This past fall, feminist organization FRIDA celebrated its 10th anniversary with an event on Facebook LIVE. Calling out 2020 as “a year of highs and lows,” the organization sought to end the year on a high note with this unique online event.
According to the organization’s mission statement, FRIDA — The Young Feminist Fund provides young feminist organizers with the resources they need to amplify their voices and bring attention to the social justice issues they care about. Beginning with one staff member and a growing community, FRIDA has become a thriving organization in its own right in the 10 years of its operation. FRIDA has awarded $7.5 million in direct grants through more than 250 initiatives in 115 countries in the Global South.
One of the services that makes FRIDA unique is its advisory, a group of young feminists from around the world, who help make funding decisions and campaign nominations for the organization to support.
“FRIDA is the result of a collective dream of multi-generational feminists from all over the world that envisioned a fund that at its core believed young feminists are the experts of their own reality,” wrote the FRIDA team in a December 2nd release.
FRIDA’s organizational success comes, in part, from their reliance on participatory grantmaking, a model we have discussed often at Philanthropy Women. Participatory grantmaking puts the power of funding in the hands of the people who truly know how best those funding dollars can be used — as opposed to faceless charitable donations or funding run through extensive, difficult application processes.
“With money comes power, and funders play an important role by transferring these resources from those who have them to those who don’t,” wrote FRIDA’s Communications Associate Maame Akua Kyerewaa-Marfo in a December blog post. “However, traditional philanthropy ends up by stripping supported groups of their agency by putting funding decisions on the hands of anyone but the very groups they are trying to resource.”
Participatory grantmaking involves a certain amount of trust — and this trust helps create FRIDA’s massive global community, a network of activists all working to further feminist campaigns on local, regional, and international levels.
“At FRIDA, we don’t shy away from challenging conversations because that’s what we are here to do,” said Co-Executive Director Maria Alejandra Rodriguez Acha during the November 30th event. “We are here to be that uncomfortable voice when we need to be and we are also here to engage in those honest conversations about what are the things that we are still learning to do. We are here to ask ourselves how to continuously hold accountable to the movements we support and to acknowledge the power dynamics as we do that.”
Part of the 10th-anniversary celebrations involved celebrating the organization’s roots — as well as the journey it’s taken in the last ten years.
“As an activist fund, FRIDA seeks to inspire and influence other donors to provide more funds to young feminist activists and also to change the way they give,” says Kyerewaa-Marfo. “Along the way, the organization has documented its experiences, as well as those of grantee partners, and has shared its learnings and reflections with the philanthropic community in each opportunity.”
Among the organization’s learnings from the last ten years is the need to make our voices heard in the philanthropic space — so many women’s organizations fail or fail to extend their reach as far as they could due to very basic funding issues, many of which could be solved with a collective effort in spreading the word about their efficacy.
“We must ask for what we really need, not downgrade our dreams to make it work for funders,” said Amina Doherty, FRIDA’s first coordinator. “I remember being in conversations at the very beginning and people asking why we needed a young feminist fund, if there were women’s funds and they were already funding youth. We were very clear that this was something that we needed because we wanted to shift power. That’s not a conversation that you think about when you are strategizing early on. We were very clear that having a space, a mechanism that was for and by young feminists would lead us on our path to being able to transform power.”
The team at Philanthropy Women would like to offer a heartfelt congratulations to our sisters and friends at FRIDA, on ten successful years — and many, many more in the future.
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