A solid and honest Feminist Foreign Policy (FFP), presents an opportunity for a meaningful shift in how a government handles foreign affairs, including international development. There is an ever-increasing demand from civil society for an acknowledgement that a true FFP must focus on equality, justice and human rights and be unapologetically gender-transformative, intersectional and anti-racist. Count Me In! and other consortia funded by the Ministry of Foreign affairs highlighted these non-negotiables during the Shaping Feminist Foreign Policy Conference hosted by the Netherlands in the Hague 1-2 November, 2023.

The Netherlands started the process of developing and adopting a Dutch FFP in 2022 and the Dutch government hosted the ‘Shaping Feminist Foreign Policy Conference’ (SFFP) as a part of that process. Count Me In!, a feminist consortium of eight feminist organisations, brought its knowledge and expertise to amplify these key messages.

Talking about Transformative Approaches to Feminist Resourcing

On 31 October, CMI!’s strategic partner WO=MEN Dutch Gender Platform organised the FFP Community Festival in collaboration with some of its members. During this event, CMI! facilitated a session entitled “Transformative Approaches to Feminist Resourcing” with its members and allies. 

A part of the audience at the session.

A diverse panel of feminist grantmakers addressed a packed room to share their practices as feminist grantmakers. Hosted by Mama Cash, the representatives from UHAI-EASRI, Red Umbrella Fund (RUF), Equality Fund, and International Indigenous Women’s Fund (IIWF) arrived early for the SFFP conference to take the opportunity to collaborate with their colleagues from around the world in this community-focused space. 

Coco Jervis from Mama Cash moderated the event and shared Mama Cash’s experience, as the oldest international women’s fund, of moving towards participatory grantmaking. 

“Participatory grantmaking is not a magic pill, but an important process towards power sharing and sustainable change. Our main challenge was not our staff, but has actually come from our donors who question these processes and how we would ensure quality of our grantmaking.” – Coco Jervis

Alexis Wilson Briggs  from the international sex worker-led Red Umbrella Fund talked about participatory grantmaking and shared how engagement of communities in decision-making about funding led to better outcomes for the Red Umbrella Fund. 

“There is a distinction between engagement of communities in grantmaking and community-led grantmaking. Red Umbrella Fund is sex worker-led. Beyond grantmaking decisions, it includes sex worker leadership in setting the criteria of how and what grants we make, under advocacy and accompaniment for the reporting process.” – Alexis Wilson Briggs

Mercy Otekra from UHAI – Africa’s first indigenous activist fund for and by LGBTI and sex worker communities based in Kenya, talked about ways donors and governments can decolonise their funding practices. 

“Governments have mostly been funding from a place of control and power. We need trust-based philanthropy. Trust your partners to know what the priorities and best strategies really are!” – Mercy Otekra

Beth Woroniuk from Equality Fund elaborated on the opportunities and barriers that may be present while navigating feminist resourcing with the governments that adopted Feminist Foreign Policies. Her home country, Canada, was the second country in the world to adopt a FFP. She shares how Canada has experiences to share, but also still much to learn:

“FFP needs to strengthen the feminist funding ecosystem. We can share good practices between bilaterals and build on each other’s victories… But we can’t talk about feminist resourcing separate from the spending and investment in defence and trade.” – Beth Woroniuk

Woroniuk also challenged the much-heard argument from governments that the reporting burden is what it is ‘because it’s tax payers’ money’. “Well,” responded Woroniuk, “I believe taxpayers want the money to move in just ways. We simply cannot require women fleeing a war to provide a taxi receipt!”

Teresa Zapeta from IIWF discussed how funders can ease the burden of predetermined and colonised reporting.

“We work with indigenous, rural women, women with disabilities, women speaking different languages. We believe in accountability, but the tools from our government funders are a problem. Women’s funds have been able to make accountability processes that are more relevant and accessible to us. They have good practices in this area.” – Teresa Zapeta

She underlined the importance of integrating intersectionality, Indigenous women’s leadership, and the Reciprocity Approach to grantmaking and reporting. 

In their final words, the panellists highlighted the importance of attention going towards funding care and well-being and for FFP to apply not only to the development sector but also to trade, migration and climate policy. 

Showcasing our stance through a marketplace

CMI! – Mama Cash Marketplace

CMI! and Mama Cash organised a marketplace at the conference together. We used the space to showcase our core mission and stance: supporting the activism of structurally excluded women and girls. We invited the delegates to discuss how stronger feminist movements are at the heart of a successful FFP and how such policy should be dedicated to supporting and resourcing feminist movements. 

CMI!’s new publication on resourcing feminist movements as a pillar of FFP (here) attracted much attention. It emphasises the importance of the 2023 political declaration on Feminist Approaches to Foreign Policy, encourages long term funding strategies, explores the meaning of risk, warns against siloing and calls for accountability to feminist movements. 

We also expressed our grave concern about the genocide in Gaza and called on the Dutch Government to support an immediate cease-fire. A Feminist Foreign Policy cannot be reached without taking a clear and strong position against all forms of violence and injustice.

Our strategic partner, WO=MEN, organised their own marketplace which invited participants to participate in an FFP quiz as a way to engage, learn and connect. In addition, CMI!’s member CREA and WO=MEN jointly organised two artivism expositions as part of the Our Voices Our Futures (OVOF) consortium.

We added protest signs with slogans demonstrating our stance around the Marketplace.

Mama Cash Co-ED and WO=MEN ED speak at the main events

Happy Mwende Kinyili, Co-Executive Director of Mama Cash, spoke in the plenary session on ‘Financing Women’s Rights Organisations and Feminist Movements’ on November 1. You can see the full session here.

Happy Mwende Kinyili speaking at the SFFP conference.

Funding is so layered with administrative burdens that it prevents it from reaching organisations. And this is based on assumptions that we are trying to steal the money and we cannot be trusted. We as feminist organisations are ready to take your funding. We know what to do with it. But we need it in ways that work for us.” -Happy Mwende Kinyili

Laila Ait Baali, Executive Director of WO=MEN, spoke in the closing plenary session on “Making Feminist Foreign Policy Work” on November 2. You can watch the closing session here

Laila Ait Baali speaking at the SFFP conference.

“The role of civil society is crucial, as watchdog and critical partner. Ensuring that Shaping Feminist Foreign Policy is not pink washing. That it’s a dynamic process. We should first of all call for a Cease Fire NOW. We need policy coherence. A reality check.” – Laila Ait Baali.

It was clear throughout the conference that the civil society was consistently calling for the governments committing to FFP to expand their thinking. Calls were made to increase trust for feminist funds, broadening funding to a wider range of feminist activists and human rights defenders working collectively across issues, and acts of solidarity with movements around the world that did not have a platform in the convening. CMI! and other feminist consortia, platforms and organisations took the opportunity to make recommendations and offer insights to help shape the Dutch Feminist Foreign Policy. How much has been taken into account is still to be seen.

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