Founded three years ago, the Latin American Consortium of Women's Funds consists of seven women's funds in the Latin American region. The Consortium has become one of the most innovative feminist strategies for collectively mobilizing resources. AWID interviews Emillienne de Leon of Semillas, one of the women's funds that belong to the Consortium.
AWID: Why did women's funds in Latin America come together to form the consortium, and what have been the benefits of working together?
EMILLIENNE DE LEON: We made a diagnostic analysis of the lack of resources coming to the region, and in particular for women's rights, from bilateral and international cooperation organizations. Then we decided that we could go together to look for funds and that would be an interesting strategy would strengthen the capacity for all the six existing funds. The fact is that Semillas in Mexico and the Central American Women's Fund in Central America have better opportunities for getting funds. The Southern America region has fewer possibilities, and acting together would bring the attention to the whole region rather than only prioritizing the Mesoamerica region as most of the foundations and bilaterals have done. Both things have happened, more has come to the region, and acting together has strengthened our ability to think strategically, and has enforced the sense of community and regional cooperation.
AWID: I understand that the Consortium's priorities are economic justice and sexual diversity rights. How did you come up with these priorities?
EDL: So far these have been our priorities. We decided on them after our analysis on where the money is for women's rights in the region, and also what our common priorities are. This is how sexual diversity was identified as the first priority. Now we are also making the case for economic justice as one of the main aspects in which women's groups are asking for support.
AWID: What are some examples of the work you are supporting through the consortium?
EDL: We have had the opportunity to support the women's movement in the region as is happening with the Lesbian, Bisexual and Transsexual movement, not only as isolated organizations supported by women's funds but as a movement. We have also supported and strengthened individual organizations as well as the movement and promoted encounters in a bilateral way to in order to encourage learning from each other. This project also makes more visible the women's funds in the region and at the international level with the funders as an innovative strategy and a smart way of getting more money for women's rights.
We have involved other women's funds from the North such as Astrea, in the sexual diversity project to cover four more countries where the women's funds based in Latin America have no presence. We now support more than 50 organizations in 17 countries. The project provides two years support to organizations, and we combine resources from foundations from the United States of America and Europe, together with two international women's funds; MamaCash and the Global Fund for Women.
AWID: What are some of the best practices the Consortium has developed?
EDL: So far we have been mutually respectful of the diversity within the consortium, but we are also trying to build a common set of rules to simplify accountability to our funders. We chose the Central American Women's Fund to be the lead in our first project on sexual diversity. Our various tasks within the project take account of the particular expertise of each of the funds. For example, Angela Borba from Brazil is in charge of Communications, Alquimia in Chile is in charge of the capacity building process - to develop the common issues we want to promote in this field - and Semillas is in charge of developing the common set of indicators for the evaluation process of the project. All decisions are made by consensus, in the best Latin American way! Even if it takes more time this builds more confidence and trust among us.
AWID: What are some of the wider challenges facing women's funds and the Consortium in general?
EDL: There are several:
1. Implementing our first project with all the purposes we envisioned at the beginning;
2. Bringing more foundations and donors to the table;
3. Strengthening the women's movement;
4. Having greater respect and flexibility to design programs or projects together. We need to include the different processes or visions among the women's funds but at the same time create a holistic or integral vision that makes sense to the funders and to the movement in the different field we want to support;
5. Sharing leadership among us. This is one of the objectives so that each one of the funds can be the leader of specific projects or programs.
6. Forming the Consortium into an international entity with legal status. This will give us greater opportunities to raise funds.
Things are going well but it is our first joint effort and we are aware that we have to be very careful and learn a lot from the process.