March 21, 2023

The Intersection of Gender Equity and the Climate Crisis is at the Forefront of WECAN’s Work

National Philanthropic Trust’s donors recommend thousands of grants every year. Grants In Action highlights the breadth of causes and organizations NPT’s donors are supporting with grant recommendations from their donor-advised fund accounts.   

Author Aly Semigran, Content Specialist

The impacts of climate change can be seen and felt around the world, but women are disproportionately affected by its devastation. A 2022 report conducted by UN Women found that “gender inequality coupled with the climate crisis is one of the greatest challenges of our time.”

Osprey Orielle Lake, the Founder and Executive Director of Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network, International (WECAN) points out that Indigenous women, Black women, women from low-income communities and women from the Global South are particularly vulnerable due to “the historic and continuing impacts of colonialism, racism and inequality.”

But WECAN believes that the women facing these urgent threats are the very same people who can solve them. “Study after study shows that women’s leadership is critical to have success in areas of just climate solutions, social equality and bold, transformative change,” Lake says. “Gender equity and women’s leadership can no longer be an afterthought when it comes to climate solutions.”

Established in 2013 and headquartered in the Bay Area, the organization works toward putting women at the center of climate change solutions by engaging them in policy, training, movement building and “on the ground” work, ranging from rainforest protection in the Amazon, to promoting Indigenous food sovereignty in the Mississippi Delta and on the Louisiana Gulf Coast.

If properly funded, we would see climate solutions extensively grow and flourish.

Lake says that grants and donations made to WECAN not only support programming and operations, they also help make vital connections between women working at the grassroots level and women working in climate science and policy. “At the grassroots level, to the policy level, to the donor level, women are seeing what needs to be done,” Lake says.

An incredibly small portion of philanthropic giving supports organizations focusing on women’s and girls’ needs. A report from Global Green Grants found that only 0.2% of foundation funding went specifically to women and the environment. Lake says that women are still making tremendous strides forward even with limited support. “If properly funded, we would see climate solutions extensively grow and flourish,” she adds.

While grants from donor-advised funds (DAFs) so far make up only a small percentage of WECAN’s total fundraising revenue, their impact has been powerful. Lake says that DAFs are a “crucial” part of the work the organization does and that unrestricted giving, in particular, “allows us to act swiftly and respond responsibly to emerging opportunities, crises and projects around the world.”

Lake explains that unrestricted giving also allows WECAN to support and organize with many women “who do not fall within traditional funding streams, but who are leading vital efforts at critical moments.” She adds, “I am deeply grateful for donors who support the climate justice movement and are critical partners in this collective agenda for a healthy and equitable future for people and the planet.”

About the Author

Aly Semigran is a Content Specialist at National Philanthropic Trust. She has been writing and editing professionally for over 15 years, with articles in Billboard, Well + Good and Mic, among many other notable publications. In addition to her editorial background, Aly is currently getting her Master of Social Work degree from Temple University. She resides in Philadelphia with her dog.