Our founders chose Rachel as our namesake 20 years ago because they knew women and women’s environmental leadership continued to be obscured and diminished. Those founders gave us a mission: to promote women as impassioned leaders and agents of change dedicated to the stewardship of the earth. We take that mission seriously.
We started the Catalyst Award in 2019 to recognize the women environmental leaders of color who are doing transformative work with few resources or institutional support. In 2020, we expanded the award to recognize 25 leaders. At its essence, the award is about the recognition of women’s work, not the expectation of it. Supporting those doing the work is the core of our work.
In addition to the Catalyst Award, our network gave to many new projects and organizations in 2020, from fighting petrochemical development in the Ohio River Valley to mobilizing student voters. We also continued funding multiyear grants to fight the US-Mexico Border Wall and build momentum for climate action through the EnCourage Tour. Early in the pandemic as many organizations were struggling, Rachel’s Network distributed grants to more than 40 small nonprofits and women leaders through our emergency Community Resilience Fund.
Like many organizations this year, we made our member events virtual during the pandemic, hosting speakers on topics from environmental justice and toxics to climate action and the election. We even hosted a series of yoga classes to provide our community a respite within the quarantine. Our virtual programs kept our giving and our membership grounded and connected.
This year marked our highest level of collective giving in our history. In 2021, we will build upon lessons learned from the hundreds of women environmental leaders who have taken the time to share with us what matters in their lives and work. We aspire to be companions to the women leaders doing this work; groundskeepers, not gatekeepers.