What We Are Reading: June 2021

June 23, 2021

From June 11-13, G7 leaders met in Cornwall for their first meeting since 2019. Headlines were dominated by Brexit, vaccines, and China. As predicted, the final communique included a number of key points on gender equality: recognition of the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women and girls, the importance of care work (including unpaid care), and the importance of gender equality (“gender equality is at the heart of an open, inclusive, and just society”). There were also commitments to promote and protect the sexual and reproductive health and rights of all and to prevent, respond, and eliminate all forms of gender-based violence.

However, activists expressed disappointment at the lack of specific agreed new actions and the absence of new investments (other than for girls’ education).

In this context, it’s worthwhile to have a look at the W7 or Women’s 7 recommendations to the G7 leaders. 

The W7 called for bold action to advance gender equality, with resource commitments matching rhetoric. Participants noted that a feminist analysis was key to understanding all the themes under discussion: COVID-19 recovery, trade, climate change, security, tax policy, etc. 

At the W7, feminists articulated a number of key principles. First, equality and justice, with an intersectional lens, prioritizing initiatives that put marginalized women, girls, and gender-diverse people first and committing to anti-racism. Second, a shift in aspirations towards just, equitable and green economies that centre sustainability, well-being and care as part of the pandemic recovery and beyond. Third, a commitment to accountability and the meaningful participation of all as a central part of democratic decision-making.

Specific recommendations are grouped into these themes:

  • Women’s economic justice 
  • Climate 
  • Women, Peace and Security 
  • Violence against women and girls / gender-based violence 
  • Health, including sexual and reproductive health and rights 
  • Education 
  • Democracy, accountability, and meaningful political participation 
  • Racial justice and decolonization 

One theme that ran through the W7 discussions was the importance of funding women-led organizations and feminist activists. Theo Sowa, one of the co-chairs of the Equality Fund was a keynote speaker: 

“It is not what we fund but how we fund. Let’s stop and change this travesty where only a tiny percentage of development assistance and philanthropic resources find their way particularly to Southern-based Women’s Rights Organizations; and more generally, a tiny percentage find their way to women’s rights agendas. We need to increase the funding dramatically and we need to change the way in which we fund to make sure that we’re getting the resources to people who are living these experiences and who are making the change.” 

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Background

The country hosting the G7 usually supports a number of ‘engagement’ groups who develop recommendations for G7 leaders: the W7 (women), the L7 (labour), C7 (civil society generally), Y7 (youth), and more. In 2018, when Canada hosted the G7, a group of Canadian organizations proposed a new type of W7, adopting a more explicitly feminist focus. Participants included activists from G7 countries and the global South. France and, this year, the UK have continued this practice.

This year, the W7 was a virtual meeting (April 21-22) and brought together feminist activists, practitioners, and experts to develop recommendations and engage with senior officials involved in the G7. It was co-organized by the Gender and Development Network (GADN) and Gender Action for Peace and Security (GAPS), CARE International UK, and ActionAidUK.

The UK also continued the practice of forming a Gender Equality Advisory Council. Its preliminary recommendations can be found here. A full report is expected later in the year. 

W7 Recommendations

This is a brave conversation among three activist-researchers on their struggles and challenges to advance a feminist research initiative during the pandemic. Augusta Hagen-Dillon, Rosana Heringer, and Shamillah Wilson outline how their personal situations influenced their approaches to their research on and with four national women’s funds. They explore their commitment to live into feminist principles in the research and how these were tested and strained by the pandemic.

The conversation details the high cost of the pandemic (exhaustion, multiple demands, vulnerabilities, increased care burdens, distraction, increased workloads, missed deadlines…) and how as feminists they strived to respond. They have no easy answers, but it is such a useful conversation. 

The authors note the importance of communication, critical reflection, identifying individual starting points, flexibility and balancing holding space for each other and moving forward with the collective research agenda.

 

Academic activist research in times of COVID-19. Augusta Hagen-Dillon (she/her/hers), Rosana Heringer (she/her/hers) & Shamillah Wilson (she/her/hers) (2021). International Feminist Journal of Politics, DOI: 10.1080/14616742.2021.1922298

This gorgeous and wide-ranging report is a must read for those interested in feminist funding discussions. It provides an overview of the experience of the Global Resilience Fund, set up to resource young feminists during the pandemic, but it is more than that. There are windows into how diverse young feminists are experiencing COVID-19 and how they are organizing despite enormous challenges. There are insights on how intersectional analysis can be brought to life, with a specific emphasis on young women, trans, and non-binary people with disabilities. There are explanations of participatory grantmaking processes and how this can work in practice. And there is a clear case that more resources are urgently needed for this form of feminist funding.

The report also includes thoughtful reflections on lessons learned to date. We’ll list them here, but it is well worth visiting the full report for the explanations and details (and the beautiful illustrations).

On Young Feminist Realities: Young feminists are organizing against the backdrop of violence and repression, yet they bring creativity, joy, love, and liberatory tactics all that they do. Despite the odds, they are creating long0term strategies for change, whilst meeting the immediate needs of their communities and beyond the pandemic. Although they do a little with a lot, they deserve to be resourced now.

  • Young feminist activists and broader feminist movements are experiencing increased violence during the pandemic.
  • Young feminist activists ground themselves in the practices of care, creativity, health and trauma relief.
  • Many groups need funding for emergency relief and service delivery – this also counts as feminist organzing.
  • While young feminists can do a lot with little, the need for resources is greater than ever.

On resourcing resistance through a pandemic and beyond: This movement calls on us as funders and allies to show up with the bravery and resilience that young feminists bring to their work every day. In order to reach them at the scale and speed they deserve, we must step out of our business-as-usual models and find new ways to move resources to support this work.

  • We must lower barriers to access and broaden the decision-making table to truly reach young activists organizing at the margins.
  • An openness to be courageous and take risks is essential to supporting work to sustain and flourish. In fact, our ability to respond to what is ahead, depends on it
  • Bringing an intersectional lens from the beginning, enables funding to reach girls and young women who are often excluded from funding opportunities.
  • We need a thriving ecosystem of organizations resourcing this work at every level.

 

Weathering the Storm: Resourcing Girls and Young Activists Through a Pandemic. Boikanya Modungwa, Jody Myrum, Ruby Johnson, and Rosa Bransky (2021).

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