What has COVID-19 taught us about how to respond to, and resource girls and young feminists? In the eye of the storm of this pandemic, girls and young feminists are showing up with the bravery, resilience and organising power they bring to all of their activism.
As the state and traditional agencies retreated, and lockdowns took hold across the world, girls and young feminists have been responding and organising in their communities. Backlash, repression and violence intensified during the pandemic, with many governments using the health crisis as a blank cheque to tighten restrictions and controls, and to close civic spaces in order to shut down dissent.
Against the backdrop of violence and repression, second and third waves of the pandemic and unequal access to vaccines — girls and young activists ability to be resilient and to resist, care and stand in solidarity with their communities, was fortified by the close relationships and the systems of support they have woven for each other. The emergence of mutual aid networks and solidarity economies to move supplies, of digital spaces of care and creativity, and of the persistence to find ways to organise, even in the most difficult circumstances, demonstrates their ability to weather the storm. In turn, we are learning that crises can offer new perspectives to dealing with problems and finding solutions.
Girls and young activists advocate for gender rights and social justice in every single crisis situation globally — from pandemics to civil war to ecological breakdown. And yet, girls and young women, trans and non-binary young people remain all too absent from national recovery response efforts and decision-making structures.
It’s against this backdrop that the Global Resilience Fund was formed last year — the urgent coming together of 25 diverse funders to work with and for girls in moving resources at speed to fortify their persistence in finding ways to organise even in the most difficult circumstances. Housed at Purposeful, in the first year, the fund supported 234 grassroots groups from 91 countries with over $1 million in direct support.
Every organisation is led by young women, trans or non binary youth and 25% of the groups are led by girls under 19 years-old. This collective approach has put 32 activist advisors from across the globe, instrumental in the funding process to help shape what this rapid-response model needs to look like, to lift up their own experiences of surviving and organising, and to help decide where the funding should go.
Through Weathering the Storm, the report that shares our lessons learned, we lift up a tapestry of 15 activist reflections including Ariane Cor from Brazil, Abril Angelica Rodriguez Martinez from Mexico Riya Singh from India, Amani Aruni from Occupied Palestine, and Mercy Otekra from Kenya — each of them demonstrating the ability of these groups to resist, to care and stand in solidarity with their communities all against profound odds and with extraordinary agility. Read all the panelist contributions here.
We are learning that the Global Resilience Fund is revealing the energy, capacities and capabilities of girls and young feminists to initiate change, and with the knowledge that crisis is an ever-present reality for so many, it is clear that modelling feminist partnership and inclusive rapid-response resourcing will only grow in importance.
“COVID-19 HAS MADE AN ALREADY DIFFICULT SITUATION FOR MILLIONS OF GIRLS, EVEN WORSE. BUT GIRLS EVERYWHERE ARE STANDING UP AND LEADING CHANGE. THEY ARE READY FOR THE CHALLENGE. WE NEED TO LISTEN TO GIRLS AND SUPPORT GIRLS FOR THE FUTURE THEY’RE REIMAGINING.”
LAUREN RUMBLE, UNICEF
COVID-19 is teaching us through partnering with the girls and young feminists on the frontline, organising with creativity, joy, love and liberatory tactics, that a new kind of humanitarian response is possible.
Written by Jody Myrum and Ruby Johnson