This International Women’s Day, we find ourselves inspired by many amazing women doing many amazing things. One such woman is Jess Tomlin, President and CEO of the MATCH International Fund.
*image from www.matchinternational.org
The MATCH International Women’s Fund invests in women’s organizations driving innovation around the world at the grassroots level. The MATCH Fund, relaunched and reimagined 5 years ago, is Canada’s only global fund for women and girls. With partners in more than 40 countries, The MATCH Fund supports women’s organizations and women’s movements working to change systems and dismantle barriers in the hopes of achieving gender equality.
This year the MATCH Fund launched a thought-provoking new campaign to raise awareness around the practice of exchanging a woman for livestock for the purposes of marriage. It’s called Donate Until The Cows Come Home. While it may seem absurd to us here in North America, the practice of exchanging livestock for a person’s freedom is a sad reality faced by millions of females all over the world. This year, MATCH has developed a cow-culator- a quiz assessing how many cows an individual is worth, based on the factors that affect bride prices (family’s socio-economic status, virginity, age and much more).
I tried it out for myself, and I’m apparently worth 160 cows. It’s not a great feeling to know that your existence can be reduced to a transaction, but for me, at least, it’s only in theory. The fact that this really happens every day makes the work Jess and her team at MATCH all the more important.
Named by the Stevie Awards as 2017’s Most Innovative Woman of the Year, Jess has focused on the role of innovation in social movements. Jess has worked in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Asia for a range of actors including the World Bank and the UN and USAID. Jess has an undergraduate degree in Women’s Studies in addition to a Master’s Degree in Leadership, and currently lives in Ottawa with her husband and two small children.
We spoke to Jess about her work, and the importance of MATCH and why you should consider donating to this innovative and heart warming organization.
What is your WHY? (The reason why you do the work you do)
We are at the tipping point for gender equality, and this is a moment in time that will forever change the course of the future. My daughter will not experience systemic inequality and sexism like the generations before her.
Every day, I have the privilege of connecting with brave leaders who are fighting child marriage, sexist laws, violence against women and LGBTQ folks. They are doing it with grit and they are doing it for the long game. If they can be at the front-lines of changing the deeply entrenched attitudes and systems that hold us back, then my part of the job is easy.
What are some of the successes (big or small) you’ve had?
Taking on The MATCH Fund when it was all but dead. Building this organization into Canada’s only global women’s fund, supporting women’s organizations in 40 countries around the world, and doubling impact year on year is something I’m tremendously proud of.
How do you do manage to do it all?
I don’t. I strive for work/life integration, which on many occasions means I take work calls during my run! But it also means working from home when I need to, while a homemade meal simmers on the stove. This is an organization built by and for feminists- and we bring our whole selves to work.
What piece of advice would you give to someone trying to do what you do, or trying to follow their own dreams?
Don’t take no for an answer. Be propositional. Stay on it. Build your network. Every leader out there respects tenacity — it’s what will help you rise above the fray.
If you had one wish to help make the world a better place, what would it be?
That we match the bravery of those standing up for human rights with the resources required to power their work.
If you could pick one charitable organization to ask our readers to donate to or volunteer with, which would it be?
The MATCH Fund. Bias aside, this organization funds courageous acts, transformational leaders, innovative ideas and women at the frontlines of change.
If you’d like to donate to MATCH you can do just that through their Facebook Fundraiser. Link below!