Open Society’s Commitment to Feminist Leadership
By Zsuzsanna Lippai
From Afghan women bravely protesting Taliban rule in Kabul, to women organizing marches across the United States for abortion rights, feminist leaders are pushing back on the stigmatizing narratives and discriminatory treatment that prevents their full and equal participation in public, political, and economic life. At the Open Society Foundations, we believe inclusive, vibrant democracies cannot succeed without robust feminist leadership. And it is feminist leaders who are on the frontlines of the resistance to the alarming tide of nationalism, populism, and religious fundamentalism across the globe.
This increasing authoritarianism, combined with the recognition of the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on women, demands a robust response. Earlier this year, together with our philanthropic partners, Open Society took a bold but urgent step to increase our efforts, investing $100 million to advance transformative feminist political leadership, including supporting more women, transgender, and gender non-conforming people in positions of leadership in politics and governance.
We made this announcement this summer at the Generation Equality Forum, a global gathering for gender equality convened by UN Women and co-hosted by the governments of Mexico and France, in partnership with youth and civil society.
To that end, our investments reflect a multifaceted effort to tackle these challenges, enable women and girls to take on leadership responsibilities, and mobilize communities for progressive political change.
Highlights of our investments include:
- $11.5 million to the Bodily Autonomy and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Action Coalition of the Generation Equality Forum, to help increase the availability, accessibility, and quality of comprehensive abortion and contraception services. This investment will work to ensure that women can make decisions about their bodies and reproductive health care. The investment provided emergency funding to cover UK foreign aid cuts to save projects critical to women’s health care in poor countries. We are excited to support organizations such as MSI Reproductive Choices, FOS Feminista/International Planned Parenthood Federation Western Hemisphere, Ipas, and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) among others as part of this effort.
- More than $14 million as part of our commitment to the Action Coalition on Economic Justice and Rights, to support organizations that are strengthening feminist macroeconomic policymaking and research. This includes support to women workers, trade union leaders, and domestic workers organizing to strengthen care workers’ rights and improve gender-responsive public and private services—work that will be carried forward by Open Society’s regional programs. This also includes an investment of more than $3.5 million in care economy work in the U.S., including Care in Action’s Care Can’t Wait campaign and support to the Care Fund and the Women Effect Action Fund.
- In an effort to advance feminist technologies and reshape digital platforms and to prevent threats to women and girls online, beginning next year we are excited to invest $4 million in UNICEF to strengthen a virtual safe space platform designed for women and girls, and partner with the Numun Fund to support women’s rights organizations and feminist actors to utilize digital technology effectively and counter digital security threats. This investment contributes to the priorities of both the Action Coalition on Technology and Innovation and the Action Coalition on Gender-Based Violence. We have also invested $450,000 to combat gendered misinformation in the digital space in the United States.
- As co-leader of the Action Coalition on Feminist Movements and Leadership, the bulk of our commitment—$75 million—is dedicated to strengthening feminist movements and leadership. Of that, $1 million goes to supporting the Global Partnership for Education and its Girls Education Accelerator to advance gender equality in countries and regions where girls’ education has been identified as a main challenge to women’s participation. We support Fundacion Calala, Women’s Link Worldwide, Fondo Lunaria, and Federa, among others, to bolster their capacity to increase feminist leadership in the fight against rising authoritarianism.
Going forward, we are working to deliver on our remaining commitments in 2022 and beyond, including:
- Strengthening feminist leadership in peace and security, with a priority on Afghan women and girls.
- Strengthening the architecture and accountability mechanisms of the Generation Equality Forum, and ensuring that intersectional feminist organizations have a seat at the table to hold the Generation Equality Forum leaders accountable.
- Developing and sustaining a cadre of transformative feminist leaders in politics and governance, and increasing women’s access to decision-making roles in government and politics. We will be prioritizing Black/Afro-descendant people, people with disabilities, and indigenous people, seeking to ensure that they have the skills to succeed in their political ambitions.
The Open Society Foundations remain dedicated to advancing gender equality across the globe at the national, regional, and global levels. We are excited to work in partnership with global women’s rights and feminist organizations to deliver on our Generation Equality Forum commitment and look to them as our key allies in our fight to secure intersectional justice, advance equity, and promote expression around the world.
Until August 2022, Zsuzsanna Lippai was acting director of the Open Society Women’s Rights Program and director of program development at the Open Society Human Rights Initiative.