Have you ever wondered what the term Asia-Pacific denotes? A vast stretch of geographical landmasses across Asia and the Pacific gathered into one grouping, or is the Pacific a token inclusion, where the ‘P’ is silent? Examining data, papers, and policies made for the Asia-Pacific region would have you believe that. As a result, across the political discourse, media debates and public discussions, a new developmental and geopolitical need is being voiced – which has been amplified by an even fiercer feminist call – to be known as the Pacific region, with a distinct identity and voice from Asia.
Amplifying the Pacific voice
A critical forum where we amplified the Pacific voice and the might of the Pacific feminist movement was at the Revolutionising Philanthropy conference organized by Prospera’s Asia and Pacific members in Bangkok in September 2019, the first event of its kind. Around 150 women, girls and trans* activists from 20 countries, speaking eight different languages, converged to examine the multifaceted reality of feminist funding in Asia and the Pacific. Both the Fiji Women’s Fund (FWF) and Urgent Action Fund Asia and Pacific (UAF A&P) see our role in the Pacific as critical to ensuring dedicated resources that go beyond traditional fundraisings – such as forming sharing networks of communities, creating knowledge sources, and identifying volunteers to share time and expertise – benefit Pacific women’s groups, networks, and organizations. While a few women’s rights organizations in the Pacific have engaged with international women’s funds such as the Global Fund for Women and Mama Cash, there is still a lack of knowledge on the full role of women’s funds. Thus, this convergence, organized with six other funds from the Asia and Pacific region, became an ideal platform – a safe space for our Pacific grantee partners – to interact with other organizations, regional allies, and funders, and talk about resources, power, and the processes through which they are negotiated.
How we collaborated to mobilize resources
A number of grantee partners of the FWF and UAF A&P attended the convergence, including the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre, Fiji Disabled Peoples Federation, Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, Rise Beyond the Reef, Medical Services Pacific, Pacific Rainbow Advocacy Network (PRAN), Pacific Young Women’s Leadership Alliance and Voice for Change. These activists represented the voices of three Pacific states – Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the Republic of the Marshall Islands. PRAN’s representative Bonita Qio summed up the need for such platforms best when she said:
“That was the first time, since [my] organization has been running for over 10 years, that we have been invited to attend such an international meeting. It gave us the opportunity to highlight the challenges we face when it comes to amplifying our voices [from the Pacific] … and share at an international space – a feminist movement space. My community back home was looking forward to hearing from me when I got back. The first thing they asked me was ‘qaiva cava (how was it)?’ They were really keen for me to … share OUR story.”
This experience has reinforced the ways and methods by which FWF and UAF A&P will collaborate in the coming years: we will co-host learning and sharing spaces for ourselves and our grantee partners as we accomplished in Bangkok, and we will also actively work towards attracting more resources for Pacific feminist and women’s movements.
Why do we need more spaces like these?
Spaces such as the convergence are important as they help to bring together diverse groups of activists, national and regional women’s organizations, women’s funds and funders. It facilitates deeper conversations where we can question each other and hold each other accountable for our roles in strengthening the feminist ecosystem. It embodies the feminist mantra of ‘the personal is political’ – for every participant was an active contributor to developing an understanding of redefining funding that has the potential to strengthen feminist movements in Asia and the Pacific.
Where are we headed? Our scoping study
Another aspect of our collaborative approach has been to understand the current funding landscape in the Pacific to better ascertain who to raise resources for, for what programs, and from which funders? (We refer to funders as organizations that provide grants to grassroots organizations and donors as the larger multilateral or bilateral agencies and/or philanthropic organizations that donate towards development work.)
Did you know that across the world, the funding of women’s organizations represents less than 0.5% of all bilateral allocable aid? In the Pacific, less than 1% of grants are directed to women’s organizations. We discovered this and more as a result of a scoping study we undertook to better understand the funding realities and trends of women’s organizations and gender equality in the Pacific. The report, “Where is the money for women and girls in the Pacific?”, will be launched next week at the 2020 Australasian Aid Conference in Canberra.