We’re in a very critical moment in our region’s history. Women feel, more than ever before, motivated to share their stories about the role of philanthropy in activism, which has been difficult to talk about. Women are finding and owning their voices and their life and are assuming their responsibility for a better future.
The last decade was pivotal for women involvement in philanthropy across the region, beginning with the historic march demonstration ‘Ni una Menos’ that took place first in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2015 and then replicated all over the region. It showed an unprecedented surge of women stepping up, organising grassroots actions at a local and community level in every part of the country and supporting powerful movements to stop violence against women and its worst consequence: femicides.
We saw women, from all generations and from all social classes and ethnic identities everywhere, on the streets, in social clubs, schools, universities, companies and public sector become resolute, and acting as a collective and transformative force, speaking out for sexual and reproductive justice, equality in opportunities and the need for urgent changes in the region.
The movement achieved very concrete results such as a new legislation in several countries of the region to provide services for battered women and putting the issue on top of the political agenda, gender quotas for the public sector, etc. Sexual and reproductive rights and the right to abortion have also been included in this new agenda with an invigorated energy and achievements.
And with an increased capacity of mass mobilisation, women created new and diverse forms of putting in practice their philanthropy. These sustainable movements were possible due to the massive ‘donations’ of time, skills, social capital and money of thousands of women. This engagement and commitment of hundreds of thousands of regular women contrasted with the lack of support of institutionalised philanthropy, be them the well established foundations and intermediary support organisations or corporate social programs.
Perhaps because of the absence of formal support, – less than 1 per cent of the funding in the region goes for women ‘burning issues’ (Roitstein, 2016) -, Latin America has witnessed the creation of numerous women’s funds in several countries. These funds have been crucial to advance and advocate for laws and policies that are grounded in the real needs of women and for affordable, accessible and high quality health services, in supporting consciousness-raising efforts that empower women and girls to challenge the status quo and demand better opportunities. These funds are also playing a key role in fostering women’s leadership in communities and open the door to new women philanthropist in the region. Women who once gave quietly are now coordinating protests, writing opinion pieces in the social media, speaking publicly and looking for all sorts of ways to organise for real change. In the years to come, this trend is expected to continue as more and more ‘next gen women’ develop a sense of urgency and responsibility and take advantage of the social support and the regional and global growing consciousness of the need to change the current status of women.
The emerging field of women’s giving circles is also another way through which women philanthropists are exercising their leadership in addressing social needs and women’s rights.
The recently launched Premio Generosas 2019 by the Program ELLAS – Women and Philanthropy is the most recent attempt to capture the diversity and richness that women are playing in grassroots philanthropy all across the region as well as in latino communities in the United States.
The women’s and feminist movements and organisations’ efforts are playing an outstanding role in the democratisation of the region, in advocating for gender equality at all levels and in catalysing a multigenerational unstoppable movement that creates new and more progressive forms of philanthropy.
Florencia Roitstein is co founder and director of Ellas: Women & Philanthropy