Spotlight advocacy: ensuring a seat at the table for feminist movements

CMI! contends that for funding to make a positive change in the lives of women and girls, feminist and women’s rights activists must play a central role in helping define, implement and track funding mechanisms. “Nothing for us, without us” has long been a rallying cry of feminist movements. When the Spotlight Initiative (a €500 million European Union and United Nations programme to eliminate violence against women and girls) was announced in September 2017, CMI! quickly responded by developing an advocacy strategy, demanding and establishing regular communication with the Spotlight secretariat, and sharing information with feminist and women’s rights movements globally.

In 2018, with additional resources from the 1% Fund from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, CMI! continued to advocate with the Spotlight Initiative to ensure that it is responsive and beneficial to the intended recipients. An important part of CMI!’s early advocacy was to ensure that Spotlight resources supported local and regional women’s rights organisations with a track record of working on violence against women and girls (and not just UN bodies and INGOs). In direct response to this advocacy, the Initiative was re-conceptualised to include a ‘pillar of action’ dedicated to supporting women’s rights organisations through country and regional programmes.

Our networks made it possible

CMI! leveraged its networks to engage feminist and women’s rights movements in coordinated ongoing advocacy, engaging more than 1,000 feminist activists from some 90 countries, and working with them to share information from country to global level. In consultation with more than 400 activists around the world, CM! developed a series of recommendations directed at the Spotlight Initiative, on issues such as engagement with feminist movements, funding mechanisms, disbursement, and programme implementation. CMI! then spear-headed advocacy with Spotlight to implement these recommendations. The results of these efforts have been encouraging: of the 18 public recommendations, six have been fully or partially implemented, only one declined, and 11 are still under consideration.

One of the recommendations being implemented is that decision-making structures include meaningful participation (target of 50%) from women’s rights and feminist organisations, which has been incorporated by Spotlight in the Terms of Reference for a new Global Civil Society Reference Group, released in late 2018. Spotlight also asked CMI! to help analyse the composition of interim reference groups at country and regional levels, with a view to increasing representation of women’s rights activists. In response, CMI! reached out through our networks and provided suggestions to Spotlight for increasing representation where low. Another recommendation that has been adopted is that there be coordination between civil society reference groups and governance bodies. In response, Spotlight announced that civil society reference groups at the country and regional levels will nominate members to programme steering committees, to reach a minimum of 20%.

Among other gains CMI! made in 2018, were convincing Spotlight to make funds for civil society available through open calls, to encourage other donors to directly fund WROs, WHRDs and feminist movements, and to disburse a portion of funds through existing mechanisms without government involvement, essential where activists are under threat.

The role of CMI!

CMI! was able to swiftly engage, advocate and influence the largest-ever stream of funding for ending gender-based violence. CMI!’s efforts have been recognised and appreciated by the members of the Spotlight Secretariat, and have resulted in significant changes in the Spotlight Initiative, as specific recommendations have been implemented.

The results of these wins will be felt for many years and affect the lives of millions of women, girls and trans people.

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