The subject of female genital mutilation (FGM) — the practice of removing a female’s clitoris, sometimes accompanied by sewing together her labia — rarely makes it into the mainstream news, so recent public awareness campaigns like February 6th’s #EndFGM campaign are helping to put it on the agenda.
Ending FGM is central to movements for women to be free to direct their own lives both in the U.S. and abroad. Feminist philanthropists have been working on this issue for decades, and now, with legislation passing to criminalize the practice, there is more potential than ever to realize some bigger gains.
I am always keeping an eye out for instances of feminism breaking through to mainstream culture. So when Netflix decided to make its biggest payment ever of $10 million to buy the rights to Knock Down the House, I was eager to learn about how this film came about. How did this relatively new film team suddenly find itself poised to reach Netflix’s estimated 148 million subscribers?
Knock Down the House follows four progressive women who made it into the U.S. Congress in the 2018 elections, inviting viewers to witness the progression of their historic journeys into politics. Just weeks ago, it won Best Documentary Film for 2019 at the Sundance Film Festival.
Despite the prevalence of the sexual exploitation of women and girls, gender-based violence funding accounts for just 1.8% of all foundation giving. And even within that small percentage, the majority of funds go to domestic violence, with commercial sexual exploitation often remaining neglected.
To bridge that crucial gap, the NoVo Foundation recently announced a $10 million, 3-year funding commitment for U.S.-based programs. The funding will go to programs that are aimed at “opening exit ramps” and “closing on-ramps” to the commercial sex trade–or, as it’s often called, The Life.
Sometimes people misunderstand social workers as professionals who are not focused on impacting larger systems with their work. This mistake was brought home in philanthropy recently when the MacroSW collective, a group of social workers focused on larger social issues, had to correct the perception being given at the Nonprofit Quarterly that “You can’t social work this” as a way of saying “You can’t fix this problem with social work.”
The response from the MacroSW collective, entitled Why We Have to Social Work This, points out that many social workers commit their life’s work to addressing systemic and structural problems in society, providing leadership for policy, legislation, and community organizations. It’s called Macro Social Work — as in looking at the “macro” or bigger picture to find solutions to social problems.
A health care foundation, a nonprofit initiative, and a for-profit health information company are collaborating to get tools, data, and a clinically-validated health information into the hands of pregnant women across the country. Launching in the first half of 2019, Ovia Health will be collaborating with the Delivery Decisions Initiative at Ariadne Labs and the California Health Care Foundation in order to help more women and families navigate pregnancy, birth, and parenting.
With $200,000 in new funding, sex worker organizations and advocates across the U.S. will have more resources to address safety, worker’s rights, and political power in the new year. Third Wave Fund, a 20-year-old foundation, recently announced its inaugural grantees from the first and only Sex Worker Giving Circle, a new collective created by the fund in 2018.
This new giving circle is unique in many ways. The Sex Worker Giving Circle (SWGC) is the first sex worker-led fund housed at a U.S. foundation. SWGC consisted of 10 Fellows who were trained and supported by Third Wave Fund in order to raise more than $100,000 of the grant funding, design the grant-making process, and decide which organizations would receive funding grants, which ranged from $6,818 to $21,818.
CBS corporation announced today that 18 organizations will receive $20 million in funding to address sexual harassment in the workplace. Many of these organizations are longtime players in the women’s rights space, including New York Women’s Foundation, Women’s Media Center, and the National Women’s Law Center, while others are brand new to the field, like TIME’S UP. These grants are part of CBS’s separation agreement with former CEO Les Moonves, which stated that the donations would be deducted from his severance pay.
It’s an election like no other, with record numbers of women running for office at the local, state, and national levels, and women everywhere becoming activist voters who want to see themselves represented in government.
It’s a great time to be publishing about women’s philanthropy, as more women take on funding nonprofits that are supporting gender equality, not only in the U.S. but also globally. So far this year we’ve seen significant growth in new organizations committing to addressing gender-based violence and education for girls worldwide, including Girls, Inc, the Obama Foundation, and the #MeToo Fund headed by Tarana Burke.
The recent Kavanaugh hearings resurfaced a very old story about gender, power, and the truth of experience. When Dr. Christine Blasey Ford bravely testified, people everywhere had to grapple with the fact that early life relationships, and particularly sexual traumas, can drastically impact our lives.
In fact, while our dominant culture remains in denial about the prevalence and negative effects of sexual violence, thought leaders in feminist psychology and sociology have been calling attention to the problem for decades. While sexual violence is an extreme form of domination and abuse, these thought leaders have demonstrated how gender-based violence is part of a continuum of control and exploitation that most women begin to experience more of as they hit adolescence.
If you are a woman who needs medical care, it often becomes crystal clear to you that the health care system doesn’t understand your problems very well. As celebrity chef and gender equality advocate Padma Lakshmi put it at the recent Social Good Summit in New York, when speaking about her own difficulties getting care for endometriosis: “I realized there was a lot of misogyny in the health care system.”
But hopefully as we progress in medicine, misogyny will be rooted out, and more doctors will learn how to attend to the full spectrum of women’s medical concerns. To aid in that process, a $10 million commitment was recently made by philanthropist Iris Cantor to the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. These funds will be used to advance the medical school’s work to educate and train both clinicians and researchers in the field of women’s health care.