By Us, For Us: Feminist Movements, Unbound

Speaker sitting on stage

Turning up the momentum. Amid a rollback of women’s rights across the globe, the Equality Fund community gathered on May 4 in Toronto for a timely conversation about how feminist movements are pushing back and winning on gender equality—in Canada and around the world. 

Our goal was to explore what it means to be in solidarity with feminist movements and in community with each other—while moving resources for a more just future. What transformative changes are feminist movements leading? What challenges do they face? And how can we best support community-led activism through a gender justice lens?

This was an intimate conversation with feminist leaders who shared their deep commitment to fueling this momentum in concrete ways. We were honoured to sit down with Farrah Khan, Executive Director of Action Canada and award-winning human rights and gender justice advocate, Dr. Nicola Suraleigh, Executive Director of Integrated Health Outreach, an Equality Fund grantee partner working at the intersection of gender, climate change, and health in Antigua and Barbuda, and Dr. Kristin Blakely, public sociologist, philanthropist, and advocate, working with organizations such as the Canadian Women’s Foundation, Women Moving Millions, and Vitala Global. We’re sharing our takeaways from this generative discussion.

Speaker sitting on stage
Speaker sitting on stage
Speaker sitting on stage with microphone

Intersectional issues, intersectional movements

The panel touched upon a range of issues, from climate justice, sexual and reproductive health and rights, to economic opportunities for women to build their own livelihoods. 

These are not separate or siloed issues, but rather deeply interconnected issues embedded in overlapping systems of oppression The response, therefore, must be intersectional. Farrah likened this required collaboration to the ways in which otters link arms in order to weather rough waters. As they band together, they collectively become stronger. The waves, in turn, have less impact. Our movements are much the same: when we unite to activate and resource the network of interconnected movements, we all win.

Equality Fund grantee partners, like Integrated Health Outreach (IHO), are creating such intersectional feminist change. Through their Beekeeping Trainer Project, for example, they provide women and their communities with essential tools to fight against climate change, poverty, and food insecurity simultaneously. This is part of why flexible funding is so crucial, as it allows organizations like IHO to quickly adapt in a complex environment, responding directly to community needs. Through multi-year grants, moreover, they have the space to dream and imagine and create. Finally, as part of the Equality Fund’s Women’s Voice and Leadership community, IHO is connected to other grantee partners across the Caribbean and other Global South regions to share resources, strategies, and collaborate. This is movement building.

Connecting the global to the local

With a geographically diverse panel of speakers addressing a range of intersecting issues, the connection between the global and local was clear. We know that the anti-rights movement is growing worldwide, as evidenced by recent abortion bans in Poland and the U.S. And while abortion rights may currently be secure in Canada, it’s important to recognize the connections between what’s happening globally and within Canada—and take action accordingly. A clear example in Ontario is the recent termination of programs that provide healthcare to uninsured residents. This is undoubtedly impacting women, girls, and trans people who have consequently lost access to critical reproductive and pregnancy care services, among other healthcare supports. 

This is why, in order to truly advance gender equality, the ability to zoom into and out of our own communities is so crucial. Supporting women’s rights in other parts of the world fuels systemic change that can have ripple effects closer to home. In this deeply connected world, the local becomes global and vice versa.

Audience watching speakers on stage
Audience sits waiting for panel
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Mobilizing resources and momentum

As our feminist sisters at the Black Feminist Fund have been calling on funders to do, it is also time to resource women’s rights organizations like we want them to win. We all have a role to play in feminist activism and realizing a gender-equal future. A starting point may come from something deeply personal, such as lack of maternal healthcare, to be an impetus to fund projects that create system-wide access across hospitals and health services. At the Equality Fund, we believe that feminist philanthropy is movement building, and is an opportunity to directly activate our values and create the world we need and deserve. From our individual giving to our investments, to our networks and the power of our own voices, we can help to mobilize resources and momentum for feminist movements. With multiple opportunities to engage, the Equality Fund is designed to help realize this collective potential on a massive, global scale.

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