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Tell us about yourself and your philanthropy journey. What drives your giving and leadership?

My philanthropy journey began when my husband and I (who did not grow up with wealth –both of our parents were public servants) were able to start a family foundation at a pretty young age.  My background was in international relations, law, and public policy and we began with a focus on human rights and education.

An early partner was the Global Fund for Children, an organization with which I went on a trip to India that included a visit to the red light districts in Calcutta and Bombay.  As a mother of three young girls, I immediately had an “aha moment”, asking myself, “how could anyone not focus on making sure girls are not abused and enslaved as they currently are all around the world?”

Suddenly, my focus was on the rights of girls and we have never looked back.  We renamed our foundation The Girls Rights Project and focused on finding grassroots grantees that ensure girls have the safety, education, and dignity they deserve.  We work primarily internationally but also in the U.S.  Our main areas of focus are anti-trafficking, education, and girls’ leadership.  My hope is that all girls can live lives of their choosing, leading to a world of equality, abundance, and hope.

My connection with Women Moving Millions began when I discovered that Swanee Hunt (who ran the Women in Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School where I got my master’s degree) was rallying women to make pledges to help women and girls.

I was excited about the idea and incredibly impressed when I met the emerging community of women at Women Moving Millions. The combination of the incredible community and the possibility of unparalleled impact we can achieve together has made WMM one of my favorite organizations. I believe WMM is only beginning on its journey to have a great impact on the rights of girls and women in this country and worldwide.

What inspired you to make a $1m+ commitment to women and girls? What do you want to say to others who are considering a bold investment in women and girls?

My desire to commit our entire foundation’s efforts to girls’ rights grows from a belief in equality, that all people deserve to live their best lives, and that girls are the best place to start in making that a reality.  When we started The Girls Rights Project, there were some organizations giving specifically to women, but if girls continue to be married, experience FGM, and miss out on education, efforts to help women will not amount to much.  Focusing on girls gives me hope every day.

It has been incredibly gratifying to see the power of girls when they are given support, education, leadership training, mentorship, and safe spaces to dream and gather.  

I think people need to understand how satisfying and exciting this work is. To travel. To see the world. To examine problems and work to solve them. It is exciting. It gives us hope and it enriches our lives. I hope more women will rise to the occasion and undergo the exciting experience of setting goals, making a pledge, and reaching for a better future.

How will this bold investment help us realize a gender equal world? What impact do you hope to have?

As I have followed this path of working on girls rights I have been so energized by the communities I meet.  As time goes on, the vision continues to change.  I now see that women and girls are beginning to make a huge imprint on the vision of a better world.  The goal is no longer fitting into a man’s world but creating a world that will be better for all men, women, and children.  A world in which we protect the earth, include everyone, create new forms of leadership, and work together to make life better and more fair for us all.

WMM has partnered with Demand IX, a campaign to protect and expand Title IX legislation. As a former collegiate athlete, can you share how your life has been impacted by Title IX?

I have been an athlete for as long as I can remember. I played on boys sports teams in the 1970s as there were not girls teams then. I was a good soccer player and by the time I was in high school, I was recruited to play soccer at Stanford.

At the time (1985) the Stanford Women’s soccer team had just become a varsity team.  

We had no scholarships and we had to clean the football stadium each Sunday to make our budget. It was important to my identity to be a varsity athlete, and I don’t believe that would have been the case had it not been for Title IX. I found myself in a college full of impressive women athletes, though I admit that we did not yet feel “equal.”

Soon after I left Stanford, Julie Foudy, a member of the US World Cup Teams, was recruited, and scholarships were introduced. Stanford quickly became a top national team and the respect afforded the players grew rapidly. We had never had fans, or a proper field, or a proper budget. I watched with joy (and a bit of envy) as the players in future years naturally earned the respect they deserved.

It has been a long journey under Title IX but the experience of female athletes continues to evolve and the demands for equality continue. In my philanthropy, I support sports-related organizations to ensure that the legacy of Title IX is passed onto future generations of girls. One of my favorite grantees is Soccer Without Borders. For a number of years we have supported their program giving girls education and a soccer experience in Nicaragua. Before Soccer Without Borders came there, many people didn’t believe girls could play soccer. Now they know they were wrong.

I believe there is a lot more advocacy needed to ensure equality of access to sport both in the US and other counties as well.  I think there needs to be pressure on the Olympics Committees and other sports governing bodies to ensure that all athletes have a right to play and a right to compete.

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Vivian Long
Part of having a vision for a gender equal world is acknowledging the harsh and sometimes unseen reality of violence against women, and equipping people with the tools to thoughtfully respond and navigate tangible outcomes in a survivor-centric way.

Read Her Story

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