Two Reasons Why We Must Invest More in Women and Girls of Color

Surina Khan
3 min readOct 1, 2020

Native Women’s Equal Pay Day and Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Courtesy of Equal Pay Today

This month, I lift up again what we already know — there’s not enough funding directed to women and girls, specifically to Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), cis- and trans women, and gender nonconforming people. 2020 has revealed crisis after crisis, clarifying the need to think bigger about the investment and our value of women and girls, especially this month.

Not only is October Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we can’t forget that today is Native Women’s Equal Pay Day. The lack of accountability for men who commit violence against Indigenous women leads perpetrators to feel empowered to continue gender-based violence, causing the murder rate of Indigenous women in some tribal communities to be 10 times higher than the national average.” (data: M. Groban and L. Hagen) In addition, Native Women earn approximately $0.60 cents on the dollar of White, non-Hispanic men (based on 2019 data).

The coalescing of domestic violence and homelessness amid the coronavirus pandemic infuses a new sense of urgency. The current economic fallout, California wildfires, and the deep structural inequities have pushed many women, especially women of color, immigrant, trans and gender non-conforming people into joblessness, homelessness and unsafe environments.

It’s going to take a real financial commitment and a gender responsive approach to this current crisis. The truth is longstanding challenges of inequality continue to persist in California and across the country. Only 1.6% of Americans’ charitable giving goes toward nonprofits helping women and girls. The statistics are even more bleak with only 0.6 percent of foundation giving that was targeted to women of color in 2016.

As the CEO of the Women’s Foundation California, I believe feminist values and feminist leadership are the powerful tools we need to build the resilience to withstand the myriad of challenges facing us today and to create new systems for our future. We must put our money where our values are. The goal of our Relief and Resilience Fund, recently created with Governor Newsom and First Partner Siebel Newsom, is designed to expand support for survivors of violence and build a feminist California where everyone belongs and feels safe.

We must demand equity for Native women at home, at work, and at the ballot box. It’s no secret that due to the gender pay gap, it takes Native and Indigenous women 10 months to make what white males earned in the previous year. Last year, for the first time in California history, governor Gavin Newsom issued an apology for the state’s historical wrongdoings, adding that an even bigger step would be restitution.

Through our innovative public private partnership with the Governor’s office, we’re demonstrating a collective responsibility to take care of those impacted by gender-based oppression, violence, and discrimination. So far we’ve generated $10M to provide support to 130 domestic violence organizations in California. This month provides all the more reason to push harder in our fundraising for gender justice giving.

The number one reason survivors of domestic violence stay in and return to abusive situations in the U.S. is because they cannot afford to leave or stay safe. But organizations such as LA-Based FreeFrom are leading survivors to financial freedom and have just released Survivor Safety Banking Guidelines. By supporting vital front-line organizations like these we can rise to meet the challenge of this historic moment.

It’s time to rethink and invest in a future that values and supports our intersecting struggles for justice. The future is Indigenous women, Black Lives Matter, and Black Trans Lives matter. Now more than ever, it’s critical we make bold acts of solidarity to help protect our most vulnerable and build resilient communities. When we invest in women and girls of color, we make a decision to embrace gender justice that is grounded in healing and building a future that will liberate us all.



Surina Khan

is the CEO of Women’s Foundation California, which invests in, trains, and connects feminists advancing racial, economic, and gender justice.