Since the launch of the report at the AWID Forum in Bangkok in October
2005, AWID has not only continued to monitor trends, we have also begun to dialogue with women’s rights advocates in the hopes of reversing this trend. In doing so, we have learned that there are an increasing number of opportunities, new sources of funding and ’pockets’ of political will that give us reason to be more optimistic than the numbers warrant. We’ve also learned that there is a growing consensus amongst many leaders in women’s movements and progressive donors that our collective power needs to be strengthened to ensure that women’s rights are achieved not only in and of themselves, but as a central strategy in ensuring that the challenges the orld faces today are overcome.
Taking advantage of this important moment, last week AWID in collaboration with Semillas hosted a historical international meeting. From 9th - 11th November more than 300 representatives of women’s organizations (including representatives from indigenous, youth, workers, migrant and lesbian groups) as well as up to 50 donors (including representatives from bilateral and multilateral agencies, public and private foundations, international NGOs, individual donors and women’s funds) gathered together in Queretaro, Mexico to initiate a global conversation and strategy around funding for women’s organizations and movements.
The meeting aimed to contribute to promoting a significant increase in
access to and amount of funding to support women’s rights work,
particularly women’s organizations all over the world; and to improve the
effectiveness of women’s organizations to raise and utilize more funds to
build stronger movements and progress gender equality globally. To do so, paticipants came together around three key organizing questions in relation to movement building: Where is the money? How do we get it? As a movement what do we want to do with it?
Throughout the meeting women’s rights activists and donors from diverse contexts, perspectives and politics debated these questions and together named the challenges we face in terms of money and movements and strategised how to transform them. We began a process of rethinking our relationships with money and while realities vary tremendously for different kinds of organizations in different contexts, some key messages came through from this meeting.
Mindset: We need to change our collective mindset to move beyond a sense of scarcity that fuels competition and prevents collaboration.
The personal (relationships to money) is political: We need to examine our personal relationship with money. Some of us actually enjoy fundraising while for others money is something that corrupts and that we do not want to talk about.
Be bold and ask BIG: We need to bolder in our fundraising and start thinking big. Many of the donors at the meeting urged us to do this. And we need to reconceptualize our relationsip with the donors to move beyond an ’us’ and ’them’ opposition to find opportunities for collaboration at every moment.
Consolidate and challenge our donor allies: We need to challenge our donors and work together with feminists inside donor agencies. We need to ask donors where the money is for work against institutions that undermine women’s rights and whether they are really willing to change the way they think and give space to women, not just proposals and projects. We eed to ask for flexible money to spend as we wish. And we need to believe that it is possible to have open and honest dialogue about these processes so we can advance to women’s rights.
Find common cause: We need to recognize and accept that the other ’opposition’ is within our own movements. We have to find common cause in the face of increasingly destructive forces in the world and the growth of a backlash against women’s rights.
Look at movement structure: We also need to look at our own organizations and structures. The ngo-ization of our movements does not serve us well in the current political moment. We cannot fight with well-managed non-profits alone. Our professionalization, which was once part of the solution, is increasingly part of the problem. Many of our networks have fallen into inertia and the administrative demands of our organizations have used up the energy we need to invest in women.
Look at the how and what: We need to look again at the how and what of our organizing and the implications this has for our resources. We need to begin to link strategic planning processes to an explicit analysis of power and engage with the ideologies and socialization that prevent us from making any headway in formal institutions.
More and better collaboration: And we need to do more collaborative planning. For many participants working together at one session during the meeting to answer the question ’what would we do with $20 million dollars to strengthen progressive movements in the region?’ was a new experience. We need to create political pacts based on trust and to work with donors to break down the hierarchies that have been created over the last ten years so that all of us and our different ways of working are considered important in process of transformation.
While the description of ’survival and resistence’ captures the current
state of many women’s rights organizations, there are nuances to the
situation across different regions. Latin America and the Caribbean, the
Middle East/North Africa and Central and Eastern Europe and the
Commonwealth of Independent States are the regions where cutbacks are most frequently reported .
In order to be able to plan according to regional specificities, throughout
the meeting paticipants worked in regional groups to concretize their
analysis and strategies and at the end of the meeting the groups made
recommendations for follow-up strategies and next steps at a regional
From the USA and Canada to the Pacific, all the regional groups planned to hold follow-up regional meetings to examine the questions around money and movements in more detail. Many also recommended using existing spaces such as the World Social Forum (WSF) to hold side meetings on funding for women’s rights work. The young feminist activists at the meeting went one step further launching a new network ’Young Women Creating Change’ which will work to ensure that young feminists have a presence at the next WSF.
Strengthening our organizations and movements through better communication and information sharing was another common thread. In sub-Saharan Africa, participants plan to organize joint donor meetings to share information and those women’s rights organizations working at a global level proposed the development of a process of feminist online learning. In South-East Asia and the Pacific, participants recommended the development of a directory of funding agencies and sources for the region as one way to better share information and move away from a logic of competition to collaboration. The women from Latin America and the Caribbean made real their commitment to better communication actually in the meeting by singing a song ’cambia como cambia’ in the final plenary.
In some regions, participants also identified the need to develop new
organizations and spaces to strengthen our movements. In South Asia, one recommendation was to establish a South Asian Women’s Fund, the first $5 million of which will be for the development of work on violence against women. In Europe, groups will work to create a European Feminist Forum that will include space for work on money and movements and intergenerational processes. And in the Middle East and North Africa, the hope is to organize an Arab women’s forum of feminist organizations.
As financial support for women’s rights organizations continues to evolve
so we must continue to analyze and debate the role of money in movement building and how the inherent power dynamics in a grantor/grantee relationship can be managed. Perhaps the key lesson learned from the Queretaro meeting on ’money and movements’ is the importance of articulating our theories of social change. We need continue to ask ourselves how we envision that change happens and how we can better articulate this to our donors so that they will fund this change. As the women from Latin American and the Caribbean stated in the final plenary, we need to continue to build a feminist agenda based on a political pact between donors and women’s rights organizations in all our diversity. We need more money, better access, and on better terms and we need an investment back into the foundations of our organizations and movements. An investment not just in individual projects, but in women.