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Tarana Burke, Gender-Specific Philanthropy & More from the Women Deliver Conference

Photography via instagram.com/women_deliver

The world's largest conference on gender equality comes to a close in Vancouver.

By Pahull Bains

Date June 7, 2019

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By the third and final day of Women Deliver, after hearing countless stories of violence, inequity and injustice, the realization of just how far we have still to go in our fight for equality can start to feel too heavy to bear. At one of the panels, in fact, a speaker used her last few minutes of time to remind people in the audience–“I see a lot of heavy faces”–that we should leave the conference feeling uplifted, not dispirited. There are feminists out there fighting the good fight, she said, and that’s reason enough to feel hopeful.

In the spirit of that, here are highlights from Day 3 of the 2019 Women Deliver conference in Vancouver, where we heard from several women and organizations doing their bit (and then some) in the pursuit of gender equality.

1. Tarana Burke on the power in choosing how and where to share your storyDay 3 kicked off with a panel on how collective movements can affect change—whether social, economic or environmental. Indian journalist Barkha Dutt moderated the panel, which included activists Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement; Ailbhe Smyth, co-director of Together for Yes, the abortion rights campaign group that recently legalized abortion in Ireland; Tina Tchen, co-founder of Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund; and Noelene Nabulivou, political adviser at DIVA for Equality, which focuses not just on gender equality but ecological and climate justice.

As Dutt points out early in the panel, “Movements cannot be driven by silence.” They require voices rising up in support to generate the kind of momentum required to change minds, change laws. “It is through collective power that we can achieve individual power,” says panelist Haldis Holst, who has worked extensively in the area of trade union rights. But while raising one’s voice is vital, Tarana Burke steps in to point out that “there is also power in not telling your story” to the world. “I’ve watched the world trade on the labour of survivors,” she says. “They depend on us, they bring us to the forefront, they trot us out to tell these gory stories. And nobody takes into account what that does to us, that we have to live with the aftermath of having our stories displayed to the world and watch people actively not care. So tell your stories in places and ways that you want to… I’m not telling anyone to be silent,” she clarifies. “Getting your story out is important. You can write it in a journal, you can paint it in a picture, you can tell it to a small group, it just doesn’t have to always be this big display. I think it’s an undue burden that we place particularly on women to bring our stories forward. Don’t be intimidated into telling your stories just to move the movement forward.”

Interested in watching the full panel? You can find it here.

2. The status of gender-specific philanthropyFew figures are available on gender-focused philanthropic donations worldwide. To address this gap, the OECD Network of Foundations (netFWD) recently produced a report that looks at philanthropic investments through a gender-specific lens. In a panel dedicated to the issue, Bathylle Missika from OECD shared several interesting stats from their report:

i) Gender-related giving accounts for only 16% of all philanthropic donationsii) Only 6% of those funds address women-specific needs such as preventing violence against womeniii) 68% of this funding for gender remains concentrated in just 10 middle-income countries including India, Nigeria and Kenyaiv) Funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) accounts for almost half of the world’s gender-related givingv) Foundations whose philanthropic investments are centred exclusively around gender include Fondation Chanel, Goldman Sachs Fund and the Oprah Winfrey LA Fund.

3. Four young feminists on the importance of intersectionalityRega Jha, founder and former editor in chief of Buzzfeed India, hosted a panel in conversation with a diverse group of young feminists—Ugandan trans rights activist Cleo Kambugu, Tunisian activist Aya Chebbi, writer June Eric-Udorie, and Planned Parenthood’s director of engagements Alencia Johnson—all of whom spoke strongly about the need for an inclusive, intersectional approach to equality.

Eric-Udorie, a queer, disabled, black woman who curated a collection of essays titled Can We All Be Feminists? in 2018, shares how to go about becoming a better ally. “This is not a competition. This is not ‘who can win the race the quickest.’ This is really work that is personal and political, and that’s something feminists have been saying for a long time, but I really want to push you to think, all the time, about who isn’t there when you walk into a space, why aren’t they there, how can we get them there? Or if we can’t, how can we go meet them where they are?” Doing the hard work of sitting down and thinking about how to be better, and then reaching out to communities other than your own in support is vital, she says, and something we can all stand to do more of.

You can catch the full panel here.

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