Category Archives: Events

New Grantee: Young Feminists Movement in Pakistan


The Young Feminists Movement

By Spark Fellow Kendra Hyett

Pakistan is only second to Yemen in a list of the ten worst countries for girls to be born in according to The Global Gender Gap Report in 2013. Women receive 43% less educational opportunities than men, there’s a 21% gender-based income gap, and only a quarter of the national labor force are represented by women. When it comes to violence against women, according to a study by The Ministry of Law, Justice, and Human Rights, just from January 2012 to September 2013, there were 860 honor killings, 481 incidents of domestic violence, 90 cases of acid burning, 344 cases or rape or gang rape, and 268 incidents of sexual assault or harassment.

In the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province in Northern Pakistan, girls and women are living under a tribal and Feudal system that promotes male dominance, presented as Islamic norms and values by religious groups. These traditions create even more extreme gender inequality and chance of gender-based violence as girls and women can be forced into marriage for the sake of peacemaking between tribes, are excluded from political activities, plus face violence and religious extremism when making efforts towards promoting girls and women’s rights. All of this is what sparked an international movement behind young activist Malala Yousafzai after she survived the Taliban’s targeted shooting for her promotion of girls’ rights to education.

In a place where even young school girls face extreme violence for speaking out, and “feminism” is a bold concept, Spark is thrilled to support giving these young women a voice through our newest grantee, The Young Feminists Movement.

The Young Feminists Movement was created in 2011 by young women at various local colleges from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and adjacent tribal areas focused on raising awareness around gender equality issues plus giving young women a safe space and a voice in an oppressed society. They provide 5-day trainings for girls ages 15-25 around equal rights, reproductive health and abuse prevention, plus they promote activism around girls’ and women’s rights and gender equality. From these trainings and other activities, they form “Girls Power Clubs” which continue the cultivation and promotion of feminism and activism. So far, they have successfully organized a group of 23 young women who speak for equal rights and are equipped with the knowledge and tools to challenge the patriarchy, plus they have influenced many more through their activist activities.


A Spark grant will cover:

  • 50 scholarships for girls to attend the training program, and
  • Volunteer services in the areas of development plus organizational and financial management.

If you are interested in being a part of providing these volunteer services, we would love to hear from you. Email

We are so excited to feature this progressive and innovative organization at our upcoming Cocktails For A Cause event!

Please join us at SparkSF’s Cocktails For A Cause event on April 23, 2014 at Mr. Smiths in San Francisco to help raise funds for the young feminists of Pakistan. #MoreMalalas

Pussy Riot: Punk Rock, Air Guitar & The Pursuit of Freedom

Pussy Riot: Punk Rock, Air Guitar & The Pursuit of Freedom

Authored by Kelly Gallo

Pussy Riot MembersWhile Russia was prepping for the Sochi Olympics, all-female punk rock collective, Pussy Riot, was using performance art to protest against President Putin. The group’s most famous action was in February 2012 inside a Moscow cathedral where band members danced and played air guitar as their boom box played what they called “A Punk Prayer”:

“Virgin Mary, Mother of God, chase Putin out… The phantom of liberty is up in heaven, Gay pride sent to Siberia in a chain gang… Virgin Mary, Mother of God, become a feminist.”

The action resulted in the arrest of three members of the group, including Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, who were sentenced to two years in prison. As part of Putin’s pre-Olympics prisoner amnesty, Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were released in December, two months before their sentences were up. Since then, they’ve been on a U.S Tour including a stop at The Colbert Report.

On February 27th, join Spark for an evening of film and conversation as we explore Russia beyond the glory of the Olympic Games and take a deeper look at the controversial political policies that have been simmering in Sochi.

We’ll be screening the acclaimed documentary Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, which tells the incredible story of these young female activists and follows their infamous arrest and court trial.

To get a better understanding of what drove Pussy Riot to such controversial performances that resulted in jail time and hard labor, Spark will be joined by guest speaker Masha Gessen, a Russian-American journalist who recently published the book Words Will Break Cement: the Passion of Pussy Riot. Gessen is a prominent author who is also a lesbian and an outspoken LGBT rights advocate in Russia. After Russia passed two anti-gay laws in June 2013, she decided it was time for her, her partner, and their children to move to New York.

Join us for an evening of insightful film and conversation – the flame may burn out in Sochi but human rights and freedom of speech are not be gamed with as the fight continues for equality for Russian’s citizens.


Five Ways to Make an Impact as a Young Philanthropist

We’ve created a great community of young philanthropists here at Spark. But getting involved in our organization isn’t the only way to be an engaged, young philanthropist. There are lots of ways to contribute to your local and global community that can have a lasting impact.

To help our Sparkles out, we’ve created a list of five ways you can get started on your path as a young philanthropist:

1)    Hours            

This is the most obvious. You don’t need a lot of money to be a young philanthropist. Find out what moves you and if you can’t give cash, give hours! Tons of organizations are ready and willing to accept volunteers eager to give their time. You will likely need to go through training, and while that may take a while, you’re guaranteed to meet some like-minded folks dedicated to improving their communities while gaining an even deeper understanding about the organization.

If you’re really keen on giving money, one way to budget it that might be easier than a one-time gift of, say, $1,000, is to donate a little bit each month. I signed up for a monthly donation to Planned Parenthood so many years ago I forget that it even pulls $20 from my bank account every month. While $240 a year doesn’t seem huge, we do know that every dollar counts; and when you consider what that number looks like after ten years – $2,400 – it’s a pretty good chunk of change towards a cause I care deeply about.

2)    Turn Gifts to You into Gifts for Others

Have a birthday, wedding, or other celebration coming up that traditionally has the host receiving gifts? Think about a donation registry instead. If you’re getting married, give your guests the option of donating to an organization or cause that’s meaningful to you. Do the same in lieu of presents at your next birthday.

3)    Talk – Digitally and in Person

I found out about Spark from my old roommate. I recruited members when I moved to New York because I couldn’t stop talking about what a great organization it is – not only did I do this one on one with friends, but by posting and promoting on social media and blogs. Virtual communication is a big part of getting the word out these days, and it can spread the cause really quickly. Talking through an organization’s mission, beneficiaries, policies, and impact can strengthen your commitment and improve the depth of your understanding of issues it addresses. Plus, you never know who in your network is equipped to and may want to make a big donation based on your inspiring and impassioned words!

4)    Start a Movement

I LOVE Spark’s origin story. A group of young women were finding it difficult to get their foot in the door in development and philanthropic spaces in the Bay Area, coming up against the Catch-22 of needing experience to get involved but not being able to get experience because they were prevented from getting involved. Did they give up? Nope. They started their own fundraising, awareness-raising, educational organization by gathering together each of their networks and friend groups, who were all hungry for the same passionate involvement, and it grew into what is now the largest millennial philanthropic member-based organization around. What’s stopping you?

5)    Party.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before…
Come to the Black and Pink! Are you too busy to figure out points #1 or #4? Nothing on the docket in terms of point #2? Too worn out from chatting to drum up the energy for #3? Well, then buy your ticket for the Black and Pink here, re-energize your efforts at our soiree, and know that all the proceeds will be going to our fantastic grantees. That many of you helped select!

Celebrating Women’s History Month. Spark’s News Digest

The Day, Month, and Year of Women: Spark’s News Digest

Read, Discuss and Share.


“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

Celebrate International Women's Day

March – Women’s History Month – is a our favorite time of year. It’s a time to reflect, celebrate, and move.

Over the past century, we have seen great strides in the advancement of women’s human rights.  Women are chefs and CEOs, educators and engineers, Prime Ministers and mothers. Women have more choices than ever before.  While there is still work to be done to close the equality gap, this news digest is dedicated to our movement leaders. Thank you for getting us this far. We are ready to work with you to carry us the distance.


UNITED STATES: House Passes Violence Agaisnt Women Act 

The House approved the expanded Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act last week. Originally passed in 1994 and reauthorized since, the Act provides support for organizations that serve survivors of domestic violence. The new version increases protections of particular at-risk groups — Native Americans, undocumented immigrants, and the LGBTQ community.

Read the full story


GLOBAL: Join Spark in asking the UN to End Rape Now

As tens of thousands took to the streets across India to express outrage over the brutal gang rape and subsequent death of a 23-year-old student in Delhi, smaller protests were held in Ohio to condemn the sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl, allegedly by members of small town’s beloved high school football players. Millions of women are not safe in their homes, on the streets, or the workplace. We must speak out.

Spark’s partner The Global Fund for Women along with partners in India, and activists around the globe are demanding the United Nations pressure world leaders to make ending sexual violence a top priority. Join us.

Sign the petition


MEDIA: Makers: Women Who Make America

Did you know the single greatest impact of Title 9 is not on sports fields but in our medical and law school classrooms? We didn’t until we watched Makers. This documentary shares the story of the most sweeping social revolution in American history. Women like Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ellen DeGeneres, and Oprah Winfrey share their memories, as do countless women who challenged the status quo in industries from coal-mining to Congress. Makers captures the memories and emotion of a movement that changed America forever. 


INTERNATIONAL: Afghanistan’s First Female Mayor Proves Critics Wrong

The first female mayor of Nili, Azra Jafari, has been nicknamed “Mr. Mayor” by her community. At the start of her term, she received threats from a high powered mullah who later thanked her for all the work she’d done for the community.  This nickname is a sign of respect. As Afghanistan’s first and only women mayor, Jafari is determined to continue changing attitudes towards women while improving the quality of life for all in Nili.

Read the full story


ENTREPRENEURSHIP: A Titan’s How To On Breaking The Glass Ceiling

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, is launching a book called “Lean In,” about women finding themselves at work. In her book, Sandberg argues that women are sabotaging themselves in the workplace; “we hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in,” she writes, and the result is that “men still run the world.” She hopes the book will spur the creation of “Lean In” conscious-raising groups where women use self-awareness exercises to increase their confidence in the workplace.

Read the full story

In solidarity we trust. Spark News Digest

Maternal Mortality in Malawi & Texas,  Tabloids & the Men who Write Them, and a Flash Mob for LOVE. This is your Spark News Digest.

Read, Discuss, Share.

An event organized as part of the ‘One Billion Rising’ campaign in New Delhi on Thursday.

GLOBAL: The ‘One Billion Rising’ on the Streets of Delhi

In almost 200 countries around the world, people took to the streets on Valentine’s Day to rise and dance. These flash mobs are part of One Billion Rising, a campaign initiated by Eve Ensler, author of “The Vagina Monologues” to end violence against women. The mob message resonated in India which is still reeling from a highly publicized gang rape. Hundreds of men and women took the streets of Delhi to demand a JUST love grounded in equality for all.

Delhi Rising Promotional Video:

Read the full story 


GLOBAL: Searching for Gender Equality

A new study found that mobilizing grassroots women’s groups may have the most long-term impact on policies to eradicate violence against women around the world.

Read the full story 


GLOBAL: Boys: The Trouble with Female Celebrity Profiles and the Men Who Write Them.

The sex, the fantasy, the minimization, the disillusionment. This opinion piece illustrates the inherent sexism male writers continue to use to portray female celebrities in glossy magazines.

Read the full story


GLOBAL: Malawi’s Leader Makes Safe Childbirth Her Mission

In Malawi, 1 out of 36 women are at risk for maternal mortality. The country’s new president, Joyce Banda,  is out to change that horrifying ratio. Banda has a plan to sensitize Malawi’s 20,000 village chiefs, the country’s power brokers, to the dangers of childbirth, while still respecting tribal traditions.

Read the full story 


NATIONAL: Pregnant? Watch Your Risks In Great Texas State

When one think’s of maternal mortality rates, Texas is not the first place that comes to mind. No place in the US should be the first place that comes to mind. However, Gov. Perry’s budget cutting support for Texas’s women’s health services coincides with a shocking increase in maternal mortality rate in the Lone Star state.

Read the full story 

On the Town with SparkNYC

By JENN WILCOX, Spark Board Member and Chair of SparkNYC

Cathy Raphael and SparkNYC

On Monday, May 14, members of the Spark community attended The Gloria Awards, The Ms. Foundation for Women’s annual gala.  Unlike many of the black tie galas held across New York City, The Gloria Awards focused on creating a friendly, warm and inclusive atmosphere. The women were sassy, empowered, and, as our host Cathy Raphael noted, awesome.

As a 25 year old woman, it was amazing and inspiring to meet Gloria Steinem, hear about all the work done to advance the cause of women’s rights, and gain a deeper appreciation for the history and promise of the women’s movement. As one of my friends and fellow Spark member Carlo DaVia put it, the experience really brought home just how large the shoes we have to fill are as we grow older and take on more leadership roles within the movement.

A Spark Sister

In listening to the speeches, I learned more about just how inspirational Gloria has been to women across the world, and how important her leadership has been in helping bring women to the movement at different phases of their lives. One of the greatest moments of the night was when Gloria said to us, “Spark… I know your work, what you’re doing is fantastic. I think we are sisters.” Yes, Gloria. We sure are.

Of course, the evening was filled with amazing talks from honorees who are working around the world on tangible issues and large visions to help make the world a safer and better place for women. We had the privilege of hearing from Felicia Brown-Williams on the importance of comprehensive healthcare for women in the South. (We learned that Mississippi’s child mortality rate is worse than that of Sri Lanka, and on par with Botswana.) Klarissa Oh shared sobering details about her work as an advocate for survivors of childhood abuse. Gert Boyle shared in her no-nonsense way her personal story of taking over Columbia Sportswear once her husband died, only to grow the company to a $1.7 billion valuation. In Gert’s words, the key to success is “early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise.” Throughout the evening, we were struck by the balance between the humility of the speakers and their willingness to acknowledging their value to society.

In it together

The evening ended with Jacki Zehner and Helen LaKelly Hunt welcoming all the Women Moving Millions donors on stage and leading them in a version of the song “we’re all in this together.” As I looked across the Spark table and across the room, it was impossible not to feel inspired and hopeful about the future.

Spark would like to thank Cathy Raphael for her sponsorship to attend The Gloria Awards. 

Spark Speaks Out: The Business of Human Rights

By SARAH MIERS, Spark Fellow

At Spark’s Speaker Series last week, we were honored to hear from three professionals with insight on technology’s impact on women’s rights:

  1. Dunstan Allison Hope: Managing Director at BSR, a nonprofit that advises Fortune 500 companies on human rights and sustainability strategies. Dunstan is also a co-founder of the Global Network Initiative and co-author of Big Business, Big Responsibilities.
  2. Sakina Arsiwala: co-founder of Campfire Labs and the former international charter leader at Youtube.
  3. Rachel Yeager: leader of the HERproject, a BSR initiative focused on improving women’s health needs in global supply chains.

Dunstan opened the discussion by asking the audience about the evening’s topic…do technology and business have a positive or negative impact on human and women’s rights?  While the audience’s reaction was mixed, Rachel volleyed this question by stating that businesses can have a positive impact on communities…particularly on women.

Rachel explained that in some countries women’s rights are lower than general human rights and that benchmark for human rights and women’s rights can differ vastly across national borders. Unlike governments, businesses operate under global standards for both. In countries with comparatively lower standards for women’s rights, global businesses give women opportunities that may otherwise be unavailable. To illustrate this point, Rachel explained that women make up roughly 80% of Bangladesh’s garment industry. 20 years ago these communities were ashamed of working women. Working women were viewed as prostitutes and often forbidden to marry. Now, the situation has shifted- women are encouraged to work and empowered by their incomes. Dowries are less common as women provide for themselves financially. Her example demonstrated how businesses can empower women by giving them vocational opportunities previously unavailable.

Sakina pushed the point further and dove into the discussion on
technology’s impact on society.  While human rights and norms differ widely from country to country, technology can open the discussion of rights in a global context. This resonates with one of the most important byproducts of technology – education and information sharing. With education as a critical component of development and women’s empowerment, technology has the capacity to dramatically improve women’s rights around the globe.

The night concluded with a discussion on the impact of technology on women’s employment both home and abroad. As women continue to enter the global workforce, they become a stronger market for businesses. As a result, businesses are investing in women to better understand this global market. Our panelists hoped that such investments will trickle down to the workforce in the tech sector–where women are vastly underrepresented.

If you missed this lively discussion last week, make sure to check out Spark’s website for some more great upcoming events. Thank you to all who were able to attend- we appreciate all your support!


Spark supports women AND women support Spark

This gallery contains 8 photos.

BY SARAH MIERS, Spark Fellow At Spark, we are our network. We could not do the work we do for grassroots women’s organizations around the world without the donation of time, talent and vision from our members. Let’s take a moment … Continue reading