One Year In…

For most of us, today marks the anniversary when we last gathered for concerts or events, traveled on a plane, chatted with coworkers around the proverbial water cooler, or felt the embrace of extended friends and family. Today marks the day our countries shut down, we became isolated, and the world as we knew it shifted dramatically around us.  

I had the opportunity this week to speak with Melanie Brown, vice-chair of the WFN board and a senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, about how your organizations were not only a lifeline during the past year – but how you are also are a critical voice in creating what comes next.  

“This is the future we envision: a society where power and possibility are not limited by gender, race or place. This month, we recommit to change that is transformational, not transactional — to dismantling and redesigning public systems. Anything less is merely a band-aid,” said Melanie Bridgeforth, president and CEO of the Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham, in a recent op-ed where she succinctly spelled out the future so many of us are collectively working towards.  

Across COVID-19 response plans and recovery efforts, women have led the way. In Forbes this week, Seema Jalan spells out three approaches to philanthropy that can drive sustained systemic change for gender equality:  

  1. Pool funding for maximized impact and minimized risk,  
  2. Model a democratic, shared approach to governance,
  3. Enable locally-led, context-specific solutions. 

I’m proud to say that our Women’s Funding Network strives to embody these principles. As funds and foundations that center the unique needs of women and girls, we have an opportunity to remake the system that has been broken for so long — but only if we center those we seek to advance at the very heart of the decision-making. It is fundamental that we incorporate local voices and local solutions into the very structure we seek to build. Only then can we make long-lasting, structural change. 

With you every step of the way, 

Elizabeth Signature

Elizabeth Barajas-Román
Women’s Funding Network 
President & CEO

Letters from Elizabeth