Shadhika Shadhika

Unapologetic and bold voices inspiring and reaffirming how we work at Shadhika and who we are as an organization working for gender justice.

Feminist Funded Rising ‘23 in DC: Highlights You Can’t Miss!

By Kendra Nicolai, Director of Operations

September 27, 2023

Reading Time: 5 minutes

There is a comfort and validation that comes from being in a group of like-minded individuals and organizations that hold feminist values and believe that trust-based philanthropy is a baseline of equitable grantmaking. The recently held Women’s Funding Network Feminist Funded Rising ‘23 conference in DC was just that- unapologetic and bold voices inspiring and reaffirming how we work at Shadhika and who we are as an organization working for gender justice.

We sat and listened to leader after leader proclaim with boldness the importance of action for gender justice and acting now. To quote a Spark Talk speaker from the first morning Ofa Guttenbeil-Likiliki, an advisor for the International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA), “We cannot rise anymore, we need to soar.” 

As is our mantra this year at Shadhika, collective action and the urgency to shift power was the focal point of the conference with the knowledge that we are stronger together. 

Here are four highlights from the Feminist Funded Rising ‘23 conference that kept me pondering well after the conference concluded. 

Panic! How the fear of a few on Gender, Race, and Sex is Fueling the Erosion of Democracy around the World.

This session reframed my thinking around labeling a community as “vulnerable” and instead shifted the thinking that communities are strong, not vulnerable. They are targeted and marginalized, but not vulnerable. You get a different response when you address them as targeted rather than vulnerable. In addition, panelists spoke about the importance of collective action at this moment.

As Keesha Gaskins-Nathan summed up during this session, “We won’t be able to win unless we work together”. How can we be in partnership, collaboration, and community together?

Leadership Sessions: Reimagining Leadership for Thriving Movements and an Intersectional Approach to Leadership and Organizations

The panelists discussed ways to address burnout in grassroots organizations with an emphasis on the importance of funding wellness and care for grantees. Building strong, trusting relationships is key to supporting wellness. In addition to supporting the wellness and care of grantees the panelists in the session on the Intersectional Approach to Leadership and Organizations, spoke about the emphasis on defining the role of the leader of a foundation and ensuring that these leaders have reflected on their own biases, power, privilege and the openness to engage in unlearning harmful practices. As one of the panelists said, “You can shine bright on the outside, but what are you doing on the inside?

Another discussion during this session was around storytelling and how we need to debunk the theory that ‘storytelling is not data’. They encouraged funders to start getting creative by sharing storytelling as data because stories engage with their audiences differently. They pull from the heart. 

The Role of Men and Boys/Masculinity in Feminist Movements 

I found this session one of the most powerful conversations around gender justice. Panelists answered the question, Why invest in men and boys? They shared that the masculinity crisis is intergenerational and thought of as a deficit to the gender justice movement, taking away from the work with women and girls. The conversation was around how we can reframe this attitude, shifting to a mindset of abundance, taking on an intersectional approach, and moving away from this being siloed work. 

I appreciated the conversation about how it is necessary to name attitudes and behaviors that disempower women and girls and that most barriers to girls’ progress and success are held by the hands of cis-males. You cannot dismantle patriarchy unless you engage all. 

Interestingly, there were only a few men in attendance at this event. In this context, during one of the sessions we turned into small groups to answer the question, In a feminist utopia, what would the world look like?

My group discussed the importance of the role of men, as feminists and allies, supporting and engaging in the gender justice movement. We discussed how women can be in attendance at an event like this, and speak boldly about how “our time is now” but what happens to half of the population unless they are walking alongside us?

Trust-Based Philanthropy and a Call to Action 

The Women’s Funding Network provided a safe space at this conference for a diverse group of voices to be open and honest about the feminist philanthropic movement, many of which talked about trust-based philanthropy as a basic essential. One of the panelists said it best, “If you are doing trust-based philanthropy, you do not get stars or a parade, you are doing the bare minimum.” Action goes beyond the buzzwords. 

The call to action that I felt leaving this conference was that we are beyond the phase of thinking and reflecting on these concepts of trust-based philanthropy, decolonizing our work, and feminist philanthropy. There is energy behind the movement and we need to take action, make changes, and keep pushing to achieve gender justice. As said by panelist Parish Hatcher, Executive Director of Black Feminist Future, “Change is hard and requires big actions but it transforms communities, it is inevitable, and change needs to happen now.” 

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