Originally published on the Ms. Foundation for Women's Igniting Change blog. Last week marked the sixth-month anniversary of the Haitian earthquake, where more than a million people struggle to scratch a life out of the ruins of the capital city. With that anniversary came a slight uptick in the number of stories aimed at giving voice to the reality of life on the ground in Haiti -- but, much as we saw with Hurricane Katrina, now that the milestone has passed, the news cycle has moved on, leaving behind it millions of disenfranchised Haitians, still struggling to rebuild their homes, their schools, their lives. Of particular note during these months of chaos has been the role women have played in this terrible story and the human drama that has rolled out on top of them. Just after the earthquake, the Ms. Foundation authorized emergency grants to four organizations working in the region -- the Global Fund for Women, Partners in Health, Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miyami (Haitian Women in Miami), and Dwa Fanm (Women's Rights)-- because we knew two things: 1) that the women and children of Haiti would be disproportionately affected by the impact of the disaster, and 2) that these organizations were among the most trusted groups on the ground to begin delivering aid where it was needed. Tragically, that support has been every bit as required as we imagined, and then some. Six months on, the people of Port-Au-Prince are still living a nightmare -- and no groups more so than the women and children, who are experiencing what may be record levels of physical and sexual violence, both in the makeshift camps they call home and elsewhere around the city. Sexual and domestic violence is not a new phenomenon in Haiti. As Taina Bien-Aime, Executive Director of Equality Now and the daughter of Haitian immigrants, noted in the days just after the quake, local estimates prior to the disaster suggested that 72% of Haitian girls had been raped and at least 40% of women were victims of domestic violence. Unbelievably, those numbers are now likely on the rise. "When the guys don't have no money, their brain is not good," a leader in one of the camps told CNN in March. "When they have no work or food and just sit around, it is bad. When a guy is drunk, he will do anything [to a woman]." Women around Port-Au-Prince are seeing the truth in those remarks every day. Though it is difficult to find comprehensive statistics, scan just a few articles written in the past few months on Haiti, women and violence and you will find reports of multiple gang rapes at many of the camps. 4 here. 2 there. 20 across the city. All in just a few days time. How many times can we say it? This is not a new story. It's the story we heard in New Orleans after the Hurricanes. It's the story we hear on Indian reservations all the time. It is the particular and predictable result of systemic disenfranchisement come to a head, with women ultimately paying the price for the rage that so much disappointment engenders -- with either their bodies or their lives. Despite the real dangers they face, the women of Haiti are fighting back, organizing to protect their own safety: they are distributing rape whistles in the camps, and setting up committees to address the needs of women when no one else will. They are standing in where pre-existing services (like rape crisis centers) have been destroyed. And they are finding ways to lift themselves and their families out of poverty by training for non-traditional jobs in industries like construction, which are slowly opening up to women workers. Their fortitude and faith are the stuff revolutions are made of. As they rebuild their nation and seek to protect the voiceless from the violence that has plagued them for so long, we stand in solidarity with the women of Haiti -- today, tomorrow, and on all the other days when the media and the rest of the world have forgotten they exist.
A major new nationwide poll conducted by Lake Research Partners for the Center for Community Change and the Ms. Foundation for Women shows that a majority of Americans are less concerned about the federal budget deficit than they are about rising health care costs, the lack of jobs with family-sustaining wages, and the affordability of every day expenses like food and gas. And, not surprisingly, those hit hardest by the recession are those who believe most strongly that the government needs to play a more prominent role in protecting the economic interests of the many, not the few: 66 percent of African-American women and 68 percent of Latinas want increased government intervention. In April, unemployment reached 13.7 percent among African-American women and 11.1 percent for Latinas. And three out of four people surveyed said they believe policies that would create more jobs with decent wages and benefits for low-income families are important to them personally. Things, it seems, are getting more personal by the moment: as of July 1, more than a million Americans will find themselves facing the end of their health and unemployment benefits -- unless congress takes immediate action to ensure a reprieve. Legislation put forward by Democratic congressional leaders late last week would have provided more than $35.5 billion in funding to extend unemployment insurance for 1.2 million jobless Americans, as well as an extension of critical COBRA subsidies that have put health insurance within reach for many who have lost their jobs. But House Republicans have quashed multiple versions of the bill, fearing the impact of its cost on an already ballooning national deficit. As a result, it now looks as if millions of families that are already struggling to make ends meet will be facing a more difficult future in the days to come. Moreover, the move to cutoff funding flies directly in the face of what our new poll indicates: that the majority of Americans actually want government to take a larger and stronger role in making the economy work for average Americans. Legislation like the tax-bill currently languishing in congress is but one small step in the direction of helping hard-hit communities meet some portion of their needs; real reform would go further, addressing the deep and systemic inequalities that have left already struggling communities decimated as a result of this recession. But at least it's a step of some kind. Allowing another 1.2 million Americans to fall between the cracks in our political system is, at best, an illogical approach to stimulating this fragile economy -- and, at worst, suicidal. The clock is ticking. Congress must act before it's too late, and do what Americans want them to do: take a strong hand in building a better economic future for us all. You can take action too: sign Ms. Foundation grantee The National Women's Law Center's petition urging senators to support struggling families by extending unemployment benefits.
In the fight to end gender-based violence, much has been done to raise awareness of the issue and its impact on women and families -- but how much do we know about how foundations in the US are funding the issue? Or about the level of support they're lending to the cause? Now, through a new report released by the Ms. Foundation for Women, those questions have been answered. Timed to coincide with the 15th Anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, last year the Foundation undertook a multi-pronged study to measure the scope, focus and impact of funding for gender-based violence. The results of that study are now being released in a new report - "Efforts to Address Gender-Based Violence: A Look at Foundation Funding"- which reviews the progress foundations have made in addressing gender-based violence, in order to sketch the current philanthropic landscape and its potential for growth. Featuring first-person interviews with staff members from the Arizona Foundation for Women, the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, Novo Foundation and the Verizon Foundation - which generously provided funding for the project - the report includes:
  • Data derived from survey responses of over 100 grantmakers and practitioners in the field of gender-based violence
  • Listings of the top foundations that give in this issue area
  • Recommendations for current funders and those who are considering supporting this issue
As the old adage goes, "You can't know where you're going if you don't know where you've been." By offering a comprehensive review of the state of funding in the field, "Efforts to Address Gender-Based Violence" offers a critical jumping off point for the future of funding for gender-based violence programs. Download your copy of this groundbreaking report today.