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Devin D. Thorpe

Devin Thorpe

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Nearly 280,000 Have Signed a Petition to Outlaw Female Genital Mutilation in Massachusetts

For Many Months, #EndFGMToday Has Been Calling on Massachusetts to Criminalize Cruel and Barbaric Practice of FGM

Press Release – WASHINGTON, D.C.—Twenty-two states do not have legal protections in place for women and girls who are at risk for female genital mutilation (FGM). Among them is Massachusetts, and now, residents are taking action to make sure the cruel and barbaric practice of FGM is criminalized in their state.

Along with other groups and impassioned advocates, the national EndFGMToday campaign has been calling on Massachusetts lawmakers to sponsor and pass a law that would punish perpetrators who inflict this unnecessary procedure that leaves both physical and emotional scars for a lifetime.

EndFGMToday leader, international attorney and child advocate Elizabeth Yore points to a petition in Massachusetts to call on leaders to protect girls and women in the state. With nearly 280,000 signers and with a goal of 300,000 who are committed to ending FGM in Massachusetts, the Change.org petition is gaining strength.

Yore said that state laws are even more crucial now, as the federal law criminalizing female genital mutilation was ruled unconstitutional by a district judge in late 2018.

“Without the federal law, females in the 22 states that currently do not have their own prohibitions against FGM are particularly at risk,” Yore said. “EndFGMToday has repeatedly called on Massachusetts lawmakers to stand up for girls and women to enact an anti-FGM law in their state. In the absence of a federal FGM ban, it is now more important than ever for states to take initiative to protect their residents, especially as young girls could be maimed for life.”

The Massachusetts petition was started by three women, Mariya Taher, Aisha Yusuf and Hanna Stern, who are “pleading to the Massachusetts State Legislature to pass a law making it illegal for someone to carry out (FGM) on young girls.”

Taher was born in the United States and now lives in Massachusetts, but at the age of 7, she was subjected to FGM in India. Her friends and relatives also living in the U.S. have undergone FGM both in America and in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Australia and many other countries.

Yusuf was subjected to FGM at the age of 5. “I know many women who also got it done,” she says. “Personally, I know people in my community who talk about it as if it’s normal. I was aware of people practicing it behind closed doors, but I also know that some people are looking for ways to keep the practice alive here in the states even though it might mean legal action is taken against them.”

Stern said she came upon the subject of FGM while searching for a global health research topic online for a school project. “I knew nothing about it and was concerned that others would find it uncomfortable and unrelatable,” she said. “My teacher told me that was all the more reason to focus on FGM. It’s not a cultural issue; it’s not a third-world problem. FGM happens all over the world; it is happening in Massachusetts!”

According to the petition’s home page, Massachusetts is known for its progressive policies in terms of reproductive rights, anti-discrimination laws and equality issues, yet the state still does not ban FGM. As FGM is “nearly always carried out on minors, is a violation of the rights of children, and reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes that constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women, we must protect girls from undergoing FGM.” The petition page also points to the fact that Massachusetts ranks 12th in the nation for at-risk populations with an estimated 14,591 women and girls who are at risk for FGM.

Specifically, the petition is intended to reach Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, Speaker of the House Robert A. DeLeo, and State Senators Harriette L. Chandler and Karen E. Spilka.

Yore also noted that, according to the Centers for Disease Control, more than a half million girls and woman in the U.S. are at risk for female genital mutilation. FGM is also recognized by both the World Health Organization and the United Nations as a human rights violation perpetrated upon little girls and women, and over 200 million women worldwide have been subjected to FGM.

View the at EndFGMToday.com state-by-state map of those who do have anti-FGM laws and learn more about FGM at www.EndFGMToday.com or on social media at #EndFGMToday.


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SafetyRespectEquity Coalition Announces Availability Of $1M In Capacity-Building Funds To Address Sexual Harassment And Gender Bias In Jewish Community

Initiative aims to foster safe, respectful, and equitable Jewish workplaces and communal spaces

Press Release – SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 20 – The SafetyRespectEquity Coalition (SRE Coalition) today announced it will provide $1 million in grants to further its mission of promoting women’s leadership and addressing sexual harassment and gender discrimination in Jewish spaces.

The SRE Coalition, which represents more than 100 Jewish organizations, funders, individuals, and experts, is seeking grant proposals from Jewish institutions to develop or enhance programs in their own organizations or in the community, with $250,000 to be awarded for organizational capacity-building and $750,000 for field capacity-building.

Ultimately, the SRE Coalition aims to achieve organizational change and culture shift by galvanizing Jewish leaders to make these issues a priority in their institutions. This entails ensuring Jewish organizations implement comprehensive policies, procedures, and training for all levels of staff and volunteers; demonstrate a recognition of and intolerance for inappropriate actions and behaviors; and provide systems that will enable both victims and bystanders to report incidents and have them swiftly and fairly addressed. It also means attending to the wider structural and cultural problems of sexism and gender bias that allow misconduct and discrimination to persist.

“These grants represent a diverse group of funders coming together to address sexual harassment and gender discrimination, ensuring talented people will want to work and volunteer in the Jewish community now and in the future,” says Lisa Eisen, President of the U.S. Jewish Portfolio at the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, one of the SRE Coalition’s major funders. “Practitioners will use these funds to help networks and organizations carry out this work and address critical gaps we have identified, such as organizational training, accountability mechanisms, and gender equity and other related research.”

This is the SRE Coalition’s second round of grantmaking. In Fall 2018, the Coalition awarded $500,000 to five organizations through its Rapid Response Fund to support immediate training and capacity-building efforts. These grantees are currently working with the Coalition to coordinate and scale training and coaching programs and to develop assessment tools, research, and other resources to promote safety, respect, and equity in Jewish workplaces and communal spaces.

The SRE Coalition anticipates awarding up to $1 million in additional funding by the end of 2019 and seeks to grant another $2 million in these areas in 2020.

The deadline to submit grant proposals is March 26, with awards scheduled to be announced in May. More details about requests for proposals can be found on the Coalition’s website at: https://safetyrespectequity.org/capacity-building-grant/.


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Illumina Corporation Foundation and Discovery Education Inspire Youth to Pursue Careers in STEM and Genomics through New Groundbreaking Program ‘DNA Decoded’

— Illumina Corporation Foundation invests in digitally immersive education curriculum program to pave the way for the next generation of genomics professionals —

Press Release – Silver Spring, Maryland (Wednesday, February 20, 2019) – Illumina Corporate Foundation and Discovery Education, the leading provider of digital curriculum resources, digital content, and professional development for K-12 classrooms, today launched DNA Decoded, a program designed to equip middle and high school teachers with the power to unlock the study of genomics to advance the future for their students. DNA Decoded provides easy, ready-to-go, Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) aligned lessons and activities for educators serving young learners in grades 6 – 12, enabling them to explore genomics in everyday life.

The Illumina Corporate Foundation advances genomic literacy through community outreach, collaborations and partnerships, and contributions to oncology, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and genetic diseases. By supporting the next generation of professionals, through partnerships with companies like Discovery Education and programs like DNA Decoded, the Illumina Corporate Foundation is paving the way, to inspire youth to pursue careers in STEM.

“This partnership with Discovery Education provides an innovative platform enabling teachers to ignite genomic curiosity in students,” said Vice President of Global Marketing and Communications for Illumina, Inc. Karen Possemato. “Supporting and empowering teachers is a critical first step to helping the next generation discover the power of genomics and its potential for solving global challenges, such as how we diagnose cancer and feed the world’s population.”

The Illumina Corporate Foundation is committed to sharing the promise of genomics with communities around the world. Toward that end, DNA Decoded focuses on empowering educators with digitally immersive tools that bring genomics to life in their classrooms. With standards-aligned digital curriculum resources, students across the U.S. will be able to study how genes interact and they will apply the study of genomics to real-world challenges, helping them to realize the hope genomics represents in rare and undiagnosed diseases.

Educators can download the following digital curriculum resources at by visiting DNADecoded.org:

  • Sickle Cell Trait and Reducing Risk in Sports project starter
  • Functional Genomics and Individualized Medicine STEM project activator
  • Deep Space Genomics lesson
  • Agriculture Revolution lesson

“Discovery Education is proud to partner with the Illumina Corporation Foundation to nurture budding young scientists’ boundless curiosity and deepen their understanding of how they can use science to change the world,” said Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Discovery Education Lori McFarling. “Working with educators and students nationwide, we are excited to inspire problem-solving and the exploration of new career pathways powered by the study of STEM.”

The Illumina Corporate Foundation and Discovery Education created DNA Decoded to provide students with engaging digital resources to apply genomics solutions to the challenges for everyday life. DNA Decoded aids educators and learners in examining how STEM professionals use genomics to fight diseases, such as sickle cell anemia and cancer, as well as to boost the health of the world’s food supply. DNA Decoded also helps school communities learn about the impacts of DNA beyond ancestry and gene traits. Students are able to leverage newfound accessibility to genomics by exploring careers in STEM through these stimulating activities and an accompanying educator guide.

“‘DNA Decoded’ has the power to engage students in critical content mastery steps that can launch them into a new world of possibilities in STEM,” said Andy Losik, STEM teacher at Hamilton Community Schools in Hamilton, Michigan. “The program’s digitally immersive tools make learning the complexity of genes, and how they affect the world around us, exciting and fun.”

DNA Decoded resources are available at no-cost at dnadecoded.org and are also available in Discovery Education Streaming. For more information about Discovery Education’s digital curriculum resources and professional development services, visit discoveryeducation.com. Stay connected with Discovery Education through social media on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest @DiscoveryEd.


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SheTrades Supported Brands From Ghana, Kenya And Nigeria Aim For Success At COTERIE

Press Release – Ten women-owned businesses from Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya to attend COTERIE, one of the United States’ top fashion trade shows, thanks to support from the International Trade Centre’s SheTrades initiative.

Taking place at the Javits Center, New York City, on 25-27 February, COTERIE provides an incredible opportunity for these talented brands to showcase their collections and connect with international buyers. All ten companies are part of SheTrades in the Commonwealth Programme, funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).

In 2018, SheTrades sponsored a delegation of 9 brands from Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria to attend the fall edition of COTERIE, which led to meetings with 100 buyers and secured US $495,000 USD in trade leads.

One of the participating companies was Afrodesiac, a Ghanaian company that has seen tremendous success following its attendance at COTERIE.

‘The International Trade Centre has helped our company reach international markets by giving us access to new buyers through trade shows and exhibitions,’ said Chiedza Makonnen, Founder of Afrodesiac Worldwide. ‘Thanks to support from SheTrades and DFID, we expanded our business by over 50%.’

Makonnen added: ‘New orders secured at COTERIE has had an impact throughout our supply chain, which includes Cadling, a Ghanaian women manufacturer with whom we tripled our orders of raw materials. Thank you SheTrades! Your impact changes lives and empowers female entrepreneurs.’

This year SheTrades is showcasing new brands including Bello Edu, a Ghanaian company, and Lilabare Clothing from Kenya. If you are going to COTERIE, you will find them at the SheTrades booth 1130.

Apply to be a part of SheTrades in the Commonwealth Programme: https://shetradescommonwealth.converve.io


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Peter and Mary Kalikow Pledge $1 Million to The National WWII Museum

First Museum donors provide new gift to support the institution’s capital expansion projects, completion of its New Orleans campus

Press Release – NEW ORLEANS (February 19, 2019) – New York’s Peter and Mary Kalikow – the first donors in the history of The National D-Day Museum – have pledged an additional $1 million to the institution now known as The National WWII Museum to support its $400 million Road to Victory Capital Campaign, which funds the campus expansion. The Capital Campaign, which also supports exhibit design and fabrication, endowment, and ongoing digitization efforts, has raised over $345 million towards its goal.

Peter Kalikow – whose father was a WWII veteran with the US Marine Corps – is the family’s third generation president of H.J. Kalikow & Company, LLC, one of New York’s leading real estate firms. Through an initial gift of $50,000 in 1990, Peter Kalikow helped realize Stephen Ambrose’s dream of creating a museum dedicated to Americans who served on D-Day in Normandy. The early donation represented critical seed money for opening the doors of The National D-Day Museum in 2000.

“In 1990, after Stephen Ambrose hatched the Museum concept, and we were both trying to figure out how to get started, Peter Kalikow was the only person willing to risk $50,000 to pay for a modest feasibility study to test our idea,” said Dr. Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, Founding President & CEO, who worked alongside his friend Ambrose to develop the Museum and continues to serve in an emeritus role. “That took courage. In those early days, most thought we were just two crazy historians with an impossible dream.”

The Kalikow family’s additional support for preservation of oral histories in the Eisenhower Center Peter Kalikow World War II-era Collection at the University of New Orleans also provided an invaluable resource for the Museum’s research and publications work. The Museum manages the collection.

Today, The National WWII Museum spans five pavilions featuring several permanent exhibits, which now tell the complete story of America’s road to war and the fight to secure freedom overseas. Permanent exhibits include The Arsenal of Democracy: The Herman and George R. Brown Salute to the Home Front, Richard C. Adkerson & Freeport-McMoRan Foundation Road to Tokyo: Pacific Theater Galleries, The Duchossois Family Road to Berlin: European Theater Galleries and the institution’s original exhibit The D-Day Invasion of Normandy, which recently reopened to the public after undergoing renovations.

“It is my sincere hope that our most recent donation to the Museum will help ensure a successful continuation and expansion of the physical campus,” said Peter Kalikow. “It is imperative that our succeeding younger generations have a permanent place to visit and witness the loyalty, the pain and the sacrifices made by what was truly the Greatest Generation. My wife Mary and I are proud that our contribution will support the final push towards the completion of a world-class facility.”

When complete in 2021, the Museum’s campus will have quadrupled in size since its opening. The Bollinger Canopy of Peace – a 150-foot-high architectural structure – will rise above the institution and become an iconic element on the New Orleans skyline. Additional expansion plans include The Higgins Hotel & Conference Center, an elegant property that will feature 230 guest rooms and more than 18,000 square feet of conference space to support the institution’s expanding visitation and educational programs; the Hall of Democracy pavilion, which will house academic and outreach programs as well as additional exhibit and retail space; and the Liberation Pavilion, focusing on end-of-war and postwar experiences, as well as the war’s meaning for citizens today.

The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world—why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today—so that future generations will know the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn. Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as America’s National WWII Museum, it celebrates the American spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifices of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and served on the Home Front. The 2018 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards ranks the Museum No. 3 in the nation and No. 8 in the world. For more information, call 877-813-3329 or 504-528-1944 or visit nationalww2museum.org.


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Plastics And Human Health: Hormone Health Risks Under Spotlight

Press Release – Stockholm, Sweden, February 18, 2019Bluewater, a world leader in drinking water technologies and solutions for homes, commercial operations and public dispensers, today published a white paper jointly with Portugal’s leading science-led Mirpuri Foundation detailing how plastics pollution may be having a profound impact on the health and wellbeing of people around the planet.

The white paper – entitled ‘The Global Plastic Calamity’ – details how the unmitigated pollution of the planet’s oceans, land, and air by throwaway plastic that is breaking down into microplastic particles found increasingly in the water we drink and the food we eat is releasing thousands of hormone-disrupting chemicals that are believed to be behind a worrying rise in multiple illnesses.

“There is now solid scientific evidence that so-called endocrine disrupting chemicals, or EDC’s, now commonplace in the natural environment as a result of plastic pollution, are blocking the natural function of hormones,” said Dr Ivone Mirpuri, one of Europe’s leading specialists in hormonal modulation – how hormones play a pivotal role in regulating the body’s systems.

Dr. Mirpuri described EDC’s as the ‘No1 threat’ to humankind on an extinction level as they are now pervasively found in the food we eat and the tap and bottled water we drink and wash with.

Hormone impacting chemicals in throwaway plastics are described as the ‘No1 threat’ to humankind as they are now pervasively found in the tap and bottled water we drink and the food we eat (Photo credit: iStock)

She added that her research and observations as a hormonal modulation specialist has confirmed that chemicals in plastic have triggered rising levels of abnormal development and illnesses over the past five decades, ranging from stunted fertility and male/female sex malformations to obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart attacks and cognitive, behavioral and other brain-related problems such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity (ADH).

“The United Nations says the unmitigated use of plastics has put the planet on ‘the edge of a global plastic calamity’. And it is clear from the research spotlighted in the White Paper that by messing with human hormones we are messing with the health and wellbeing of all living creatures,” said Bluewater CEO and founder Bengt Rittri, a leading environmental entrepreneur.

Mr. Rittri founded Bluewater in 2013 with the mission to deliver pure water to everyone in a sustainable way that ended the need for single-use plastic bottles and their polluting transportation over long distances. In a call for action, Bengt Rittri added: “For the sake of human and planetary health we need as individuals to cut our consumption of single-use plastics from packaging to bottles or face the worst of outcomes for future generations.”

Background

Hormones control every function in our body. This includes blood pressure, heartbeat, blood sugar, fertility, immune function, mood and emotions, quality of sleep, body water content, for example (Source: https://www.hormone.org/hormones-and-health/hormones)

There are more than 85,000 manufactured chemicals, of which thousands may be EDCs found in plastics and other consumer products. Another group of chemicals linked to hormone disruption, phthalates, are found in personal care products such as cosmetics, children’s products, food packaging and medical tubing. (Source: Endocrine Society. “Chemical exposure linked to lower vitamin D levels.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 September 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/09/160920130828.htm)

A study by a research team at US lobbying group Orb Media found ‘a single bottle can hold dozens or possibly even thousands of microscopic plastic particles.’ Tests by Orb Media on more than 250 bottles from 11 brands reveal contamination by plastics such as polypropylene, nylon, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). (Source: https://orbmedia.org/stories/plus-plastic/multimedia)

About Mirpuri Foundation

The Mirpuri Foundation was established by its President Paulo Mirpuri with the commitment to make the world a better place for future generations. The non-profit organization partners with governments, businesses, communities, and individuals to address a range of projects in Marine Conservation, Wildlife Preservation, Aerospace, Medical Research, Performing Arts and Social Responsibility. Earth and ocean sustainability have been granted special attention and Mirpuri Foundation has put into practice several campaigns to raise awareness towards current challenges and emerging threats.

www.mirpurifoundation.org

About Bluewater

Bluewater harnesses patented technology to deliver enhanced water quality in a world where tap water taste and safety can no longer be taken for granted. Our technology delivers water for homes, commercial operations and public dispensers that is free of bacteria, toxic metals, pharmaceutical and chemical residues, micro-plastics and limescale.

www.bluewatergroup.com

Bluewater is a world leading water purification company with its global headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden. Bluewater innovates, manufactures and comercializes compact water purifiers for residential, business and public use that harness the company’s patented reverse osmosis technology to remove virtually all pollutants from tap water, including lead, bacteria, pesticides, medical residues, chlorine and lime-scale. Please visit us at www.bluewatergroup.com

Follow us for water-related news on Facebook, Twitter and Wechat (Search ID: Bluewater). Journalists and bloggers can follow our press releases and blogs at http://www.mynewsdesk.com/us/bluewater. And everyone is welcome to enjoy our themed Bluewater music playlist on spotify at BluewaterPure Radio.


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Interior Designer Creates Vision of Hope for Breast Cancer Community Through a Daring Display of Mammography Artwork at Komen Chicago’s First Look for Charity Reception

Where You Live Should Not Determine If You Live: Komen Chicago Uses Powerful Evening to Ensure Quality Care for All

Press Release – CHICAGO (February 2019): Over the last 22 years, Komen Chicago has raised over $17.5 million to reduce the grave impact of breast cancer, a diagnosis that 15 Chicago women will receive each day, with the mortality rate being 40 percent higher for African Americans. To ensure all women have access to early detection, which is the key to survival, hundreds of supporters congregated on Friday, February 8 at McCormick Place for Komen Chicago’s pre-event private reception at the Chicago Auto Show’s First Look for Charity annual black-tie fundraiser that raised over $2.8 million for 18 local nonprofit organizations.

Guests of the sought-after reception were welcomed to an enchanting oasis, designed by Emily Mackie of Inspired Interiors, that allowed people to imagine a world without breast cancer. With walls lined with a daring display of clear scan mammogram artwork from actual survivors, all African American women, and beautiful furniture, cherry blossom trees and a sprinkle of lights gracing the entirety of the space, the room created a powerful statement that represents the beauty of survivorship. Highlights of Mackie’s visual experience included:

  • Mackie and her team obtained 100+ clear mammograms from current African American breast cancer survivors to transform their clean scans into digital watercolors – once all assembled it made a large ‘wallpaper’ of a tribute to survival
  • To celebrate the momentous journey, each of the survivor’s mammograms featured in the art display will have personalized messages to women currently living with breast cancer, and following the event will be shared with them as a token of motivation to continue their fight – a “pay it forward” moment
  • Each of the guests also viewed a powerful video screening produced by Yana Nirshberg of BizCastHQ, capturing the real-life stories of those impacted by breast cancer and how Komen Chicago has helped their breast cancer journeys

“By creating a space that enabled breast cancer patients to envision life without the disease, I hoped to offer a vision of hope for these brave women,” says Emily Mackie, Founder of Inspired Interiors.

To top off this remarkable evening, Komen Chicago united several of Chicago’s bravest and boldest community leaders and notable personalities to draw increased awareness to the non-profit’s impact on fueling global research and funding community grants for this crucial cause. In addition to VIP early-access to the Auto Show, guests were treated to an elegant reception and inspiring remarks from emcee Val Warner, co-host of ABC 7’s Windy City LIVE, a keynote address from Cheryle Jackson, breast cancer survivor and influential activist, and a meet-and-greet with Israel Idonije, longtime Komen supporter and former Chicago Bear. Komen Chicago is confident that their recognition and support will help bring the organization one step closer to the goal of reducing breast cancer deaths in the U.S. by 50 percent by 2026.

“We want to thank our partners who brought this exceptional evening to life, as funds raised from the event will help expand access to critical preventive and treatment services for those most in need” says Bailey. “We are extremely proud of the strides made thus far, Komen Chicago will continue working tirelessly to achieve health equity and realize our vision to live in a world without breast cancer.”

About Susan G. Komen Chicago:

Susan G. Komen’s promise is to save lives and end breast cancer forever by empowering people, ensuring quality care for all and energizing science to find cures. Susan G. Komen Chicagoland is the local source for funding programs that provide breast health services, breast cancer education and outreach in a five-county service area. Komen Chicago donates 75 percent of net funds raised to community grants, and dedicates the remaining 25 percent to national research to find a cure, with a bold goal of reducing the current number of breast cancer deaths by 50 percent in the U.S. by 2026.


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The Solutions Project Announces Groundbreaking Pledge To Fund Frontline Climate Groups Led By Women And People Of Color; Invites US Philanthropies To Join

100% Commitment to Justice aims to correct historic lack of funding and media coverage and promote feminine leadership that builds power from the ground up

Press Release – Oakland, Calif.The Solutions Project, which led the charge for 100% clean energy for all, is doubling down on its commitment to feminine leadership and the diversity it nurtures with a pioneering 100% Commitment to Justice. By next year, the grantmaking nonprofit will invest 95 percent of its resources in innovative frontline leadership of color, with at least 80 percent going to organizations led by women. Research consistently links greater diversity of leadership to more successful results, and when it comes to curbing climate change, success is the only option.

“For a challenge as great as climate change, we need everyone on deck — including women and people of color who are leading clean energy efforts on the front lines of climate change, too often without resources or recognition,” said Don Cheadle, award-winning actor, Solutions Project board member, and Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme. “When people who live every day with the effects of dirty energy and a changing climate draw on that experience to create solutions and drive change, the results can be game-changing.”

The Solutions Project’s groundbreaking new strategy aims to address gender and racial inequities in media coverage and in philanthropy, especially as they relate to climate change. Approximately 95 percent of each year’s $60 billion in U.S. foundation funding goes to organizations led by white people, while 70 to 80 percent goes to organizations led by men. About half of climate funding is concentrated in just 20 organizations, with demographics that match this extreme homogeneity in leadership.

Studies consistently show racial, ethnic and gender diversity leads to greater team performance in decision-making and financial results. Startup company teams with at least one woman performed 63% better than all male teams. And in times of crisis, McKinsey research shows, women employ more of the leadership qualities organizations need, and their organizations perform better during and after crises.

“We challenge our fellow grantmakers — especially climate and clean energy funders — to join us in making philanthropic funding reflect the diversity of American leadership. They can start by pledging at least 10 percent of their funding to groups led by women of color,” said The Solutions Project’s executive director, Sarah Shanley Hope.

“It will be exciting to see how members of the philanthropic community respond to The Solutions Project’s challenge,” said Justin Winters, a Solutions Project board member and executive director of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which is a Solutions Project funder. “Imagine if communities most harmed by dirty energy and implementing the most innovative climate solutions actually had the resources they need.”

“The Solutions Project was in the front of the pack as the first national organization to call for 100% clean energy for all, and now it’s in the lead again with its 100% Commitment to Justice,” Winters said.

The race and gender disparity in climate and clean energy funding also extends to news coverage. While studies show climate change disproportionately affects communities of color and women, a new analysis by The Solutions Project finds these voices are underrepresented in media coverage of climate and clean energy. The media report finds:

  • 7 percent of media stories on climate and clean energy reference communities of color
  • 21 percent reference women
  • 10 percent reference equity or justice

To help remedy the situation, The Solutions Project funds frontline leaders of color and provides media support for diverse leaders who empower communities from the ground up. In New York, for example, PUSH Buffalo’s Rahwa Ghirmatzion engaged neighbors in a low-income community of color to turn an abandoned school into solar-powered affordable housing for seniors and a community center. This was the first solar project in New York to offer discounted energy entirely to low-income subscribers.

“This is energy democracy in action: regular people — working class and low-income — coming together and figuring out how to generate cleaner, healthier energy in their own neighborhood,” Ghirmatzion said. “The Solutions Project understands the importance of getting the word out that no matter what might be going on in Washington, real-world communities are advancing equitable and sustainable economic development powered by clean energy.”

Other grantees of The Solutions Project include the Rev. Leo Woodberry of Florence, S.C., who is engaging community groups across the South in the Justice First movement’s push for 100% clean energy, forest protection and environmental justice. The California Environmental Justice Alliance and its leader, Gladys Limon, are ensuring Sacramento’s commitment to 100% clean electricity by 2045 benefits every California community. Nathaniel Smith and his Partnership for Southern Equity are making sure that equity is at the center of Atlanta’s efforts to meet its commitment to 100% clean energy.

“These leaders embody feminine leadership that emphasizes cooperation, collaboration, empathy, and decisions made from the bottom up rather than top-down directives imposed from on high,” said The Solutions Project’s Hope. “Feminine leadership — practiced by people across the gender spectrum — creates space for all kinds of people to lead. And when it comes to solving climate change, we need everyone at the table.”

“The Solutions Project has a great track record of investing in and amplifying the work of unsung groups led by women and people of color on the front lines of climate change,” said Shamar Bibbins, senior program officer for the environment at The Kresge Foundation and a Philanthropic Trustee of The Solutions Project. “If the 100% Commitment to Justice inspires more foundations to look at diversity in the leaders they fund and see how their funding actually shapes the public narrative in terms of the solutions stories covered by the media, this could make a major difference in our response to the climate crisis.”


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National Domestic Workers Alliance Hosts Star-Studded Awards Night Watch Party in Celebration of Roma

Co-hosts Tarana Burke, Diane Guerrero, Rashida Jones, Eva Longoria, Olga Segura and Karla Souza with honorary co-host Alfonso Cuarón will honor domestic workers as the “heroines in our homes”

Press Release – Los Angeles, CA – The National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) is hosting a red carpet event on Oscar® night, February 24, 2019, at The Jane Club, a new and innovative women-centric venue in Los Angeles, to honor domestic workers as the true “heroines in our homes.” Inspired by the film Roma, which has been nominated for 10 Academy Awards, event attendees will celebrate the incredible success of the film in shining a light on and sparking a conversation about domestic workers in our country. They will be joined by co-hosts in attendance Tarana Burke, Diane Guerrero, Rashida Jones, Eva Longoria, Olga Segura and Karla Souza. The event will have the support of Alfonso Cuarón as honorary host for this special event, as well as Laura Brown, Laura Dern, and Natalie Portman.

“Domestic workers are the unsung heroines of our families and of our economy, yet they have been written out of our labor laws and overlooked in our culture,” said Ai-jen Poo, Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. “With this awards night event, and thanks to the support of so many brilliant actors, activists and Hollywood luminaries, we will celebrate domestic workers with the humanity and dignity they deserve. And we will celebrate Roma — a film that so prominently centers on the story of an indigenous domestic worker.”

“From TIME’S UP to Roma, one of the greatest fights in our society today is making sure that all working women are treated with dignity and respect,” said actress Laura Dern. “Roma has truly inspired audiences to reflect on the people who care for them. Domestic workers like Cleo are in the center of our lives, but too often at the bottom of our economy and society. We must do our part to ensure they have the respect and recognition they deserve.”

The event, Honoring the Heroines in Our Homes, will welcome press beginning at 2:45 p.m. PST at The Jane Club with the red carpet scheduled from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. PST and the Awards watch party taking place from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. PST. Special guests will speak throughout the evening and a champagne toast celebrating domestic workers is planned. Interviews will be available with select members of the Honoring the Heroines in Our Homes co-hosts and high profile attendees along with the opportunity to speak with select domestic workers who can offer their personal stories and connections to Roma.

In advance of this incredible evening, Rent The Runway is donating 60 designer dresses to be worn to the party by domestic workers and NDWA staff, and opening up their New York City styling studio for personal fittings. MAC Cosmetics will be providing make-up and makeup artists for the event.

In January, NDWA and Participant Media announced a nationwide effort of Roma community screenings for domestic workers and employers in 12 cities, including New York, Chicago, and Seattle, as part of a larger campaign to encourage viewers to take action. Last week, Netflix announced a portion from every theater ticket purchased in the month of February in the U.S. will be donated to NDWA.

Domestic workers are determined to make 2019 their year to win respect, dignity and rights in the workplace. Days after the new Congress was sworn in, domestic worker leaders visited Washington D.C. to meet with lawmakers and raise awareness about the first national Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. Set to be introduced later this year, the innovative federal legislation would secure rights for more than two million domestic workers across the United States, the first of its kind on a national scale.

Honoring the Heroines in Our Homes, the National Domestic Workers Alliance Oscar Night Watch Party in celebration of Roma, ultimately aims to effectively spark critical conversations across the country around the domestic workers movement.

To find out more about how to support domestic workers, visit: www.roma.domesticworkers.org

National Domestic Workers Alliance is the nation’s leading voice for dignity and fairness for millions of domestic workers in the United States. Follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


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SunFunder Reaches First Close On New $85M Solar Energy Debt Fund

Press Release – WASHINGTON, LONDON, NAIROBI – The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S. Government’s development finance institution, has provided initial financing to SunFunder’s $85 million Solar Energy Transformation Fund which supports businesses providing solar solutions to some of the millions of people in Sub-Saharan Africa and India who lack access to electricity.

The financing is part of a $25 million commitment of senior and junior debt OPIC entered last September. Since OPIC committed financing, two other lenders have also committed loans, bringing the first close total raised to $42.5 million. This blended financing package includes $7.5 million from Calvert Impact Capital and $5 million from Ceniarth. The IKEA Foundation also provided a grant of $5 million as catalytic capital for the fund.

The Solar Energy Transformation Fund is one of a group of investment vehicles managed by SunFunder, a solar energy finance business with offices in the U.S., London and Nairobi working to scale up clean energy access in Africa and Asia by financing solar companies active in off-grid and weak-grid communities.

“This project will advance OPIC’s mission of empowering people in some of the world’s poorest countries, by bringing affordable electricity to remote areas that are not connected to an electricity grid,” said Ray W. Washburne, OPIC President and CEO. “As we’ve seen from the additional financing raised, it is also a testament to OPIC’s ability to mobilize additional investment.”

SunFunder projects that the Solar Energy Transformation Fund will improve energy access for three million people and mitigate 480,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually over the nine year life of the fund. To date, SunFunder has deployed $65 million of debt financing to 46 solar borrowers in Africa and Asia.

“SunFunder has now closed over $100 million in diversified solar debt funds and the SET Fund opens up new opportunities. As our largest fund and with a 9-year tenor, the SET Fund increases both the range and size of debt capital offerings that we can provide, especially for productive use solutions and commercial projects,” said Ryan Levinson, SunFunder founder and CEO. “We’re grateful for the support from this investor group and pleased to be growing these long-standing relationships.”

OPIC’s support of this project advances several Agency priorities including the 2X Women’s Initiative, which supports women-owned and women-led businesses.

SunFunder was founded in 2012 by Ryan Levinson and Audrey Desiderato, with a commitment to provide financing for working capital, construction, inventory and structured finance loans to emerging market beyond the grid solar projects and companies.

By bringing electricity to some of the hardest to reach communities in Africa, these projects also advance the U.S. Power Africa initiative to bring electricity to more of the hundreds of millions of people in Sub-Saharan Africa who live without power.

OPIC previously committed financing to another SunFunder-managed fund, the Beyond the Grid Solar Fund, which has provided financing for off-grid companies in Africa, India, the Pacific Islands and Jordan. Calvert Impact Capital and Ceniarth also both invested in previous SunFunder debt funds.

“The IKEA Foundation is supporting SunFunder with a $5 million grant for its important work in serving the off-grid communities in East and West Africa and India because we believe that helping families access renewable energy will enable them to afford a better everyday life while also protecting the planet,” Jolanda van Ginkel, Renewable Energy Program Manager at IKEA Foundation.

“We’re excited to work with this group of lenders to meet SunFunder’s growing capital needs. Continuing to scale proven fund managers like SunFunder is critical to creating access to capital for local businesses that are leading the energy transformation,” said Jennifer Pryce, President and CEO of Calvert Impact Capital.

“Ceniarth has been an active energy access investor for the past four years and has monitored activity closely across the sector. SunFunder has grown into a sophisticated and responsible lender in a market that continues to have significant complexity, but critical impact. We are excited to invest alongside OPIC and Calvert Impact Capital in expanding the SET fund,” said Diane Isenberg, Founder and Director of Ceniarth.


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