With new leadership comes a myriad of possibilities!

Today, we celebrate a monumental occasion with the inauguration of Kamala Harris as this country’s first Black, Indian-American woman Vice President. History has been made and we’re overjoyed knowing that she follows the trail blazed by Black women leaders and those whose advocacy supported her path to the White House.
The Biden administration’s leadership can make the difference in introducing policies and legislation that align with our values as a Foundation in creating a world that is more equitable and just. With new leadership comes a myriad of possibilities, and we are incredibly hopeful that the inclusive team President Biden and Vice President Harris are amassing is an expression of their leadership and values, which will move us toward a better future.
The Foundation looks to the new administration to implement the critical changes we and our grantee partners wish to see. We anticipate that the forces for justice and civic leadership that made this day possible be strengthened by the Biden-Harris administration, and that their voices will be centered in our fight against racial, economic, and gender injustice and oppression.

We embrace this new chapter as an opportunity to strengthen the efforts of grassroots movements on local, state and national levels with investments in bold solutions to these most pressing challenges. When we look back on this time, may we always remember that it was the efforts of women— and particularly Black and brown women, immigrant women— whose unwavering commitment to justice and equality made this possible.

Our work begins at The Foundation with our grantee partners and the communities of women and families they support. We remain unflinching in our commitment to invest in the movements they are leading for change. Our grantee partners also have a unique opportunity now to have the changes they’ve been fighting for be seen through to fruition. From turning the tide towards protections for trans and gender nonconforming communities, to immigration justice, racial equity and more, we join them in the fight to ensure that the Biden administration enacts the changes we urgently need.

Of the many lessons we’ve learned over the last year, may we remember that we are interconnected. And when we center the needs of those who have been harmed by the last administration and a culture of racism and patriarchy, we create a path for sustainable, meaningful change. With determination and a spirit of radical generosity, we will see this through— together.

“To be Seen and to be Heard”: Latinx Heritage Month Q&A with Alejandra Naranjo, Vice President of Development

We are proud to support the leadership of Latinx women and girls and invest in solutions to the most pressing issues facing these communities today. When you give to The New York Women’s Foundation, the impact of your dollars are multiplied by our grantee partners who are fiercely dedicated to the empowerment, protection and wellbeing of Latinx and immigrant communities.  

For Latinx Heritage Month, we sat down with Alejandra Naranjo, The Foundation’s Vice President of Development. In this blog post, she reflects on the personal impact philanthropy has had on her career and how The Foundation continues to elevate the voices of Latinx women and girls.  


What inspired you to work in philanthropy? 

It was my mom that inspired my journeyShe’s a doctor and was probably one of the only women going to medical school in Mexico at the time. And she developed a passion for helping people that I was able to witness firsthand. She had an office at home and people from the community would come to us for consultation. She would also go into poor, rural communities near our home in Mexico to tend to the medical needs of women. Seeing this, I was driven to give back to the community. 

Many of the women I saw my mom working with made their living in a brick factory and they were extremely hard workersI saw from an early age that women have the drive to improve living conditions for their families and their neighbors. And that’s something that led me to The New York Women’s Foundation: the way that women help other women and make their communities a better place to live for them and for their children. 

How can more Latinx women and girls be supported as leaders in philanthropy? 

I believe the wage gap is a barrier to more Latinx women and girls getting involved in philanthropy. They have the drive and the passion, but for the women putting in extra time at work, taking on two or three different jobs to make ends meet for their families, the time needed to get involved with philanthropic work becomes a challenge. As we push the movement for living wages, we need to provide more support for Latinx women and girls to collaborate with philanthropy. That’s why I’m proud of the work of The Foundation, where we deeply value giving of time and resources at all levels.  

How has the work of The Foundation impacted Latinx communities in New York City?  

About 15 years ago when I was working for the First Lady of Mexico, I learned about The Foundation’s grantee partner Mixteca, who wanted to build a partnership with usWhen I later joined The Foundation, I was overjoyed to see us supporting Mixteca as a grantee partner because I knew firsthand all the years they put in to help the Mexican community.  

I’ve also seen The Foundation’s impact on Latinx communities through our grantee partners civic engagement work. They make sure people from my community know that their voices count and that they should be heard. The Foundation also supports nonprofit organizations that provide services for and build power within immigrant communities. That’s something I hold close to my heart, because the work these organizations do is critically important.  

What’s needed for Latinx women and girls to be supported in this moment? What makes you hopeful? 

We need a way for Latinx women, girls and immigrants to be seen and to be heard.  

What makes me hopeful is the support The Foundation has been able to provide— thanks to the radical generosity of our donors— to different organizations focused on civic engagement such as Higher Heights or Vote Run Lead. Ialso gives me hope that more women will hold leadership positions to fight for the rights of girls and young women of color.  

What would you say to someone looking to get involved with The Foundation? 

The women we support and who lead our grantee partner organizations make so much happen with so little. When you give to The New York Women’s Foundation, the return on your investment is large. The impact of your dollars is multiplied.   


In Conversation with Najia Nasim, Executive Director of Women for Afghan Women

As Domestic Violence Awareness Month draws to a close, we are pleased to share a recent interview we had with Najia Nasim, Executive Director of Women for Afghan Women (WAW). Keep on reading to hear about her new role and WAW’s continued commitment to supporting Afghan women and families.

Initially having plans to become a doctor, Najia made her way to WAW after realizing its mission allowed her to make significant changes in the lives of Afghan women and children. With the passion and motivation to make a difference, Najia became WAW’s Afghanistan Country Director in 2014 and was promoted to Executive Director in January 2019. “Every day we work through the challenges. That is the hard part. But at the same time, the smiles, the hope, the successes, the end results of our work and the positive impact– it’s all worth it,” she says about her experience.

Intimate partner violence affects more than 12 million people annually, according to the Office of Justice Programs. In New York City, domestic violence accounted for 17.5% of homicides recorded in 2017, according to data from the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence.

For Afghan women adjusting to life in the United States, this epidemic is often intensified by cultural differences, language barriers and varying levels of education.

WAW’s record of supporting survivors extends back to 2001 when the organization was first founded to support women living under Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Since then, WAW has expanded their base with their New York Community Center, where more than 1,000 women are served annually. WAW is also now the largest women’s organization in Afghanistan, with over 850 staff, the majority of whom are women, and 6,000 individuals accessing their programs annually. Although Afghanistan continues to face security challenges, Najia is proud to work with a team of human rights defenders. “They have basically risked their own life to save the lives of others, no matter what position they are in,” she said.

Afghan women in New York City may have certain liberties and freedoms not afforded to them in Afghanistan, but navigating a new country can be incredibly difficult without the proper support. “In New York, women have the right to get educated, they have the right to work, they have the right to seek justice,” she said. “But someone needs to assist them and tell them that these are their rights, and that they can do all this.” And meeting that need is exactly what WAW sets out to do, providing a comprehensive package of services for clients. Offering confidential case management and pro bono legal assistance, ESL, citizenship, and driver’s education classes, women’s circles, and leadership and after school programs for children and youth, WAW is a lifeline for immigrant and refugee communities in New York City.

Najia also identifies the isolation Afghan and other immigrant women face in their new lives in the United States as a major challenge. “It takes a long time for them to feel they are part of this society,” she explained.

From women now serving in the Parliament of Afghanistan to holding key positions at nonprofits and other businesses, Afghanistan and Afghan women have seen tremendous improvements over the past 18 years— but running an organization dedicated to women’s rights and protection still comes with risks. WAW’s network of services in Afghanistan includes programs and 32 centers across 16 provinces. Of the 32 centers, 12 are Women’s Protection Centers that provide confidential and safe shelter until the cases of endangered women and girls have been resolved. “The Women’s Protection Centers are a new concept in Afghanistan, so it still comes with a lot of challenges and a lot of risks. Our staff is going through that every day,” Najia says.
No matter the time of year, WAW continues to work to create a world free of gender-based violence. “When it comes to domestic violence, I would say that we, as an organization, always fight for the elimination and reduction of violence against women,” Najia says. WAW has trained more than 360,000 individuals across Afghanistan on how to advocate for and educate others on women’s rights. At the New York Community Center (NYCC), this month also featured events to raise awareness among WAW’s clients and emphasizing the importance of the fight to end gender-based violence, including co-sponsoring the Silent March coordinated annually by the Korean American Family Service Center and participating in a resource fair at the Queensborough president’s office.

For as much success as WAW has seen, support is still needed to see sustained change in the lives of Afghan women and children. Najia credits The New York Women’s Foundation as an early supporter of WAW, investing in the organization during its first stages.

“The Foundation believed in WAW from the beginning, when we started our work with only one to two staff members and 10-15 clients,” she says.

The Foundation was also a supporter of WAW’s Know Your Rights program, which provides information sessions, direct and referral services for immigrants, raises awareness about immigrant rights and assists women and men in the Afghan, South Asian, and Muslim communities in better understanding and responding to immigration challenges. As WAW continues through Domestic Violence Awareness Month and beyond, Najia expresses gratitude for the support the organization receives in helping Afghan and other immigrant women and families realize their fullest potential.

“Coming to WAW is like a door of hope for our clients. Everyone that contributes to WAW gives women, children, and all of our clients hope,” she says. “With this support, our clients are able to not only serve themselves but to become agents of change in their community. Philanthropy actually makes this happen.”

4 Things I Learned as an Intern with The New York Women’s Foundation

I became affiliated with The New York Women’s Foundation back in 2017 as one of 14 Fellows participating in the Girls IGNITE! Grantmaking (GIG) Fellowship program. The GIG Fellowship is a program dedicated to young girls and gender-fluid youth between the ages of 14-18 who live within the five boroughs of New York and identify with historical marginalized communities. This opportunity is an entry point to discover what participatory grantmaking is, what the process looks like, and in general, learn about what the field of philanthropy entails. This exposure offered me a professional career where I could fight for justice and contribute positive change in my community for the future. I had the privilege to come back this summer to work closely with the Programs Department to support the 2019 GIG Fellows as an intern to continue my journey as a philanthropist. These are 4 things I learned throughout my experience:

1. So many people come into philanthropy ‘accidentally’. What does that mean?

I had the chance to hear from various professionals about how they landed in philanthropy. After reflecting on these conversations, I noticed a trend of ‘accidentally’ stumbling upon philanthropy, even with The Foundation’s very own President & CEO, Ana Oliveira. I wanted to highlight this because I wondered if ‘accidentally stumbling’ upon a career is really another way of reiterating the phrase ‘it’s who you know, not what you know’.

Philanthropy is important work and more people need to know about it as a career. I am proud to say that The Foundation recognizes the need for younger generations to look at philanthropy the same way children think about being a doctor or a lawyer and will continue making strides to make that a reality. The GIG program is a great way to expose young people to this exciting and fulfilling career option.

2. Philanthropy looks different for everyone

Philanthropy is a field where one’s experience is unique. The process of grantmaking, development and operations look vastly different in every foundation. The Foundation, for example, practices participatory grantmaking to receive guidance directly from the communities being served and work directly with them to decide on the allocation of funding. The Foundation believes that the people who live in these communities know what is best for their community. There is no limit to who can contribute their ideas in these conversations. My experience being both a GIG Fellow and GIG Intern has taught me that philanthropy offers different lenses. GIG prioritizes ideas from young people by giving them a chance to be a part of decision-making processes, creating more progressive moves for the community. Taking this initiative opens the potential for other foundations to take after and implement more decisive programming catered towards young people, particularly young girls of color and gender fluid youth.

3. Grantmaking decisions can be burdensome and difficult

Last year, when I was told I would have the opportunity to weigh in on grantmaking decisions, I was euphoric. As a 17-year-old, that was exciting. I didn’t really think about what that meant until the time came to negotiate and decide amongst my cohort, who should we fund and how much? My cohort had great experiences at our site visits and really enjoyed getting to know these organizations but ultimately, making funding decisions can be tough. My cohort came with different stories to share and different issues to flag, and while that made us a spontaneous, unpredictable and passionate group of young folks, it also made it difficult to compromise. We each felt very connected with the organizations we had site visited, but we couldn’t fund all of them. This year’s cohort faced a similar challenge where Fellows had difficulty agreeing on an amount to fund. This dispute occurred because each Fellow had a different interpretation on what to prioritize when making decisions representing The Foundation. To address this issue, I suggested they approach this situation with questions such as, “Do you think funding this organization and their mission will be able to benefit young girls, women, gender-fluid/TGNC folks within the community?” “Will they be able to support their vision without us?” I have continued to learn throughout this internship that asking these types of questions are vital in making efficient, thoughtful decisions because at the end of the day, these decisions are making some form of impact on other people’s lives.

Philanthropy’s ability to be compassionate comes with the necessity to be clear and not be clouded with any biases. Both the Fellows and I were given exposure early in our philanthropic careers to absorb this reality. That alone is an accomplishment we should all be proud of.

4. Roll with the punches

When I first accepted this internship, it was difficult to imagine how it would unfold. Being a 2018 Fellow, I was oblivious to the amount of laborious work and time that had been put in by my supervisor, program officer Bianca Alston, and the rest of the Programs Team. Now that I was going to be helping out with the Fellowship, the tasks piled up extremely quickly, and all I could do was ‘roll with the punches.’ I went from supporting administrative work like copying, to creating presentations for GIG sessions, leading icebreakers and preparing Fellows for their site visits. I even collaborated with grantee partner Harlem Birth Action Committee and invited them to come speak to our Fellows about maternal and fetal morality. I put in everything I could to support the fellowship as best as I could, but it wouldn’t have been possible without my great supervisor and the Programs Team to lean on. Most importantly, I was willing to be flexible. For anyone reading this about to start an internship, I want to say that I hope you get an awesome supervisor, are surrounded by amazing, passionate workers, and are willing to adapt to whatever is necessary. Keep sticking through with it because you’ll be greatly rewarded!