Prospera’s Director and Deputy Director– Alexandra Garita and Ana Pecova
Do you know that only 1% of global funding reaches women’s organizations? No surprise then that Prospera International Network of Women’s Funds (Prospera) advocates that 10% of all gender-equality funding be directed to Women’s Funds directly over the next five years. Why is such core funding important for women’s organizations? Prospera’s Director and Deputy Director – Alexandra Garita and Ana Pecova tell us and explain the value transparency, participation, and accountability (TPA) can bring to the feminist movement.
Tell us more about yourself, your career path, and why TPA is important to the work you do?
Alex: I’ve been active in the struggle for human rights, gender, and social justice in Mexico and globally for quite sometime now. I believe deeply that one of the most effective ways of changing deeply entrenched cultural norms that are often harmful and lead to oppression and injustice is through active citizen participation- from the local levels to national and international ones. Women, girls, and trans people, often underrepresented in positions of political power but who literally keep communities and countries going. TPA is important because they are tools, mechanism, and system that can be used by social movements, organizations, groups, and activists to demand change and hold those in power accountable for decisions that have an impact on the lived realities of people.
Ana: I have dedicated most of my life to fighting injustice and inequalities. To me, feminism is about analyzing power: who has access to it and how it is distributed. This analysis, and more importantly, the work to dismantle current power systems, cannot be done without transparency and access to information. Before joining Prospera, I worked as part of the Mexican feminist movement, and I quickly learned that current opacity affects access to justice and the effective exercise of all other rights of women. To address this, we need well-resourced movements that can actively scrutinize the efforts done in the name of gender equality.
Prospera advocates for the allocation of 10% of OECD gender-equality principal funding to Women’s Funds in the next five years. Why is such core funding important for women’s organizations?
Alex: Women’s organizations and feminist movements have been historically and severely underfunded. With a tiny increase in governments, philanthropies, and private sector going to women’s funds, we can ensure that feminists can be more impactful in the struggles for gender, economic, and environmental justice at local levels, where it matters. We have no time to waste! Investing in women’s funds is a guaranteed way to reach women who are actively engaged in implementing alternative solutions towards sustainable development and gender equality.
Ana: Women´s funds are pivotal funders of women´s rights activists and organizations. They are often the only and/or main funder of traditionally underfunded groups. More support for women´s funds would increase access to resources for movements and is key to allowing communities to build their capacity to fight discrimination and demand more and better access to services.
How can governments, donors, and CSOs work together to improve the quality and accountability of funding for women’s organizations and issues?
Alex: Women’s funds provide flexible, long-term, core support to organizations that are often those least heard and seen (Indigenous, Black, Dalit, Migrant, Lesbian, Queer, Trans, HIV positive, domestic workers, sex workers, among others). Governments, funders, and CSOs can learn a lot from the feminist funding community about how to conduct participatory grantmaking models where communities themselves decide on resources, where movement building through building solidarity and collective care practices require not just money but time, attention, and intention.
Ana: Gender equality is not a reality in any part of the world, yet. We have much work to do and it requires that we pull together all our resources and power. There is a role for us all, governments, funders, and civil society organizations. We need more resources and actions that promote gender equality, but we also need vibrant and well-resourced movements that can scrutinize current actions and efforts. Women´s funds have a unique role as they stand close to movements and can provide flexible and core support where it is most needed. There are important lessons from the work that we do and our model of operation, and we use this knowledge to build innovative partnerships and collaborations with governments, corporate sector, private foundations and contribute to channeling more resources to support social justice activists.
What value does TPA bring to women’s funding and the feminist movement? Are there examples of why and how it works?
Alex: TPA are actually feminist principles with different words – feminist movements and funders have historically pressed for inclusive participatory mechanisms, and they have cultivated accountability vis-a-vis their constituencies and partners in the case of the funds. Feminism asks questions of power imbalances and differentials – so transparency, participation, and accountability are all tools that can be applied to create more equitable ways of distributing, naming, and sharing power. An example of this is what we are doing in Prospera right now – holding townhall meetings between the Board, Secretariat, and Membership after every board meeting to share information, engage in strategic dialogue together and ensure that everyone has equal access to information, opportunity, and analysis in order to make informed decisions. Modeling transparency is as simple as sharing budgets, organizational proposals, evaluations, and decision-making processes. Accountability within our network, and I would say all feminist organizing- requires more than technical solutions- it necessitates political trust and alignment, a willingness to have difficult conversations and call each other in when practices and behaviors demonstrate the contrary, and a commitment to understanding context and to having empathy.
Ana: Transparency, accountability, and participation are both, important strategy and objectives for the feminist movement. It is important that we track commitments, actions, and resources dedicated to fighting gender inequality so that we can see and examine their reach and impact. Resources are limited and we need to make sure they are used to promote change. For that, we need strong and resilient movements, who can actively scrutinize and demand greater accountability. Feminists across the globe are increasingly incorporating TPA as effective strategies in how they do their work and what they demand from actors engaged in promoting gender equality. For example, the Articulación Regional Feminista, an alliance of feminist organizations in different countries in Latin America recently did a collective effort using transparency mechanisms to document the limited impact of gender equality institutions on a national level. This effort was funded by one of Prospera’s members. We need more of this work if we want to see the change we are all looking for.
What were some of the biggest takeaways in your years of supporting and working to advance women’s rights, empowerment, and gender equality?
Alex: Building political trust and alignment takes time and effort, but these partnerships are what create change and bring collective power to fruition. Collectively imagining and conducting the organizing work of bringing feminists together from the government, philanthropy, movements, and different sectors generally, in support of certain issues such as abortion rights, land, and property rights, or access to justice, is hard and meaningful work. Developing mutuality, discovering shared interests, and supporting each other across differences can bring about real change when we have the patience and stamina for it and don’t let ego get in the way.
Ana: As a movement, we demand and work for structural change, and this does not come overnight. It takes time, patience, joining forces, and building alliances. Collective action is key to building a sustainable future. The fight for justice and equality cannot come without transparency and accountability, and this goes for all of us. It is not a straight path, but we must set up mechanisms that allow us to listen, learn and adapt. Address and redress.
If money was no object, what would you do all day? And why?
Alex: What I’m doing now! I love being in service of movements and convincing those with political power and financial resources to be bold and brave and use their influence towards justice, for people and the planet.
Ana: I consider myself lucky I get to do what I love. Working for Prospera has been a fabulous opportunity to work on directing resources on building community-led solutions for the existing inequalities.
Love to hear more from Prospera Directors? Connect with Ana on Twitter at @AnaPecova and Alex at @AlexandraGarita. You can also follow-up with Prospera on Twitter at @prospera_inwf