An Intersectional Ecofeminist Approach: Rachel’s Network

intersectional ecofeminism
Rachel’s Network distributes $60 million annually to address both climate change and gender equality. Its intersectional ecofeminist approach is uniquely powerful. 

Funders for social progress appear to be increasingly recognizing the intersection of women’s rights and climate change. For example, the million dollar Roddenberry Prize, recently discussed on Philanthropy Women, seeks to support organizations with new solutions to both gender inequality and climate change. Additionally, substantial research, such as  this recent issue of Gender and Development, highlights how environmental issues are closely related to gender equality problems. All of these organizations are recognizing how interesectional ecofeminist approaches in philanthropy can be highly strategic and impactful.

Here’s where Rachel’s Network comes in.  One of the most significant funding networks in the intersectional ecofeminist space, Rachel’s Network has a mission of promoting women as the leading strategists in addressing environmental issues and climate change. Rachel’s Network is made up of female advocates for environmental justice and women’s empowerment, many of whom work in major environmental organizations across the globe. These women  annually donate about $60 million to organizations and projects that are helping our planet and addressing gender inequality.

With a robust board of directors, staff members, environmental leadership liaisons, circle of advisors, and member population, this powerful funders’ network has significant reach. Their advisors include lifelong activists such as Dr. Jane Goodall and their environmental leadership liaisons include voices from the National Parks Conservation Association, U.S. Climate Action Network, Defenders of Wildlife, and Alliance for Justice. In the organization’s 2017 Annual Report, President Fern Shepard and Board Chair Kef Kasdin remark, “We often think of our namesake Rachel Carson, and the courage and tenacity she displayed during her own politically – and personally – challenging times. She inspires us to hold on to what’s true and right, and to fight every day for what matters – a healthy world for all.”

Over the past year, Rachel’s Network has been working on several projects, one being When Women Lead.  Through this project, Rachel’s Network is taking an approach that recognizes the critical connections between female leadership and environmental justice. According to the League of Conservation Voters Environmental Scorecard, data shows that environmental advocacy is more often voted for by female federal legislators than male federal legislators. The 2017 Annual Report for Rachel’s Network, entitled Building Our Power, discusses how Rachel’s Network partnered with the League of Conservation Voters to host a women’s candidate training in Washington, DC, where hundreds of women learned how to run for office in their communities.

Rachel’s Network has also partnered with the Sierra Club to fight against walls and barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border. Other partnerships include work with the Greening Youth Foundation to improve access to jobs in conservation for minorities, and As You Sow, which works to reduce the use of antibiotics on farms. These projects are just a few examples of what Rachel’s Network has done for women through its philanthropy for environmental justice around the world.

Feminist philanthropy has a critical role to play in funding ecofeminism — continuing the work that began over 30 years ago when women leaders started to call attention to the parallels of environmental destruction and other forms of human domination and exploitation.  As we approach critical mass for women in both government and business, chances are we will see more intersectional ecofeminist approaches. Funder collaboratives like Rachel’s Network are moving us forward, providing progressive leadership with a deep understanding of the connections between funding feminism and environmental justice issues.


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Author: Kiersten Marek

Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is the founder of Philanthropy Women. She practices clinical social work and writes about how women donors and their allies are advancing social change.

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