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Landmark study: The time is right for a Caribbean fund for gender justice

AN­TIGUA (WVL Caribbean) — De­spite a thriv­ing pres­ence and rich his­to­ry of fem­i­nist ac­tivism and so­cial change, the Caribbean has long been one of the on­ly re­gions in the world with­out a ded­i­cat­ed phil­an­thropic fund fo­cused on women’s and LGBTQI+ rights. A new study finds re­sound­ing sup­port to change that, point­ing to the pow­er and promise of women’s and LGBTQI+ move­ments work­ing across the re­gion, and the op­por­tu­ni­ty for donors to sup­port their work with sus­tained and flex­i­ble fund­ing.

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If not now, when? A Fea­si­bil­i­ty Study for a Caribbean Fund for Women’s and LGBTQI+ Rights draws on en­gage­ment with ac­tivists, civ­il so­ci­ety lead­ers, and phil­an­thropic donors— in­clud­ing a sur­vey, three stake­hold­er ses­sions, and a pub­lic fo­rum—as well as a re­view of lit­er­a­ture and re­ports about women’s rights and LGBTQI+ move­ments in the Caribbean, donor and phil­an­thropic at­ti­tudes, and trends. Its ex­am­i­na­tion in­cludes po­ten­tial sources of fund­ing; struc­ture, man­age­ment, and gov­er­nance; man­date and lo­ca­tion; fi­nan­cial re­quire­ments; and a risk analy­sis.

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“Over the past sev­er­al decades, Caribbean fem­i­nist move­ments have been sig­nif­i­cant­ly un­der­fund­ed. Many of the lead­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions work­ing to­wards gen­der jus­tice are op­er­at­ing on shoe­string bud­gets with vol­un­teers and un­paid staff. We are all unit­ed in the be­lief that our re­gion de­serves much bet­ter,” said Am­i­na Do­her­ty, VP Cul­ture, Com­mu­ni­ty & Be­long­ing at the Equal­i­ty Fund.

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She added: “The time is now for a Caribbean fund that re­sources the ac­tivism that is ad­dress­ing the most press­ing is­sues of our time, from cli­mate change and gen­der-based vi­o­lence to eco­nom­ic se­cu­ri­ty.”

The study is based on the premise that “the lack of a fund in the Caribbean is not sole­ly due to its fea­si­bil­i­ty but is al­so re­lat­ed to the ne­go­ti­a­tion of pow­er and what, whom, and what places are pri­or­i­tized in phil­an­thropic spaces.” The fact that the Caribbean is one of the on­ly re­gions in the world with­out such a fund, the study notes, “has di­rect cor­re­la­tion to how lit­tle fund­ing goes to move­ments in the re­gion.” It finds that “fund­ing in the re­gion is still rel­a­tive­ly small com­pared to sim­i­lar­ly sized re­gions in the world”— while the fund­ing that does ex­ist is of­ten “in­se­cure, short term, and project-based”, with a patch­work of “fund­ing agen­das…set by ex­ter­nal ac­tors.”

A Caribbean-led fund could go a long way in ad­dress­ing these chal­lenges, im­prov­ing both the quan­ti­ty and qual­i­ty of fund­ing for move­ment lead­ers. Es­tab­lish­ing a re­gion­al fund could play a crit­i­cal role in sup­port­ing the sus­tain­abil­i­ty and growth of women’s rights and LGBTQI+ or­ga­ni­za­tions at grass­roots, lo­cal, and na­tion­al lev­els, while al­so putting in place strate­gies to op­ti­mize re­source mo­bi­liza­tion, grant-mak­ing, and ca­pac­i­ty-build­ing as con­duits for sup­port­ing ac­tivism, the study finds.

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“A Caribbean-led fund would un­leash a rip­ple ef­fect of change on two lev­els. It’s an ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­ni­ty to in­crease re­sources for the re­gion through di­rect grant-mak­ing. And it would serve as a pow­er­ful base for phil­an­thropic ad­vo­ca­cy to lever­age far greater re­sources from across the en­tire field for many years to come,” said Tama­ra Hug­gins, Di­rec­tor WVL-Caribbean at the Equal­i­ty Fund

Along with op­por­tu­ni­ties, the study notes chal­lenges that should be ad­dressed and re­searched more deeply, such as the lo­gis­tics of op­er­at­ing a fund across such a cul­tur­al­ly and lin­guis­ti­cal­ly di­verse re­gion with var­ied colo­nial lega­cies. Yet as the ex­pe­ri­ence of oth­er funds in re­gions with sim­i­lar chal­lenges clear­ly demon­strates, the chal­lenges are sur­mount­able

Women’s and fem­i­nist funds have long played a crit­i­cal role in sup­port­ing lo­cal­ly-led ac­tivism across the globe. Ac­cord­ing to Gen­der­net:

“Sup­port­ing women’s funds is one of the most ef­fec­tive ways for donors to get re­sources to south­ern women’s rights or­gan­i­sa­tions and move­ments […]. They are unique­ly well-con­nect­ed with women’s rights or­gan­i­sa­tions at the grass­roots lev­el and can reach small and emerg­ing groups that are less able to ac­cess larg­er sources of fund­ing.”

A fem­i­nist fund in the Caribbean could sta­bi­lize sup­port for lo­cal change­mak­ers, help­ing to un­leash their full po­ten­tial to dri­ve last­ing change in the re­gion

The study was ini­ti­at­ed by Women’s Voice and Lead­er­ship – Caribbean, a part­ner­ship of the Equal­i­ty Fund and the As­traea Foun­da­tion for Jus­tice to re­source women’s rights and LGBTQI+ or­ga­ni­za­tions in the Caribbean re­gion. A five-year (2019-2024), $4.8 mil­lion CAD ini­tia­tive, WVL-Caribbean is demon­strat­ing what be­comes pos­si­ble when move­ment lead­ers have sus­tained sup­port to lead change on their own terms, ac­cord­ing to their own agen­das for the re­gion. The ini­tia­tive is fund­ed by the Gov­ern­ment of Cana­da

The study— If Not Now, When? A Fea­si­bil­i­ty Study for a Caribbean Fund for Women’s and LGBTQI+ Rights —can be ac­cessed here…

https://equal­i­ty­fund.ca/wvl-caribbean/if-not-now-when-a-fea­si­bil­i­ty-study-for-a-caribbean-fund-for-wom­ens-and-lgbtqi-rights /