Mama Cash: Oldest International Women's Fund Supports Feminist Activism Across the World

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Founded in 1983 by a group of Dutch feminist activists, Mama Cash is the oldest international women's fund. Thirty four years after its founding, Mama Cash has awarded more than US$58 million in grant funding to over 6,000 groups of women's, girls', and trans* people's rights activists in countries all over the world.

Mama Cash firmly believes that social change resulting from local, grassroots activism is more authentic, responsive to core social injustices, and likely to last. Thus, it provides flexible funding and capacity-building support to groups founded, led, and staffed by women, girls, and trans* people working to create meaningful change. Mama Cash's support enables grantees to come together to share their experiences of stigma, violence, and exclusion and to articulate and demand their own human rights on a community, national, regional, and global level.

NGOsource's Role

Mama Cash first completed the equivalency determination (ED) process with NGOsource in 2014 when receiving funding from the Levi Strauss Foundation. Since then, four additional grantmakers took advantage of the due diligence carried out in the initial ED process and requested their own EDs for Mama Cash through NGOsource.

Susan Jessop, Mama Cash's Senior Officer for Content Development, notes that "NGOsource's Equivalency Determination has been incredibly valuable in establishing our charitable, tax-exempt status with several significant donors over the past three years. ... It is reassuring to them that we're in the possession of this important certification." The ED process required minimal effort, especially in comparison to the benefits Mama Cash reaped as a result. Among those benefits, NGOsource's efficient ED process allows organizations like Mama Cash to avoid duplicative efforts and devote more time and energy to programs and to deepening grantee relationships. This ultimately enables them to achieve deeper impact.

ED in Action

Mama Cash's efforts have not gone unnoticed. A 2016 project grant from the Levi Strauss Foundation allowed Mama Cash to collaborate with the Urgent Action Fund (UAF) to conduct research on the phenomenon of "closing space" for civil society organizations. The research, which resulted in a report called Standing Firm: Women- and Trans-Led Organisations Respond to Closing Space for Civil Society, centered on the gendered dimensions of closing space and the impact of increasing repression of civil society on women's and trans* rights organizations.

Closing space as a general topic has been widely discussed in recent years. Mama Cash's and UAF's work, however, has significantly expanded and enhanced the conversation by applying a gender lens to understand the drivers, enablers, and impact of closing space. The research showed that feminist groups are being particularly targeted in contexts of closing space and that the use of sexual violence is increasingly common to intimidate and silence women and trans* activists. But the social exclusion that women and trans* people routinely experience has also made them resilient actors with important insights to share about working in difficult contexts. Stay tuned: Mama Cash is committed to supporting deep social change and is in it for the long haul.

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We thank Susan Jessop of Mama Cash for her contributions to this post.

Photo: Members of Mama Cash's grantee partners, Bishkek Feminist Initiatives, march in Kyrgyzstan (picture by Bishkek Feminist Initiatives).