Authors Posts by Cynthia Foster

Cynthia Foster


Daisy Ramirez, pictured in the yellow hat, is a health educator and fellow from the Women’s Policy Institute-County Class of 2016.

For the last ten months, Daisy’s WPI-County team has fought tirelessly to erect bus shelters that would protect families waiting for public transportation under the blistering sun of the rural Eastern Coachella Valley. (This photo was taken at a temporary shelter erected by advocates during a demonstration.) In the process, Daisy and her teammates have become experts in county-level government structures and budgets, policy research, community organizing, and public speaking. Now, nearing the end of her WPI-County fellowship, Daisy is equipped to tackle this urgent public health issue, train others in local-level policy advocacy, and become an even more powerful leader in her community.

“The Women’s Policy Institute has helped me obtain a greater understanding of policy development and implementation. The support WPI provides is a great resource as we continue empowering communities,” said Daisy.

For the past 13 years, our WPI program has trained nearly 400 community-based leaders like Daisy in advocating for policy change at the state and county levels in California.

WPI-County is a year-long policy advocacy fellowship program for pre-formed teams of 3 to 5 women and trans leaders based in the same county. These teams are ready to roll up their sleeves and learn how to shape real policy solutions to the complex challenges that their counties and communities face. Because we believe in investing in diverse and grassroots leaders, our WPI-County program is bilingual—English and Spanish.

Applications are now open for WPI-County Class of 2017-18. We’re recruiting pre-formed teams from Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside and Monterey counties. If you have questions, sign up for one of our January 2017 informational webinars. Applications are due January 24, 2017.

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One year ago, at the White House, Prosperity Together announced a $100 million commitment to women’s economic security over the course of five years. Partners of Prosperity Together are excited to announce an over $29 million commitment to increase women’s economic security in 2016. The first-year totals are 46% higher than projected, supporting 996 unique organizations in 23 states and Washington, DC.

Prosperity Together, a collective effort of U.S. women’s foundations seeks to help women in their communities and states acquire living-wage jobs, educational training and support, and affordable and high-quality childcare through funding groups focusing on low-wage women and girls around the country.

“The Women’s Foundation of California is proud to be a part of the #ProsperityTogether movement,” said Surina Khan, CEO of the Foundation. “In the inaugural year, the Foundation exceeded its $2 million commitment by more than 10%, because we believe in the power of investing in women. When you invest in women, you invest in communities, and real solutions to challenges in those communities.”

“We’ve made a lot of progress over the last eight years for low-income women, women and girls of color, and women from marginalized communities, but so much more work remains. It’s an encouraging sign when communities work together and commit to increase opportunity and access for all women and girls in our country,” said Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls.

“As a lead founder of Prosperity Together, we have witnessed the transformative power of inclusive alliances created by women’s foundations. The 29 women’s foundations of Prosperity Together have surpassed the year one goals and we intend to keep up that momentum. Now more than ever, local and regional solutions are needed to protect gains we have made and to influence greater local and national change for women. We know that when a woman uplifts herself, she takes her family and community with her. Prosperity Together is yet another great example of how investing in women makes our country stronger,” said Ana L. Oliveira, President and CEO of The New York Women’s Foundation and Lead founder of Prosperity Together.

“On behalf of the 29 women’s foundations that comprise Prosperity Together, we could not be more thrilled with our outcomes in year one. In the coming four years, we anticipate that our collective work will be more important than ever. Our investments to increase education and job training opportunities, good-paying jobs with benefits, and access to affordable, quality childcare will continue to benefit thousands of low-income women and families across the country – ensuring pathways to prosperity, not poverty. This is what Prosperity Together is all about,” said Lee Roper-Batker, President and CEO of Women’s Foundation of Minnesota and lead founder of Prosperity Together.

About Prosperity Together

Prosperity Together is the collective effort of women’s foundations to raise awareness of their role in improving the economic security of low-income women and their families. Prosperity Together envisions a future where women are economically secure. Children, families, and communities will thrive when we ensure access to childcare, education, and employment and earnings opportunities that promote pathways to good, stable jobs and leadership advancement. Prosperity Together formed in 2015 to ensure that all women and girls have access to the jobs, education, and family supports needed to be economically secure.

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“Child care is not just a poverty or investment issue – it is about fundamental human rights.” – Clarissa Doutherd

The Women’s Foundation of California is proud to introduce you to the 2016–2017 class of Women’s Policy Institute–State (WPI) fellows. This visionary group of grassroots and community leaders is embarking on a year-long intensive training program that will enable them to effect change at the center of California’s policymaking: the Capitol in Sacramento.

clarissaClarissa Doutherd is a member of the WPI child care advocacy team, as well as executive director of Parent Voices Oakland. We asked Clarissa to share a bit about her story.

You are a member of the child care team. How did you come to be so committed to child care advocacy work?

My advocacy and organizing work for affordable child care came out of pure survival. I was going to lose my child care subsidy for my then-2 year old son, and maintaining my services was the difference between my family eating or not. As I began to learn more about how other families like mine were impacted, I became deeply committed to lifting up those experiences to create a movement around child care and early education that centers families. I’ve been fortunate in my work at Parent Voices to have the community truly lead my work, inform my decisions, and transform my perspective – this inspires me to get up and keep going every day.

What drew you to the WPI program? Why did you apply?

I’ve heard many colleagues talk about how much they’ve learned in WPI, and I was part of a project funded by the EDJe fund of the Women’s Foundation of California that looked at the experiences of mothers waitlisted for child care. We discussed having a child care team over the last couple of years to specifically work on legislation that would support families through what is a complex system to navigate. There’s been some momentum at the state and federal level to address child care and preschool access, so the timing felt right to participate.
On a personal level, having in-depth knowledge and access to the Capitol through WPI is a critical part of my journey as an advocate. I feel it’s time to deepen my understanding of policy, and engage elected officials and their staff from a different angle than what I’ve been exposed to.

If you could tell Governor Jerry Brown one thing about your issue area and the people most impacted by your work, what would it be?

All children and families across economic, legal, and social circumstances deserve the opportunity to work and build the foundation for a good education that child care provides. Child care is not just a poverty or investment issue – it is about fundamental human rights. We cannot build a sustainable economy without families that can work, and without children who are able to successfully enter and complete school from K-12. Our families depend on those we elect to look at our communities holistically, and not create piecemeal solutions to issues that should be thought about and developed from the grassroots up.

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This post was written by Foundation CEO Surina Khan.

For many of us this seems like a different nation than it was just a week ago. Confederate flags shocked viewers at a Veterans Day parade in Petaluma. In Redding, a student at Shasta High School handed out “deportation letters” to Latino classmates. A college student in San Diego was robbed as her attackers made derogatory comments about Muslims.

As a woman of color, first generation immigrant, lesbian and Muslim, it’s been deeply painful. But I have found comfort in my family, friends, colleagues and you, the Women’s Foundation of California community. We have been kind to each other, comforted each other and protested together.

In the last week, many of us have asked each other and ourselves, “What can I do?”

women-in-the-capitolAt the Foundation, we are determined to preserve the progress we have made. The organizations and leaders we support will have many challenges in this current reality and the philanthropic sector’s role will be increasingly important. We will be called upon to replace governmental services that will be cut, to safeguard the most vulnerable among us and to challenge violations of civil and human rights.

You can be assured that the Foundation will continue to train effective leaders through our Women’s Policy Institute at the state and county levels.

We will continue to make grants to community-based groups who are working for the health, safety and economic security of Californians.

California is powerful — and now Californians have a greater responsibility to show the world our commitment to dignity, respect, fairness, inclusivity, compassion and patience. No matter your political affiliation, your gender or your faith, if you share these values, stand alongside us. Raise your voice with us as we demand civility and justice.

Here are three things you can do today.

1. Contact California Senate President pro tem Kevin De Leon and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon to thank them for their commitment to protecting California’s values of inclusivity and fairness. We’ll need that commitment in the years ahead.
2. Contact your congressional representatives to voice your concerns. Ask them to denounce white supremacy and ensure that rights for women, LGBT people, immigrants and members of the Muslim and Jewish communities are not rolled back. Ask them to work for policies that advance economic security for all.
3. Invest in organizations and leaders who are advancing gender, racial and economic justice. If you need help identifying organizations, here is a list of our grant partners, or you can give through us and we will ensure that your donation supports community-based leadership.

We remain committed to a better future and we will lead with courage, compassion, and conviction. If you have other ideas about what the Foundation community can do, please share them with us. We are always listening at

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