The fight for women’s rights is grinding to a halt. Worse still, we are losing ground in some countries. The most basic human rights are being undermined before us every single day: women who are assaulted do not get any support, while their attackers get no sanctions, and young girls are deprived of their access to education by being told to stay home and perform house chores, the jobs of working women are not recognized, and they lack access to production means and lands, etc. The countries where this is most prevalent have one thing in common: an active patriarchy that controls women’s bodies and lives. This male domination translates into public policies, legislation, and social norms that practice all forms of discrimination and violence against women.
While the wider international community has committed to achieving gender equality by 2030, our global efforts are still too slow. The previous years have revealed that women’s rights have always become fragile in times of crisis. Women were the first to experience the impacts of the global financial crisis, spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, which exacerbated all preexisting socioeconomic inequalities. Meanwhile, conservative and populist anti-feminist groups have strengthened.
GROWING DEMONIZATION OF FEMINISITS
As feminist nongovernmental organizations, funds, and community-based organizations, we continue to work together and remain hands-on in our efforts to support women and raise awareness. However, grassroots feminist organizations are struggling to do so with insufficient resources. They tend to be overlooked in funding, as less than 0.1% of Official Development Assistance (ODA) gets to them. Very often, such funding is out of reach for small grassroots organizations: they usually have to compete with larger organizations, and the administrative and financial requirements involved in seeking more extensive funding are often far from feasible. Hence, in many countries today, women’s organizations only rely on the efforts of determined women, primarily volunteers, who invest their time and energy to carry the cause forward.
This is not a foregone conclusion. We need international donors to adjust to the situation of feminist groups and assist them in strengthening and growing. We cannot accomplish anything without these women. Thus, funding women’s organizations is the most effective investment in advancing women’s rights and combating sociocultural barriers that disadvantage women and girls.
In most countries, feminists are being increasingly demonized and put at risk. As they are often accused of pushing a Western agenda and seeking to “corrupt” society, feminist groups are subjected to daily pressure and intimidation. Nonetheless, the reality is that the rights of women and girls are a global priority, and we need to eradicate patriarchalism in all parts of the world.
FLEXIBLE AND MULTI-TERM FUNDING
Our request is simple: we must support and empower feminist organizations!
France claims to practice “feminist diplomacy.” This commitment can be noticed in recent initiatives like the launch of a support fund for feminist organizations, a fund of which we are a direct partner. Hundreds of organizations are currently receiving financial support thanks to this fund. But we must double our efforts! France can truly set an example and meaningfully help consolidate the feminist movement in Southern countries. But, again, we must safeguard and amplify all positive initiatives and adapt every fund to the realities of feminist organizations, with soft, multi-annual, and flexible grants that enable practical initiatives and reinforce of women’s organizations.
We need increased funding for salaries, rents, equipment, and larger-scale collective actions because we are stronger as one. In addition, we need to provide feminist activists with adequate security. Nonetheless, we will continue to stand for this cause at the expense of our mental health or our very lives. All advocates for women’s rights must be protected and receive support when under threat, especially regarding legal and financial assistance.
In addition to generally supporting women’s organizations, we must fund specific areas that help reduce gender inequality. Plenty of work remains in the world’s poorest countries, especially in rural areas. There is insufficient support for girls’ access to comprehensive education, sexual and reproductive health, health care for abused women, women’s economic empowerment, training and awareness-raising activities, and land rights. We call on our governments daily. Rich countries must fulfill their pivotal role in funding humanitarian aid globally.
Last but not least, we shall keep striving to ensure that women are no longer excluded or under-represented in decision-making. Women must be the primary stakeholders in policies and regulations.
We are feminists in action. Support us!
This column was previously published in the French daily newspaper Libération on March 11, 2023.
Signatories: Najet Araari, Tunisian Women’s Association for Development Research (Association des Femmes Tunisiennes pour la Recherche sur le Développement – Tunisia), Rolande Absayah, Association for the Relief of Girl-Mothers (Association au secours des filles-mères – Cameroon), Massan d’Almeida, XOESE Fund for Francophone Women (Fonds pour les Femmes Francophones – Togo), Fawzia Baba-Aissa, Mediterranean Women’s Fund (Fonds pour les femmes en Méditerranée), Emanuela Croce et Alexandre Morel, CARE (France), Cécile Duflot, Oxfam (France), Aurélie Gal-Régniez, Equipop (France), Wendyam Micheline Kaboré, Pananetugri Initiative for Women’s Welfare (Initiative Pananetugri pour le bien-être de la femme – Burkina Faso), Totine Kolani, Womens Initiative for Development (Initiative féminine pour le développement – Togo), Adeline Negob, Association for Women’s Welfare (Association pour l’épanouissement de la femme – Chad), Dieynaba N’diom, Reproductive Health Initiative (Initiative pour la santé de la reproduction – Mauritania), Marie-Paule Okri, Ivorian League for Women’s Rights (Ligue Ivoirienne Des Droits Des Femmes – Ivory Coast), Mamounata Ki Ouédraogo, Network of Rural Women’s Empowerment and Advocacy (Réseau pour la promotion et l’autonomisation de la femme rurale – Burkina Faso).