It is only human to feel overwhelmed by the state of the world. Stories of violence and injustice are relentless. Yet, while the overwhelm is real, we also see abundant cause for hope and, yes, even celebration. Every day, in every corner of the world, feminist social justice activists are organizing, analyzing, coming together in solidarity, and developing solutions to create meaningful change in their communities. FJS is privileged to support them.
In 2023, we provided more than $60 million in grants – over 70% in general operating support – to organizations and initiatives around the world working at the intersections of gender, racial, disability, environmental, and labor justice. We passionately support their courageous vision for another world.
As we look back on 2023, we want to take a moment to share some of the trends we saw in our work last year and to lift up stories of our partners’ creative vision, community-building, and resistance to injustice.
Supporting activists to come together
Building movements to secure social change requires that people can work, strategize, and dream together. Convenings are an important tool for feminist activists to exchange ideas, share visions, and build alliances. In 2023, our partners called on FJS to resource convening spaces to enable activists to make these connections. This was particularly significant because many of these convenings took place for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic. This return to meeting in-person was an important opportunity for networks to connect for learning and strategizing.
For example, we supported a global convening on narrative change in Bogotá hosted by our partner Puentes. This meeting brought together communications specialists and funders to share experiences and discuss how to use the crucial strategy of narrative change to reshape perceptions, amplify under-represented voices, and drive social change.
We funded the XV Feminist Encuentro of Latin America and the Caribbean through our grantee partner Colectiva Feminista. Feminist Encuentros have been happening in the region since the 1980s; this one took place in El Salvador and brought together 1,600 participants from across the region. We supported another encuentro hosted by our partner REDCAHT+, which serves as the coordinating body for transgender men’s and trans masculine grassroots organizations across Latin America and the Caribbean, to strategize and foster community. We also supported Mujeres Al Borde and Akahatá to organize Venir Al Sur, a convening for LBTQ women, and specifically funded the participation of Afro-Caribbean and Indigenous LBTQ activists.
Funders for LGBTQ Issues held its Funding Forward conference this year to bring together US grantmaking and philanthropic organizations to advocate for more and better quality funding for LGBTQ communities across the US.
Addressing the breadth of partners’ organizational needs
Feminist organizations need a range of resources to think and plan creatively, adapt their strategies as contexts change, avoid burnout, and build resilience. As part of our commitment to building well-resourced movements, FJS provides what we call accompaniment support. Accompaniment grants address organizational needs that are often under-funded, including leadership and organizational development, and care and protection. In 2023, about eight percent (or $4.8 million) of the grant support we provided went out in accompaniment grants.
Leadership development and transitions
Developing feminist leadership practices requires attention and resourcing, yet we often hear from partners that funders do not see leadership transitions as needing support. FJS appreciates the importance of leadership development and transitions that set new leaders up for success, particularly leaders from historically marginalized communities. This year, we laid the groundwork for the development of a Global South Feminist Leadership Cohort, which brings together the Executive Directors of Women Enabled International, Women’s Link Worldwide, and the Disability Rights Fund. In addition to the Cohort, each organization received an accompaniment grant to support coaching and counseling, organizational change management training, the development of second-line leadership, and time for reflection and rest.
We also provided support to the incoming Executive Director of ReFrame, a narrative change partner in the US, to develop a new vision, strategic approach, and theory of change. Our listening and learning together with partners has strengthened our understanding of how to support leadership development and transitions, enabling us to contribute more meaningfully to building resilient organizations.
Care and protection
Feminist movements operate in increasingly dangerous contexts. As activists contend with difficult contexts, along with the impacts of generational trauma and oppression, care and protection is a key approach to keep activists safe, sustain their activism, and build organizational and movement resilience.
This year, our partner Mujeres Mayas Kaqla, an Indigenous women’s organization in Guatemala, finished building Centro Kan, a community space in which it provides leadership trainings and healing and collective care support for Indigenous women. This space contributes to organizational autonomy, and it strengthens Indigenous women and their communities.
Communities that experience violence need time and space to heal. Connecting activists across contexts supports this process. FJS supported the Contigo Fund, a Florida-based LGBTQ Latinx Fund, to connect with community members in Colorado Springs following the 2022 tragedy. This funding supported the healing and recovery of two communities affected by anti-LGBTQ gun violence.
We renewed support to the Urgent Action Funds’ Care at the Center initiative. This initiative aims to build the infrastructure of collective care for and with human rights defenders in each of their priority regions and shift the philanthropic sector’s understanding of the importance of care and protection for feminist human rights defenders. It brings attention to the geographical nuances of how care and protection are understood in different movements and regions. It also aims to raise awareness of the significance of resourcing the well being and sustainability of feminist movements and ensuring that care is embedded in donor practices. Over the next two years, the UAF Sister Funds will engage in philanthropic advocacy aiming to influence other funders to tailor their grantmaking to support the safety and well being of women, trans, and non-binary activists.
Working at the intersections
FJS is an intersectional funder committed to lifting up the leadership of people who experience oppression at the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, caste, and ethnicity. This year we brought a focus to supporting organizations working at the intersections of gender and labor, caste, and climate justice.
Domestic work is typically not seen as “real” work and not protected by laws that ensure decent wages and safe conditions. And domestic work is often done by those who experience marginalization on the basis of different aspects of their identity: gender, ethnicity or race, class status, and migration status. The Association pour la Défense des Droits des Aide-Ménagères et Domestiques (ADDAD) in Francophone West Africa is working to change this. Established in 2011 by young women in Mali demanding their labor rights, ADDAD has grown to become a multi-country network. In 2023, we renewed support to ADDAD in Mali and provided a first-time grant to ADDAD in Côte d'Ivoire. These two grants are supporting ADDAD branches in six other countries in the region. ADDAD’s work contributed in 2021 to the passage of a law in Côte d’Ivoire protecting domestic workers against all violence, including sexual violence.
Awaj Foundation and the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity (BCWS) are two important garment worker-led organizations in Bangladesh. Eighty percent of Bangladesh’s garment workers are women who face exploitation and gender-based violence. Awaj and BCWS are leaders in multilateral spaces focused on labor rights, including the intersections of labor rights with caste, gender, and climate justice. Awaj has also worked extensively with Dalit domestic and garment workers to increase their participation in the movement calling for a higher minimum wage (which has succeeded in securing a wage increase), and to ensure that Dalit voices are better represented in labor rights activism in Bangladesh.
Equality Labs, a diaspora-based, Dalit-led organization, is known for building the political, narrative, and digital power of oppressed-caste women and LGBTQI communities globally, including in South Asia. Worldwide, Dalit women and girls are subjected to widespread sexual violence, harassment, and discrimination. With support from FJS, Equality Lab’s transnational organizing, leadership development, and narrative change work have contributed to global efforts to address the legacies of colonialism and exclusion and to ensure that oppressed caste communities can build a just future.
In 2023, our long-term partner WoMin began working to create a space for learning and action to build a unified understanding of the root causes of climate change. This initiative brings together about 120 women from ten Francophone countries to connect across borders, strengthen grassroots women’s organizing against destructive development projects, and propose alternatives that respond to African women’s needs.
An important research, communications, and advocacy initiative in 2023 was the development and launch of the microsite Resourcing Black Feminist Organizing in Latin America and the Caribbean which maps the realities, organizing, needs, and priorities of Black feminist groups in Latin America and the Caribbean. The site calls attention to a severe lack of funding and invites funders to build relationships with Black feminist movements and commit funding that matches the boldness of their activism.
Celebrating Feminist Wins!
As we reflect on 2023, we are also proud to recognize our partners’ wins. Here we lift up a few of them.
In El Salvador, Colectiva Feminista has long been involved in raising awareness about the case of Beatriz, a Salvadoran woman who was denied an abortion (criminalized in all cases in El Salvador) despite her high-risk status and the danger to her health. In a historic development, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) heard Beatriz’s case this year. Feminist activists believe this could signal changes across Latin America and the Caribbean, where abortion is currently illegal in all cases in six countries.
In South and Southeast Asia, a coalition including our partners Global Philanthropy Project, ASEAN LBQ Feminist Network, ILGA Asia, and Intersex Asia made recommendations to the Australian government as it developed its first international LGBTQIA+ human rights engagement strategy, which included a fund for LGBTQIA+ civil society in the region. The fund committed $3.5 million (Australian dollars) in 2023, and our partners, Women’s Fund Asia, Pacific Feminist Fund, and Urgent Action Fund, Asia and the Pacific were grant recipients in the first funding cycle.
This year, through the work of A Better Balance, the Governor of Louisiana signed an executive order providing six weeks of paid parental leave to over 70,000 state employees. This policy becomes one of the strongest to date covering workers in southern states. A Better Balance’s advocacy also led to the adoption of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, a groundbreaking new law to support the safety and security of pregnant workers.
What’s on Our Minds
Leaders within FJS are engaged with big picture questions about how philanthropy can meet this moment of both threat and opportunity. Please check out recent articles written and a podcast developed by members of our staff.
Nicky McIntyre and Tynesha McHarris: Black Feminists Are Organizing with Little to No Funding. Here Are Three Ways to Change That
Prachi Patankar and Phoebe De Padua: Supporting Caste-Oppressed and Indigenous Feminist Leadership in South and Southeast Asia
Juliana Vélez and Prachi Patankar: Time for funders to step up and resource Indigenous communities
Rophiat Bello: “We want to (…) embed disability justice in all our work”
Photo Credit: Mujeres Al Borde, 2022