BFW Took Part in a Major Panel Discussion in the European Parliament on the Challenges and Opportunities for Women’s Funds

  •  March 27, 2024

At the end of March, the European Chapter of the Prospera International Network of Women’s Funds participated in a series of advocacy strategic meetings with representatives of various departments of the European Commission. The Bulgarian Fund for Women took part in these meetings, which concluded on March 20 in the European Parliament with a major panel discussion under the theme “Strengthening Democracy through Women’s Voices in the 2024 European Elections: Challenges and Opportunities in the Perspective of Women’s Foundations”.  

The panel was opened by Maria Noichl MEP, Member and Socialist and Democrats Group Coordinator of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) who paid special attention to the shrinking spaces for feminist civil society, as well as discrimination and attacks against women’s organizations and human rights defenders.  

The panel featured speeches from members of the Prospera Network who presented examples of how to strengthen existing financing instruments, with demonstrations of projects supported by Women’s Funds. 

Constanze Claus, Deputy Executive Director at Filia, the German women’s fund shared with concern that “the spaces are shrinking in which women’s rights organizations and feminist activists can fight for a fair and inclusive world. We as women’s funds in Europe observe with concern that bureaucratic hurdles and a lack of funding make the work of women’s rights activists difficult to nearly impossible. The war in Europe makes the situation even worse.“ 

Dobromira Terpesheva, Senior Project Manager at BFW emphasized that one way to deal with that thread is feminist grantmaking and its transformative approach to philanthropy which serves as a powerful tool in advancing gender equality and women’s rights worldwide. She also added that Women’s funds operate with a feminist lens, prioritizing funding for grassroots organizations, women-led initiatives, and projects that center the voices and experiences of women and marginalized groups who we know from studies and experience that develop the most sustainable solutions to social challenges. 

The panel also featured speeches from Neil Datta, Executive Director and Founder of the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive who gave some astonishing insight into funding sources of anti-gender movements from his report “Tip of the Iceberg“. Katja Lenzing, Deputy Head of Unit, Directorate-General Justice, Unit D2 – Gender Equality talked about the European Commission’s commitment to promote civil society engagement and create partnerships through the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme (CERV) 

We as Women’s Funds believe European governments must recognize the shrinking civic space and the threats to feminist civil society organizations to ensure women’s voices are fully recognized in the democratic process. We emphasized the importance of having a robust EU legal and funding mechanism to protect human rights defenders, women’s, and other civil society organizations. It is crucial for European and neighbouring governments to recognize these threats and support and encourage feminist CSOs to ensure that women’s voices are fully heard in democratic processes within the European Union and beyond. 

You can read our full Women’s Funds manifesto for change HERE.

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