WVL 2.0 Blog Series: Women Fund Tanzania Trust

WVL 2.0 Blog Series

Part 1: Women Fund Tanzania

Our new blog series offers readers a chance to learn about the work of women’s funds in action. All across the world, and as implementers of Canada’s Women’s Voice and Leadership program, women’s funds are demonstrating a strategic feminist edge when it comes to resourcing women’s rights and LBTQI+ organizations. 

As we described in our opening post, the distinct power of women’s funds lies in the deep connections to and roots in the movements they support. These include groups that are significantly under-resourced, such as LGBTQI people, sex workers, and Indigenous communities. Women’s funds also bring an intersectional lens to support communities who are particularly marginalized, and whose lived experience, knowledge and expertise is central to gender justice work.

But what does this look like up close?

In this first installment, we travel to Tanzania to find out.

The Women Fund Tanzania Trust (WFT-T) offers a window into the powerful and unique ways that women’s funds implement WVL projects and deliver more effective support to the women they serve. 

WFT-T’s mission is to see a Tanzanian society where women realize their full potential and engage fully in the transformation of their communities in order to achieve empowerment and social justice. It does this through grantmaking, capacity strengthening, strategic alliance building, and resource mobilization.

Herstory Booklaunch during WFT-T’s 15th anniversary celebratory event

WFT-T Executive Director Rose Marandu shared the vision of the fund and how it allows their grantmaking and support to reach those most at the margins. She noted that:

In general, a number of women’s rights organizations, those in the margin and [those that] experience intersectional exclusion and marginalization have been overlooked by the traditional funders. These include grassroot women rights groups/organizations, individual activists, indigenous groups, sex workers and the LGBTQI community. However, indigenous groups, sex workers and the LGBTQI community are the least funded. 

WFT-T works with them by providing grants, capacity enhancement of their work and their organizations and for LGBTQI individuals and sex workers. We’ve developed creative ways of funding them since their work is illegal under the law. We also continually join others to advocate for increased funding to the work of these groups whose work to advance justice is ignored, their visibility and advocacy poorly funded, or not funded at all.

WFT-T’s way of working with marginalized groups is grounded in two key areas. First, the importance of shared trust and leadership is emphasized. This ensures that decision-making is tailored to the realities of the communities it serves. 

Shared trust and leadership is revealed in the participatory grantmaking used by WFT-T, a framework also adopted by the Equality Fund. Participatory models ensure that decision-making is a collective effort done by community members themselves. This non-competitive model effectively challenges traditional grantmaking models rooted in scarcity by centering feminist values such as collaboration and solidarity. Rose explains: 

WFT-T’s funding model is a participatory approach. This begins at the decision making stage of where and who to fund. This action is guided by a scoping study done by selected movement actors. The actual work of selecting who and what interventions to fund, is decided by a  grant-making committee made of experts from the feminist movement. WFT-T is also keen to provide grants at the local level and towards strategic, national- level movement building. This approach is complementary and mutually reinforcing as it aims to strengthen women’s movements and their collective organizing power at the local and national levels.

Photo by Boniphace Elias. Community dialogue at Kebale village Magu District

Secondly, WFT-T uses collaboration and networking to advance feminist goals well beyond the communities it supports. Through networking, each organization connects local, national and global efforts regarding collective work on issues spanning geographies, ensuring that projects are not implemented in silos. As Rose highlights:

Women Fund Tanzania Trust has been participating in various platforms, dialogues and engagement in the ongoing discussions on transforming funding ecosystems. Globally we have joined forces with other women funds through Prospera [an international network of women’s funds] and at the continental level through Pan Africa Philanthropic Network, East Africa Philanthropic network and locally through Tanzania Philanthropic Organization.

As a result, WFT-T is contributing to the advancement of a collective push for increased resources for women’s rights organizations and feminist movements that may not ordinarily have access to funding. Rose explains the importance of women’s funds like WFT-T that strive for transformative change within its society: 

It is our core role to support the feminist movement through funding and capacity enhancement to bring about transformative change and ultimately a nation anchored on the grounds of social justice. Achieving social justice at its core means dismantling patriarchy and other oppressive social structures. It is about influencing transformation and disempowering traditional norms, values and legal frameworks.

WFT-T’s unique approach to grantmaking and working within the feminist ecosystem is impactful and sustainable. As a result of its participatory and collaborative ways of working, the fund’s impact extends beyond their direct beneficiaries and makes transformative change that is grounded in sustainable social justice.

Up next… Part Two of our series

With such far-reaching impact, it is helpful to understand the story of women’s funds through multiple perspectives. 

In Part Two, we will travel to Antigua and Barbuda to hear from an organization that received support from women’s funds. Through their eyes and in their words, we will learn more about how the resources, trust, and partnership provided by women’s funds can fuel work in a critical moment.

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