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March 30, 2022

Ms. Foundation Launches Birth Justice Initiative to Benefit Grassroots Organizations and Address Racial Based Health Disparities

Nation’s oldest women’s foundation announces new initiative to build power within the birth justice movement and address racial based health disparities in birth experiences and birth outcomes.

NEW YORK – Today, the Ms. Foundation for Women announced the launch of their Birth Justice Initiative, a new grantmaking strategy to advance equitable birth outcomes and strengthen the capacity, organizational infrastructure, and financial stability of grassroots Black, Indigenous and women of color-led organizations. In this round of grantmaking, the Ms. Foundation will invest over $1 million in support of birth justice organizations across the spectrum of movement building and organizing. 

“At a time where women’s reproductive health is on the line, we are proud to announce this new grantmaking initiative as part of our continued effort to center the leadership, voices and experiences of women of color in the fight for birth justice,” said Teresa C. Younger, President and CEO of the Ms. Foundation. “Women of color have led nearly every impactful grassroots movement in United States history and their vision and leadership are invaluable in ensuring access to safe, affirming, and culturally competent anti-racist health care, policies, and systems, across the spectrum of experiences, including: abortion care, fertility, prenatal care, birth, postpartum care, grief and loss, and parenting.” 

The U.S. has one of the highest maternal mortality rates of all developed nations and Black women die at three to four times the rate of white women in birth – one of the widest racial disparities in women’s health. Systemic racism, implicit bias, and anti-Blackness all contribute to the significant disparities in birth outcomes among Black, Indigenous and birthing people of color. Additionally, infant mortality rates show that Black babies are dying at higher rates than white babies across developing and developed nations. In the U.S., where infant death rates for all age groups are shown to be dropping, Black infants still die at twice the rate of white infants. And yet, philanthropy has significantly underfunded and underinvested in organizations led by and for women and girls of color. 

This initiative is also in response to the Ms. Foundation’s groundbreaking report, Pocket Change: How Women and Girls of Color Do More with Lesswhich provided a baseline understanding of philanthropic funding and investment in women and girls of color (WGOC) throughout the U.S and its territories. The report found that total philanthropic giving to WGOC averages out to just $5.48 per year for each woman or girl of color in the United States, accounting for just .5% of total philanthropic giving. 

Given these findings, the Birth Justice Initiative will support driving greater philanthropic investment, understanding, and engagement toward organizations led by and for women and girls of color. The initiative will build upon the Ms. Foundation’s decades of experience supporting grassroots leaders fighting for reproductive justice and aim to build power within the birth justice movement, increase connectivity and collaboration between organizations and movement leaders, and provide philanthropic advocacy to influence the movement of more resources for birth justice. 

“Women of color are key experts and decision-makers in shaping policy and culture change around birth justice,” said Sona Smith, Ms. Foundation Birth Justice Program Officer. “By investing directly into organizations led by and for women and girls of color, we are ensuring that the movement to address racial based disparities in healthcare is led by those who are impacted most. Strengthening the collective power of communities of color is critical to addressing the root causes of these disparities and advancing birth justice for all.”

The Ms. Foundation will seek to assemble a balanced portfolio of rural, urban, emerging, and established organizations that amplify projects centering Black and Indigenous birthing people of all genders, disability justice, pregnant and parenting youth, incarceration, infertility, and grief and loss. These new organizations will expand the work being done by the Birth Justice Inaugural Cohort, which includes Alabama Cohosh Collaborative,  Mama Sana Vibrant WomanBirth in Color RVADr. Shalon Maternal Action Project, A Woman’s Way, and the Southern Birth Justice Network. 

Proposals are due by Friday, April 15, 2022. To learn more about the application process for the Birth Justice Initiative, visit here.

An optional information session about the Birth Justice Initiative will be held on Friday, April 1, 2022 from 1:00-2:00pm ET. To register for the webinar, visit here.  

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The Ms. Foundation for Women transforms our democracy by building women’s collective power. Guided by a gender and racial justice lens, we resource grassroots movements that center women and girls of color, advance feminism in philanthropy, and advocate for policies that improve women’s lives across the country. Since 1973, we’ve opened up worlds of possibility for women and girls. But to finally achieve justice for all, we need you in our fight. ​Learn more and get involved at ForWomen.org.