Change begins with funding for women at the local level

Written by: Sophia Cole

Date: March 08, 2018

“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.” – Gloria Steinem, American feminist, journalist and social political activist

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #PressforProgress, words that symbolize the hope and resilience needed more than ever in our country. On March 8, this internationally recognized day will commemorate “the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women,” a celebration predicated on a rallying call to support gender equality.

Women are the change makers in history. Studies have shown time and again that more women in the workforce is tied to a well-faring economy, a higher GDP and an overall wealthier society. Money invested in women is reflected in lower mortality rates, higher literacy rates and healthier families. Data also show that countries that have 30 percent or more female political participation are more fair and democratic nations.

Yet, women around the world continue to face discrimination and challenges that bar them from achieving their full potential. Indeed, 51 percent of the American population faces systemic gender discrimination in the most basic forms. It is important to note that women of color face the deepest and widest barriers, as systemic racism exacerbates these issues. 

Women fight every day for control over our bodies. We’re underrepresented in political office. We face social stigmas and stereotypes that cost us money, time and potential. We still earn an average of 78.3 cents to the average male’s $1. At the current speed of U.S. gender equality reform, women will finally earn equal pay in 2058. While it is unthinkable and disheartening to imagine another 40 years of such poignant gender inequality, this International Women’s Day, take a moment to celebrate the global achievements made by women in 2017.

This past year seems like a montage of inspiring women’s rights activism. Millions came together to protest sexual violence, gender discrimination and justice in the creation of a new social discourse on what it means to be a woman today.

Many of the most inspiring moments happened in the U.S. From the unprecedented #metoo movement in Hollywood, which struck a global nerve, to the collective roar of the intersectionality of women at the first annual Women’s March – the largest single-day protest in history. The She Should Run Campaign is knocking down the political boys club by encouraging more women to run for office. Still, the fight is not even close to being over.

While we stand in awe at the strength and resilience of the voices who speak out, organize and push for gender equality, are we giving enough attention to our local, quiet heroines championing gender equality?

This International Women’s Day, don’t forget about the capability and power of women with less political or celebrity sway working in small communities in our backyard. As women around the world are fighting for and, finally, gaining the spotlight to speak and challenge harmful social frameworks, the quiet voice can be the loudest.

The smallest gesture can have the biggest impact. You do not have to be a celebrity or a political figure to join in the sweeping movement. By investing in women-led grassroots organizations in the U.S, you are investing in a ripple effect that improves local communities, the region and our country.

Funders: 

  • Invest in organizations that are women-led and have grassroots initiatives.
  • Push for gender inclusiveness on your staff and board.
  • Embed a gender equality lens in your funding framework: Collect data that disaggregates different intersections of gender and racial groups to understand where your money is really going.
  • Support organizations that: influence others beliefs and actions; challenge stereotypes and biases; and forge positive visibility of women.
  • Fund policy work and community engagement, which NCRP research has found produces a $115 to $1 return-on-investment.

Beyond investing, there are many ways to get involved and leave your footprint.

Activists:

  • Challenge your community, peers and family to view their actions through a gender inclusivity framework.
  • Volunteer with a local women’s organization.
  • Educate yourself on the systemic barriers women face using resources like the American Association of University Women, U.S. Department of Labor data and Status of Women in the States.
  • Join the movement, pledge to #PressforProgress.
  • Learn what has worked to support women and the organizations that serve them.

Do not underestimate the work of a single woman. Women are mobilized, empowered and ready. The time is NOW to invest in positive social change in your community, our nation and the world!

Sophia Cole is NCRP’s learning and engagement intern. Follow @NCRP on Twitter.

Photo by Molly Adams. Used under Creative Commons license.

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