Priority Areas

Supporting feminist, women’s rights and gender justice movements to thrive, to be a driving force in challenging systems of oppression, and to co-create feminist realities.

Resourcing Feminist Movements

Around the world, feminist, women’s rights, and allied movements are confronting power and reimagining a politics of liberation. The contributions that fuel this work come in many forms, from financial and political resources to daily acts of resistance and survival.

AWID’s Resourcing Feminist Movements (RFM) Initiative shines a light on the current funding ecosystem, which range from self-generated models of resourcing to more formal funding streams.

Through our research and analysis, we examine how funding practices can better serve our movements. We critically explore the contradictions in “funding” social transformation, especially in the face of increasing political repression, anti-rights agendas, and rising corporate power. Above all, we build collective strategies that support thriving, robust, and resilient movements.

Our Actions

Recognizing the richness of our movements and responding to the current moment, we:

  • Create and amplify alternatives: We amplify funding practices that center activists’ own priorities and engage a diverse range of funders and activists in crafting new, dynamic models  for resourcing feminist movements, particularly in the context of closing civil society space.

  • Build knowledge: We explore, exchange, and strengthen knowledge about how movements are attracting, organizing, and using the resources they need to accomplish meaningful change.

  • Advocate: We work in partnerships, such as the Count Me In! Consortium, to influence funding agendas and open space for feminist movements to be in direct dialogue to shift power and money.

Related Content

Why did AWID decide to change the Forum location from Bali to Taipei?

Events in Indonesia, in late 2019 - in particular, signs of intensifying militarization and backlash against LGBTQ rights - led us to question AWID’s ability to maintain a reasonably safe and welcoming environment for the diversity of participants we aspire to bring together at the Forum.

After careful consideration the AWID Board of Directors decided to change the venue for the 14th International AWID Forum, in November 2019 from Bali to Taipei.

Taipei offers  a strong degree of logistical capacities, and is accessible for many travellers (with a facilitated e-visa process for international conferences).  

For more details:


Tributo: Recordamos a lxs activistas feministas que cambiaron nuestro mundo
En esta galería en línea, rendimos homenaje a más de 450 valientes feministas y activistas de todas las regiones del mundo y 88 países que ya no están con nosotrxs.

Lxs traemos a todxs a nuestra memoria colectiva y llevamos su legado de lucha como nuestra antorcha en los movimientos feministas y por los derechos de las mujeres.

Usa los filtros para refinar tu búsqueda

Deborah Holmes

At the time of her death, following a short but aggressive battle with cancer, Deborah was the Chief Communication and Engagement Officer at the Women’s Funding Network (WFN). 

Deborah also worked for the Global Fund for Women from 2008 to  2017. Deborah was extremely loved and respected by board, staff, and partners of Global Fund for Women.

Kavita Ramdas, former CEO of the Global Fund for Women aptly noted that Deborah was “a small package exploding with warmth, generosity, intelligence, style, and a passionate commitment to fusing beauty with justice. She understood the power of story. The power of women’s voice. The power of lived experience. The power of rising from the ashes and telling others it was possible. And, still we rise.”

Musimbi Kanyoro, the present CEO of the Global Fund for Women, added, “We have lost a sister and her life illuminates values that unite and inspire us all. As we all come together to mourn Deborah’s passing, let us remember and celebrate her remarkable, bold, and passionate life.”



Deborah Holmes, USA

Our Companion Sites

The Young Feminist Wire

An online community for and by young feminists working on women’s human rights, gender equality and social justice around the world.

Visit the site

The Observatory on the Universality of Rights (OURs)

The platform is the go-to place for information and resources on safeguarding the universality of rights in international and regional human rights spaces.

Visit the site

The Young Feminist Fund-FRIDA

Provides funding for young feminist-led initiatives. It aims to strengthen the capacity of young feminist organizations to leverage resources for their work and to increase donors’ and allies’ commitments to resourcing young feminist activism.

Visit the site

Online Directory of Urgent Responses for WHRDs

A go-to site to learn about the urgent responses undertaken to protect women human rights defenders and to find tools and resources to support the work and wellness of WHRDs.

Visit the site

IM-Defensoras (Mesoamerican Initiative for Women Human Rights Defenders)

A regional initiative created to prevent, respond, document and make public all cases of violence against women human rights defenders in the Mesoamerican region.

Visit the site

The WHRD International Coalition

The WHRD IC is a resource and advocacy network for the protection and support of women human rights defenders worldwide.

Visit the site

Post-2015 Women´s Coalition

A Coalition of feminist, women´s rights, women´s development, grassroots and social justice organisations working to challenge and reframe teh global development agenda. 

Visit the site

Women´s Major Group on Development

The role of the Women’s Major Group is to assure effective public participation of women’s non-governmental groups in the UN policy processes on Sustainable Development, Post2015 and Environmental matters. 

Visit the site

Women Working Group on Financing for Development

An alliance of women’s organizations and networks to advocate for the advancement of gender equality, women’s empowerment and human rights in the Financing for Development (FfD) related UN processes.

Visit the site

Mary Assad

An expert on social development and anthropologist by training, Mary was best known as a pioneer in the battle against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

Born in Cairo Egypt in 1922, Mary’s work in development started early, as she joined the Youth Women’s Christians’ Association (YWCA). Mary was a member of the World Council of Churches and became increasingly concerned with issues regarding women’s health. Her long struggle against FGM proved fruitful in 2008, when Egypt finally criminalized the practice.

She is remembered as a mentor to many Egyptian feminists and activists.


Mary Assad, Egypt

WHRDs from the South and Southeast Asian region

7 Women Human Rights Defenders from across the South and Southeast Asian region are honored in this year’s Online Tribute. These defenders have made key contributions to advancing human and women’s rights, indigenous people’s rights, and the right to education. These WHRDs were lawyers, women’s rights activists, scholars, and politicians. Please join AWID in commemorating t their work and legacy by sharing the memes below with your colleagues, networks and friends and by using the hashtags #WHRDTribute and #16Days. 

Please click on each image below to see a larger version and download as a file


Efua Dorkenoo

Affectionately known as “Mama Efua”, her work to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) movement spanned three decades and helped bring international attention and action to end this harmful practice.

In 1983 Efua co-founded FORWARD (The Foundation for Women’s Health, Research and Development), which became a leading organisation in the battle to raise awareness about FGM. Her 1994 book, “Cutting the Rose: Female Genital Mutilation,” is considered the first on FGM and, featured in Columbia University’s “Africa’s 100 Best Books for the 20th Century”.

Originally from Ghana and a nurse by training, Efua joined the WHO in 1995 and successfully pushed for FGM to go on the agendas of WHO member states. She also worked closely with the Nigerian government in formulating a comprehensive National Policy that laid the groundwork for Nigeria’s anti-FGM laws, still in place today.

Her ground breaking work culminated in an Africa-led campaign, “The Girl Generation,” which is committed to ending FGM within a generation. Efua demonstrated how one person can become the unifying voice for a movement, and her wise words - “shared identity can help bring activists from different backgrounds together with a common sense of purpose” – are more relevant than ever.


Efua Dorkenoo, Ghana

9. Advocate and tell the world!

The results of your research will also shape your advocacy – for example, your results will have revealed which sectors fund the most and which sectors you feel need donor education.

In this section

Build your advocacy strategy

In the “Frame your research” section of this toolkit we recommend that you plot out what goals you hope to accomplish with your research. These goals will allow you to build an advocacy strategy once your research is complete.

An advocacy strategy is a plan of distributing your research results in a way that allows you to accomplish your goals, falling under the broader goal of advocating with key sectors to make positive changes for resources for women’s rights organizing.

Using the goals defined in your research framing:

  • List the potential groups of contacts who can be interested in your research results
  • For each group, explain in one sentence how they can help you achieve your goal.
  • For each group, mark what tone you are supposed to use to talk to them (formal professional, commentary casual, do they understand the field’s jargon?)
  • List every media that can allow you to reach these audiences, in the proper tone (social media to build community feeling, press release for official announcement to a general audience, etc.)

From this list – as exhaustive as possible, chose which ones are the most efficient for achieve your goals. (See below for specific examples of audiences and advocacy methods)

Once you have a strategy, you can start the dissemination.

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Reach out to your network

To disseminate your results, reach out first to the contacts through whom you distributed your survey, as well as to all your survey and interview participants.

  • First, take this opportunity to thank them for contributing to this research.
  • Share with them the main survey results and analysis.
  • Make it easy for them to disseminate your product through their networks by giving them samples of tweets, Facebook posts or even a short introduction that they could copy and paste on their website.

Do not forget to state clearly a contact person and ask for a confirmation once they have published it.

On top of making you able to track who disseminated your report, it will help build stronger relationships within your network.

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Adapt your strategy to the sector

As an example, we present below a list of sectors AWID engages in advocacy.

  • Use this list as a point of departure to develop your own sector-specific advocacy plan.
  • Create an objective for what you hope to accomplish for each sector.
  • Be sure to add any additional sectors to this list that are relevant for your particular research, such as local NGOs or local governments, for example.

Your list of advisory organizations and individuals will also be useful here. They can help you disseminate the report in different spaces, as well as introduce you to new organizations or advocacy spaces.

1. Women’s rights organizations

Sample objectives: Update women’s rights organizations on funding trends; brainstorm collaborative efforts for resource mobilization using research findings; influence how they approach resource mobilization

Examples of possible advocacy methods:

  • Offer seminars, learning cafés or other events throughout your region, in relevant languages, in order to update women’s rights organizations with the findings of your research.

  • If you can’t physically reach everyone in your region, think about setting-up a webinar and online presentations.

  • Present your findings at larger convenings, such as the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

  • Beyond your own organizations’ newsletters and website, write articles on different platforms that are frequented by your target audience.
    Some examples: World Pulse, OpenDemocracy, feministing.

2. Bilaterals and multilaterals

Sample Objective: Raising awareness about how funding is not meeting established commitments and how this sector needs to improve funding mechanisms to finance women’s rights organizing.

Identify which bilateral & multilaterals have the most influence on funding – this could include local embassies.

Examples of possible advocacy methods:

  • Enlist ally organizations and influential individuals (some may already be your advisors for this research process) to do peer education.
  • Seek their assistance to disseminate research finding widely in large multilaterals (like the UN).
  • Present at and/or attend influential spaces where bilaterals and multilaterals are present, such as GENDERNET .
  • Publish articles in outlets that are read by bilaterals and multilaterals such as devex, Better Aid, Publish What You Pay.

3. Private foundations

Sample Objective: Expand the quality and quantity of support for women’s rights organizations.

Examples of possible advocacy methods:

4. Women’s funds

Sample Objective: Encourage them to continue their work at higher scale.

Examples of possible advocacy methods:

  • Hold presentations at the women’s funds in your region and in countries that you hope to influence.
  • Disseminate your research findings to all women’s funds that impact the region, priority issue or population you are focusing on.
  • Consider doing joint efforts based on the results of the findings. For example, you could propose to collaborate with a fund to develop an endowment  that closes the funding gaps found in your research.

5. Private sector and new donors

Sample Objective: Increase their understanding of the field and encourage coherence between their philanthropic interests and business practice.

Examples of possible advocacy methods:

  • Enlist ally organizations and influential individuals (some may already be your advisors for this research process) to do peer education.
  • Arrange meetings with influential private actors to present your research findings.
  • Host your own meeting, inviting private sector actors, to share the findings and to advocate for your position.

Make sure to adapt your presentations, propositions and applications to each targeted group.

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Previous step

8. Finalize and format

Are you ready to start your own research?

We strongly recommend referring to our Ready to Go worksheet to assess your own advancement.

Estimated time:

• 1-2 years, depending on advocacy goals

People needed:

• 1 or more communications person(s)

Resources needed:       

• List of spaces to advertise research
• List of blogs and online magazines where you can publish articles about your research finding
• List of advisors
• Your WITM information products
Sample of Advocacy Plan

Previous step

8. Finalize and format

Ready to Go? Worksheet

Download the toolkit in PDF


Yelena Grigoriyeva

Yelena Grigoriyeva, often called Lena by friends, was a prominent LGBT rights campaigner in Russia.

She was part of democratic, anti-war and LGBT movements. In her activism, Yelena was a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin and his administration, expressing her opposition against Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and the ill-treatment of prisoners. 

Yelena came out as bisexual earlier in 2019.

"Her coming out was a surprise to me, and I didn't approve of it. I told her 'Listen, Lena, you already have a target painted on you because of your political activity. You've just pinned another to your chest."
- Olga Smirnova

Yelena did receive multiple death threats and according to some of her acquaintances, was listed on a homophobic website that called on its visitors to hunt down LGBT persons. She reported the threats to the police, however the Russian state failed to provide protection. 

But even in a society where political opposition, as well as members of the LGBT community and advocates for their rights, face continuous and increasing violence, Yelena kept campaigning for social justice and equality.

“She did not miss a single action. And they detained her so often that I already lost count,”
- Olga Smirnova (fellow opposition activist and friend).

Yelena was murdered on 21 July 2019, not far from home. A suspect was arrested but according to some sources, many friends and fellow activists believe that the suspect is a scapegoat and that this was a targeted political killing. 

For Yelena’s relatives and friends, her case remains unsolved even though the suspect confessed. 

In 2013, Russia passed legislation banning the spreading of what it described as ‘gay propaganda’. In 2014, Human Rights Watch published a report relating to this. 

Key opposition strategies and tactics

Despite their rigidity in matters of doctrine and worldview, anti-rights actors have demonstrated an openness to building new kinds of strategic alliances, to new organizing techniques, and to new forms of rhetoric. As a result, their power in international spaces has increased.

There has been a notable evolution in the strategies of ultra conservative actors operating at this level. They do not only attempt to tinker at the edges of agreements and block certain language, but to transform the framework conceptually and develop alternative standards and norms, and avenues for influence.

Strategy 1: Training of UN delegates

Ultra conservative actors work to create and sustain their relationships with State delegates through regular training opportunities - such as the yearly Global Family Policy Forum - and targeted training materials.

These regular trainings and resources systematically brief delegates on talking points and negotiating techniques to further collaboration towards anti-rights objectives in the human rights system. Delegates also receive curated compilations of ‘consensus language’ and references to pseudo-scientific or statistical information to bolster their arguments.

The consolidated transmission of these messages explains in part why State delegates who take ultra-conservative positions in international human rights debates frequently do so in contradiction with their own domestic legislation and policies.

Strategy 2: Holding international convenings

Anti-rights actors’ regional and international web of meetings help create closer links between ultra conservative Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), States and State blocs, and powerful intergovernmental bodies. The yearly international World Congress of Families is one key example.

These convenings reinforce personal connections and strategic alliances, a key element for building and sustaining movements. They facilitate transnational, trans-religious and dynamic relationship-building around shared issues and interests, which leads to a more proactive approach and more holistic sets of asks at the international policy level on the part of anti-rights actors.

Strategy 3: Placing reservations on human rights agreements

States and State blocs have historically sought to undermine international consensus or national accountability under international human rights norms through reservations to human rights agreements, threatening the universal applicability of human rights.  

The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) has received by far the most reservations, most of which are based on alleged conflict with religious law. It is well-established international human rights law that evocations of tradition, culture or religion cannot justify violations of human rights, and many reservations to CEDAW are invalid as they are “incompatible with the object and purpose” of CEDAW. Nevertheless, reference to these reservations is continually used by States to dodge their human rights responsibilities.

‘Reservations’ to UN documents and agreements that are not formal treaties - such as Human Rights Council and General Assembly resolutions - are also on the rise.

Strategy 4: Creating a parallel human rights framework

In an alarming development, regressive actors at the UN have begun to co-opt existing rights standards and campaign to develop agreed language that is deeply anti-rights.

The aim is to create and then propagate language in international human rights spaces that validates patriarchal, hierarchical, discriminatory, and culturally relativist norms.

One step towards this end is the drafting of declarative texts, such as the World Family Declaration and the San Jose Articles, that pose as soft human rights law. Sign-ons are gathered from multiple civil society, state, and institutional actors; and they are then used a basis for advocacy and lobbying.

Strategy 5: Developing  alternative ‘scientific’ sources

As part of a strategic shift towards the use of non-religious discourses, anti-rights actors have significantly invested in their own ‘social science’ think tanks. Given oxygen by the growing conservative media, materials from these think tanks are then widely disseminated by conservative civil society groups. The same materials are used as the basis for advocacy at the international human rights level.  

While the goals and motivation of conservative actors derive from their extreme interpretations of religion, culture, and tradition, such regressive arguments are often reinforced through studies that claim intellectual authority. A counter-discourse is thus produced through a heady mix of traditionalist doctrine and social science.

Strategy 6: Mobilizing Youth

This is one of the most effective strategies employed by the religious right and represents a major investment in the future of anti-rights organizing.

Youth recruitment and leadership development, starting at the local level with churches and campuses, are a priority for many conservative actors engaged at the international policy level.  

This strategy has allowed for infiltration of youth-specific spaces at the United Nations, including at the Commission on the Status of Women, and creates a strong counterpoint to progressive youth networks and organizations.

Key anti-rights strategies

Strategy 7: Defunding and delegitimizing human rights mechanisms

When it comes to authoritative expert mechanisms like the UN Special Procedures and Treaty Monitoring Bodies and operative bodies like the UN agencies, regressive groups realize their potential for influence is much lower than with political mechanisms[1].

In response, anti-rights groups spread the idea that UN agencies are ‘overstepping their mandate,’ that the CEDAW Committee and other Treaty Bodies have no authority to interpret their treaties, or that Special Procedures are partisan experts working outside of their mandate. Anti-rights groups have also successfully lobbied for the defunding of agencies such as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

This invalidation of UN mechanisms gives fuel to state impunity. Governments, when under international scrutiny, can defend their action on the basis that the reviewing mechanism is itself faulty or overreaching.

Strategy 8: Organizing online

Conservative non-state actors increasingly invest in social media and other online platforms to promote their activities, campaign, and widely share information from international human rights spaces.

The Spanish organization CitizenGo, for example, markets itself as the conservative version of, spearheading petitions and letter-writing campaigns. One recent petition, opposing the establishment of a UN international day on safe abortion, gathered over 172,000 signatures.

Overarching Trends:

  • Learning from the organizing strategies of feminists and other progressives.
  • Replicating and adapting successful national-level tactics for the international sphere.
  • Moving from an emphasis on ‘symbolic protest’ to becoming subversive system ‘insiders.’

By understanding the strategies employed by anti-rights actors, we can be more effective in countering them.


[1] The fora that are state-led, like the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, and UN conferences like the Commission on the Status of Women and the Commission on Population and Development

Other Chapters

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Mena Mangal

Mena Mangal was a prominent TV journalist, women’s rights advocate and cultural adviser to Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of Afghanistan's national parliament. 

For more than a decade, she worked for Ariana TV, Tolo TV's Pashto-language channel Lamar, and the private Afghan national television broadcaster Shamshad TV. As a presenter, Mena focused on women’s rights and cultural talk shows. 

"Women's rights activist Wazhma Frogh said Mangal "had a loud voice" and actively spoke out as an advocate for her people."

Off-screen, she also ran popular social media pages that advocated for the rights of Afghan girls and women to education and work. In terms of her private life, Mena wrote extensively about being forced into an arranged marriage in 2017 and the process she had to go through to finally obtain a divorce. 

In a Facebook post, Mena wrote she was receiving death threats from unknown sources but would continue to carry out her work.

On 11 May 2019, she was attacked by unknown gunmen and shot dead in broad daylight in a public space in Southeast Kabul. 

"We are concerned about the situation because it has a direct impact on women who work outside their homes...Female journalists are changing their professions due to the increasing risks they are facing." - Robina Hamdard, Kabul-based women’s rights activist.