New Grants Promote Maternal and Financial Power for Women

Sistafire, one of the organizations receiving funding from the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island, focuses on empowering women of color, particularly around maternal health issues. (Image credit: Sistafire)

The Women’s Fund of Rhode Island (WFRI) recently announced $50,000 in grant funding to five organizations.

WFRI was launched in 2001, and since then its WFRI Grant Program has awarded more than $700,000 to Rhode Island organizations and programs empowering women and girls. In the most recent cycle of funding, prospective grantees were asked to focus on one or more of WFRI’s 2019 advocacy priorities, which include disparities for Women of Color, economic justice and reproductive health and freedom.

Women and girls comprise 52 percent of Rhode Island’s population of roughly one million, and Women and Girls of Color represent 27 percent of all female Rhode Islanders. The WFRI report “Women of Color 2018: A Snapshot,” produced in conjunction with the Economic Progress Institute at Rhode Island College, reveals that as is the case in many other states, Rhode Island Women and Girls of Color have lower levels of education than their white counterparts, have greater difficulty paying for housing, and are more likely to live in poverty. Rhode Island Women of Color are employed at higher rates than Whites, yet are over-represented in lower wage jobs in health care and social assistance including child care workers, personal care aides and nursing assistants.

According to Lisa Ranglin, President and CEO of the Rhode Island Black Business Association (RIBBA), a grant recipient in the most recent funding cycle, “With Black and Latina women making lower wages than white women, addressing the issue of income equality is critical to ending poverty.” RIBBA is aimed at helping small, minority-owned businesses in under-served cities prosper. Its “Emerging Professionals Program” is designed to create a leadership pipeline for women of color, and is the state’s first to specifically offer a solution to the “double jeopardy” hypothesis which renders Black women “invisible” when being considered for hiring or promotion. “Ten thousand dollars can go a long way in closing the skills and leadership gap among women of color and that’s why this grant is so important,” notes Ranglin.

The four other grant WFRI recipients are:

Building Futures (“Women in the Trades” leadership program). Building Futures’ mission is “to meet employer and industry need for skilled workers through the Registered Apprenticeship system while creating family-sustaining career opportunities for low-income diverse residents.” Women in the Trades aims to increase the percentage of women in the building and construction trades, promote stories of women succeeding in the trades, and identify and address structural barriers to women’s success in these fields.

Girls Rock (“Changing Our Tune Project”). Girls Rock! Rhode Island is a volunteer-based non-profit that uses music creation and critical thinking to foster empowerment, collaborative relationships, and the development of healthy identities in girls, women, trans, and gender non-conforming individuals. The “Changing Our Tune Project” seeks to decrease the incidence of gender-based violence within the music and creative community, and provide resources to survivors and community members. The project will train owners and staff of music venues, as well as bookers and promoters, musicians, artists and audience members in preventing sexual harassment and violence.


SISTA FIRE (support in improving maternal health in Women of Color in Rhode Island). SISTA FIRE’s long-term goal is to support a strong, grassroots network of Women of Color that focuses on economic empowerment, community-led action, healing and wellness. The grant will allow SISTA FIRE to provide leadership development training to address the maternal health crisis that affects Rhode Island Women of Color and their children. Funding will also help to create “Perinatal Safe Spots” in Rhode Island.

Planned Parenthood (support for the RI Coalition for Reproductive Freedom). The grant will protect and advance access to reproductive health care through advocacy and legislative action. The goal is to build an inclusive, intersectional reproductive justice movement that recognizes how race, gender, poverty, and citizenship status impact society’s marginalized communities.

The five Women’s Fund of Rhode Island grant recipients were chosen from a field of 26 which had submitted proposals, and were reviewed by a team of community volunteers with training in gender-lens giving.

The previous cycle of grants–awarded in 2018–had a similar focus, and funded organizations promoting Spanish-language entrepreneurship training; supporting reproductive health and freedom (including programs targeting immigrant and displaced women and girls); addressing sexual harassment among tenth grade girls in Providence schools; and cultivating and teaching civic engagement, leadership, policy making and advocacy among high school girls, including low income Girls of Color.

The Women’s Fund of Rhode Island is a non-profit located in Providence with a mission “to invest in women and girls in our community through research, advocacy, grant making and strategic partnerships designed to advance gender equity through systemic change.”

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Author: Tim Lehnert

Tim Lehnert is a writer and editor who lives in Cranston, Rhode Island. His articles and essays have appeared in the Boston Globe, the Providence Journal, Rhode Island Monthly, the Boston Herald, the Christian Science Monitor, and elsewhere. He is the author of the book Rhode Island 101, and has published short fiction for kids and adults in a number of literary journals and magazines. He received an M.A. in Political Science from McGill University, and an M.A. in English from California State University, Northridge.

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