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Summary themes: collective care and reframing humanitarian action

Monday 5 – Wednesday 7 February 2024 | WP3274

  1. Feminist holistic protection of WLOs and WROs puts collective care at the centre of all efforts, with the understanding that sustaining action for the care of communities is the most important goal. The care and wellbeing of those women responding to crises must be a priority. Survival means maintaining the ecosystem, or collective tissue that binds feminist organisations, movements, and networks. In this context, collective care is a political act.
  2. WLOs and WROs face opposition and backlash to their actions from right wing groups, corporations, criminal groups, and political actors, and sometimes even from donors, making collective care an even more crucial foundation for the feminist movement.
  3. Efforts have been made to reframe humanitarian action, such as through a localisation agenda, but remain inadequate to address core problems. Many donor agencies and INGOs have established feminist frameworks, commitments to supporting WROs, and a localisation agenda aiming to ensure local leadership, empowerment, and participation. However, these policies are often devised at global level, and there is little understanding or uptake of this in practice at the local level. Often donors end up funding elite organisations in capitals that do not have access and relationships to grassroots organisations.
  4. Localisation also tends to ignore the efforts of the diaspora, where strong collective funding and support to communities is taking place. For example, a Sudanese American coalition diaspora of physicians is working to provide salaries to doctors and health workers in the absence of a fully functioning Ministry of Health.
  1. WLOs and WROs are unable to meet the stringent conditions for direct access to funds, including due diligence, reporting, data and evidence. Capacity building efforts that take place with WLOs and WROs are mainly run by INGOs, and in the words of one participant, “Teach us how to do their work”. This northern-centric model does not sufficiently accommodate or value local knowledge and power in the community to conduct work effectively.
  2. Due to existing systems and structures of the aid system, money flows to large international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) in the humanitarian space to act as trusted intermediaries, rather than to WLOs, WROs, and women’s movements who are implementing work, and taking risks, daily on the front line. A study analysing cost structures for the UN and INGOs showed that local intermediaries can pass on money with 32% more cost efficiency than international actors.

“Humanitarian action is not neutral.”

  1. Successful examples of WLOs and WROs as recipients of funds can be seen through the role of those working in the intermediary space, such as Women’s and Feminist Funds; these can channel funds from bilateral ODA and philanthropic donors directly to grassroots WLOs and WROs without bureaucratic complications, ensuring smaller sums of money can be delivered quickly. For many WLOs and WROs, access to Women’s Funds have allowed them to maintain feminist values, while continuing to work on their local response effectively. However, the demand for these funds from WLOs and WROs far exceeds the supply, and more support is needed to ensure that organisations are aware of and can access financing.

“Organisations and feminist justice movements are breaking ground on collective care, knowing that our North Star is to sustain activism.”

  1. WROs also asserted their desire to be funded directly, and not always via another organisation. There is a need to invest in WROs and work towards the longer-term goal of direct funding.
  1. Across the world, some funds are arriving at local women’s organisations in hard-to-reach places such as Gaza, Afghanistan, and Sudan, through creative means such as Western Union, and mobile banking applications. This focus is on moving money to activists safely, rather than on donor compliance.

“If you want WLOs to fit into your northern NGO model, you are wrong. It won’t work. We need to challenge the model. We are different and varied.”

  1. Currently, the path for funds to arrive at community level is often too long, too inconsistent, and limited in scale. For WLOs and WROs to thrive and be in a strong position to respond to communities in crisis, they need strengthening well before an emergency event takes place.
  • What is a Women’s Fund?

    ‘Women’s and feminist funds are public fundraising foundations that work to realize the power of grassroots women, girls, trans, non-binary and intersex movements around the world by providing them with sustained financial and other resources to realize their vision of social justice.’ Prospera International Network of Women’s Funds


Dialogue themes: WLOs, WROs, and feminist organisations – effective responders in crises and emergencies


Dialogue themes: diversity, inclusion, intersectionality

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