficult topics to look at close-up, it is by this process that philanthropists often figure out important pieces to their strategy puzzle. Along with these challenging explorations, the trip also provides ample time for participants to relax and unwind, as well as reflect with one another about how the experience is impacting them.
The Cambodia-Thailand trip is expecting to have 10 participants. With each of those ten making a $10,000 (AUD) donation, as well as paying trip costs of $7,950 (AUD) (not including flights, visas, insurance, and vaccinations) the journey will generate $100,000 which will be invested in the following goals:
Empowering 140 girls to stay in school
Reaching 140 at-risk children living in the streets of Phnom Penh
Funding eight outreach programs to prevent human trafficking, with an anticipated reach of 2,000 women and girls
Funding the training of women in chicken farming in Cambodia
The Secret Sisterhood provides an interesting new model for how women can help each other build the pipeline for gender equality philanthropy globally. By supporting the Secret Sisterhood, philanthropists get a built-in tour of the work they will be funding, and also get the opportunity to travel with other like-minded women. Through this kind of traveling and networking, women donors may find unique opportunities to build on each other’s skills and work together to address gender equality.
Feminist philanthropy is based on a growing body of knowledge demonstrating how gender equality improves civil society. This research is branching out in new directions all the time, studying and identifying ways that gender equality impacts every level of social functioning, from intimacy to politics to technology. I’ve rounded up just a few examples of the latest research that backs up the claim that a feminist world is a potentially healthier world for everyone.
Both Men and Women Sleep Better in More Equal Societies: A study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family confirms that one of the most fundamental building blocks to health and well-being, sleep, is facilitated better in societies with less sexism. When we sleep better, we function better overall, making this study another important example of the deep health and well-being pay-offs that gender equality brings to the table.
BlackHer helps Track the Candidates and Provides Support: A new platform is helping to get the word out about Black women running for office in 2018, and is also a hub for research and advocacy for a more representative democracy. One of the great benefits of the internet is its ability to inform the voting public. This website is a great new place to gather information and help get more progressive Black women elected.
Study: Artificial Intelligence Can Be Used to Promote Gender Equality: It’s true: the tech bots can be on our side in the battle for more equality and less sexism in society. Coming out of Ireland, this article is part of a three-part series that looks at how “AI can help employers promote gender equality, including gender pay gap reporting, encouraging gender diversity and fostering collaborative workplaces.”
Kathleen Loehr’s New Book, Gender Matters: A Guide to Growing Women’s Philanthropy: If you’re a feminist philanthropy newshound like me, you might want to pre-order this one. Kathleen Loehr, a longtime consultant and expert in the realm of women’s philanthropy, is coming out with a new book that promises to identify the specific changes that organizations, teams, and individuals in philanthropy need to make in order to increase support for women. This will be a must-read for fundraisers in the feminist philanthropy realm who want to understand how to get their message across and help donors do more gender equality work.
Feminist Philanthropy of a Different Sort: Donating Your Research and Writing to Wikipedia: I’m always intrigued when women (and men!) find new ways to give of their time and talent for the cause of gender equality. Jess Wade, a physicist living in London, challenged herself to write one Wikipedia biography a day on the undiscovered world of star female scientists. As of 2016, only 17% of Wikipedia entries cover women. Wade decided to use her passion for diversity in the sciences to provide more knowledge to the world free of charge and on her own time, setting a powerful example for all of us on how we can each do our part to build a world where women are seen and recognized for their contributions and accomplishments. Bravo, Jess Wade!
Women around the world who are leading the fight against climate damage are to be highlighted by Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and UN high commissioner, in the hopes of building a new global movement that will create “a feminist solution for climate change”.
Perhaps more revolutionary still, the new initiative is light-hearted in tone, optimistic in outlook and presents positive stories in what the originators hope will be seen as a fun way.
Called Mothers of Invention, the initiative will kick off with a series of podcasts showcasing the work of grassroots climate activists at a local level, as well as globally resonant initiatives such as the legal challenges under way in numerous jurisdictions to force governments to adhere to the Paris agreement goals. Scientists and politicians feature alongside farmers and indigenous community leaders from Europe, the US and Australia to India, Kenya, South Africa and Peru.
Here at Philanthropy Women, we are tracking the grantmaking and strategizing that is happening in the ecofeminist space, from the new Roddenberry Prize seeking solutions to both climate change and advancement for women and girls, to the grantmaking done by the Gender Just Climate Solutions award, which makes grants that share both feminist and climate strategies. We’re also showing how women’s giving collectives like Rachel’s Network are bringing feminist philanthropists together who share a vision of how to integrate climate solutions with gender equality. Stay tuned!