Join Michelle Obama Conversation at CO Women’s Foundation 30th Anniversary Celebration

Let Girls Learn raised $3 million in 18 months with its inclusive branding that helped nonprofits and donors get on board.

As the fate of Michelle Obama’s signature philanthropy program, Let Girls Learn, hangs in the balance, the Women’s Foundation of Colorado is planning a live conversation with the Former First Lady to discuss ways to advance empowerment for girls and women worldwide.

Related: Will the Trump Administration Let Girls Learn, or End One of Philanthropy’s Most Successful Campaigns?

Former First Lady Michelle Obama is headlining for the Women’s Foundation of Colorado’s 30th Anniversary Celebration on July 25th, a public event called TOGETHER, which will raise cash to support the educational and economic advancement of Colorado women and their families.

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What’s Stronger California Doing for Gender Equality?

Stronger California is working to improve gender equality in the state.

It’s Time Network hosted a conference call this past week that gave a window for states across the country to learn about California’s efforts to grow gender equality movements. The call featured Jessica Stender of Equal Rights Advocates, who has been coordinating and enacting many steps of a legislative agenda for women in California. The call was well-received nationally, with people registered from 16 states.

stronger california

From Betsy McKinney and the It’s Time Network team:

Thank you for joining us for Tuesday’s virtual convening to learn about how we can support policy agendas that lift women and children out of poverty, ensure fair pay and family-friendly workplaces, and more, focusing on the Stronger California legislation.

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Joy-Ann Reid to Receive African American Policy Forum’s Journalism Award

On June 10th, an authoritative voice leading the resistance and challenging both the left and right, Joy-Ann Reid, will receive the George Curry Drum Major for Justice Award for Excellence in Journalism.

joy-ann reid
Joy-Ann Reid

The award ceremony, Say Her Name: 20 Years of Intersectionality in Action, will be hosted by Kimberlee Crenshaw, co-founder of AAPF and professor of law at Columbia University and UCLA. Crenshaw is also a  major figure in the movement to fund philanthropy specifically for women and girls of color.

Rep. Keith Ellison, Democrat, Minnesota

The ceremony will also mark the 20th anniversary for AAPF, and will include playwright/activist Eve Ensler, as well as Rep Keith Ellison (D-MN-5), who has been a supporter of the rights of Muslim Americans and received the Utne Reader’s Visionary Award in 2011 for his work.

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Liberation Fund Aims to Bolster Repro Justice and Gender Equality

As every day brings new questions regarding the rights and protections of marginalized populations in the U.S., word of an additional fund that will support progressive rights for women of color and transgender folks is heartening news.

Today, Groundswell Fund announced the funding of a new grassroots organizing effort that will be led by women of color and transgender people of color.

The new funding stream, dubbed the Liberation Fund, will “aim to ensure reproductive and gender justice by supporting women of color,” according to a press release announcing its launch.

Groundswell describes itself as the largest funder of the U.S. reproductive justice movement. Headquartered in Oakland, CA, the organization provides leadership in the effort to hold public officials accountable at the local level for their responsibility to protect the rights of all people. In the age of Trump, this kind of accountability is more important than ever.

Two marginalized groups that face the greatest danger from a government enacting white supremacist and misogynist policies are women of color and transgender people of color. With an initial deployment of $500,000 in funding, the Liberation Fund will begin the process of identifying its first grantees. A panel of 15 advisors, all prominent women of color leaders coming from a broad array of sectors, will guide the fund.

“Millions of Americans are hungry for leadership that ignites our political imagination and offers clear, concrete pathways forward,” said Fund Advisor Linda Sarsour and CEO of MPower Change. Sarsour called on funders and donors to “meet that level of boldness in their giving strategies” by further empowering  women of color and LGBTQ people.

Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter and another of the fund’s advisors added, “To elevate women of color and trans people of color at a time when our communities are under extreme duress is not only smart, but essential for our survival. There’s never been a better time for donors and funders to put their money directly where change is happening.”

Vanessa Daniel, Groundswell Fund’s Executive Director, put it this way: “The greatest force in any fight against fascism is solidarity. The Trump Administration is trying to divide us. If there is one thing that grassroots organizing efforts run by women of color and trans people of color understand better than anyone else, it’s that, as Audre Lorde once said, none of us live single-issue lives. Our fates are intertwined.”

The first grants from the new Liberation Fund are scheduled to be awarded in summer 2017.

Full list of the Fund’s Advisors:

Ai-Jen Poo, National Domestic Workers Alliance
Alicia Garza, National Domestic Workers Alliance & Black Lives Matter
Angelica Salas, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA)
Bamby Salcedo, The TransLatin@ Coalition
Charlene Sinclair, Center for Community Change
Cindy Wiesner, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance
Chrissie Castro, Native Voice Network
Denise Perry, Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity (BOLD)
Elle Hearns, Marsha P. Johnson Institute
Isa Noyola, Transgender Law Center
Linda Sarsour, Mpower Change
Mary Hooks, Southerners On New Ground
Miya Yoshitani, Asian Pacific Environmental Network
Sarita Gupta, Jobs With Justice
Saru Jayaraman, Restaurant Opportunity Center (ROC) United

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Will Trump Let Girls Learn, or End a Successful Campaign?

Confusion reigns in Trumpland. And lack of awareness in decision-making appears to be rampant in the Trump Administration. One of the casualties of all this confusion: Let Girls Learn.

The latest example is the Trump Administration’s internal memo ending “Let Girls Learn,” Michelle Obama’s signature philanthropic endeavor. On May 1st, CNN opened up the can of worms with the headline, “Trump administration memo calls for ending Michelle Obama’s girls education program.” Hours later, CNN would post another headline, “Despite memo, White House says Michelle Obama program unchanged.”

Let Girls Learn Ending

“The Administration supports policies and programs to empower adolescent girls, including efforts to educate them through the completion of secondary school,” said Heather Nauert, of the Trump Administration’s State Department, referring to Let Girls Learn. “We are committed to empowering women and girls around the world and are continuing to examine the best ways to do so.”

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Heavy Hitters Collaborate on New Blueprint for Social Change

Things are really coming together for women’s funds and gender lens investing, as this new report details. The new report is written by Joy Anderson, President and Founder of Criterion Institute, Ms. Foundation President Teresa Younger, and Elizabeth Schaffer, Chief Operating Officer of the Global Fund for Women.

blueprint

I have not read the report in total yet, but from my first foray in, I am really excited to see how these advanced thinkers and leaders are putting ideas together and finding new synergy for social change and finance. This is powerful stuff!

The report is written using architectural design as an extended metaphor for how to integrate the different sectors of finance, women’s funds, and social change theory. Combining these three components, the report then makes practical suggestions about how to influence issues like domestic violence, the gender wage gap, and climate change.

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Kate Coyne-McCoy and the Rise of Women in Politics

“The more that philanthropy can do to encourage and support women in running for office, the better,” says Kate Coyne-McCoy, CEO of The Campaign Fixer, who has spent much of her career trying to bring more women into American politics. Coyne-McCoy has trained over 9,000 women to run for office, and she has a message for philanthropy.

kate coyne-mccoy
Coyne-McCoy has trained over 9,000 women to run for office. She wants to know what is still holding many women back.

“Do more politically, period,” she said in a recent interview with Philanthropy Women, when asked what her message would be to progressive women donors and their allies.  “Until you make an investment in the electoral and political process, you’re never going to see the change you want.”

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Want Gender Equality in Your City? Join This Call.

Do you, like me, live in a city where girls softball teams have names like “The Dolls” and very few women make it into elected office? Then you might want to join this call being held by It’s Time Network next Tuesday, May 2nd at 3 PM EST. This will be an opportunity to learn about how to take action in your local community to protect and advance women’s rights.

It’s Time Network brought together a number of important organizations to formulate their Mayors Guide: Accelerating Gender Equality including the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women, Institute for Women’s Policy Research Center for American Women in Politics, Jobs with Justice,  Forward Together, Equal Rights Advocates, Global Fund for Women, Women Donors Network, Girls Inc.,  MomsRising, The Grove Foundation, St. Vincent De Paul Society of San Francisco, Astrea Foundation and Women’s Earth Alliance.

The Mayors Guide is the first ever “how to” manual for mayors who want to focus on improving the status of women and girls. It spans 11 issue areas and provides general recommendations, as well as specific recommendations for each of the 11 issue areas.

One of the first steps that the Guide recommends is going to the U.S. Factfinder site of the Census Bureau and learning about your home city, so you can correctly identify the gender equality issues in your locality.

Number two on the list is to ask your city to establish a permanent commission on the status of women. Friends with legislative experience in Cranston, has this ever been done? If not, we will need to look into it.

So that’s why I’m planning to dial into the call on Tuesday. The call will also help participants to connect with people in their local area and develop networks of support to carry forward this agenda.

For some more recommendations to chew on as you consider calling in, here are the rest of the general recommendations from the Guide:

GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. Adopt a city ordinance on The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
  2. Establish a permanent Commission (or Department) on the Status of Women in your city.
  3. Fully fund that Commission.
  4. Commission a Status of Women and Girls report for your city to establish a baseline from which to set measurable goals and specific actions.
  5. Create a city task force for women, composed of private sector, nonprofit and government members to support the Commission and/or to stand in its place until one is developed.
  6. Strengthen relationships between nonprofit organizations and government agencies and provide more opportunities to partner.
  7. Analyze, identify and change existing policies that discriminate against women and girls.
  8. Ensure gender equality is embedded in the culture and goals of your administration and is reflected in your messaging.
  9. Report on gender and racial diversity for city hires to ensure gender equality at every level of staffing, including top positions.
  10. Look at tax benefits and incentives to support and encourage the private sector.
  11. Use traditional women’s venues (i.e. women’s colleges, community centers, etc.) for conducting outreach, advocacy and convenings.
  12. Utilize multiple sources of funding for women’s programs and initiatives, including private funding, foundations, municipal bonds, federal tax credits, federal grants, state grants, general-purpose city funds, etc.
  13. Engage people across political lines to build a collaborative and inclusive approach.
  14. Engage leaders at the grassroots level to ensure broad representation and perspectives.
  15. Create annual awards and establish annual improvement levels for those who accelerate gender equality.
  16. Ensure women and girls have equal access to quality, affordable education.
  17. Encourage STEM education for girls, women and mid-career women.

Betsey McKinney and the It’s Time Network are doing groundbreaking work with researching and creating this structure for bringing gender equality to cities across America. It would be amazing for our city to make these recommendations a reality.

 

 

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Women Peacemakers: Check Out this Call for Applications

University of San Diego’s Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice just announced a call for application to its Women PeaceMakers fellowship program. The 10-month fellowship will bring on four women peacebuilders to work in high conflict areas internationally, engaging with four international peace partners on the goal of reducing violence in the community. Each fellow will also be followed by a Peace Researcher who will “document her peacebuilding journey, and specifically, how she engages the security sector.”

women peacemakers
The Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice trains women as international peacemakers.

From Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice:

Each year, an urgent peacebuilding issue is identified and participants are selected based on their work in that area. During the 2017-18 academic year, the program will focus on Women PeaceMakers working with the local security sector (police, military and other state security forces) to advance peacebuilding, human security, and women’s rights in pre-, during or post-conflict settings. The guiding question that the fellows will work on is:

How can Women PeaceMakers and international partners build more effective local/global collaborations in their peacebuilding efforts to engage the security sector?

Examples of civilian-led engagement with the security sector to ensure legal mechanisms are upheld and human rights are protected include the following:

● Efforts to enhance accountability (e.g. civilian-led reporting mechanisms and efforts to combat impunity);

● Facilitation of security sector reform (e.g. civilian-supported disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration campaigns of certain military, police or militias);

● Building community-security partnerships

● The work of former female combatants to reintegrate and rehabilitate fellow fighters

There are several components to this fellowship for women peacemakers, which is free for participants. More information on the fellowship and the history of the Women PeaceMakers program is available at the University of San Diego’s website:

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Vini Bhansali: Growing Change Agents in the Global South

Rajasvini Bhansali, Executive Director, IDEX, soon to be renamed Thousand Currents. (Photo credit: Rucha Chitnis)

Rajasvini “Vini” Bhansali spoke to me by phone from Mumbai, India, where she was working and visiting family, the trip to her homeland compelled by a family illness.

“We attract donors and ambassadors that are thinking about local and global connections,” says Bhansali, Executive Director of IDEX (soon to be renamed Thousand Currents). Bhansali notes that 60 percent of IDEX’s budget comes from family foundations, 20 percent from individual donors, and 20 percent from earned income. Last year, IDEX recorded a 45 percent increase in new individual donors, and as it morphs into Thousand Currents, the organization has added staff positions, including a grants coordinator, a community engagement manager, and directors of “donor organizing” and “diaspora partnerships.”

Bhansali stresses the importance of IDEX’s mission to fund the underfunded — to grow those innovative grassroots groups that need more support.

Based in Berkeley, California, IDEX’s mission is to support women, youth and indigenous people in the Global South. The main focus of this support is directed at developing sustainable agriculture, building income, and addressing climate change. Essential to these goals is fostering women’s capacities to serve as leaders and agents of change.

IDEX (International Development Exchange) was started in the mid-1980s by returning Peace Corps members. The IDEX name came out of a desire to stress “exchange” as central to the organization’s mission – the idea that development should be collaborative and cooperative, rather than top-down and dictated from afar.

At the time of IDEX’s founding, the notion of an exchange between the rich and poor countries was “revolutionary,” says Bhansali; now, it’s gaining momentum and becoming increasingly mainstream. Regardless, a constant reciprocity of ideas and values with local partners still animates IDEX.

Bhansali describes the decision to change the name from IDEX to Thousand Currents as pragmatic: to avoid confusion with other IDEXs, which include an engineering and manufacturing company, an international diamond exchange, and a weapons conference. In fact, if you google IDEX, the International Development Exchange comes up fourth, so it makes good sense to choose a name that more closely matches the mission. Thousand Currents feels like a better fit for an organization that has funded more than 500 community-led initiatives in Asia, Latin America and Africa.

Born in India, Bhansali lived in various parts of the country before coming to the United States as a scholarship student at the University of California, Berkeley. “I didn’t have a game plan,” admits Bhansali about leaving India at age eighteen for the U.S. While she considered pursuing a scientific career, she had always been interested in the intersection of civil society and development, and upon completing her degree, returned to India and worked in Rajasthan, a state in northwest India bordering Pakistan. Bhansali knows this area well, and it is a particularly difficult one for females, with few educational and economic opportunities, and high rates of female infanticide and domestic violence.

Bhansali returned to the U.S., this time to Texas where she worked for the City of Austin and the State of Texas, and earned a Master’s degree in Public Affairs, focusing on technology and telecommunications.

Bhansali’s next significant move was transformational: a two-year posting to Kenya serving as a management capacity builder with youth polytechnics. This work on behalf of the international anti-poverty organization Voluntary Service Overseas proved pivotal in solidifying her commitment to social change, self-sufficiency, and economic development among the world’s poorest communities, with a particular focus on women’s role in that struggle.

After her Kenyan appointment ended, Bhansali returned to the Bay Area, and in 2010 assumed the helm of IDEX (after having been the program director for a year). In addition to changing its name, over the last several years, IDEX has engaged in a process of reinvention. Part of this grew out of a post-recession downturn—which, Bhansali notes, affected many U.S. social justice and solidarity organizations—but much of it was about better defining IDEX’s relationship to its global partners.

Typically, a non-profit will itself try to measure whether it is meeting its program objectives and goals, or have a third party conduct such an audit. But IDEX took a different approach. “We had our grantee partners evaluate our effectiveness as an organization,” says Bhansali.

One message that emerged was that partner organizations wanted IDEX to become a more visible and vocal advocate for local influence and control over development initiatives. Alliance-building on the regional and national level is key in this regard. In short, the message from the field was that sharing and communication are important; not just around specific projects, but also to encourage an egalitarian development culture.

IDEX supports locally-rooted groups, movements, and collectives which lack funds. According to Bhansali, too often Western non-profits “are looking for the brand-new thing, instead of seeing what is there already.” New is sexy and commands headlines, but IDEX’s mission is to further develop the capabilities of women and other vulnerable populations by supporting under-recognized organizations employing grassroots-level solutions.

For this reason, IDEX doesn’t fund one-time projects, but establishes ongoing relationships lasting three or more years. One of their senior partners is Chiapas-based DESMI (Social and Economic Development for Indigenous Mexicans, an organization that IDEX has worked with since the early 90s. Another is GRAVIS, which has collaborated with IDEX since 1999 in helping Thar Desert peoples in Rajasthan, India generate their own social, economic and political opportunities.

The empowerment of Rajasthani girls and women is essential to fulfilling this mission, and it includes education and vocational training, as well as developing female leadership. Hands-on projects include drought preparedness for 20 villages, namely the construction of underground water tanks to improve water availability. Women and girls benefit greatly from this effort, as it is typically their job to carry water, often from long distances, to fulfill basic household functions. Other IDEX-sponsored initiatives in Rajasthan include seed banks, and projects to improve food security.

IDEX attempts to put the marginalized and excluded at the heart of development and social change efforts. Its initiatives include cultivating women and girls as leaders and change agents, and strengthening climate resilience, sustainable agriculture, and locally generated economic growth.

Naturally, small groups in poor, underserved and often remote areas don’t have websites, billboards and marketing campaigns alerting potential donors of their existence. “We have regional program directors who keep their ears close to the ground,” says Bhansali. Moreover, IDEX also gets “leads” from already existing partners to help in connecting with needy groups who are typically unknown outside of their immediate communities. “We are often their first international grant maker,” says Bhansali of such budding local organizations.

IDEX is part of a movement seeking to change Western attitudes and approaches toward giving and development in poor countries. The IDEX Academy, a week-long spring gathering at a Sonoma, California ranch, is part of this attitude-adjustment initiative. IDEX’s “Theory of Change” which rests on “Community Self-Determination,” “Organizational Resilience,” “Global Solidarity” and “Social Justice Giving” forms the curriculum of the academy. In addition to the retreat staples of learning, discussion and team-building, the varied attendees and faculty engage in art, performance, physical movement and nature activities. It’s all aimed at furthering a culture of collaboration in aid of global grassroots development and sustainability efforts.

Bhansali, who is also a board member at Greenpeace USA and the Agroecology Fund, and a member of the Advisory Circle on behalf of New York’s Women’s Building, says she feels a continual push and pull regarding her native India. This tension is perhaps not such a bad thing; after all, it is a continual dialogue, a back-and-forth with a spirit of collaboration that fuels IDEX’s (soon to be Thousand Currents!) ongoing identity development as an organization, as well as its ripple effects for communities in Asia, Africa and Latin America.Read More