The Fundación de Mujeres en Puerto Rico (FMnPR) / the Puerto Rico Women’s Foundation (PRWF), opened their doors in January of 2020 after three years of assembling a range of trailblazing women leaders from Puerto Rico and the diaspora. From the outset, the PRWF was designed to go beyond simply contributing to disaster-relief efforts, but to be a force combatting the core gender and racial biases that relentlessly undermine the position of Puerto Rico’s women and gender-fluid individuals and gravely exacerbate the tolls borne by those groups during any time of crisis.
However, the new organization immediately faced the global COVID pandemic that further decimated the resources of Puerto Rican communities and families still reeling from Hurricane Maria.
The PRWF’s founders moved quickly. They secured an initial base of funding from individual Latinx donors and select foundations—including a $100,000 two-year seed grant from The New York Women’s Foundation. They adopted a two-pronged agenda of supporting: (1) the dynamic women-led organizations that most authentically represent their constituents and best know the solutions that will work for them; and (2) the broader feminist philanthropic movement that is promoting systemic change across the globe.
Women provide the bedrock for Puerto Rico’s families, communities, and economy. They are:
- The primary caregivers and often the main or sole providers for children and other family members—a full 30% of Puerto Rican households are headed by single women;
- The first “boots on the ground” in times of crisis;
- Core members of the essential workforce whose pivotal importance—and acute vulnerability—emerged so starkly during the COVID pandemic;
- The primary providers of programs supporting the health, safety, leadership, and economic progress of other women and gender-fluid individuals; and
- Key advocates in the growing movement for racial and gender justice and equity.
Yet despite all these critical roles and achievements, women, girls, and gender fluid people in Puerto Rico are the demographic group least likely to receive proper recognition or fair treatment from society. Due to both unfair wage structures and a lack of adequate family support, their earnings are significantly lower than men’s and other women’s in any region of the United States. Households in Puerto Rico have a median annual income of $20,474, which is significantly less than the median annual income of $65,712 across the entire United States. The cost of living continues to rise, while salaries have not kept pace.
POWERFUL GENDER-BASED SOLUTIONS
The PRWF created a new project focused on sustainable agriculture as a way to radically improve the economic stability of women farmers and their families, which also helps to combat gender-based violence. This project includes the neighboring municipalities of Vieques and Culebra which are often forgotten due to their geographical detachment to the main island.
Puerto Rico currently imports 80% of the food they consume – and the COVID-19 pandemic has deeply disrupted food distribution chains. A 2020 survey by George Washington University concluded that 40% of Puerto Rico residents are experiencing food insecurity. The development of new projects in agricultural businesses led by women not only allows economic autonomy among disadvantaged communities, but it is also seen as an opportunity to create movements that help the local livelihood of communities that benefit from agricultural products.
In just two years, the PRWF established itself as a reliable ally of the network of organizations that have a gender and racial equity perspective in Puerto Rico, as the place they can go to obtain support to develop their projects, share hopes and make a solid impact.
“The Puerto Rico Women’s Foundation is in an ideal position to support women and women’s organizations on the island. The leadership behind the Foundation are long-time feminists and activists that have been engaged in the fight for equal rights for all Puertorricans, and women in particular. Their activism within the feminist movement on the island, gives them the advantage of channeling help where it is most needed, and to those who need it most.”
- Veronica Colon Rosario, Executive Director, Fundación de Mujeres en Puerto Rico
Strategic investment in organizations led by women in all their diversities, which are directly dedicated to empowering women, girls, and gender fluid people, as well as strengthening their families and communities, provides a safe and promising path to address the unjust hardships faced by so many of these families and communities and bring about true social transformation.