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Insight: No, ‘charity’ is not real investment in philanthropy

By Zulnette García-Ramos, the “movement weaver” at Fundación Mujeres en Puerto Rico.

When Angie Noemí González was found strangled and dumped in a ravine in 2021, Puerto Rico was once again shaken by a phenomenon that seems unstoppable. A femicide is reported every week on the island. So far in 2024, there have been 42 femicides, 16 more than in June 2023. In 2021, there were 67 victims.

When we see these heartbreaking headlines in the island’s media, we are shocked for a few days, and then, unfortunately, we turn the page until the next victim. To appease the widespread horror, the current government decreed a “state of emergency” for femicides on the island. The result? PARE is inactive, many proposals remain pending and nothing was achieved in prevention – “dead letters” that never took off.

In this context, it is inexplicable that only 1.6% of global philanthropy is dedicated to combating such an obviously critical issue as gender equity. These statistics also underscore the urgency of evaluating our approach to philanthropy and the culture of donating.

They invite us to understand the vulnerabilities that women, girls and nonbinary people experience in different social contexts and to make strategic investments that lead to a better quality of life for them and their communities.

Philanthropy needs to listen to the leaders of community organizations and pay attention to what they need, their proposals and their capabilities. Flexible and operational funds, with a vision of gender equity, allow community organizations to cover administrative costs and, as a result, work on their sustainability and growth. Creating more programs without having strong administrative bases has shown us that it puts organizations in situations of precariousness and vulnerability.

At the Fundación de Mujeres en Puerto Rico, we believe in and practice feminist philanthropy based on trust, in an investment model that moves away from the vision of “charity” and seeks to strengthen organizations with sustainable, conscious and gender-sensitive practices. 

Feminist philanthropy transfers power to the people who are on the front lines of defending gender justice and to the groups that are building a more equitable and just future. This practice proposes a more equitable and just relationship between the receiver and the investor.

We need to generalize a vision of philanthropy and a culture of donation that understands and recognizes the work in alliances that community organizations have and their capacities to empower true social change. Investing in prevention, education and support programs for victims and survivors generates social changes that benefit families and communities.

It is imperative that philanthropic funds, both individual and institutional, be directed toward these critical areas with a new approach that strengthens, empowers, supports and facilitates the processes of the leaders who manage community efforts for equity and racial justice in Puerto Rico. It is time to act with this new vision.

Let us not wait for the next victim to remember that alliances, philanthropy of trust and supportive accompaniment provoke the transformation we want to see.

Author Zulnette García-Ramos, is the “movement weaver” at Fundación Mujeres en Puerto Rico. She has a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in counseling with a specialty in mental health.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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