Because feminist  activism works!

An interview with Sophia Seawell from Mama Cash

Mama Cash was conceived around a kitchen table in Amsterdam in 1983. Since then, it has grown from a group of five feminist activists into an international fund that supports women’s, girls’, trans and intersex people’s movements around the world.

We caught up with Sophia Seawell to find out what makes Mama Cash stand out from other grantmaking organisations and how their value of sharing power really puts the women it serves at the centre of their work.

What makes Mama Cash different from other grantmaking organisations?

In contrast to much available funding which is project-based, Mama Cash gives grants to feminist groups, who decide themselves how to best use this money. With this long-term and flexible funding, we can offer the stability that activists need to realise their visions for a more just and joyful world.

How do you involve women within the granting process?

In line with our value of sharing power, Mama Cash has been moving to a participatory grantmaking model. This means shifting decision-making power about how grants are distributed to the communities we intend to serve – who are, after all, experts of their own realities. We piloted this with our Spark grants for local activists here in the Netherlands, recently launched our Solidarity Fund for fellow women’s funds and aim to extend this approach to all of our grantmaking by 2021.

From your grant applications, what are the key ‘trends’ or pressing issues facing women in the current climate?  

Data from our grant applications, recently analysed in our report Resourcing Feminist Activism, shows that feminist activism is thriving everywhere but remains underfunded – each year we receive far more eligible applications than we are able to grant. In particular, we see an increase in applications from trans and intersex activists, as well as sex workers’  rights groups; we also see an increase in applications from groups working on the intersection of gender and climate change.

How do you think that the social impact sector can accelerate change (our theme for IFC 2020) to support women and girls across the globe?

The social impact sector can best support positive change by redirecting resources and decision-making power back to movements themselves. Women, girls, trans and intersex people have a vision for a world in which everyone is equal, safe, and free and to make this vision a reality they need access to resources.

How is Mama Cash adapting to deal with Coronavirus? How has the pandemic affected your work as a team and as a grantmaker? 

Mama Cash remains committed to providing flexible funding to our grantee-partners around the world – crises like Covid-19 show why flexibility on the part of funders is so important. Activists need to be able to adapt and respond to situations on the ground. We are in dialogue with all of our partners about how we can best support them; we have also extended our deadline to apply for a grant in our current grantmaking cycle, and we are being flexible with reporting deadlines for current partners.

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