Semillas’ philosophy: Building a network for investing in social change


Antonia Orr


Mama CashSemillas (Sociedad Mexicana Pro Derechos de la Mujer), the only women’s fund in Mexico, has a defined and unique philosophy of philanthropy in Mexico, which is best displayed by our network of individual donors. This network – the Women and Men Investing in Women’s Network (MIM Network, by its Spanish acronym) – was created in 2001 as a way for people who are interested in helping to create a more fair and equal Mexico to get involved and support the vital work that Semillas does. But the MIM Network does so much more than that: the philosophy behind our individual donor network embodies the backbone of Semillas’ mission.

Antonia Orr

Antonia Orr

The mission of Semillas (which means ‘seeds’ in Spanish) is to contribute to social change by mobilizing resources that will strengthen Mexican women and their organizations that work to promote and defend their human rights within a gender perspective. Our vision is for Mexico to have more organizations that promote and defend women’s human rights and that help women gain access to justice and diminish gender-related discrimination in their communities. One major aspect of Semillas’ ultimate goal is to contribute to the culture of philanthropy in Mexico, thus changing the social landscape. While there is an obvious focus on the women who receive our grants and work for change in their communities, we believe that strengthening our individual donor network and raising awareness of the importance of donating is also vital to making this cultural shift a reality.

The MIM Network encourages a relationship of equals between donors and grantee partners, combining their work, talent, resources and social leadership to achieve projects that transform their own lives and the lives of other women, families and communities. It builds a community of people who all wish to see women in Mexico fully exercising their rights. Semillas constitutes the third component of this alliance, acting as the bridge that brings these two groups together. In addition to transferring funds from the donors to the grantees so that the projects can be developed, our team also provides training and constant support. Semillas continually seeks to promote and facilitate new alliances and identify new opportunities for the grantee-partners.

While a major part of Semillas’ mission involves promoting a culture of philanthropy in Mexico, our work does not stop there. There is also a Semillas Network located in Chicago that has been growing stronger thanks to the enormous effort of a group of women led by Gwen Stern. In 2011, we held our first event in the United Kingdom, made possible by the generous support of Gabriela Gower, and we now have a Semillas Network in London. These international donors trust Semillas and believe in the work that we are doing. Their support helps Semillas to create social change in Mexico, and through their contributions they become a part of our community, even from across the world.

Semillas has developed a philanthropic program that encourages donors to take an active role in the fight for social change in Mexico and to share in the responsibility for what occurs in our society. By promoting social investment in Mexican women from a perspective that attempts to address the root causes of inequality, Semillas is advocating for change from the bottom up. We firmly believe that welfare alone does not transform society, and that in order for social change to become a reality it is necessary to foster a community of women and men who believe in this change and will work to bring it about. The MIM Network creates this community by connecting a wide variety of people, inside and outside of Mexico, who share a common goal of advancing women’s human rights.

Antonia Orr is former head of development at Semillas, a non-profit organization based in Mexico City that makes grants to organized women’s groups and women leaders with the common goal of improving women’s rights in Mexico. This article is part of a series posted by Mama Cash sharing the perspectives of the local and regional funds that are its grantee-partners.

Tagged in: Gender funding Latin America Mexico Social change Women's issues

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