A massive backlog of untested rape kits has long plagued the criminal justice system and undermined efforts to foreground sexual assault as a major problem worthy of serious investigation. Sexual assault survivors and activists have estimated that around 250,000 rape kits remain untested.
Crucially, addressing the backlog isn’t just a matter of garnering convictions and getting sexual assault perpetrators off the streets though that’s certainly part of it. It’s also about justice for survivors, putting issues that disproportionately affect women at the fore, and achieving some degree of increased safety for women and girls. And feminist philanthropy efforts have a direct role to play in achieving all of these goals.
There is an old “riddle” that used to circulate in the early 2000s in which a father and son are critically injured in a car accident and rushed to the hospital. The hospital workers do everything they can to save the father, but he dies under their care. When the son is prepped for his life-saving surgery, the attending doctor stops dead and declares, “I can’t perform the procedure — I cannot operate on my own son.” How is this possible?
The answer? The doctor is a woman — the son’s mother — and that is why she is unwilling to perform the surgery. The difficulty of the “riddle” comes from the guesser’s automatic presumption that the doctor in question has to be a man — because, of course, only men are qualified to be surgeons, right?
Do major league sports leaders have a responsibility to model respect for women in everything they do? This question is fresh on the minds of many due to Robert Kraft, philanthropist and owner of the New England Patriots, being charged with two counts of soliciting a prostitute in Florida, where he was allegedly engaging in sex acts with women at Orchids of Asia Salon.
Through his philanthropy, Robert Kraft has funded initiatives specifically aimed at ending sexual exploitation of women and girls. USA Today reports that Kraft gave $100,000 in 2015 to My Life, My Choice, a Boston-based organization that works on ending child sex trafficking. Some might ask how the same man can be both perpetrating sexual exploitation and funding initiatives to end it.
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, particularly if it involves women in politics. 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.
“Sex worker organizing is both more necessary and more under-funded than ever. The SWGC is a critical new funding source for sex worker movements,” said SWGC Fellow Janis Luna, referencing the “increasing discrimination and violence under SESTA/FOSTA” that many sex workers report they are facing. The SESTA/FOSTA laws passed in 2018, which seek to end online sex trafficking, were both celebrated and sharply criticized by different parts of the feminist community. Some feminists, such as Mary Mazzio, director of the film I Am Jane Doe, which shed light on the tragic sex trafficking of children in America, supported passage of the laws, while other groups like Survivors Against SESTA, argue that the laws are driving sex workers back into exploitative situations with pimps, and back onto the street where they face increased harassment and criminalization.
SWGC Fellow Janis Luna says that many sex workers today “are struggling to make ends meet” and need all the support philanthropy can provide. In general, philanthropy tends to avoid the subject of sex workers and their rights, leaving only a tiny sliver of funding, $1.1 million for the entire U.S., going to aid and support sex workers.
Rhode Island recently experienced a bit more interface with the sex worker community as one of the state’s longest-standing strip clubs, The Foxy Lady, was shut down by the city of Providence for promoting prostitution. Employees of the shut-down club came forward on Facebook with a GoFundMe page, and comments from community feminist leaders ranged from supporting the fundraiser to suggesting that now would be a good time to organize a worker’s union and reopen with a better workplace environment. Stories like Rhode Island’s suggest there is a great deal of work to be done to ensure that women’s health and safety are a priority in sex work.
SWGC grants will go toward projects to build power and well-being within sex worker communities. In New Orleans, Women With A Vision will be using part of its new grant to organize their second annual Black & Brown Sex Workers event called Second Line. Other grantees such as WeCareTN (Memphis) and The Outlaw Project (Phoenix) will use grant funds to support trans women of color sex workers as they advocate for increased safety, employment, and political power.
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.
“These organizations represent different critical approaches to combatting sexual harassment, including efforts to change culture and improve gender equity in the workplace, train and educate employees, and provide victims with services and support,” said a press release from CBS announcing the grantees, and tying the grants to their “ongoing commitment to strengthening its own workplace culture.”
CBS worked with expert advisory firm RALLY, to develop criteria for making these grants, which were given to organizations targeting three goals: increasing women in positions of power, educating and changing culture, and supporting survivors of gender-based violence.
While this is definitely good news for feminist philanthropy, some would argue that $20 million from CBS should be just the start, and that many corporations in the U.S. have much more work to do in order to address sexual harassment. For starters, other big media corporations who have had similar issues should follow suit, including Fox News (Sean Hannity and Roger Ailes), NBC (Matt Lauer and Tom Brokaw), PBS (Garrison Keillor), ESPN (Donovan McNabb) and the NFL Network (Heath Evans and Marshall Faulk). There is still a great deal of compensation due to community-based #MeToo movements that are working to address gender inequality and create a healthier and safer culture for all.
Collaborative Fund for Women’s Safety and Dignity (Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors) – re-granting
Free the Bid
Freedom Forum Institute – Power Shift Project
Futures Without Violence
Girls for Gender Equity / ‘me too.’ Movement
International Women’s Media Foundation
National Women’s Law Center
New York Women’s Foundation – re-granting
Producers Guild of America Foundation
Sundance Institute’s Momentum program
TIME’S UP Entertainment
TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund
Women in Film Los Angeles
Women’s Media Center
New York Women’s Foundation Receives $2.25 Million Grant from CBS to support the Fund for the Me Too Movement and Allies
As part of the grantmaking from CBS, The New York Women’s Foundation received $2.25 million in funding to support The Foundation’s Fund for the Me Too Movement and Allies (The Fund). The Fund will take a systemic approach to addressing the problem of gender-based violence by beginning a new partnership with women’s funds in the community.
The partnership’s initial membership includes the Washington Area Women’s Foundation, Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis, Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, Women’s Foundation of California, Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts and Women’s Funding Network. “Other public women’s foundations are welcome to join the partnership,” according to a press release announcing the grant.
The #MeToo Fund is led by Ana Oliveira, President and CEO of The New York Women’s Foundation, and Tarana Burke, Founder and Leader of the ‘me too.’ Movement. Based in New York, the #MeToo Fund recently made its first set of eight grants to support organizations around the country working to address gender-based violence and support healing.
Organizations interested in applying for grants from the Fund for the Me Too Movement and Allies should email firstname.lastname@example.org.