The theme for this year’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is “UNITE! Invest to prevent violence against women and girls”. The 2023 campaign calls on governments worldwide to demonstrate how they are investing in gender-based violence prevention. Equality Fund is a staunch advocate for increased investment in the work of women’s organizations and feminist movements. We know from our work that sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) impacts women, girls, and trans people around the world, and those who face intersectional barriers are at a higher risk. Globally, climate change, crisis and conflict, and the backlash against rights further increase the risk of SGBV. At the same time, the latest data shows that funding for GBV actually decreased, despite the overall increase of official development assistance. In recognition of this year’s campaign, we are highlighting examples of our incredible partners using intersectional strategies to address SGVB and calling for increased investments in WROs and feminist movements who are doing this work.
Intersectionality and SGBV
At the Equality Fund, we resource women’s rights organizations, feminist funds, and feminist movements in the Global South and East, trusting deeply in movement leaders and support efforts rooted in local culture, history, and leadership. Many of our grantee partners address gender-based violence across a variety of geographies and contexts, with intersectionality at the foundation.
Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality” to describe the ways in which systems of power based on gender, race, class, gender identity, disability, and other forms of discrimination intersect to create unique experiences of oppression and/or privilege. It’s critical because, as she says,“the better we understand how identities and power work together from one context to another, the less likely our movements for change are to fracture.” At the Equality Fund, intersectional feminism is at the core of what we do and informs our values, work, and partnerships. An intersectional approach guides us to more deeply understand the layered, complex oppressions faced by many women, girls, and trans people- and how we can disrupt the status quo, changing systems and narratives to redistribute power with a justice lens.
The organizations, groups, and leaders we work with are doing deeply intersectional work. Their broader intersectional approaches ensure that different movements are working simultaneously for multiplied impact. Our partners are impacted by intersecting oppressions; the response, therefore, must be intersectional as well.
The climate crisis has exacerbated gender-based violence. Although it impacts entire populations, women, girls, and LGBTQI+ persons are disproportionately affected. Displacement caused by environmental disasters increases the risk of SGVB during migration or in temporary shelters. Limited access to resources and economic strain can increase the incidences of gender-based violence. A breakdown of government and legal and support systems in the aftermath of climate-related disasters means a lack of access to justice for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.
Work by our grantee partners spans from Saint Lucia, the Philippines, to Argentina and more. Different groups are working at the intersections of the environment and Indigenous rights, climate and food sovereignty, and climate crises and gender-based violence.
Our partner Raise Your Voice St. Lucia Inc. shared important perspectives on their work.
“Climate change is not just an environmental crisis; it’s a human crisis,” states a survivor who found support through the compassionate endeavors of Raise Your Voice Saint Lucia Inc. As rising temperatures and extreme weather events amplify vulnerabilities, they disproportionately affect marginalized communities, exacerbating existing inequalities.
Women and children find themselves on the front lines, bearing the brunt of both GBV and climate-induced hardships. The cycle of violence intensifies as resource scarcity and displacement heighten stressors, leaving survivors in a perilous environment with the elements.
Raise Your Voice Saint Lucia
“In the face of adversity, our organization stands as a testament to the power of collective resilience, understanding the interplay between Gender Based Violence and climate change is crucial to dismantling these oppressive forces.”
By providing not just shelter and counseling but also fostering sustainable livelihoods, Raise Your Voice Saint Lucia Inc. disrupts the cycles that perpetuate vulnerability.
“In unity, we find strength; in understanding, we find solutions; and in action, we manifest change.” For 16 Days, they are amplifying their work to unravel the threads that bind GBV and climate change. Read more about their work.
In Bangladesh, Babadon Sangho’s efforts are dedicated to building the power of feminist movements emerging at the grassroots level, focusing on women who confront violence related to land disputes and displacement caused by land investors. They play a pivotal role in fostering networks that champion women’s land rights. As a women-led, women’s rights group, they are deeply committed to advancing equal land and water rights for women, irrespective of caste and religion, setting them apart as a distinctive and impactful organization. Moreover, they operate at the crucial intersection of land rights and the issue of violence against women.
Globally, we are seeing well-coordinated and funded efforts to threaten, attack, and deny the human rights of women, girls, and LGBTQI+ communities. Anti-rights rhetoric has been shown to increase the incidences of SGVB. Rights have not only been threatened in attempted rollbacks, but in some cases the rights of women, girls, and LGTBQI+ communities have been erased. The terrifying range of rights rollbacks include anti-choice propaganda and legislation, with virulent anti-trans dimensions, impacting bodily autonomy. Weakened domestic violence laws and policies, and binary views of gender used to promote heteronormative family structures, create isolation, alienation and risk of harm for non-binary people.
In Albania, Aleanca- Alliance Against Discrimation of LGBTQ people has faced severe backlash as part of the anti-gender movement in the country. Anti-gender actors have effectively weaponized the media as a tool to target and dehumanize the LGBTQ community. Aleanca reported that this movement is “well organized and well financed by evangelical groups in the US and gaining support among politicians”. Aleanca’s work provides small grants, psychosocial and legal support to its community impacted by anti-gender rhetoric and backlash.
The Reconstruction Women’s Fund (RWF) of Serbia has seen a spike in anti-gender politics and narratives in 2022, which has led to increased violence against the LGBTQI community and a crackdown on sexual education in schools. In response, the RWF has taken a two pronged approach. First, through their grantmaking, they are providing timely support to activists and organizations in emergency situations to respond to immediate needs, such as cuts in funding or evictions from their work and gathering spaces. A notable example is from the 2022 Europride in Belgrade, in which the RWF supported groups that had been affected by violent riots instigated by extremists, with rapid response grants and connecting them to other resources. Second, they act as an important advocate for women’s sexual education, creating resources and publications.
There is widespread evidence that women, girls and LGBTQI+ people experience specific and disproportionate harm in the wake of a crisis. The challenges are many, ranging from lack of access to reproductive health needs like safe birthing facilities and menstrual supplies, to fulfilling traditional gender roles in incredibly difficult circumstances, to caring for children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. LGBTQI+ people are often excluded from emergency shelters and face increased discrimination and violence. Sexual and gender-based violence increases during crises. Many of our grantee partners are working at the intersection of SGBV and crisis response and doing critical work.
In its work across the continent, our partner Urgent Action Fund-Africa has been supporting women, youth, trans, and nonbinary activists throughout the political and military conflict in Sudan. The impact of this crisis has spread gender-based violence among women and girls in Khartoum and neighboring communities, displaced over six million people, and caused shortages of food, water and medicines. Sexual violence is used as a weapon of war, with activists targeted. Yet, many survivors are trapped in areas affected by violence and are unable to access medical care and psychological support for days. UAF-Africa has been working with its networks, reaching to their advisors in Sudan and neighboring countries in the region to quickly get resources to those in need, including digital security protection and documentation of human rights violations. UAF-Africa has also supported a GBV Response Shelter in South Sudan for Sudanese women that have fled the conflict and to help WROs document the situation and violations on women human rights defenders.
When Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, millions of refugees poured over the border into Poland. In response, FemFund quickly mobilized a three-pronged action plan: re-granting to feminist organizations and collectives; organizing humanitarian transport to Western Ukraine; and providing shelter for refugees by adapting their office space. Their intersectional approach to this work has supported people from communities particularly vulnerable from exclusion and violence within existing support structures, including Roma people, LGBTQI+ people, and human rights activists. As has been widely reported, many Black, Asian, and Roma people fleeing the war were refused access at the border and denied assistance for relocation, housing, and other material support. FemFund felt it critical to prioritize its regranting efforts to support grassroots groups providing invaluable support to their communities that were dealing with multiple forms of discrimination.
“It is worth mentioning that these organizations/ groups have well-recognized needs of people they work with and well-developed sensitivity to these needs, which was often lacking in large collective accommodation centers or emergency points. At the same time, due to the grassroots nature of their activities, these organizations/groups were not obvious grantee partners for institutional donors providing humanitarian grants.”
Over time, Fem Fund has connected most of these grantee partners with big institutional donors, with some grantee partners noting that their FemFund grant and relationship had increased their visibility and credibility with international donors, including humanitarian organizations, and allowed them to establish new relationships with donors.
The Prevention and Elimination of SGVB Must be Intersectional
An intersectional approach to sexual and gender-based violence is crucial to better understand – and address- the layered and complex oppressions faced by women, girls, and the LGBTQI+ community. Our partners are already doing deeply intersectional work to prevent and eliminate sexual and gender-based violence globally. It is crucial to resource their continued efforts and to invest in women’s rights organizations (WROs) and feminist movements. Our call to action for this year’s 16 Days campaign is increased investment in these organizations, activists, and movements. Philanthropists and development assistance programs must support the vital work on and solutions to SGVB by women’s rights organizations and movements, locally, regionally, and globally.