Today at the WomenFunded 2019 conference started with Kevin Powell speaking on What is a Man? Kevin provided an impassioned plea for society to help men create less restrictive personal and social identities that allows them to be compassionate, empathic partners in the work of growing gender equality. He spoke about his relationships with women and what he has learned as a male ally over the years.
The first panel of the day, Are Your Clothes Supporting Gender Equity in the Global Workforce? featured Kimberly Almeida, Antoinette Klatzky, Bama Athreya, and K.K. Verdade. The discussion focused on ways to bring more positive change for women and girls into the clothing industry. Kimberly Almeida discussed the Levi Strauss Foundation’s strategy of working with factories that produce their products to enact new policies to address women’s health and safety. “What matters most for determining well-being is working in an environment that is built on trust and fairness,” said Almeida.
K.K. Verdade, Executive Director of the ELAS Fund in Brazil, talked about the importance of transparency in the supply chain, which can contribute to climate and environmental justice, because “transparency can help to build autonomous consumers.” ELAS works in partnership with the C&A Foundation to eradicate violence against women and contribute to a more just, inclusive and sustainable fashion industry.
Bama Athreya of the C&A Foundation spoke about their strategy for transforming the apparel industry being not just about the places where the company sources its products. “Women are cultural producers, and we reproduce culture,” said Athreya. For that reason, she said, the C&A Foundation “works to support culture change for women and girls.”
At clothing company Eileen Fisher, the goal is to move toward sustainability in their business plan, but Antoinette Klatzy noted that, “Even if we (as a company) get to 100% sustainability, we are a tiny drop in the bucket.” She emphasized the need for more collaboration across the industry to produce effective change, but noted that collaboration is a big challenge in “an economy that is so driven by competition.”
“I think the track record of collaboration is pretty weak,” said Kimberly Almeida. “Our approach of addressing human rights in the supply chain hasn’t worked.” Almeida said that Levi Strauss is addressing this lack of collaboration by making its own work in the arena “open source,” including “sharing our failures, so that the industry can stop repeating mistakes.” She said their Foundation is looking to share what it has learned by making resources, tools and curriculums available to others.
Debunking the Biggest Myths in Girls’ Education
Erin Ganju, Managing Director at Echidna Giving, a private funder in girls’ education in lower-income countries, discussed the ongoing challenges of educating girls internationally. “Why do we funders struggle to understand where to scale up?” she asked. In introducing the topic, Ganju explained that this session would explore the “how” of making evidence-based investments in girls’ education.
“Every year, we may be investing $4 billion on programs that don’t work,” said Stephanie Psaki.
Psaki and Ganju discussed several myths that impacts girls’ educations strategies globally. The first myth: “If you solve child marriage, you solve school dropout.” While child marriage is a huge problem that needs to be tackled, said the presenters, addressing child marriage alone is not enough to solve educational issues for girls. Research shows that while in early teen years, more girls stayed in school and didn’t marry, there weren’t opportunities and pathways for them to move into as they got older, so many still married in later teen years and did not go on with education.
Another myth is that “Education will solve health problems.” The presenters described a systematic review of the research about how education solves health problems as “mixed.” Access to education helped to get more girls to use bednets to prevent malaria, but the research indicated that there was no effect from education on age of marriage of use of contraception. More research is needed to fully understand how education impacts health, said the presenters.
Another myth: “There’s plenty of funding for girls’ education.” The presenters argued that in order to fully fund education worldwide, the funding would need to increase from $1.2 trillion a year to $3 trillion a year. Most of this money would come from governments themselves, with only 3% needing to come from donors. Right now, $16 billion is being given by donors for education, but that number would need to increase to 89 billion by 2030 to reach the “learning generation.”
The presenters reported that only about 18% of educational programs are using evidence-based approaches. For this reason, the Girls Center and Echidna Giving are doing a “massive update” of all the research on girls’ education, which will be released early in 2020.
WomenFunded Presents: I am Remarkable
“It’s about self-promotion,” said Kanika Raney, by way of introducing I am Remarkable, a Google initiative that is working to empower women and marginalized groups to share about their achievements. To date, the initiative has conducted over 2000 workshops across 60 countries. Created by two women who work at Google in London, I am Remarkable works to address the impact of gender norms on women’s ability to get hired and promoted in the workplace, and to enjoy the level of affirmation and credit they deserve in life.
According to Raney, research tells us that when women self-promote, they are perceived as less attractive, less intelligent, and less hireable. And yet the ability to talk about your accomplishments and let others know the value you provide in your organization or community is critical to women’s success. How to solve this conundrum? Teach women the art of self-promotion and challenge the cultural norms that tell women not to do it.
This workshop invited participants to list their remarkable achievements and then practice sharing them in small groups, in order to build the “muscle” of how to do this in a comfortable and credible way. Participants described feeling emboldened by the experience, and got the chance to hear each other sing their own praises and feel the power of owning their own valuable life achievements.
How to Boost Our Collective Impact with Digital Strategies
Facilitators Jensine Larsen and Uma Mishra-Newbery led a workshop to help gender equality movement builders explore technology as a means to amplify social issues and connect activists for more effective work.
The digital reach, or percentage of people with internet access worldwide today, is estimated at 57%, yet 250 million fewer women than men use the internet. The good news, though, is that many women who do have internet access are using technology and online networking to grow important social movements for equality. Global strategies are also aligning to bring more women online, with Sustainable Development Goal 5B specifically calling for growing women’s access to technology.
Presenters in this workshop emphasized that women need to be shapers of the web, and need to look at technology as an important tool to do their work. They discussed the success of projects like Free Saudi Women, a coalition of seven NGO’s that has gotten over 250,000 signatures on its Change.org petition. Digital platforms and the women working them played a key role in disseminating information about this campaigns. They also described the success of activists like Urmila, who used the internet as a way to serve as a “community bridge” that linked women across India to fight the stigma of menstruation.
The workshop presenters also described a new model of a “digital leadership ladder” that helps women to get access to internet, then advance to link up with online hubs, and further advance to engage with leadership resources that develop their capacity for collective advocacy. The model helps women rise to the point where they can do crowdsourcing for specific movement activity.
One pain point that exists for technology’s capacity to help women become more powerful: internet access in developing nations is often much more expensive than in the developed world, with the cost for the user being as much as four times the price that those in developed countries pay. Workshop participants were asked to brainstorm solutions to this problem, such as identifying ways to cover those extra costs for these women to get online.
“Women are changemakers, technology is a changemaker. Put them together and we have the potential for a massive rocket boost – one of the greatest global hacks for sustainability,” said Jensine Larsen.
Ending Child Marriage In Pakistan
This session started with a preview from “Fundamental,” an upcoming docuseries sponsored by Global Fund for Women, which documents the movement to end child, early, and forced marriage.
Pakistani human rights activist Rukhshanda Naz provided some context for the docuseries based on her experiences with trying to prevent child marriage.
Women of Color: Reshaping Philanthropy
New Faces, New Leaders: Funding Girls of Color