Reflections: Spark’s Philanthropic Mentorship Series Launch

Reflections by Spark Member, David Scatterday

It was a distinct pleasure to participate in the inaugural installment of Spark’s Philanthropic Mentorship Series. Worthy of a truly notable launch, we were joined by philanthropic innovators Yann Borgstedt and Antonela Notari Vischer from the Womanity Foundation.

IMG_1597

Auspiciously, everything about the launch event of such a promising series was seamless.

First, a little about our guests: Womanity is an entrepreneurial foundation that thinks creatively to find solutions to today’s women’s empowerment challenges. Key topical areas of action include giving women and girls a voice, advancing education and opportunities, providing fellowships to emerging female social entrepreneurs.  As a man, Womanity’s founder Yann Borgstedt does not fit the traditional model of a woman’s empowerment pioneer. However, Yann understands that solving for women’s issues is a key part of solving every development issue around the globe.

Back to our scene: we were hosted in the headquarters of the Cordes Foundation, whose work is focused on alleviating global poverty and empowering women and girls to fully participate in the development of their communities.

In my mind, the event crystallized everything that is so great about Spark.

First, reinforcing its mission of empowering tomorrow’s philanthropic leaders, the event was custom-designed to engage millennials in real dialogue with real practitioners. Speaking with leading social entrepreneurs in the field triggered valuable dialogue about real solutions to pain points encountered by the aspiring millennial philanthropists and activists in the room.

Second, the event was infused by a deep sense of shared mission. While Spark and Womanity take relatively different approaches to programming and fundraising for women’s issues – it was very evident the two organizations share a deeply held common cause of empowering women around the world. This shared sense of mission added a tangible sense of relevance and urgency to the entire session’s dialogue.

Finally, over several years of involvement with Spark, I’ve realized that solving for women’s issues requires an ‘all-hands’ approach. In our increasingly globalized and resource-constrained world, every pressing social issue is a woman’s issue. Whether climate change, health care access or hunger, women are disproportionately impacted. Bringing about real change will require large-scale collective action – women and men working together to solve truly global problems.  Both Womanity and Spark are organizations that understand this and practice a large-tent approach to addressing social problems every day.

Last week’s mentorship session made me prouder than ever to be an active male, millennial philanthropist and Spark member, confirming that I, and everyone at Spark, are taking the right steps to meaningfully improve the welfare of women in this generation – and the next.

Feminism: Why You Shouldn’t Just Dismiss It Nor Just Pick It Up

By Anna Nti-Asare

Anna Nti-Asare is a Spark supporter, budding gender studies expert, Stanford graduate, and creative writer. We asked her to guest blog about her thoughts on feminism in today’s world. Check out her thoughts and more about her below, then we’d love to hear what you think in the comments.

“Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression”
~bell hooks

feminism

As a student pursuing a master’s in Gender Studies, I often find myself in conversations surrounding feminism and feminist theory. Most people seem to begin the dialogue with a challenge in attempts to show what is wrong with feminism and feminists. I’ve heard that feminists are crazy and that all they want is either to be like men or to destroy them, I’ve heard that people who study feminist theory are simply emotional and take things too personally to pose factual and objective information.

I also encounter those who quickly proclaim they are feminists yet don’t really know what that means to them, nor can they acknowledge that their feminism may be very different than another person’s. These people might say something like – “oh men, they have no place in feminist conversations because they just don’t understand” or “all women should have equal working rights, unless this makes me give up my own class privilege” (I’m paraphrasing here of course).

I think both standpoints are equally as harmful to a feminist movement, at least the one I consider myself to be a part of, one represented by the quote above. As I often do when in conversations concerning feminism, I want to bring in a few bell hooks quotes here that begin to address both those who just dismiss feminist theory and those who mindlessly pick it up, for both are simply misinformed.

In her book Feminism is for Everybody, bell hooks writes: “When I talk about the feminism I know – up close and personal – [people] willingly listen, although when our conversations end, they are quick to tell me I am different, not like ‘real’ feminists who hate men, who are angry. I assure them I am as real and as radical a feminist as one can be, and if they dare to come closer to feminism they will see it is not how they have imagined it”

I use this quote because it is something I deeply relate to. There are too many people who dismiss feminist politics because they have accepted a mainstream representation of it that loses sight of its goal to end oppression on all levels. Feminist theorists themselves have often been unable to question their own levels of privilege especially those they hold over other women of lower classes or of different race groups. These transgressions are more than fair to critique but they are not reasons to dismiss ones commitment to end sexism and sexist exploitation. If people weren’t so quick to criticize feminism when they meet a feminist, they would provide themselves more room to grow and to see the diverse layers and history of feminist thought (as they are many).

In the same book, hooks continues to a different point: “A male who has divested of male privilege, who has embraced feminist politics, is a worthy comrade in struggle, in no way a threat to feminism, whereas a female who remains wedded to sexist thinking and behavior infiltrating feminist movement is a dangerous threat”

Again, this quote addresses a misunderstanding and one that is extremely dangerous. She explains to her readers that being feminist should not just become a fashionable trend; it is something that should cause a change in your lifestyle no matter what gender you identify with. Simply identifying as a woman does not mean you are automatically a feminist, especially if you participate in acts of oppression. And identifying as a man is not a reason to be excluded from a movement that desperately needs you in order to succeed. I believe it is crucial for those who identify as feminists to embrace this belief because each one of us represents a larger movement. One that often becomes vilified when infiltrated by those who wave the banner and are not willing to learn how they might improve in their own thinking.

This is solely a brief introduction to a general discussion of why more people should set aside their misunderstandings and learn for themselves how beneficial embracing informed feminism could be for themselves and society as a whole. bell hooks beautifully summarizes this by writing: “Imagine living in a world where there is no domination, where females and males are not alike or even always equal, but where a vision of mutuality is the ethos shaping our interaction” I hope you take these quotes and commentary as important food for thought in your next interaction with feminism and that you engage with future pieces concerning my choice to align with Black Feminism specifically. More on this soon…

Visit Anna’s original post here.

About Anna Nti-Asare:
Anna Nti-Asare is a graduate student at the University of Cambridge in the UK, pursuing her MPhil in Multidisciplinary Gender Studies. She recently graduated from Stanford University in Medical Anthropology with honors and distinction as a member of Phi Beta Kappa, class of 2014. Anna wrote her undergraduate honors thesis on “Sex Education: An Anti-Feminist Socialization of American Youth.” She is deeply interested in gender and race studies in the US and plans to establish herself as a trusted social commentator on such topics, especially as they relate to youth and popular culture. Outside of studying, Anna is a performance artist – a dancer, singer, actress, and occasional model. She loves finding ways of using her artistic creativity to further develop her intellectual and charitable passions. One example comes through Photography Competing to Raise Support (PCTRS), a photo competition Anna founded in 2012 with the help of two best friends that raises money and awareness for women’s health clinics. She hopes you will enjoy engaging with her opinions and welcomes all feedback.

#PinTheCreep: India Combats Street Harassment with Technology

New Grantee: Safecity (registered under Red Dot Foundation)

By Spark Member Crystal Huber 

848 women are harassed, raped or killed in India every day. Women’s rights have been heavily debated in the past few years and Navi Pillay, UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, called upon India to make a profound change to end violence against women.

safecity-2

That’s exactly what Spark’s newest grantee, Safecity (under Red Dot Foundation), and its co-founders are aiming to do: empower girls and women to break their silence and take a stand for their personal safety by using data and technology to make public spaces safer and more accessible. Safecity is a platform to document personal experiences of sexual harassment and abuse in public spaces. The crowdsourced reports are aggregated on Google Maps to show trends that prioritize locations where action needs to taken: increase community awareness, engage with local government and change infrastructure including installation of streetlights at crime-ridden intersections or modification of police patrol hours to increase presence during high-crime times. Since Dec 2012, Safecity has collected over 4,000 reports in 50 cities in India and Nepal, and educated over 1,500 people spanning the ages of 9 to 60 years of age. Safecity’s co-founders ElsaMarie, Saloni and Surya compose a dynamic, qualified and balanced team. They are launching this social change that will impact policy, infrastructure and gender equality. Safecity Safecity helps females break the silence. But the organization is doing so much more. They are engaging local communities and educating the next generation about equality and human rights. Safecity is also including men in this conversation, using easily accessible technology (Tweet #pinthecreep) and eliminating the vulnerability of allowing women’s voices to be heard by shifting the focus from the individual to the local level. A Spark grant will cover:

  • 500 children, 500 youth and 500 parents to be educated on issues of sexual harassment through approximately 60 workshops of 25 participants. Each workshop costs under $90 including materials, printing and trainer allowance. The programming has been collaborative and validated with the help of US- and India-based organizations with counselors trained through the UN’s Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre.

Pro bono needs:

  • Graphic design / Data visualization: represent the data in a more appealing and usable way. Create info graphics.
  • Data analysis: build tools to analyze the qualitative data.
  • Strategy: understand what other layers of data to add and how to reach as many people as possible.
  • Marketing support: create awareness about Safecity to the right audiences.

Email programs@sparksf.org for specific details on these opportunities. We are impressed by Safecity’s efforts but are even more enthusiastic about the deep-rooted changes this organization will make at a local and national level. The team at Safecity has embraced technology to fight a social change that we hope you’ll join too. If you are inspired by these efforts, you can help in several ways. You can support Spark’s fundraising efforts for Safecity by donating here. You can also spread the word about what a fantastic organization Safecity on social media. For more information about Safecity, visit: safecity.in.

Egypt’s Women: Uncensored

New Grantee: The BuSSy Project

By Spark Fellow Kendra Hyett

In modern Egypt, traditions limit women’s contact with men via practices such as veiling and gender segregation at schools, work, and recreational activities. To simply walk down the street, girls and women have to put up with abuse running from verbal to physical. The Thomson Reuters Foundation’s Women’s Rights Poll in 2013 even determined Egypt to be the worst out of 22 Arabs states for women due to high rates of sexual harassment, high rates of female genital cutting, a surge in violence and Islamist feelings after the Arab Spring uprisings, plus discriminatory laws and a spike in trafficking.

Since then, the first step has been made legally to end sexual harassment in Egypt with a new law in 2014 criminalizing sexual harassment for the first time in modern Egyptian history.

But still, a troubling trend has inflicted Egyptian society for some time—young Egyptian women and men are bound by the barriers of gender-segregating traditions and practices, social taboos, stereotypes, and other cultural norms that leave a narrow space for open expression and opportunity to challenge the status quo. The BuSSy Project seeks to break away from these confines, giving those living in this traditional society his or her own opportunity at a story, a face, a voice.

bussy2

The BuSSy Project is a performing arts group based in Cairo, Egypt that seeks to provide open and uncensored spaces for young women to candidly and anonymously share their personal experiences with a range of social issues, with a larger campaign to raise awareness about the different, and often unreported, facets of Egyptian society through storytelling.

bussy1

BuSSy’s storytelling workshops expose real women’s stories and provide a space for free expression on issues that society was failing to address, while the performances offer a unique opportunity for young Egyptian women to write for themselves instead of being written about by others. They are not professional artists, but a group of passionate, enthusiastic youth with strong faith in the value and impact of the project. They felt that theater would be the best way to reach a large body of people while providing the storytellers with a direct opportunity to publicly reclaim the truth as they experienced it. The BuSSy Project’s stories reflect a reality Egyptians are living with regards to gender issues that are experienced by all members of society, irrespective of class and background.

bussy3

A Spark grant will cover: 

  • Sponsorship for BuSSy performers on a tour throughout Egypt and help empower these young women to reclaim their stories as they experienced it.

Pro Bono needs:

  • Spread the word on Social Media: The BuSSy Project is facing censorship! The BuSSy Project’s high school students’ performance in Cairo, Egypt, was unfairly canceled (both in venue and funding) due to “inappropriate” content, with excuses of technical issues in the space. Check out the full story below and share the following messages with your social media networks.
    • Twitter: .@SparkSF grantee @TheBuSSyProject is facing censorship in #Egypt! Let performers for #GenderEquality speak. http://bit.ly/1aWP8MWFacebook: Spark grantee The BuSSy Project is facing censorship in Egypt! Let performers for #GenderEquality speak. http://bit.ly/1aWP8MW

More Information on the censorship issue:

In January 2014, The BuSSy Project and AFCA Foundation for Arts and Culture entered into a partnership to facilitate storytelling workshops in high schools all over Cairo, Egypt in order to document the experiences of high school students and create an open space forum for young Egyptians to feel empowered by the chance to share experiences with their lives, families, relationships, and school dynamics. The stories of the high school students were then adapted into a staged performance, to raise awareness about the issues discussed, calling “500s” [or “Khomsomeeyat”].

The performance was originally set to premiere at the Hakawy International Children’s Festival at the Cairo Opera Houseon 15 and 16 March 2015. On the night before the premiere, the director of the Opera House, having been informed of the alleged “inappropriate” content of the show by technicians she hired to observe our rehearsals–an accusation which was based on the show’s depiction of youth going through adolescence, including such common experiences as masturbation and sex education–the director asked that they “tone down” the content. The “500s” team refused the request to edit the content, on the grounds that it constitutes a form of censorship and intrusiveness, as well as a sort of distortion of content which would greatly impact the performance and its underlying goal and message. Thus, the performance was canceled by the Opera House, for, in their words, “technical reasons.”

Despite its initial difficulties, “500s” was scheduled to proceed with its premiere, at an independent venue. The co-producers, BuSSy & AFCA secured the Greek Campus in Cairo to host the premiere of “500s” and began publicizing the new dates of the performance, 16 & 17 April.However, just two weeks before the show’s premiere, the leadership of AFCA decided that the show’s content is inappropriate, and AFCA has decided that they no longer feel comfortable producing the show without making major changes to the play. AFCA then suggested that BuSSy submit the script of the performance to a committee, selected by AFCA, to review the script and make suggested changes. For the second time in less than one month, “500s” was censored. Since BuSSy had not changed its convictions concerning censorship, AFCA decided to cease its support of the performance, which was not only as co-producers, but also has financial supporters.

“500s” is now facing a ‘sink or swim’ situation–and we have decided to choose to ‘swim.’ The premiere, which is scheduled for April 16th, will go on, though due to BuSSy’s limited financial resources, it will be a difficult endeavor. Thus, we are reaching out to members of our community for support, to bring to light the realities of art censorship and regulation in Egypt, and help us to share the important messages that “500s” addresses.

Press coverage:

Egypt Independent: Cairo Opera House cancels play on adolescence for ‘inappropriate’ content

Ahram Online: Play for teenagers cancelled, organisers explain why

cairoscene: STATE-RUN THEATRE BANS ‘INAPPROPRIATE’ CHILDREN’S PLAY

Mada Masr: BuSSy Monologues’ new show halted at Cairo Opera House

Women Rock the Golden Globes, Start-up Sisters Decline Millions, Street Harassment Intensifies in Africa, and Ocean-Bound Healthcare

2015 is strong out of the gate with more than 10 top feminist moments at the Golden Globes, and local start-up women not only getting big TV exposure, but also turning down millions in funding. See what the realities of the new year look like for women in Hollywood from highlights to job truths, why street harassment has escalated in Africa, and how one doctor has beaten abortion laws by taking her clinic to the seas. This is your Spark News Digest.

Read, Discuss, Share.

By Spark Fellow: Kendra Hyett

*****

tina-amy

FEMINISM: Hollywood Women Rock the Globes + “Celluloid Ceiling” Revealed

In 2014, actress Emma Watson spoke at the U.N. Headquarters, calling men to be advocates for gender equality with the “HeForShe” Campaign; male celebrities Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Aziz Ansari, John Legend, and more stepped up as feminists; plus female-led film, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 was the biggest opener of 2014. But Hollywood 2014 news also included the shocking break of multiple rape allegations against beloved actor and comedian Bill Cosby as well as female actors Cate Blanchett and Mindy Kaling speaking up about sexism in Hollywood casting and jobs behind the camera. So what will 2015 look like in Hollywood? The fact that there were 10+ top feminist moments in the 2015 Golden Globes sounds like 2015 is coming out of the gate strong, so check those out below for a little new year’s cheer, but also a dose of how far we have yet to come with the new year’s report on female jobs in Hollywood.

READ THE STORIES:
The Most Feminist Moments of the 2015 Golden Globes
Breaking Through Hollywood’s Celluloid Ceiling

*****

TECHNOLOGY: SF Start-up Sisters Spurn “Sharks”

The three Bay Area sisters who created dating app, Coffee Meets Bagel, are getting a lot of attention! Not only is their dating app designed by women for women and has been racking up the success stories, but in early January, the sisters had the huge opportunity at getting some serious funding from investors on Shark Tank. Find out why these local entrepreneurs turned down the sharks’ $30M offer. (Yes, 3-0 MILLION!!)

READ THE STORY

*****

GLOBAL WOMEN’S RIGHTS: Attacks on the Street Fight Women in the Seats

In late 2014, a woman in New York filmed herself walking through the city catcalled and followed while wearing jeans and a t-shirt, a woman in Nairobi wearing a mini-skirt was filmed being stripped and attacked by a crowd, and a girl in Zimbabwe wearing a short dress was filmed being dragged off a bus and stripped. Obviously, this is about a whole lot more than “inappropriate” clothing and even a woman’s right to dress as she wishes without harassment. This poignant New York Times article discusses how in Africa (and likely around the world), these attacks on women are not about what women are wearing, but about where women are going as women rapidly advance into positions of power.

READ THE STORY

*****

GLOBAL HEALTH: Clinic ON the Sea – Doctor Goes the Distance for Safe Abortions

With abortion laws under fire, an incredible doctor took her clinic to international waters. Dr. Rebecca Gomperts started her own organization sailing around the world to teach women to safely use abortion-inducing drugs. Get the scoop on how it works and about her amazing documentary that premiered at SXSW.

READ THE STORY

A Kit That Saves Lives: Bringing Safe Delivery to Nigerian Mothers

New Grantee: Advocates for Sustainable Health (A4SH)

By Spark Fellow Kendra Hyett

Nigeria is the most populous country and arguably the richest in Africa. Yet, the health of the people remains poor, especially for women and children. The Nigerian Ministry of Health spends about 70% of its budget in urban areas, where only 30% of the population resides. Most public healthcare facilities are consequently under-funded and lacking supplies leaving expectant mothers to buy their own basic medical supplies or go without, exposing themselves to serious health risks. The 2013 Demographic Health Survey (DHS) reports that Nigeria has a maternal mortality ratio of 576 deaths/100,000 live births (the 13th highest in the world), and the neonatal mortality is 37/1,000 live births (with the highest at 47). The World Health Organization (WHO), reports that 1 in every 13 mothers die during childbirth in Nigeria every year, and the deaths of newborn babies represent a quarter of deaths under 5, most of which occur within the first week of life. These deaths are primarily attributable to complications during pregnancy and delivery, many of which could be detected and prevented before delivery during antenatal care visits.

A4SH

Spark’s latest grantee, Advocates for Sustainable Health (A4SH), seeks to improve the quality and availability of health services provided to pregnant women and mothers in rural Nigeria. A4SH was founded in 2013 by a small group of dynamic young individuals driven by a passion to ensure that women in their communities could gain access to basic and necessary health care.

A4SH’s signature program is the Safe Delivery Program, which encourages pregnant women to attend antenatal care visits in exchange for safe delivery kits. The kits are sterilized and packaged locally and include: a delivery mat, infant receiver, gloves, cord clamps, a scalpel, methylated spirit, antiseptic soap, a mucus extractor, olive oil, cotton wool, gauze, and maternity pads.

Expectant mothers receive a delivery kit at their fourth antenatal care visit in a participating primary healthcare center. Since its founding in 2013, A4SH has reached about 400-500 women in three communities within the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria.

A Spark grant will cover:

  • 4 interventions in hard-to-reach communities,
  • 100 safe delivery kits to facilities in these communities,
  • and further outreach through providing “pikin kits,” (post-natal kits) for women after delivery in a health facility. Kits include items to care for their newborn babies including powder, baby oil, Vaseline, a sponge, lotion, cloth diapers, one outfit with hat and socks, a blanket, and information on post-delivery care.

Pro Bono needs:

  • Website Development: The organization’s staff did their best to create a website, but are in need of professional consultation and aid in completing website development.
  • Video Development: Create a demonstration video for their Sensitization Program in which they provide essential care instructions on breast feeding, immunization, and hygiene in the local women’s language of Hausa. Create a video around their Advocacy Program in which they advocate for the provision of midwives for communities in need.
  • Management Consultancy – Help the organization develop a sustainable business plan to help A4SH successfully move forward with its mission and vision.

If you would like to support Spark’s fundraising efforts for A4SH, you can make a donation on Spark’s website. If you are interested in providing pro bono services for them, please email programs@sparksf.org.

We are thrilled to support this wonderful organization, and thank you for all of your support! Visit A4SH’s Website to learn more.

CWEN: Cultivating Women Entrepreneurs

New Grantee: Community Women’s Enterprise Network (CWEN)

By Spark Fellow Kendra Hyett

Uganda was described as “the pearl of Africa,” by Winston Churchill, referring to the country’s natural beauty, rich landscapes, and good climate. But unfortunately, as The Foundation for Sustainable Development reports, “the country currently ranks as one of the 20 poorest nations in the world and 50% of the population lives below the poverty line.” The majority of the population lacks basic resources and infrastructure from running water to health care and education and now 1 million citizens are infected with HIV/AIDS.

SAM_6355

Women in Uganda face even more health risks and employment barriers as they are at greater risk of HIV/AIDS infection, face lower social status than men, and lack economic self-sufficiency. For most women, this reduces their access to education, power to act independently, ability to avoid poverty, and their power to escape reliance upon abusive men.

Facing these discriminations, risks, and barriers to controlling their own livelihood, women in Uganda are in desperate need of new and innovative opportunities. Community Women’s Enterprise Network (CWEN) was created to do just that.

CWEN was founded in 2012 by a group of passionate young women looking for new opportunities for women in their communities. The young women were selected by their own communities in the districts of Kampala, Mukono, and Wakiso to run the organization. Now, only a few years later, they have a network of 220 low-income women entrepreneurs. CWEN’s mission is to build the entrepreneurial capacity of women to overcome economic and social barriers and achieve self-sufficiency. Their programs focus on micro lending and value chain development for women entrepreneurs, plus social research and impact measurement. Their proposed project, Women on the Shelf, aims to help low income, high potential women entrepreneurs gain shelf space in leading local and regional stores and get their products flying off the shelves. Women on the Shelf focuses on cultivating and strengthening the capacity of women food entrepreneurs and other products through branding, packaging, marketing, merchandising and promotions so products will fetch higher prices, doubling incomes for women producers and expanding their markets locally and globally.

A Spark grant will cover:

  • Support for 41 low-income, high potential female entrepreneurs through CWEN’s Women on the Shelf project.
    • This support includes: branding, packaging, marketing, and merchandising their products; project team staffing, transportation, plus monitoring and evaluation costs.
  • CWEN is looking for website and marketing guidance. If you’d like to be the one to provide pro bono support, please contact us.

If you would like to support Spark’s fundraising efforts for CWEN, you can make a donation on Spark’s website. We would also love to hear from you if you are interested in providing pro bono services: email programs@sparksf.org. We are very excited to support this wonderful organization! Visit CWEN’s Website to learn more.