Our Last Days: The Possible Closure of Women’s March Global and the Siloed Funding of Women’s Rights

Uma Mishra-Newbery
Jun 23 · 5 min read

The origin story of the Women’s March is well worn. Women and allies, outraged by the election of Donald Trump as United States President, took to the streets to protest his exclusionary, racist positions and in particular their intersection with his demonstrated misogyny, disdain for, and cruelty toward women. The Women’s March begun on that day has remained, in the United States, an organisation helmed by 4 individuals that reacts to and works to right political injustices within the United States.

Less discussed are the millions of people who marched across the globe from London to Sydney, in Kenya and South Africa, in Lima, in Calcutta, in Paris, in Jakarta, in Tokyo, and yes, even from a research vessel in Antarctica. These women and allies, some of whom never would have called themselves feminists, activists, or women’s human rights defenders before, started a global movement. One not based solely on the shockwave the election of Donald Trump sent throughout the world, but determined to put name to the systemic inequalities that all women continue to face daily in every country on every continent. Two and a half years later this global collective of grassroots activists is still marching and organising in their local communities. In 2018 we held 220 events, in 23 countries, that impacted millions of people.

We are Women’s March Global. In our short existence, we’ve built a network of over 100 Chapters in 35 countries uniting women in their local mission to advance women’s human rights. Despite serving and supporting the majority of the members of the largest collective movement of our lifetimes thus far, you probably haven’t heard of us. The overwhelming presence and media coverage of Women’s March, Inc., particularly coverage of their leaders and the challenges the U.S. movement has faced, have swamped any interest in the important work of the movement outside of the U.S.

It’s also — admittedly — confusing. We share a name, a brand, and an origin point. However, Women’s March Global is a separate organisation from Women’s March, Inc. We have always had separate missions but in January 2019 we officially split ties, citing a lack of transparency and accountability when working with their organisation. But most importantly, we wanted to focus on our work.

We are a solidarity network that is based on active and long term engagement and support of our membership. Our membership act in their local communities. They unite around issues big and small. Whether it’s providing material goods and emotional support to internally displaced persons, a play at their community center, or telling the stories of victims of gender-based violence — they are brave and motivated. We know the work we are doing is not new, but it is necessary.

https://msmagazine.com/2019/05/23/inside-the-global-fight-to-free-saudi-women/

We know our liberation is connected. Our issues are not siloed. However we struggle as a women’s rights organisation to get funding for supporting and mobilising women and allies globally.

Between 2000 and 2013, causes related to SDG5 — on gender and equity — received only 2.6% of funding according to AidData reported by UBS*. Though trends are changing, funding is still scarce. Worse, it is parceled and fragmented. We know that women’s issues around the world do not live in silos. Neither should their funding. Yet the philanthropic sector isn’t equipped to align with a movement: The voicing of shared experiences in pursuit of a collective purpose.

Funders — particularly female funders — know this. In 2017 the Gates Foundation committed $20 million to strengthen women’s groups worldwide. In announcing the new goal, Melinda Gates told Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau that directing aid to activists can be more effective than supporting governments or large, international aid organisations. “They know the community,” she said. “They know what needs to get done**.”

Forbes reported that new waves in female-fronted philanthropy involve ecosystems rather than ego-systems***. Giving Circles, or collaborative giving, have transformed the way women are supporting women’s issues. In writing about her vision for the future, Sondra Shaw-Hardy, one of the founders of Giving Circles writes about women who have joined Giving Circles. “By connecting with one another, they became serious and thoughtful philanthropists who collaborated to assume responsibility to leave the world a better place. They remain committed to their causes****.” Women connecting to each other, committed to changing the world, can change the world.

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Our movement is innovating in the women’s rights space — we are young, we are mobile, we are agile, and we are powerful. Our network exists at the intersection of seasoned women’s rights veterans and new activists, together developing new entry points to activism and new forms of organising. We have the ability and the capacity to act and move faster than other structures. We are showing up, doing impactful work, and making a difference. Yet Women’s March Global’s days are numbered. If we do not receive we will have to close our doors on October 31, 2019.

We are facing hard realities. The rate of loss happening in women’s human rights is a gigantic risk. We must support the women who are taking action now. We must press forward on issues that are most urgent — uniting across borders, time zones and languages. That is what our global community is about. It’s not too late to make change. It’s not too late to stem the tide. Let’s do this together. Join us.


*UBS Report — page 4

** Philanthropy.Com

***Forbes.com — Bonnie Chiu article

****Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University Women’s Giving Circles — p.34.

Women's March Global

Women's March Global is dedicated to sharing the stories and voices from our global network of chapters and members around the world.

Uma Mishra-Newbery

Written by

Interim Executive Director, Women’s March Global

Women's March Global

Women's March Global is dedicated to sharing the stories and voices from our global network of chapters and members around the world.