An intimate crowd joined together at Grange Hall on August 16 to hear an interactive conversation between Teresa C. Younger, CEO and president of the Ms. Foundation, and Latanya Mapp Frett, CEO and president of Global Fund for Women. The Ms. Foundation brings domestic attention to women’s issues and provides insight on economic, social, and cultural changes, and the Global Women’s Fund does this on a global scale. The conversation surrounded gender equity, highlighting additional impacts from the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, and was moderated by Ruth McFarlane, Ms. Foundation’s chief advancement officer.
In a conversation between Younger and The Times, she said through the event on Island, Ms. Foundation hopes to “build community and share what [their] work is to those that are here on Island for the summer and visiting.” Younger also said, “What we really appreciate and know is that here on the Vineyard there are lots of feminists who want to be in a community with each other, especially during these challenging times.”
With this year’s Ms. on Martha’s event being in conjunction with the Global Women’s Fund, with past years having been mainly domestically focused, Younger said it gives people an opportunity to see that women’s issues are not just on a national level, but rather, “We are part of a global community and we all need to understand what our role is in what we can be doing.” And on this global scale, Ms. Foundation wants there to be an understanding that issues spanning from environmental to economic, and reproductive justice to housing and transportation, are all intertwined, according to Younger.
To combat these issues, Ms. Foundation works with a range of grantee partners, asking them to do not only social work in their communities, but also policy work to institute change at a judicial level, and “change the systems that are oppressing us,” said Younger.
In the moderated conversation between Younger and Frett, McFarlane asked the two what keeps them up at night, and what makes them excited. Frett spoke to the importance of putting action into motion by “organizing an amassed power” and “shifting power” in order to get communities to set the agenda, saying this what feminist funds do. Younger also spoke of the role of the Ms. Foundation to build the partnerships that can host conversations to get everyone “under the tent” of understanding these issues and how to work to fix them, and “change philanthropies from the inside.”
McFarlane spoke about the position we find our country in today as we enter a time where some states are banning abortion, going against the global tide and finding ourselves in company with Russia, Iran, and North Korea. From this, she asked Frett and Younger what the Ms. Foundation and the Global Women’s Fund are learning from their grantee landscapes.
Frett spoke to work having always been done in countries where abortion is illegal, but noted how these issues are not stagnant, and that power is now moving in a social justice area because activists are “all in.” She noted that with this comes resistance, saying, at this time, resistance can be seen in 75 percent of countries. “I do see this as a very dark moment for us in the U.S., but if we open up our blinds, we will see the rest of the world is there to support us and get us through this,” Frett said. With this, she noted campaigns through the Global Women’s Fund, doing work in West and East Africa, as well as Latin America.
Younger said what she has heard from their grantee partners is that this time of banning abortion for our country has not come as a surprise, but that there has been so much work in past years, and there is a level of exhaustion and need for a moment to regroup to redirect efforts. But with this, Younger said, “We know how to do this. This fight has now moved where the Ms. Foundation funds, which is the grassroots level.” With their grantee partners, she said, Ms. Foundation will be in this for the long haul, and will work to make sure the next generation keeps up the fight.
This specific question surrounding abortion bans and reproductive rights, in light of the reversal of Roe v. Wade, also comes on the heels of the Ms. Foundation’s Birth Justice Initiative, launched this year to combat racial based health disparities. In the first round of grant making, Ms. Foundation will invest $1 million in various birth justice organizations. Additionally, Ms. Foundation has mobilized more than $2 million in rapid response grants following the Dobbs v. Jackson leak in May.