Focus on Strengthening Democracies

Without equal participation of women*, girls* and LBT (Lesbians, Bi- and Transgender) there is no democracy. By 2030, Development Goal No. 5: “Equality for all genders” should be achieved in 193 UN states. filia sees itself as an outcome of the women’s* movement, supports women’s* organizations that want to make structural changes, connects partners or participates in networks that work to bring women* and girls* into decision-making positions, to make their voices heard, their positions visible. But with the increasing success of the women’s movement, an anti-feminist movement is forming and the headwind is getting stronger.

Empowering women* and girls* – enabling participation

The theme of participation and the promotion of democracy runs as a cross-section through all of filia’s funding programs. Strengthening the participation of women* and girls* at all levels of society means more creative power, responsibility and influence. In addition, filia has embarked on the path to structural co-determination: In advisory boards of young women* and refugees, women* and girls* co-select projects according to the motto: “Nothing about us without us.” Strengthening the participation of women* and girls* means strengthening democracy.

Joint strategies against anti-feminism

The cooperation with and support of partners from Central and Eastern Europe has been a focus of our work since our founding in 2001. In some countries of Central and Eastern Europe, however, the hands of the equality clocks are currently being set back again. Anti-feminism has many faces. Conservative governments pass senseless regulations and anti-women laws, populist media defame, and anti-feminist groups exert violence with smear campaigns and also directly on the streets. Their goal is to hinder the work of women’s groups and activists and to pit their vision of a free, more just world against traditional values, family values and an alleged “national culture”. Especially smaller organizations, which do not yet have international and few national networks, urgently need strengthening through information and the provision of tools. The issue of limiting civil society organizations concerns everyone who supports democracy development and civil society participation.

Strengthening democracies through global networking

In the worldwide women’s foundations network Prospera, women’s foundations exchange information about developments in their countries. As the problems of anti-feminism are on the rise, it has become increasingly important to join forces and acquire external funding to be able to set up cooperation projects. The women’s foundations from Prospera are ideal cooperation partners for filia: supported by a common feminist vision and well connected to grassroots groups in their own countries. Here filia has a different role to play: if we usually support the ideas and projects that women* and girls* develop and realize themselves, here we are, initiators, and also triggers.

New: Feminist Landscapes – Civil society dialogue with all voices

It is not only through Prospera that filia is in constant exchange on current issues in the global women’s rights movement. Our partners in Central Eastern Europe are also representatives and speakers for the situation on local level and are able to assess which challenges girls and women are currently facing in particular. And yet we often ask ourselves: Who is actually missing when we discuss the issues of the future? Who needs to be more visible and heard in the women’s rights movement?

The project “Feminist Landscapes – Civil Society Dialogue with All Voices” aims to empower marginalized women’s groups that are not yet part of visible national networks. As a first step, a “mapping” of feminist groups and movements will reveal who is included and who is still excluded. For example, are women with disabilities being heard in the debates? Or what about the participation of Sintize and Romnja?

The mapping will show how different the perception of vulnerable groups of women is in the participating countries – Armenia, Georgia, Poland, Ukraine. Germany participates in the program in a coordinating role. Continuous exchange and networking between women’s rights NGOs within the participating countries as well as across countries enables a strengthening of alliances within women’s movements and a sustainable expansion of women’s rights networks. It also promotes awareness raising for marginalized women in civil society. The project “Feminist Landscapes – Civil Society Dialogue with All Voices” is funded by the German Federal Foreign Office.

Photo: “Who is actually at the table? And who is missing?” Participants asked themselves this question at a conference in Berlin in 2019.

Focus Strengthening Democracies

Other cooperation projects

Together with sister foundations worldwide, we develop cooperations that defend the values of democracy and counteract the increasingly strong antifeminist headwind. we have to be loud and public, strengthen the abilities of the participants to develop feminist messages. The campaign project “Grassroots Women* Mobilize Together for Democracy”, which was developed together with the women’s foundations from Armenia, Georgia and Ukraine and then implemented with grassroots women* organizations, has moved and inspired everyone greatly. It has enabled research that sheds light on the “sinister darkness” of anti-feminist alliances, analyzes their arguments, and thus also reclaims interpretive authority.

“On the right track” takes the next step out of Europe: 19 women’s foundations from Europe and Latin America are together running a program in which women* groups are called upon to develop feminist strategies against the increasing anti-feminist shift to the right. The project addresses issues that are targets of the right, such as questions of sexual self-determination, LBTIQ* visibility, or anti-racist networking. Within the framework of “On the right track”, direct actions against the right can also be conceived.

Bulgaria: Strengthening the Bulgarian Women*’s Movement

Strategic promotion of a sister fund

The situation of women* rights, rights of sexual minorities and the organizations that advocate for them is daily deteriorating in Bulgaria. Our sister foundation and other women* rights groups have been and are being targeted by fundamentalist attacks such as hate speech, threats, fake news. Bulgarian Women’s Fund sees its role in strengthening the activities of women* rights groups to achieve more social participation of women* and girls* and to reduce the alarmingly high level of violence. Partnerships with other human rights groups, networking of activists and an annual “Feminist Boot Camp” for young women* are part of the strategy. With filia’s support, a new emergency funding program for urgent activities will be created and the Women’s Foundation will be strengthened in its capacity as a supporter of the Bulgarian women’s movement.

Focus Strengthening Democracies