Part One: Taking a Collective Approach to Resourcing Responses to the Covid-19 Crisis
Covid-19, like any other crisis, is exposing and exacerbating all of the existing systemic oppression and violence that positions girls and young womxn as particularly vulnerable – especially girls who face multiple forms of oppression. At the same time, girls and young womxn are showing up in this moment with the bravery, resilience and organising power they bring to all of their activism. As the state and traditional agencies retreated, and as lock-downs took hold across the world, we knew that it was never more important to resource young feminist activism with pace and scale – and to do it now.
The Global Resilience Fund – formed at the height of the Covid-19 crisis in spring 2020 – is an experiment in what it takes to move resources to young feminist activists in responsive and participatory ways in the midst of a global health pandemic. It was imagined in conversation between Purposeful, Women Win and the outgoing Director of the NoVo Foundation’s Adolescent Girls’ Rights initiative, just as the realities of the shadow pandemic of the extra burdens on girls and young womxn were becoming more apparent in the health and economic crises of Covid-19.
‘As we started to see the realities of Covid-19 unfold, we knew girls and young womxn would bear the brunt of the impact’, said Jody Myrum, Outgoing Director at the NoVo Foundation. ‘We also knew they would be on the frontlines organising and responding to the multiple crises created by the pandemic.
‘And yet, history tells us these girls and young womxn would be invisible and not resourced for their incredible brilliance, bravery and labour. We wanted to make sure in this crisis, history would tell a different story, and these incredible young feminist organisers would be visible, honoured, and resourced.’
The fund grew quickly and organically as peer funders were invited in to co-create fund processes and pool resources. With an initial target of four partners and $80,000 in grantmaking commitments, the fund soon took on a life of its own. Housed at and facilitated by Purposeful, the fund is now fueled by the resources, networks and intellectual power of 24 organisations from a diverse range of institutions. By the close of 2020 the fund expects to have made at least 170 grants in 70 countries through an activist-led participatory process, leveraging close to $1 million for girl and young womxn activists.
As Maria Bobenrieth, Executive Director of Women Win, said ‘This is really historic: this diverse combination of organisations coming together for girls and young womxn around the world – it’s so incredibly touching. The fund shows what is possible when we work together, even as funders who are very different from one another.’
In so many ways, this unprecedented moment calls for a collective response that reaches across borders, movements and issue areas. In other words, it calls for us to show up as funders with the same humility, humanity and political clarity that girl and young womxn activists bring to their organising every day.
‘This ground-breaking, collaborative fund represents a beacon of hope in what continues to be a concerning and challenging period for human rights and gender equality defenders. For an issue like female genital cutting (FGC), we were seeing a potential roll back on progress because of Covid-19 as reported by those working at the grassroots’, said Grethe Petersen, Orchid Project. ‘The Global Resilience Fund provides a critical mechanism for flexible funding to reach those who are in the best position to respond to this ‘shadow pandemic’: young womxn who are leading the change in their communities.’
As we move into a new phase of the pandemic, and with the knowledge that crisis is an ever-present reality for so many, modelling feminist partnership and inclusive rapid-response resourcing will only grow in importance.
‘The Covid 19 pandemic has laid bare our societies’ deeply entrenched structural inequalities. Young womxn are among the most impacted by the health and economic consequences of the pandemic’, said Medina Haeri, Oak Foundation. ‘The Global Resilience Fund is an opportunity to not only respond to these needs and vulnerabilities in a transparent and participatory way but also to recognise the tremendous power and agency of young feminists as changemakers and light bringers. We are proud to support the Global Resilience Fund to lift up the voices and experiences of young feminist activists at this critical moment in time.’
The work of the Global Resilience Fund provides a wealth of information and learning about what strategies and features work best when it comes to rapid response grantmaking and feminist funding partnerships. In this series we will go on to cover key insights such as: how to fund in truly intersectional ways, the need to adapt to the realities of young feminist organising and the experience of building funding partnerships at pace.
The partners in the Global Resilience Fund are: Central American Women’s Fund (FCAM), Central America and Mexico Youth Fund (CAMY Fund), Disability Rights Fund, Elas Social Investment Fund, Filia, FIMI – The International Indigenous Women’s Fund, Fondo Semillas, Ford Foundation, Global Fund for Women, MADRE, Mama Cash, Ms Foundation for Women, Oak Foundation, Orchid Project, Plan International, Purposeful, The Fund for Global Human Rights, Ukranian Women’s Fund, UNICEF, Wellspring Philanthropic Fund, With and for Girls Collective, Women Enabled International, Women’s Fund Asia, Women Win.
This piece is part 1 of Global Resilience Fund models inclusive partnerships, rapid responses, a series on feminist philanthropy and funding practice.
Rosa Bransky is a feminist activist, strategist, researcher and the co-founder of Purposeful.