NoVo Foundation to Fund Women’s Building in New York City

           This week saw the announcement by Governor Cuomo and the NoVo Foundation of a Women’s Building, to be housed in the former New York State women’s prison in the Chelsea neighborhood on Manhattan’s west side.

           This is good news, because the women’s movement is growing and this kind of center has been needed for a long time. Gloria Steinem, whose dream is now about to come true, is featured prominently on the Women’s Building website, along with leaders of established organizations working for gender equality and women’s empowerment.

           However, the building (on 20th St and 11th Avenue) was damaged during hurricane Sandy and according to the FAQ page, it may take 4-5 years before tenants can move in.

           The Kota project supporters may be confused and bewildered: should we stop what we are doing? The answer is no, although we need to connect and collaborate with the Women’s Building so we don’t waste either human or financial resources on duplicative efforts. We have been aware of each others’ activities since the Women’s Building project really took off at about the same time as Kota.

1 - The truth is, the field is growing, as women all over the world are becoming more aware of their rights and capable of fighting their own fight for better health, education, equal treatment in the personal, community, and economic spheres. New organizations are forming every day. Many are small but useful for grassroots work. And many of them need to be in, or visit, New York.  Although the Women’s Building’s 100 000sf may seem huge, we won’t be surprised when it fills up quickly!

2 - The Kota Alliance’s core constituency is, rather than larger, established NGO’s, these not-yet-established organizations and projects. We will help incubate them to be efficient contributors to realize the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

3 - The Kota Alliance Business Plan, recently completed, also envisions a hotel/hostel/B&B component to address the huge need for affordable lodging for visitors of these national and global organizations to New York. The zoning for the Women’s Building does not allow for any kind of residential component.

4 – The Kota Center will function on a social enterprise model, with income-generating activities subsidizing rates for member organizations. This leaves more money for the actual programs of our organizations, ultimately benefiting women, their families, and societies. The social enterprise model may also work as a blueprint for similar centers in less affluent societies, where donor funding is not as available as in the US.

5 - Due to the international nature of Kota’s constituency, we will aim to find a building with good access to the UN.

           While we wait for the realization of our dreams, we encourage interested parties to contact us with ideas for interim space and helpful services we can develop in the meantime. Donors and volunteers are welcome!


Jaana Rehnström