A call for African philanthropies to center progressive feminist agendas
“Philanthropic organizations are increasingly expected to be transparent about their activities and impact, and to be accountable to their stakeholders.” Atieno Odhiambo – Urgent Action Fund – Africa Board Chair
The world is literally and figuratively engulfed in flames and changing in ways that profoundly impact life as we know it, especially in advancing social justice and equity principles. In Africa, attacks on women human rights defenders fueled by anti-gender, anti-rights, transphobic, and homophobic narratives and actions, are pervasive. We are calling for African philanthropy to stand up for progressive and feminist agendas, create more partnerships, and commit to resourcing efforts across the continent.
In Senegal at the recently held 4th African Philanthropy Conference, we described the world as being at an “inflection point,” one that requires us to collectively assess, transform, and respond to the challenges and opportunities of the moment we are in. The role that pan-African and feminist philanthropies can play in supporting constituencies on the frontline of some of the most urgent challenges cannot be understated.
During the conference, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director Natalia Kaneem boldly questioned if philanthropy would stand up to the opposition, be combative, and demand bodily autonomy as a foundation for gender equality. Her questioning aligns with drastic shifts African and pan-African philanthropy have witnessed recently, influenced by feminist leadership, analysis, and praxis.
“Collaboration in philanthropy is vital. How can we bring small pots of money into a bigger pot as we build the philanthropic ecosystem? We need to reclaim the power and provocatively work toward the philanthropy we want to see.”- Hakima Abbas.
Realizing the importance of collaborations and partnerships, the pan-African and Feminist Philanthropies – a collaborative Initiative led by Urgent Action Fund-Africa and TrustAFrica – engaged in stocktaking and the profound shifts taking place across the continent through a parallel session. The session’s panel highlighted the significant shifts feminists have led in positioning Africans as philanthropic givers contributing to philanthropic actions and local economies. This kind of giving was mainly attributed to a culture practiced daily by women across Africa as an act that addresses basic needs for communities’ survival.
Jacqueline Asiimwe, CEO of Civsource, discussed the critical role of storytelling, shifting narratives, power, and working at the intersections of communities and their issues. She discussed how feminists are grounding funding strategies in the realities and needs of their constituencies, connecting money, accompaniment, and solidarity efforts. The session also recognized women’s tireless efforts towards developing feminist approaches to funding and solidarity in moments of crisis, ensuring that they are more equitable and adequately resource their work in all objectives of philanthropic action: be it in climate disasters, economic crises, attacks on women’s bodily integrity or the work they do as women’s human rights defenders.
Across the continent, feminist and women’s rights organizations are building repositories of knowledge and practice in different languages and formats of the different ways of giving that are underway across the continent. Institutions such as the Center for African Philanthropy and Social Investment (CAPSI) have launched an initiative on Women in Philanthropy that centers the voices, lessons, and experiences of African women in philanthropy and philanthropic actions. By dedicating resources to the platform and content development, CAPSI brings new narratives and understanding to the deep historical and contemporary role of African women’s giving.
Created in response to the opportunities and challenges of our times, the PAFP Initiative is a vital voice and contribution to these philanthropic efforts and shifts. The initiative envisions a philanthropic system grounded in pan-African and feminist principles, with shared infrastructure and mechanisms. These systems will support, connect, and strengthen the constituencies they serve including justice-based movements, communities, and activists by moving money and other resources in service of their efforts to advance justice and equity.
“Being a feminist is nothing more than just a radical notion that women, poor people and people with different orientations deserve just as much as the privileged population. They have the right to live”- Coumba Toure – TrustAfrica Board Chair
While we are creating new feminist spaces and analysis, it is important to generate and hold private and public sectors accountable to new commitments towards the philanthropic sector and gender equality. Noting that traditional philanthropic models are still designed to control power and resources, with many imposed strategies and priorities coming from outside African feminist movements rather than from within. By building new narratives, advocating in new philanthropic circles, and creating an endowment that will serve constituencies, movements, and funders, the PAFP initiative offers a new opportunity to ground resources and actions in African realities.
We invite you all to join PAFP to shift power and make a difference. Our future, and that of our planet, depends on it.
Leila Hessini is an Algerian-American and pan-African feminist Strategist and Advisor who works with a range of feminist organizations, funds and movements advancing rights, equity, and justice.
Tsitsi Marylin Midzi is the Head of Transformative Partnerships and Philanthropy at Urgent Action Fund-Africa (UAF-Africa). She is a Zimbabwean pan-African feminist who advances African-led efforts to ground inclusive and intersectional political and feminist agendas for justice and liberation of all people of African descent.
Blog originally published by Alliance Magazine on 17 October 2023