International Women’s Day 2023

5 ways we’re celebrating, learning, and recommitting to the work ahead

At the Equality Fund, every day is Women’s Day. We’re working hard for gender equality all year long—in every way and on every day. And yet, this annual milestone brings an important moment for reflection, both inside and outside, to celebrate progress, call out what still stands in the way, and think forward to the action we need to make gender equality a reality for women, girls, and trans people.

We took a beat to check in with our team, inviting them to look back and far ahead. Together, we compiled a quick (informal!) list of just some of the things that are exciting us, some lessons we’ve learned, and key challenges for the road ahead.

What’s ahead: 5 Things We’re Excited About

Since we launched in 2019, we’ve been working together to design and build a sustainable fund to support feminist movements at scale, all around the world. That truly takes all of us—since our model combines what often remains separate everywhere else: high-trust global grantmaking, feminist philanthropy, gender-lens investing, and bold policy advocacy. It’s never linear or easy, but every day, the results of that work are beginning to break through.

  1. Investment is one key part of the model, and in a few weeks we will launch the Equality Fund Gender-Lens Investing Criteria—a new tool for investors everywhere to translate feminist values into action. The Criteria are a streamlined way for all investors to analyze how investments work for—or against—women, girls, and trans people. To learn more about why and how we invest, check out Let’s Talk About Feminists and Investing.
  2. Momentum. It’s key to our model, and it comes alive each time a new partner comes to the table to fund feminist movements like our collective future depends on it. This year, the United Kingdom answered the call. We are thrilled to celebrate a new partnership with the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office with 33 million GBP (approximately $54 million CAD) to supercharge our support for women’s rights organizations and feminist movements across the Global South.
  3. Grantmaking is the beating heart at the centre of everything we do. And the stories of our grantee partners are a beacon of hope—and power—for the world. Later this year, we will co-launch Under the Sycamore Tree, a dynamic podcast that unleashes a trove of stories about the work of our feminist partners in our WVL—Carribean program in their own words. Look for us to ramp up even more storytelling as our grantmaking rapidly expands. Since 2019, the Equality Fund has committed $53 million in grants and is supporting over 300 organizations working in 85 countries globally.
  4. We’re in this together. Feminist solidarity is the ever-present force behind everything we do. It’s what fuels feminist movements and collective change everywhere. That’s why we are so excited to launch the Feminist Intention Card Deck, a daily dose of inspiration and connection to power our solidarity and keep all of us focused and fortified for what’s to come.
  1. Feminist philanthropy is powered by relationships and solidarity. We’re thrilled about new opportunities to gather in person to discover common values and opportunities for action. Just yesterday, we were excited to join a gathering of the RBC community to share more about feminist philanthropy, and we’re gearing up for a day of conversation and community in Toronto with our donor partners and allies on May 4. Stay tuned for more details!

Keep watch: 5 Challenges

For feminists, it’s a familiar story. As we celebrate progress, we also know that pushback is just around the curve. As we stand in solidarity, our eyes are open to the rising threats around the world. And we watch out for our sisters and allies facing crises and catastrophes.

  1. As feminist movements forge ahead, a global countermovement to roll back women’s rights and gender equality is on the rise, fueled by authoritarianism and deep-pocketed donors. A report by the Bridgespan Group and Shake the Table says at least $6 billion more is needed by 2026 to fight anti-gender movements.
  2. Feminists around the world reacted with concern and dismay when the new Swedish government recently dropped the term ‘feminist’ from its foreign policy. The wording matters: Calling your foreign policy feminist is an important signal that gender equality is a central priority and perspective. At the same time, there is opportunity: A growing wave of other countries are moving in the other direction. This month, Germany announced an ambitious feminist foreign policy of its own.
  3. The earthquakes in Turkey and Syria are the latest example of crises—from natural disasters to conflict—compounding the challenges already faced by girls, women, and trans people, especially those who are racialized and marginalized by unjust systems all across the world. From Afghanistan to Ukraine, Lebanon to Sudan, and far beyond, we must be vigilant and focus the world on addressing the ways that crisis and conflict disproportionately impact women, girls, and trans people.
  4. Global inequality is the air we breathe and the water we swim in. It’s an ever-present challenge across everything we do—and it is getting worse. As Oxfam outlined in January: “During the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis years since 2020, $26 trillion (63 percent) of all new wealth was captured by the richest 1 percent, while $16 trillion (37 percent) went to the rest of the world put together.” What’s more, “during the past decade, the richest 1 percent had captured around half of all new wealth.” Read the full report.
  5. Of course, another omnipresent threat is global climate change, and as it accelerates, it is disproportionately impacting girls, women, and frontline communities in the Global South who bear the least responsibility for the crisis. Immaculata Casimera of the Wapichan Women’s Movement recently delivered an essential message to the UN’s latest climate change conference to spur real solutions. But not nearly enough Global North leaders are listening. We’re going to do even more to amplify the voices of women climate defenders in the year ahead. Because everything is at stake.

Our ‘Aha’ moments: 5 quick lessons

In ways big and small, spontaneous and strategic, we’re constantly listening and learning. Our work is alive and evolving, and the conversation with our community is rich and growing.

  1. Our feminist digital community is dynamic and thriving. When we put out a call for feminist artists to work with us on the Feminist Intention Card Deck mentioned above, hundreds of responses quickly poured in from all across the globe. Each submission was pulsing with determination, dreams, and defiance. The opportunities for engagement—and massive collective action—are limitless and we are brimming with more ideas to mobilize this incredible community in the year ahead and far beyond. 
  1. In the world, as we know it, rest is radical—but it shouldn’t be. Amid all of the threats and all of the excitement, the most important thing each of us can do is care for ourselves. Inspired by our partners and feminist movements everywhere, we are claiming space for rest, and hope to help normalize it—for ourselves and for everybody else. 
  1. We hosted two global Town Halls with our movement partners in January with close to 200 registrants, and were blown away by the excitement—and the feedback that followed. For example, we heard clearly that partners want to learn alongside us and are eager to continue to hear what we’re learning as we grow. They also said we can work together to push back on the rigid, donor-driven metrics and burdensome reporting requirements required by so many funders, freeing up our movements to focus on their work. As well, partners encouraged us to amplify the voices of youth leaders and lean further into our role as convener so women’s rights organizations can connect and learn from each other.
  2. Partnership is the key to it all. This ever-present lesson keeps revealing itself in new ways. It’s fundamental to our model, a prerequisite to the multi-sector collaboration needed to drive new resources, at scale, to feminist movements globally. And it takes time and trust. Flexibility and conversation. As our co-CEOs Jess Tomlin and Jess Houssain have said: “If your values are aligned, the rest is negotiable.” It’s in that space of experimentation, relationships, and learning that transformation takes root. If it feels easy, it’s not enough.
  3. Let’s keep it conversational! Feminists love complexity, and we all agree that nuance is essential. But so is approachability. The more we break down jargon, express our goals in plain language, and invite others in, the more we grow as a movement. Over the next year, we’re ramping up new tools, including video and animation, to make the promise of feminist movements clearer to even more people in more places. And we’ll share these tools as an offering for feminist allies everywhere. Watch this space, and get ready to add your own perspective.

What about you?

That’s a quick update from us—but we’re even more curious about you. What are you excited about? What lessons are emerging, and what threats do you see on the horizon? On International Women’s Day—and every day ahead—we hope you will add your voice.

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