Women’s Choices

Overview

Development is about more than economic growth or reducing poverty; it’s about helping people reach their full potential as citizens, workers and parents. Increased economic opportunity and reproductive choices help women, and their families, thrive. Despite broad recognition of this principle from world leaders, many countries pursue development paths that disadvantage women.

The Hewlett Foundation has made grants to expand women’s opportunities since its founding. We support organizations that expand women’s choices about whether and when to have children and how to earn a living. Our reproductive health and rights grants support organizations overseas and in the United States, while our grants to increase economic opportunities focus on East and West Africa.

Goals

International reproductive health

Increase access to family planning and safe abortion services while building support for reproductive health programs. We make grants primarily to organizations working in East and West Africa where progress has been slower than in other parts of the developing world and external funding can make a big difference. Read our strategy (PDF) and advocacy strategy for sub-Saharan Africa (PDF)

U.S. reproductive health and rights

Support organizations working to preserve access to birth control and protect reproductive freedom, including access to safe, legal, and affordable abortion. We make grants to increase knowledge about unintended childbearing and its impact on social and economic outcomes in the United States; strengthen advocacy among organizations that work on legal, regulatory, and financial issues that affect reproductive health care providers; and explore new ways for women to get reproductive health services.

Women’s economic empowerment

Make women’s work — including unpaid and informal activity — visible in gender data and integrated into economic policymaking in the developing world. We make grants to ensure that legal and regulatory frameworks allow women full job opportunities, worker protections, and control over their assets. We also support research on the impact of different policies on women. Read our strategy (PDF).

Ideas + Practice

Global Development and Population

We base our work on an understanding that ‘development’ should mean more than economic growth or reducing poverty. Development means helping empower individuals and groups to achieve their full promise and control their own destinies.

Ruth Levine, Director of Global Development and Population Program

Our Grantmaking

Center for Reproductive Rights
for support of the Center for Reproductive Rights Africa Program
Women Thrive Worldwide
for the development of a fundraising plan
World Pulse
for general operating support

Our Team

Ruth Levine
Ruth Levine 
Program Director
 @ruthlevine5
Althea D. Anderson 
Program Officer
Kim Brehm
Kim Brehm 
Program Associate
Christine Clark [Headshot]
Christine Clark 
Program Officer
Margot Fahnestock
Margot Fahnestock 
Program Officer
Alfonsina Penaloza
Alfonsina Peñaloza 
Program Officer
Nathalie Scholl
Nathalie Scholl 
Program Associate
Sarah Jane Staats
Sarah Jane Staats 
Communications Officer
 @sjstaats

Learn More

Assuring family planning and reproductive health services are available for all is one of the Hewlett Foundation’s most enduring commitments, beginning with grants in 1967 to slow the rate of population growth. Over time, our grantmaking evolved to include the broader area of global development.

Today, an estimated 220 million women in the developing world want to plan or prevent pregnancy but are not using modern birth control. The problem is partly due to chronic underinvestment in family planning by national governments and donors. The gap in services is larger still when it comes to the availability of safe and legal abortion. We make approximately $24 million in grants each year to increase access to family planning and safe abortion while building support for reproductive health programs, with a particular focus on East Africa and Francophone West Africa.

We have a complementary strategy to improve women’s economic opportunity and their ability to act independently.  In most of the developing world, women hold low-wage jobs and do a large share of unpaid work, from childcare to agricultural production. The economic marginalization of women in low-income countries is extremely costly for women, their families, and society. We dedicate approximately $6 million a year to ensure women’s work is captured in economic data and informs policy decisions.

While the bulk of our work is international in scope, we also make grants to promote family planning, reproductive rights, and economic opportunity in the United States. About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. While rates are lower than in the past, they remain among the highest in industrialized countries. Gaps in availability of birth control and legal, safe and affordable abortion services erode women’s educational and economic opportunities. We give almost $12 million each year to support organizations working to preserve access to birth control and protect reproductive freedom. We are one of the few funders to prioritize unrestricted, institutional support.

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