Dismantling patriarchy in Africa

Dr Awino Okech

Women’s funds in Africa are harnessing clear ideological objectives to create a more just, inclusive and equitable society through their philanthropic endeavours

Resolving gender inequality can only be achieved by dismantling patriarchy – a system of male domination deeply rooted in our economic order and racial hierarchy.

To do this, strong social justice movements underpinned by clear ideological visions of just, inclusive and equitable social transformation are key. Herein lies the role of funders in supporting these movements. There are two major contributions that women’s funds have made to discourses and practices of philanthropy that I would like to highlight.

First, women’s funds have centred on a feminist understanding of gender equality. This is a conversation about power – who has it, how its form changes and how it is used. The African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF), the oldest women’s fund in Africa, emerged as a direct response to a global funding environment in which women in Africa were consistently framed as primarily focused on ‘bread and butter issues’ – daily survival concerns. AWDF co-founder, Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi recalls that one catalyst for setting up AWDF was a letter from a funder rejecting a proposal for the African Women’s Leadership Institute (AWLI) on the basis that leadership training wasn’t a priority for ‘African women’.

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