With gender-based violence still a major barrier to women’s equality and empowerment, funders are starting to put more money toward prevention internationally.
The World Bank Group recently announced, in partnership with the Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI), ten awards of up to $150,000 each to organizations who will prevent and respond to gender-based violence worldwide. World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, in announcing the grants, said another $3.5 million will also be invested in the cause of ending physical and sexual violence against women.
An estimated 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, a staggering statistic that speaks to the pervasiveness of the problem. “Gender-based violence thrives on secrecy and indifference with devastating consequences,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said upon announcing the grants. “We cannot stand by while so many women suffer harm that’s completely preventable.”
Ever wonder why progress for gender equity remains incremental, and constantly faces regression? Well, it might have something to do with our institutions being so entrenched in patriarchy that they aren’t able to effectively carry out a gender equality agenda.
That appears to be the argument of an open letter from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and 25 MENA Women Civil Society Organizations, sent to UN Secretary-General António Guterres. The letter cites a of a growing lack of trust in the Security Council throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). To counter this lack of credibility and action, the group of women’s civil society NGO’s is proposing bold measures “to advance women’s rights and set the UN back on track as an Organization that works for the common interests of our shared humanity.”
“Today, there are more than 40 million smartphones in Iran and a million more are added every month,” said Firuzeh Mahmoudi, executive director of United for Iran (U4I). Today, Mahmoudi announced that he and his organization are planning to make those smartphones into powerful tools of self-agency for marginalized women. “Given all of these regressive efforts by Iran’s rulers to limit the rights of women, they still fail to understand that technology and social media apps will continue to expand the boundaries of what is socially acceptable in Iranian society. This is why Toranj has the potential to be such a vital tool for Iranian women.”
Today, United for Iran, a Bay-Area NGO working to promote civil liberties and civil society in Iran, and NetFreedom Pioneers, a nonprofit committed to expanding information accessibility, announced the launch of Toranj, an app to increase safety for domestic violence survivors and help them access legal and health services.
On a bright April Thursday morning in New York City, David Callahan and Emmett Carson took each other on in a “spirited debate” about the future of philanthropy. In particular, they differed in opinion about whether there are dangers to the lack of transparency and accountability for the new billionaire class.
Discussion time was given to some very rich (no pun intended) topics, including the influence of philanthropy on health care. Callahan discussed a section from his book that shows how right-wing billionaires have essentially used philanthropy to ensure that they win court battles, such as the court battle which allowed states to opt out of Obamacare. This is the kind of civic inequality that Callahan calls out in The Givers as a dangerous new way philanthropy can be used for political gain.
“Thousands of people died because of that court decision. And people are still dying. That’s the hard edge of political philanthropy today,” said Callahan. Callahan also referenced the rising size of right wing billionaire money arsenals to carry out civic agendas, such as the Koch brothers fortune, which has grown to over $80 billion, and the Waltons fortune, which is now estimated at $150 billion.
Carson opened with a more personal approach to discussing the topic. He referenced a changing dynamic in the donor-grantee relationship, where donors want to be partners with the organizations they fund, infusing their knowledge on a topic into the philanthropy strategy. He compared the old way of donors and grantees relating to his step-daughter having a health issue and being prescribed a remedy by the doctor and his wife being told, “Call me if she turns purple.” He suggested that today, people like his wife take a much more partnering approach to medicine, questioning the doctor and choosing which medication to accept. Similarly in philanthropy, Carson suggested, donors now expect to have more input into how problems are treated.
Callahan kept his focus on the real changes in trends for philanthropy, noting a recent shift in alumni giving where larger gifts to universities are rising while gifts from middle class alumni have dropped. Carson questioned whether this trend might be partially the result of middle class people see the very rich making the big donations, and figure that their alum school does not need their small donation.
Carson again took a personal approach to discussing the issue and differentiated how he makes his own alumnus donations to maximize impact. As both a graduate of Princeton University and Morehouse College, Carson said he gives a minimal donation to Princeton and the maximum donation he can to Morehouse, because the smaller college needs it more, and its history as a black liberal college is particularly important to him.
Callahan made the case that it is time for a major revisiting of the charitable tax code, noting that it was last revisited in 1969, and “a lot has changed since then. Since then we’ve have seen the rise of massive ideological infrastructure — on the left and right — and fueling this infrastructure is a growing flow of tax deductible dollars,” said Callahan.
“Democracy is tough stuff,” Carson said emphatically, as a prelude to his arguments for why donors still need privacy. He argued that forcing all philanthropic donations to be disclosed could cause many people to opt out of philanthropy, for fear of repercussions from groups that oppose the work they support.
Moderator Ana Oliveira spoke about the need for philanthropy to look more closely at gender issues, and how philanthropy is only just beginning to recognize how the sector itself is impacted by gender inequality.
“There hasn’t been enough shift in purpose of [philanthropic] giving to address issues confining to the lives of women,” said Oliveira, President of the New York Women’s Foundation. Oliveira asked the speakers to comment on philanthropy to invest more in understanding how gender plays a role in reducing opportunity, and to do more strategically to bridge this gender opportunity gap.
David Callahan spoke to the frustration that some women donors in couples feel when their male partner gets all the credit for their hard work. And he briefly discussed the way women are known for being “super networkers,” referencing Women Moving Millions as an example of an extraordinary women’s philanthropy network.Read More
Big News: The NoVo Foundation has narrowed down the scope of its focus for its $90 million in funding to empower girls of color, and the funder is now seeking regional partners to provide support to community agencies doing work for gender equality. NoVo is currently opening up RFP applications for community-based organizations in the U.S. Southeast to get grants for helping girls of color.
This decision was based on the outcome of a year-long listening tour across the country with girls of color, movement leaders, and organizers. During that time, NoVo employed its strategy of getting feedback and solutions directly “defined and driven by girls and women of color” in order to maximize impact for this population.
Progress for women is gradual in a world where an estimated 15 million girls are sold into marriage. In developing nations, the situation is even worse. According to the UNFPA, an estimated “one in three girls is married before reaching age 18. One in nine is married under age 15.” Among other scary news on child marriage is this recent report that child marriages are on the rise in Syria.
There are several funders paying close attention to the problem of child marriage. These include Kendeda, which has committed over $31 million in this arena in recent years, and provides support for Human Rights Watch, the Global Fund for Women, and Girls Not Brides. The Ford Foundation also does some significant work in this area, and The NoVo Foundation is also committed to the cause of ending child marriage.
A recent addition to the funders in this space is The Firelight Foundation, which according to Inside Philanthropy, partnered with Agape AIDS Control Program in 2015 to put in place programs to stop child marriages and early pregnancies “across five wards in the Shinyanga, a region of Tanzania where nearly 60 percent of girls are married before their 18th birthdays.”
Philanthropy will hopefully become more attuned to the particular reforms that countries need to end practices that hurt women and girls. There is so much to know and learn in this area, and reforms that must be funded. For example, I would like to find out about funders who are working to ban the Islamic practice of triple talaq in India, which entitles a man to dissolve his relationship with his wife by announcing three times, “Talaq.” Recently, there has been successful organizing to end the controversial “Talaq” practice. CNN reported that more than a million Muslims, mostly women, have signed a petition to end the divorce practice of triple talaq.
You can count me in on signing the petition to end triple talaq. Meanwhile, Philanthropy Women will continue investigating the funders working on particular areas of legal reform to marriage codes that impact women and girls, and will highlight the philanthropy working to remedy the problems.Read More
Ruth Ann Harnisch recently penned a piece for The Tennessean on why she supports The Women’s Fund in Tennessee, seeing them as “the smartest, most efficient way to meet the ever-changing needs of women and girls in this area.”
Women’s funds today are using a range of strategies to build economic security for women and families. By lending capital to women’s small businesses, many women’s funds are helping women build their own financial security — an important step in advancing the frontiers of gender equality.
Investing in financial stability for those on the margins of society, including those who have been traditionally excluded, is central to the mission of many women’s funds, and The Women’s Fund discussed by Harnisch in the article appears to be a prime example of this. The Women’s Fund supports Doors of Hope, for example, which “offers real-life training for women coming out of prison, along with support as they develop skills for living.”
From Ruth Ann:
I’m always amazed when a stranger recognizes me as “that girl from television,” since it’s been almost 30 years since Ruth Ann Leach signed off from WTVF-Channel 5.
Are you old enough to remember when I started as the “Dollars and $ense” consumer reporter in 1973? All these years later, my business is still centered on dollars and sense. As an investor in for-profit and philanthropic ventures, I continue to look for the biggest bang for the buck.
In the world of philanthropy, it’s a little unusual to hear about a public debate between high level professionals. We have a lot of panel discussions, and not so many debates. But Philanthropy New York (PNY) clearly has other ideas.
PNY, “a regional association of grantmakers with global impact,” is sponsoring a debate between two very different leaders in the philanthropy sector. Picture, if you will, the matchup:
In this corner, we have David Callahan, Founder and Publisher of Inside Philanthropy, and author of the forthcoming title, The Givers, a riveting text that makes you question everything you know about philanthropy, and which lands squarely on the side of tightening up taxation and regulation of the rich. Furthermore, it makes you want to run laps around the block to vent your rage at the rampant inequality in today’s world.
How is Bollywood actor and activist Mallika Sherawat helping girls escape lives of sex trafficking? One girl at a time, by enrolling them in the School for Justice.
Sherawat is an ambassador of the Free a Girl Movement and a supporter of the School for Justice, opening today in Mumbai, India.
But freeing the girls is only part of the story. The larger part of social change being driven by Mallika Sherawat and other community activists in India is about correcting the systems of justice that do not prevent the crimes from happening again. Here’s how Mallika Sherawat explains it: “By freeing the girls, we’re not changing the system that allows this crime to happen. To break this cycle, we will attack a key factor: the fact that the perpetrators are not being punished. Because they are not punished, they can continue with their crimes.”
She’s young, she’s highly educated, and she likes to be involved in funding strategy — all traits that suggest Priscilla Chan will be making an enormous impact on philanthropy over the next decade and beyond.
“Chan is a hands-on leader of Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), taking charge of many of the day-to-day operational details of scaling up a large philanthropic enterprise,” David Callahan recently told me. Callahan is founder and publisher of Inside Philanthropy, and interviewed Chan for his new book, The Givers, due out April 11th.
“Chan has spent all of her adult life as a front-line practitioner working with vulnerable families, and brings that mindset and experience to CZI,” observed Callahan. “You can see that most recently in the new housing initiative to stop low-income families from being displaced in Silicon Valley.”
Priscilla Chan is only getting started on her philanthropy journey, and yet some of ways she is doing things suggest a very different trajectory for the future. While Melinda Gates, at about age 50, arrived at a more defined plan to make gender equity central to her work, we don’t know yet where gender equality will land in Priscilla Chan’s list of priorities. In the video below, she credits Ruth Bader Ginsburg as her feminist role model, which suggests she takes seriously the progressive agenda for women, including access to health care and contraception, and equal pay for equal work.
It All Hinges on Inclusiveness — and That’s Where Feminism Comes In
The Chan-Zuckerberg vision of a better world appears to be strongly aligned with the feminist philanthropy agenda of inclusiveness and equality.
“Could we build more inclusive and welcoming communities?” asks Zuckerberg, in this video with Chan in which he talks about his “basic moral responsibility” to make investments that will move us toward this more inclusive community.
Helen LaKelly Hunt, longtime funder of women’s philanthropy and seed investor in the New York Women’s Foundation, the Dallas Foundation, and the Women’s Funding Network, also thinks Priscilla Chan is bringing something new — and important — to philanthropy: the ability to be more relational in strategic planning.
“Priscilla and Mark are modeling strategic philanthropy – not just in terms of how the funds land, but in how they are doing philanthropy. They are doing it in a relational way,” said Helen LaKelly Hunt, in a recent interview with Philanthropy Women. Helen is author of the forthcoming title, And the Spirit Moved Them, due out on April 17th, which tells the lost history of feminism’s earliest roots — finding that racial equality as well as gender equality were on the original agenda of the earliest suffragettes.
“There is great power in unleashing your money into the world toward cultural transformation. Priscilla and Mark are doing this in a way that it is also transformational, and radical – they are doing it together in partnership,” emphasized Hunt.
“Funding in partnership is not always easy, but the union of perspectives make for a richer outcome, and more vital and effective work,” added Hunt, who, along with her husband Harville Hendrix, created Imago Couples Therapy and have recently launched a new initiative to help couples called Safe Conversations.
In the interview at Forbes 2016 Women’s Summit, Priscilla described how Mark helps her stay focused on goals, and she plays a complementary role for him by giving him the context of real world people encountered as patients or students.
“I force him to learn more about — what’s the context? What are we trying to do? Who are the people involved? What are the cultures that we are trying to work with? How can we learn more from the people already doing the work?”
“In all honesty, it’s really fun, and we have a lot to learn from each other,” said Chan. Translation: Chan gets that philanthropy is pretty much the most fun you can have in life, and she’s excited that she gets to do it with Zuckerberg. This is a huge shift in how men and women in high net worth couples have traditionally functioned. What was once a conversation between couples often dominated by men is now a lively exchange where two people challenge each other’s ideas in order to reach a more informed conclusion.
“We are complementary, and we drive each other and really challenge each other to think more deeply about the questions that we’re faced with,” Chan said.
Here’s Where It All Links Up: Health Care, Feminism, and the Future of Inclusive Philanthropy
So why am I telling this story and raising the visibility of Priscilla Chan for women in philanthropy? (By the way, I did attempt to contact Priscilla Chan for an interview through LinkedIn, where she is listed as a member of the staff of The Primary School, but I did not receive a response. I will be sending her a link to this post, and I hope she will consider responding in the future.)
I am talking about this because Priscilla Chan helps illustrate the story of how feminism is changing philanthropy. Priscilla Chan comes to her philanthropy as a doctor who has already practiced for a number of years and has seen close-up what today’s problems look like. She is also a feminist, and I would argue that her feminism is destined to grow, as she becomes a mother to two girls soon, and parents them in their journey to adulthood.
Access to health care is at the top of the agenda for many progressive and feminist foundations, and I believe (full disclosure: I am also a health care provider as an LICSW therapist) health care should continue to be on top of the agenda for women in philanthropy. Leaders like Priscilla Chan get the importance of health care in a profound way, explaining why the CZI’s biohub is now investing $50 million in 47 new initiatives aimed at tackling health problems. CZI is also investing in strategies to bring more inclusiveness to education and housing access.
With leaders like Priscilla Chan giving to the fight both for health care and for gender equality, we will be more likely to move the policy agenda toward a civil society where all have are treated equally, and all have equal access to health care as a public good.
The Future of Inclusive Philanthropy
Chan embodies what could be the dawn of a new era of Inclusive Philanthropy. The market economies and the democratic systems that govern the world are beginning to recognize the importance of inclusiveness, and this is partially due to efforts of both progressives and feminists to open the door to inclusiveness of all kinds. Many multinational corporations such as Bank of America, Barclay’s, Walmart, and Coca-Cola, all supporting workplaces that are more inclusive of LGBT communitites, and have set goals for achieving gender equity in hiring and pay. More governments are recognizing same sex marriage and calling for an end to laws which discriminate based on race or gender.
In addition, organizations like CZI appear to be tasking themselves with the agenda of building more inclusive societies. But while the agenda of CZI appears very liberal and both Mark and Priscilla talk clearly about wanting to open up opportunity for all people, the agenda for Facebook is less clear. This article reports that Facebook donated $100,000 to the Conservative Political Action Committee, which funds conferences with panels like “If Heaven Has a Gate, A Wall, and Extreme Vetting, Why Can’t America?” and “Armed and Fabulous: The New Normal.” It was also willing to provide a platform for racist, sexist, homophobic Milo Yiannopoulos before he went too far, even for conservatives, and appeared to be a supporter of pedophilia.
Facebook also supported Netroots Nation, one of the largest annual gatherings of progressive activists as well as the Personal Democracy Forum, an organization which “investigates how politics and technology work together.”Read More