Beyond Hip: Connecting Actions to Rhetoric – By Jenn Wilcox

Last December, the progressive journalist Courtney E. Martin posted a powerful reflection on the state of dialog regarding women’s issues. While it has certainly become hip to advocate for women (think about Nick Kristof’s columns or the corporate engagement by companies like Goldman Sachs and Coca Cola), we must remember the importance of connecting actions to rhetoric and not assume that the current climate means our work is done.

Jenn Wilcox, Tanzania 2010

One of the things I love most about Spark is its dedication to engaging its members on all aspects of women’s empowerment. Through this blog, the Spark News Digest and the number of educational events Spark co-sponsors, members are able to learn about and engage on issues that impact women around the world. By attending Grants and Advocacy meetings, we engage in important conversations about how to prioritize projects and how to turn our values into high-impact grants. At Cocktails for a Cause events, we help support domestic and international women-focused organizations while socializing with civically engaged friends. In a vacuum, each of these activities is important, but the real power of the Spark model comes from their integration, from turning what we learn into decisions we make and causes we support.

Perhaps most importantly, this powerful confluence of engagement means that we start to more fully appreciate what Hillary Clinton meant when she declared in 1995 that women’s rights are human rights.  I don’t support women’s rights because I’m a woman, I support women’s rights because in so many places women are systematically denied opportunities and disadvantaged uniquely because of their gender, and battling this injustice is one of clearest ways to create maximum impact. Spark is a small grassroots organization – by definition we have to think about our funding not only in terms of dollars, but in terms of how each dollar will impact the community. As I learn more about the issues surrounding women’s rights, I am convinced that our focus on gender inequality and substantive discussions surrounding funding ensure that each dollar donated to Spark is deployed in a thoughtful, high-impact way.

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