How to survive the pandemic and keep building movements

We want to share some of the strategies that Fondo de Mujeres del Sur developed to adapt to recent new challenges. Much remains to be done, but if one thing is clear to us it is that together and organised we can continue working to eradicate violence, strengthen investments in socio-environmental and gender justice, promote the political participation of women and amplify the voices of each and all.

With the pandemic, at Fondo de Mujeres del Sur (FMS) we also felt that we had to rethink everything. Which strategies, actions, partnerships are important? What is our role in this new reality? How to get resources, distribute grants, understand what different organisations and movements need in this historic context? If the problems had changed, then the questions and the solutions needed to change as well. If the urgency was affecting everyone, we had to deal with the urgency. We decided to take several simultaneous paths.

FMS decided that those organisations that were in a situation of obvious social and health emergency could allocate part of their grants to ensure basic needs were covered. Funds were partially reallocated for urgent assistance, such as food, personal hygiene and cleaning, as well as to establish individual and community gardens as many women opted for agroecology, the purchase and exchange of seeds. Some organisations bought fabrics to make face masks and others set up community soup kitchens. In this way, the most immediate consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and isolation could be alleviated for many women and LBTIQ + people.

We invested in connectivity and gave special grants to organisations so that they could access technologies, communication strategies or equipment for cyberactivism, such as the purchase of telephones, mobile data packs, internet subscriptions, modems. We also got organised to learn all together how to use them.

We subscribed for online services and trained organisations in the safe and conscious use of digital platforms. We consulted with them and investigated which ones were more accessible, easier to use and more secure.

We were able to transfer the Training School for Environmental Defenders to a virtual platform as part of a joint project with the Colectivo Casa (Bolivia) that involves the grantee organisations supported through the Strengthening Environmental Defenders programme (Paraguay and Bolivia). In this way, we could continue with a thoroughly enriching process to collaboratively evaluate the programme implementation in recent years. Three virtual meetings and 18 classes were held using messaging services. Highly valuable material relating to issues that particularly affect the organisations emerged from these which were shared between organisations (videos, audio recordings, drawings on biosafety, natural remedies and stories about their specific conflicts).

PH: Sindicato de Trabajadoras Domésticas de Itapúa (SINTRADI)

FMS partnered with TEDIC, a feminist Paraguayan NGO that works on citizenship and human rights on the internet, to coordinate a technological empowerment process for grantee organisations of the Women Out Loud (MAV) programme. These organisations were able to transform their projects and adapt them to the new reality.

With a collaboration between the Women Out Loud programme and Let’s Get It, Sister initiative, FMS organised two days of exchange to foster the sustainability of the organisations. In such an adverse context, in which resources are likely to be more scarce, ensuring the survival of organisations became crucial.

We partnered with Mujeres x Mujeres (Tucumán, Argentina), an organisation with a strong track record working in the field of education using digital platforms, to be able to proceed with grantee gatherings for the Networks and Alliances Free from Violence and Fundamentally Feminists programmes.

We also held a tri-national environmental defenders meeting to which women from very diverse territories participated – they connected from Campo Loro in the Paraguayan Chaco, to Pirané in Formosa, Argentina to Tarija, Bolivia. A collective statement and audio recordings about critical issues for environmental defenders, such as security, extractivism and the right to land, emerged from this meeting to be broadcast in Spanish, Paraguayan Guaraní and Bolivian Guaraní.

Left photo: Leticia Galeano. Right photo: Natalia Roca

Our visits to grantee organisations, to jointly assess progress and challenges in their project implementation, were also transferred to an online format. In this way, we were able to maintain contact and monitor the needs and transformations required by the new context.

FMS launched an open call for proposals specific to the pandemic: LBTQI+ activism in times of COVID-19. We received 70 proposals from grassroots and intermediate organisations in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. From these, 34 were selected to receive financial and technical-political support from FMS between August 2020 and February 2021.

Furthermore, we reinforced our fundraising campaign called Together, Stronger and Alive which focuses on Argentina and added an international campaign to invite donors from other countries to commit to the causes that we promote. We believe that today more than ever it is paramount we add to and expand on our support networks.

Much remains to be done, and we do not know how the near future will challenge us. However, if one thing is clear to us it is that together and organised we can continue working to eradicate violence, strengthen investments in socio-environmental and gender justice, promote the political participation of women and amplify the voices of each and all.