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The Inspiring Message of the Global Fund for Women’s Kavita Ramdas

This post was written by Tysen Gannon, the Director of Corporate Partnerships here at Jolkona Foundation.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Pacific Northwest Global Donors Conference. One of the central themes that emerged was importance of and benefits associated with giving to projects that empower women. This resonates greatly with the work Jolkona Foundation is doing with our partner organizations around the world, and coincides with women’s history month and Jolkona Foundation’s highlighting women-focused projects.

In her opening address to the international development focused conference, Kavita Ramdas, President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women, delivered a direct and inspired call-to-action for philanthropists. Ms. Ramdas highlighted the sweeping changes many grassroots women’s organizations have been able to achieve by connecting with grantmakers willing to take risks in funding small projects and organizations. It is often these grassroots groups organizing around simple needs and injustices that offer the clearest and most efficient path to making a measurable difference. Small projects–such as the Global Fund for Women’s contribution to the EcoWomen group in China which fund education and safer handling of pesticides–have achieved remarkable results for women, their health, and, by extension, their families and entire communities.

Such projects may have seemed distant, minute, or unknown and perhaps a bit crazy-in-face of the obstacles at the outset. To this end, Ms. Ramdas effectively paraphrases the doctor-treating suffragette, Alice Paul, in Iron Jawed Angels, “Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.” It is not hard to think of ways that women’s lives can be improved, but it often requires audacity to take on the systems and the status quo. In this light, small contributions to organizations determined to make incremental change in their communities are not only a relatively low-risk activity, they carry the possibility of significant and lasting rewards.

A significant portion of Ms. Ramdas’ address, and many panel discussions at the conference as a whole, also focused on the concept of ripple effects and how small actions can lead to sweeping change. This is a central theme at Jolkona Foundation as well; the Bengali world jolkona means “a drop of water” and emphasizes our belief in the power of small donations to make significant impacts. There has been a tremendous movement towards micro-level initiatives in philanthropy in recent years. Beyond empowering individual recipients with education, financing, training, and other tools, these small contributions enable a new class of donors to more realize their potential to make an impact through giving back. Technology has progressively increased ripple effects; it offers a significant opportunity for potential donors to increase their awareness of the challenges facing others around the globe as well as their ability to elevate themselves and their communities when equipped with opportunity.

From my perspective, Ms. Ramdas set the tone for the conference with her messages of empowerment and small actions as catalysts for broader change. Her engaging, direct, and determined voice on issues concerning the rights of women the world over captures attention and demands action.  It is becoming ever easier for donors to find a great cause and make the first small step towards engaging in meaningful philanthropy. The sooner each of us starts, the longer we have to appreciate the growing ripples and the tides of change that can elevate us all.

About the author: Tysen Gannon brings a background in marketing and business development to Jolkona Foundation’s corporate partnership initiatives. After spending much of 2009 traveling in India, Southern Africa and Eastern Europe, Tysen returned to Seattle to start Gannon Associates, a business development, marketing and research consulting company. Tysen spends most of her spare time playing some type of outdoor sport or keeping up with independent film. You can follow Tysen on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Andrius Drevinskas

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