[Hpn] Rhode Island Foundation $2.5M FUND aims to bring women equity & social justice

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Wed, 07 Nov 2001 12:57:51 -0800


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FWD  AP Wire Service - Nov 05 2001

FUND DESIGNED TO BRING EQUITY, EMPOWERMENT TO RHODE ISLAND WOMEN

By AMY FORLITI
Associated Press Writer

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ A fund designed to bring economic equity
and social justice to the state's women was started Monday with a
$2.5 million infusion from the Rhode Island Foundation.

The Women's Fund of Rhode Island _ the first fund in the state
dedicated only to girls and women _ will issue ``change making''
grants to organizations and programs that champion fairness,
opportunity, and shared power for women, said its founder, Simone
Joyaux.

``It's all about leveling the playing field,'' said Joyaux, of
Foster.

``The Women's Fund will support fresh solutions to problems that
have faced women and girls for generations, while celebrating our
unique role in society,'' she said. ``The challenges are
daunting.''

About 59 percent of Rhode Islanders living in poverty are
female, according to 2000 Census numbers. Rhode Island women make
only 76 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts,
according to the Rhode Island Foundation.

In addition, one in six girls attempts suicide during
adolescence, more than one in every 10 Hispanic teens gives birth,
and women and children comprise the fastest-growing segment of the
homeless, Joyaux said.

``We know that all we have to do is count how many elected
officials are men and women, and we know there is not equity,'' she
said.

There are about 80 women's funds set up around the country.
Joyaux, a consultant for nonprofit agencies, came across these
funds and wanted to set up her own in the Ocean State. She went to
the Rhode Island Foundation for help.

Ronald Z. Gallo, president and chief executive officer of the
Rhode Island Foundation, gathered statistics about the state of
Rhode Island's women, and learned that only about 6 to 7 percent of
all philanthropy nationwide is targeted toward women and girls.

He was sold.

``Women and girls often bear a disproportionate amount of the
burden of social illness and economic downturn,'' he said. ``I went
from thinking, 'Gee this is a decent idea,' to 'This is long
overdue.'''

The Foundation is getting the fund started with a $2.5 million
challenge grant, which the Women's Fund hopes to match for a $5
million endowment. Joyaux hopes that money will create $250,000 in
grants each year for programs dealing with self-esteem, business
training, the right to vote, and other issues affecting women.

While she admits women and girls are not the only Rhode
Islanders in need, Joyaux said that many universal self-esteem and
educational programs have left women on the sidelines.

``There are many teen self-esteem-building programs that can be
wonderful _ it works for the boys but it doesn't work for the
girls,'' she said. ``It's the girls that get forgotten.''

AP-ES-11-05-01 1441EST
Received  Id AP101309C3502E5B on Nov 05 2001

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