In the wholly uncertain context of 2020, the funding landscape for many has been turned on its head, forcing us to reevaluate our objectives, our methods, our relationships and our structures. The pandemic, and related global rise in violence against girls and women, have brought so much horror, pain and suffering. But they have also brought about an opportunity to dig deep, to reach out across our usual operating silos, and model, if just for a moment, the kinds of worlds we imagine.
As the realities of the shadow pandemic began to unfold earlier this year, it soon became obvious that girls and young women – already battling the compound effects of patriarchy, white supremacy and imperialist extraction – would be the very worst affected. At the same time, we also know that it has never been more important to learn from the leadership of the girls and young women who live through lock-downs, political uncertainty and economic instability every day. We need their creativity, their spirit and their sheer resilience more and more as these days have unfolded. They are the ones we have been waiting for, and they always have been. In direct response to this emergency, and the critical need to double down on our collective support to girls and young women at this time, the Global Resilience Fund was formed as a collective effort to resource young feminist resistance and resilience at speed and scale.
‘The Global Resilience Fund was a much-needed opportunity to learn from and uplift a diverse group of funders’ expertise and strengths to keep our focus steady on moving resources directly to girls and young women during the pandemic,’ said Yifat Susskind, MADRE.
‘The worldwide emergency of COVID-19 means that we are all crisis funders, and the fund enabled us to respond in ways that were rapid, participatory, and intersectional. Through this collective, we have been able to urgently meet needs using a contextualised and nuanced approach to funding girls across the world. The collaboration also rationalised resources that were channeled back to communities. The Global Resilience Fund should serve as a model for philanthropy.’
Partnership is hard, and messy, and sticky, and challenging. Building partnership in this moment, confined to the same four walls, with restless children crawling across our laps and demanding snacks is even harder. But in so many ways, it is the only way.
By centring the design of our resource distribution in the realities of young feminist activism – guided by an activist advisory panel – the fund has shown that speed, scale and accountability need not be mutually exclusive. By the close of the year, we will have made 200 grants to 72 countries, leveraging over $1 million dollars for young feminist activists, many of them girls or groups of young women being resourced for the first time.
‘At Global Fund for Women, we believe in the power of redistributing resources – financially and otherwise – and putting them directly in the hands of adolescent girl-led organisations and movements,’ said Leila Hessini, Global Fund for Women.
‘The Global Resilience Fund is a timely example of an innovative partnership that is flexible and responsive to the movements we serve. We are thrilled to be part of this collaborative that is shifting power in ways that truly are transformational. Girls are already leading the changes they want to see in the world. Now, it is time that we adapt and design funding mechanisms to match their aspirations: with girls and other young activists at the forefront,’ said Lauren Rumble, UNICEF. ‘UNICEF was very proud to join the Global Resilience Fund; a fund co-led by girls and young womxn for girls and young womxn. What we learn from this experience has the potential to redefine humanitarian funding as we know it.’
Partnership is hard, and messy, and sticky, and challenging. Building partnership in this moment, confined to the same four walls, with restless children crawling across our laps and demanding snacks is even harder. But in so many ways, it is the only way. In so many ways in this moment of deep isolation it has brought meaning and clarity to the work we do. Imagining, dreaming, building and executing a new global fund in a matter of weeks seemed an impossible task. And yet we did it because we did it together. If feminist funding means anything, it is this. 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.
This piece is part 4 of a series on feminist philanthropy and funding practice.
Rosa Bransky is a feminist activist, strategist, researcher and the co-founder of Purposeful.