“Every moment is an organizing opportunity, every person is a potential activist, every minute a chance to change the world.”
– Dolores Huerta
There is nothing like a global health crisis to remind us of the urgency to address inequities experienced by all who live at the margins. As the pandemic makes inequities starkly visible, we call for a cultural transformation that asks us to imagine and create new ways of operating.
On a daily basis, women who live at the intersections of race, place, age, disability, and other identities like LGBTQ+ experience deep inequities that become starkly visible in times like these. In response, at the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, we are deploying resources directly where they are needed most. As we amplify the experiences of women and girls across Minnesota, we are harnessing this opportunity to respond to the communities distinctly impacted by this crisis.
As our founders recognized in 1983, it is imperative that we invest in women for whole community well-being.
Leading in a Changing World
WFMN and its board of trustees put their values of hope, generosity, and inclusion into action by investing in gender and racial equity across Minnesota. As the Foundation’s new CEO, I am excited to bring my voice and life experiences to this work and provide leadership in a changing world—a world where the experiences of women and girls of color are put at the center of our collective work to create a Minnesota that works for all.
When I look forward, I envision a Minnesota that is more inclusive, creative, and better prepared to adapt to the growing diversity across our state. I envision policies and systems that are informed by lived experiences and that enable women and girls to realize their full potential. To create a Minnesota that works for all, we all must think, feel, and do things differently.
It is a personal honor to lead the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota. In many ways, this work pays homage to the vision and hard work of my ancestors, particularly my paternal grandparents who immigrated from Chihuahua and Ciudad Union, Mexico. My grandparents worked relentlessly to create opportunities for their children and future generations. They instilled in us a deep respect for self, others, faith, and our Mexican heritage; they worked tirelessly to ensure that we would have access to education and economic opportunities.
Because of my life experiences, including what I learned as a community volunteer and from my years leading an organization on the frontlines of issues facing women and their children today, I am passionate about creating systems of economic opportunity informed by the real-life experiences of women and girls. At the heart of why I do this work is WFMN’s unique approach: we invest in women and girls of color to shape the solutions necessary to create gender and racial equity across Minnesota.
Investing in Responsiveness
This moment in our history is a clear opportunity for reflection and action. WFMN is investing a half-million dollars in emergency grants of up to $10,000 to organizations serving women and girls experiencing gender-based violence, older women, and women and girls who need short-term financial support that includes childcare, food, housing, health, and more. To leverage WFMN investments for greatest impact, we have transformed all grantmaking to support general operations, a best practice that allows nonprofits greater flexibility in this critical time.
Over the coming months, to continue building community we will launch a series of online engagements to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on women and girls and families, and our individual and collective vision for surviving the short-term and thriving in the long-term. We will share our leading research, including the new 2020 Status of Women and Girls in Minnesota and the 2019 Status of Older Women in Minnesota, and invite scholars, visionaries, healers, and organizers to share the ways they are navigating these times.
As we mark the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote, we are inspired by the women who worked (and continue to work!) tirelessly for rights, representation, and respect for all women, and go uncredited and undercounted. This election year and current crisis reminds us of the importance of civic engagement. Our involvement in the political process sets a course for the future that will affect generations to come. We still have far to go in creating equity for all so that all women and girls know what it means to thrive—with economic opportunity, safety, and leadership. As we build pathways to prosperity, we rise to our responsibility and the call our founders set forth: to create an enduring legacy of equality for women and girls. We remember the wise words of Dolores Huerta, who, at 90, continues to lead with community: “Every moment is an organizing opportunity, every person is a potential activist, every minute a chance to change the world.”
Listening for Transformation
Over the next year, I look forward to sharing the new 2020 Status of Women & Girls in Minnesota research and hearing from grantee-partners, donor-partners, young women leaders, elected officials, and business leaders about their reactions to the data and how their lived experiences shape their solutions and vision for the future. In recognition of the short- and long-term impact of COVID-19, we will engage and listen with intent to communities’ experiences with the underlying issues exposed by the pandemic and the impact of inequity. We will share what we learn to amplify and center women and girls and families in the ongoing public and philanthropic conversations— our learnings will inform and evolve our responsive strategies.
As a systems change philanthropy, we will continue to invest in civic engagement and policy efforts that address the socioeconomic inequities that must be transformed for good.
I will engage with folks across the state to learn directly from communities about how race, place, and additional identities (ethnicity, sovereignty, socioeconomic class, age, disability, religion, LGBTQ+, and immigration status) interact with gender to shape their lived experiences. As we make sure communities experiencing the greatest barriers have what they need to survive the pandemic and thrive in the long run, we will ensure that all Minnesotans experience economic, social, and physical well-being, both now and into the future.
I look forward to leading WFMN during this important inflection point in our country. I will count on you as a partner to support Minnesota women and girls and our collective leadership to create communities that work for all people.
By Gloria Perez
President & CEO, Women’s Foundation of Minnesota