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05.04.2019 | Over the past year there have been several moments where we raised funds for Mama Cash; some weeks ago, on the 17th of February, when Job Jobse curated a sunday afternoon where he played together with friends Fenna Fiction, Identified Patient, Oceanic, KI/KI, and Luc Mast to raise money by donating their full fee, and a part of the ticket prices. Same for last October, when we teamed up with Resident Advisor for the RA cup, and set up a donation box by our entrance and raised 10.000 pounds for Mama Cash. To find out where the money eventually ends up, and learn more about the origins of the fund, we asked Mama Cash to tell us a bit more about their history, the way they work, and the projects they support.

“In 1983, Mama Cash became the first international women’s fund. What began as a small-scale but visionary initiative of five feminists around a kitchen table in Amsterdam has since then grown into into an international fund that supports women’s, girls’ and trans people’s movements around the world. Every year, we support thousands of women, girls, trans people and intersex people in their fight for their rights. Brave activists who - despite attempts to oppress them - raise their voices, take risks, and won’t rest until fundamental changes take place.” (quote taken from their website)

Today, the activist roots still shape the way Mama Cash works; “We don’t see ourselves as a ‘charity’ in the traditional sense of helping those less fortunate. We believe that feminist activists around the world are themselves the best positioned to address the issues they face – they don’t need our help, they just need more resources. Mostly money, but we also connect them to similar groups, other funders, and share our knowledge when relevant.” To do so, Mama Cash reaches out to what they call “really big money pots”, which refers to governments, foundations, and so on.

Next, they take care of all the paperwork to be able to pass it on to activists, without them having to go through that intense process. The grants they use come with as few strings attached as possible, and the groups can spend the money how they see fit. As Mama Cash considers these groups to know best where the money should go to. Likewise, they only fund self-led groups. That means that the majority of the leadership has to represent the people the organisation or group claims to serve; “It's basically the 'for us, by us' concept. If a group or organisation is working on sex worker’s rights, it should be sex workers making the decisions. They are the experts of their own reality. When groups aren't self-led, you often see the very power dynamics we want to challenge being reproduced."

To create lasting and ultimately structural change, which always takes time, Mama Cash offers long-term funding instead of short-term funding for individual projects. By redirecting how money is flowing,they try to get feminist movements the support they need. As, unfortunately, the power dynamics were money is wrapped up in, is not that easy to structurally change. But Mama Cash aims to do their part in making it come into the right hands, eventually.

To create a better idea of where the cash actually ends up, these are some projects Mama Cash has financially supported over the past years:

Femix and the Girls Rock Camp in Serbia
Girls Rock Camp is a camp for girls between the ages of 10 and 14 who not only listen to genres like rock, punk and metal, but want to explore becoming musicians themselves.The camp was set up by local network for ‘female creativity’, and Mama Cash grantee-partner Femix. At the camp, girls can learn to play an instrument they’ve been longing to get their hands on but never had access to – or finally share the skills they’ve already developed by finally having other people to play with. Through the camp, girls who never had a chance to share their music interests with their surrounding, finally get a sense of belonging, and connect and bond with peers. Which then again creates a community that keeps existing after they return home. And, they see women taking roles they normally don’t see themselves represented in, such as female sound engineers, teachers, mentors, and band members. Another concept at the core of the Girls Rock Camp for Femix is to counter the heavily sexist and women objectifying message in the lyrics of popular mainstream Serbian pop music, called neo-folk. By encouraging girls to create their own music, they encourage them to raise their voices and create a sound and narrative that protests the message spread and reinforced by pop music.

Home Based Women Workers Federation in Pakistan
Mama Cash grantee-partner Home Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) is the best example of how structural change takes time. Back in 2001, Zehra Khan, now secretary general of HBWWF, began informally organizing a group of female home-based workers. In 2005 they became a federation, developing their lobbying capacity, and in 2009 the Home Based Women Workers Federation was established. In 2013, HBWWF – in collaboration with other organizations – prepared and submitted a draft of the policy that became a law in January 2017. This meant that the 5 million home-based workers, of which 80 percent are women, in Sindh (Pakistan), finally became recognized as laborers. Something they were not before under Pakistani law. Thanks to the HBWWF, the Sindh government finally approved a policy that has been nearly a decade in the making, giving home-based workers access to the same rights and entitlements as other laborers. According to Mama Cash, this “hard-earned victory” marks the first time in the country and in South Asia that such a measure has been adopted, and it could have consequences for the 12 million home-based workers of Pakistan if other providences follow suit.

Mama Cash also funds feminist groups and collectives within the Netherlands, like - among several others - SEHAQ and Stem op een Vrouw.

After fleeing to Amsterdam from Egypt several years ago, Maha didn’t feel at home in the Dutch scene. She felt like much of the queer (refugee) scene and its events, were aimed at gay men, and that there was no(t much) room for lesbians or trans people. Maha and her friends felt out of place at these meetings and parties, so they decided to set up their own collective; Sehaq. They use their platform to set up workshops only for refugees, to make sure everyone feels safe to share their experiences within, and also their criticism of the Netherlands. In addition to workshops, SEHAQ also organises dinner parties and benefit parties in Vrankrijk, a squatter’s café in Amsterdam. These are accessible to a broader public, but for lesbian and trans refugees they make sure to purchase a train ticket so they can make it out to Amsterdam from their asylum seeker’s centre somewhere else in the Netherlands.

Stem op een Vrouw
During a visit to a museum in Suriname, Devika Partiman came across a leaflet with the title ‘Stem op een Vrouw’ (‘Vote for a Woman’). It made her question the current state of affairs in women in politics in the Netherlands. After finding out the gender balance was dramatically low, Devika set up a team of volunteers and launched a campaign by the same name - Stem op een Vrouw - for the Lower House elections of 2017. They called for women to be voted up strategically, which means people were encouraged to vote for women slightly lower on the list. With enough “preferential votes” this women, would be voted in to take place in the Lower House instead of a candidate (a man) higher up the party’s list. The Stem op een Vrouw campaign received a lot of publicity and, most importantly, helped numerous lower-placed women to secure a parliamentary seat. Although that didn’t mean the work was done for Devika and her team; outside of election time, the foundation focuses on ways to solve the shortage of female candidates from the ‘bottom-up’ by motivating women to become active and give them the tools they need for this. In addition, a data arm was established, whose aim is to collect structural information about the number of women in Dutch politics. And finally, they want to advise political parties on how they can attract more women – and a greater variety of women.
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