NoVo in the Media

Help Boys, but Don’t Shortchange Girls: A Plea From Gloria Steinem, Pamela Shifman and Girls Inc.

To the Editor:

There is a pervasive myth in the United States that girls, including girls of color, are faring well. Thank you for publishing Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw’s Op-Ed essay, “The Girls Obama Forgot” (July 30), documenting the fact that nothing could be further from the truth.

Since the $300 million or more pledged to the White House initiative My Brother’s Keeper comes largely from private foundations, we would like to point out that foundation funding directed to girls and women remains less than 7.5 percent of all foundation funding; funding dedicated to girls and women of color has, to our knowledge, never been counted.

Given the high rates of violence, poverty and inequity facing girls and young women of color, this should concern all of us. According to Black Women’s Blueprint, nearly 60 percent of black girls in the United States have experienced sexual violence before the age of 18.

Foundations know from their work in Africa, Asia and Latin America that when poor girls and women are supported, their well-being accelerates justice, health and economic outcomes. Why isn’t that knowledge translated to girls and women in the United States? What if instead of blaming women and girls for being poor, or victims of violence, or shaming them for being single parents, we supported them to thrive?

We are thankful for foundations that commit significant resources to address the pervasive and systemic racism in American society, but we wonder why the problems facing boys and men of color are taken more seriously than the problems facing girls and women of color. We need to invest in creating real, meaningful opportunities for our sisters as well as our brothers. You can’t solve a problem by rendering half of it invisible.

New York, Aug. 1, 2014

Ms. Shifman is executive director of the NoVo Foundation, which focuses on girls’ and women’s rights. Ms. Steinem is the writer and activist.