In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, feminist activists, institutions, and individuals around the world need immediate access to funding and other forms of support. Many aid packages have already been deployed to the people who need them most, but some other lesser-known populations are in danger of falling by the wayside.
One of these groups of vulnerable people includes feminist activists: people who have lost their jobs or livelihoods yet are still fighting for protection and social change. In the midst of a pandemic, these rights battles can’t simply be put aside.
The Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights (UAF) has created a new outlet for activists hit hardest by the pandemic. The COVID Crisis Fund for Feminist Activists directly supports activists working on the front lines of the pandemic, people who are fighting to protect the rights of women and girls, trans people, and LGBTQ+ individuals.
“As we have done every day, UAF is providing resources to women, trans and gender-nonconforming human rights defenders, activists, organizations and movements so that they can provide support to their constituents and adapt to the current crisis,” says Kate Kroeger, Executive Director of UAF.
UAF is a feminist fund that protects, strengthens, and sustains women and transgender human rights defenders at critical moments. By offering a collection of quick-response application methods, UAF is able to provide immediate funding to grantees when they need it most.
“UAF’s systems are built for this,” explains Kroeger. “We accept applications in any language using secure online, text and mobile funding applications. We respond to all requests within 24 hours, 365 days per year, and we move funds within a week.”
In response to a huge outpouring of funding requests, the COVID Crisis Fund offers support for common trends UAF has identified in their grant-seekers:
- Digital access to technology, virtual workspaces, and secure digital platforms where organizations and individuals can effectively continue their work in safety and privacy.
- Government monitoring in situations where activists need assistance monitoring and holding their governments accountable for upholding constitutional and human rights. This includes human rights violations in hospitals, prisons, and immigrant detention centers in the wake of the virus.
- Collective care, solidarity, and psychosocial support for activists overwhelmed by their responsibilities in the middle of the pandemic. This includes support for children out of school and people suffering from the psychological impact of lessened social contact.
- Prevention of gender-based violence, which has been grossly exacerbated by social distancing practices, income loss, and stress around the world. This includes responses to militaristic government policies that target women and girls while claiming to “help” in the face of the crisis.
- Access to information and combating disinformation whenever freedom of the press is limited, language barriers prevent the spread of preventative information from WHO, or racist disinformation and scapegoating spread among communities.
- Accessibility for activists with disabilities, especially in communities where quarantine policies reduce access to essential services.
- Basic needs for activists and their families struggling to pay rent, keep food on the table, and stay healthy during a pandemic.
“Many women and gender non-conforming activists are unlikely to benefit from government aid packages, have no insurance and no buffer for lost income,” says Kroeger. “In this crisis, we believe that meeting the basic needs of activists and movements who work in this sector– including food, medicine and shelter–and ensuring their survival is a political act.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, UAF has provided funding to campaigns across the world focused on preserving human rights in the midst of the crisis.
“The global health crisis has magnified the disparities and inequalities already experienced across gender identity, race, class, ability, immigration status and geography,” says Kroeger. “As anticipated, UAF has experienced an increase in emergency rapid response grant requests as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In the United States, UAF has supported formerly and currently incarcerated women, trans, and gender-nonconforming people campaigning for the release of the elderly and those with serious medical needs from imprisonment. The organization has also supported the Indigenous women of the Navajo Nation, providing funding for mask kits and public health campaigns that combined conventional medical practices with traditional healers.
“In this case, survival is surely a political act,” says Kroeger. “The Navajo Nation has been one of the hardest hit communities in the country and has received very little government assistance. Given the history of genocide in this country, it’s impossible to see that kind of neglect as benign.”
Abroad, the COVID Crisis Fund has allowed UAF to support advocacy campaigns and fights against human rights violations in countries like Israel–where women without immigration status have been excluded from COVID-19 emergency responses–and Hungary–where the government has used the chaos of COVID-19 as cover to push through restrictive legislation, like an order that requires gender to be assigned at birth without the possibility of changing it.
Across the board, feminist activists supported by UAF are fighting to document human rights violations that shady organizations and governments are allowing to happen–or actively contributing to–using the chaos of COVID-19 as a cover and an excuse.
“The world of feminist philanthropy needs to financially support grassroots feminist social justice organizations. And, we should give general support without strings attached,” Kroeger says. “It sounds simple, but if this crisis has shown us anything, it is that we cannot return to ‘normal.’ The structural inequality, racism, classism, ableism and sexism that defined ‘normal’ before the pandemic have led to a disproportionate number of the deaths from Black, Brown, indigenous, minority and immigrant communities. Within the crisis, feminist groups are leading campaigns to protect the health and safety of indigenous peoples, the incarcerated, people with disabilities, women of color and immigrant communities. And, as America and the world looks to rebuild, it is critical that women and gender non-conforming activists and human rights defenders have a voice in the process. To have a voice, they must be healthy, well-resourced and powerful.”
“It also goes without saying, but we all need to double down on our own support of feminist movements,” she adds. “At a time of great uncertainty, rather than holding back resources, we need to put more than ever towards those on the frontlines who are ensuring a just, peaceful, and equitable world for us all.”
To learn more about the Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights or the COVID Crisis Fund for Feminist Activists, visit UAF’s website at www.urgentactionfund.org, and consider donating to the COVID Crisis Fund at this link.
About Kate Kroeger: Kate joined Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights as Executive Director in 2012, fulfilling a lifelong dream of pursuing her feminist activism at an organization dedicated to supporting women’s human rights defenders around the world. Kate is a seasoned advocate, grantmaker and strategist, bringing two decades of experience with grassroots human rights work and social justice philanthropy to her leadership of UAF. To learn more about Kate’s work, visit UAF online.
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