Resourcing Feminist Youth Movements

A discussion for funders and youth civil society, as part of our Donor Dialogues series.

On 20th May funders and members of youth civil society came together to explore what it takes to effectively resource young feminist, women’s rights and gender justice movements to thrive, and to be a driving force in challenging systems of oppression, and to co-create feminist realities. The event was led by our speakers Tenzin Dolker, who works at The Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) as Resourcing Feminist Movement Coordinator and Shilpa Lamichhane, a passionate youth activist from Nepal working as Program Manager at Visible Impact.

What did we learn?

These are the key takeaways from the event:

  • While the rhetoric of ‘women and girls’ and ‘gender equality’ has been part of the development policy agenda for years,  the funding available for directly reaching these groups does not match that rhetoric. Between 2017-2019, feminist movements received less than  1% of multilateral and bilateral investments geared towards gender eqaulity (AWID 2020). Since COVID-19, resourcing for feminsit organising is even more at risk, as donors and organizations pivot to respond to the pandemic, which threatens the sustainability of youth and feminist movements. For the gender equity agenda in the development sector to be transformative, donors must match that rhetoric with adequate funding. 
  • There is a prevalent, false narrative among bilateral and multilateral funder alike, about how young feminist movements are ‘too small’ to handle big grants. Despite most young, feminsit movements being (at least partially) self funded, these narratives further reduce the financial support these types of civil society organisations receive, and perpetuate funding mechanisms that are overburdening and unattainable for youth and feminist movements.  
  • Movement building is not a process that happens in the time cycle of donors and funders. Once bigger donors and INGOs leave, it is grassroots and movements that will inherit the work at the community level, and thus to ensure sustainability these groups must be seen as the leaders and political actors they are, rather than beneficiaries. To this end, we need to reimagine accountability in donor fundings, move away from compliance and lean into trust, to identify and create systems that can further the work of CSOs in a way that feels more like mutual accountability and less like surveillance. For as long as these dynamics are not redressed, movements will not be equitably supported to deliver their work.
  • If donors and funders are serious about achieving SDG no.5 through structural change and dismantling gender inequality, this will require a radical political shift in thinking, assumptions and policies. Young feminists are well positioned to respond to these challenges, and with the right resourcing there is huge potential to transform the breath, width and ways in which change happens. It all comes down to how funders decide to support these efforts. 
  • Civil society must challenge false narratives around funding and evidence how feminist organising is transformative, to influence levers of decision making and power in the sector and ultimately achieve the resourcing youth and feminist movements deserve. 

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