‘Gender’ is not shorthand for ‘women and girls’ but must also encompass men, boys, transgender people and other gender expressions. It is a social construct designed to describe culturally defined differences, not biological differences. These were some of the key perspectives of a two-day workshop for grantmakers on issues of gender in global grantmaking, convened in June by Grantmakers without Borders (Gw/oB).
Throughout the workshop it was stressed that, while gender is an important window on issues of justice and equity, it is by no means the only one. Grantmakers must not ignore physical and psychological ability, caste, class, age, race, etc when seeking to enable social change and social justice. Participants also learned how work on gender and diversity is intensely personal. It requires looking at our own fears, how we hold power, our guilt about privilege, and our discomfort with politically correct clichés. Once we are clear about these values within ourselves and our grantmaking institutions, we need to ask how our grantees feel about these issues.
In the end, participants agreed that, for grantmaking to successfully address gender, grantmakers need to build long-term relationships of trust with grantees, very deliberately choosing to support projects that promote gender equality and gender awareness, and directly engaging with grantees to advocate for gender equality.
A dozen grantmakers participated in the workshop, led by an expert team of gender activists from around the world. The workshop was a focal point of the Gender and Global Grantmaking Initiative, an ongoing collaboration of Gw/oB and the International Network of Women’s Funds, supported by the Channel Foundation, which aims to integrate a gender framework into their grantmaking. Given the great success of the initiative’s first major undertaking, plans are now under way to bring the gender workshop to other forums. There is also a new gender and global grantmaking section in the ‘knowledge center’ of Gw/oB’s website.