Interview with Catherine M. King, Executive Producer, Global Fund for Women

Catherine brings over twenty years experience with major cultural institutions and innovative technology companies leading creative arts and media projects that promote awareness and action on social justice issues. At the International Museum of Women from 2007-2014, she was responsible for developing award-winning online exhibitions, pop-up installations, public programs, advocacy campaigns, and international partnerships. Major projects included Muslima: Muslim Women’s Art & Voices, MAMA: Motherhood Around the Globe, Economica: Women and the Global Economy, and Women, Power and Politics.
In previous positions she directed digital storytelling for emerging mobile media platforms at Visible Interactive and Antenna Audio for clients including the Smithsonian Institution, Lucasfilm, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Catherine is on the boards of the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library and the International Association of Women’s Museums and the advisory committee of the James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center.
Global Fund for Women


Women’s Museum Istanbul: You are invited to the conference because your organisation uses an inclusive concept. What do you think when you hear that you are working in an inclusive way?

Catherine M. King: When I heard that the focus of the conference was on inclusivity, I was very pleased because I think it is quite an important subject in our field. Inclusion for me means representation, and it is absolutely critical that women’s voices and women’s experiences and women’s stories are represented in museums, in media, in the storytelling work that we do. Too often there is a lack of representation or misrepresentation.

Inclusivity and representation in our field also allows opportunities for us to combat stereotypes that are all too prevalent about women and girls, and it is very important for girls, for young men to see real, honest representation of women’s voices and women’s experiences in the media. As content creators we have the opportunity – in fact we can say we have the obligation – to be inclusive and to be representative of diverse voices in the content that we present to the public.

Women’s Museum Istanbul:  Which role do intercultural dialogue and cultural diversity play in your concept?

Catherine M. King: At the Global Fund for Women, cultural diversity is absolutely critical to the work that we do. We believe that on the one hand of course it is important to have women represented, but to represent women alone is not enough. We need to be very sensitive to the transnational identities and the intersectionality of identities that women have, so both in our grantmaking and also in our storytelling we are very keen to include voices of women of many ages, many genders, from different countries, from different religious backgrounds, from women of different abilities, indigenous women. We really have a very strong commitment to including the voices of those who are too often unheard and those who are the most marginalized. A quote that I would love to share with you is from a young woman, Eman who is a Sudanese woman and she shared with us on a recent project that she wanted to be part of the project “because no-one in the world knows our voices, no-one in the world knows what young Sudanese women are thinking.” Her voice is often with me when I think about the projects that we curate and the stories that we tell, how important it is to share voices of those who are too often unheard by others in the world.  

Women’s Museum Istanbul: Do donors try to influence the work you do, aside from building a financial base? Do they try to interfere by telling you which causes to support and which not to?

Catherine M. King:  Global Fund for Women has a strong support base, and we’re both grateful for and proud of those who have rallied with us to help secure women’s human rights across the world. Despite challenges given the overall decline in support for women’s human rights organizations globally, our funding base remains strong and comes largely from individual donors. We also have funding from private foundations, family foundations, corporate foundations, and government sources.

Do donors control our work? No. We are collaborators with our donors and excited by the enormous commitment and belief in women they share with us. They are partners with us in our work to fund women’s rights at the grassroots—rights-based organisations that are led by grassroots women who are leaders in their own communities—and we ensure those who invest in us know the impact they have. From the very beginning, Global Fund for Women was very committed to the fact of getting money directly into the hands of women in communities who best know the solutions to problems in their communities, and are the ones who can make change happen. So we are giving money directly to women who can solve their problems in their own communities. That said, donors do have specific interests and we help to connect them most directly to exactly what they’re passionate about. For example, some donors will tell us they are very interested in funding in a certain region of the world. We fund in five regions in the world: Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, Middle East and Northern Africa, Asia and Pacific, Europe and Central Asia. We also fund in three critical areas for women’s rights: gender based violence, economic and political empowerment, and sexual and reproductive health and rights. And again, we have funders who are interested in particular issues. Some funders are interested in a particular issue and a particular region, and again we can work with them to make sure that that money is leveraged and reaches the people who need it the most. But we would not take money that constrains the kinds of issues that we support.

Women’s Museum Istanbul:  How do you plan to reach new audiences, which concepts are you developing or have you developed, that already are in place?

Catherine M. King:  Our global vision for the world is one where every woman is strong, safe powerful and heard. No exceptions. And when we talk about ‘heard’, we are talking about the importance of voice, and the importance of raising voices. So the promise that we make every day to women when we do our work, in fact the slogan on the wall of our office, is that we are committed to getting money and attention where it will make the greatest difference in the fight for gender equality.

We believe that by putting money, grantmaking, and attention, voice, together we can fuel the women’s movement. For us, Global Fund for Women, that’s a very important new strategy. We believe that both levers, voice and resources, are needed in order to build new audiences.

And new audiences are absolutely critical to growing a movement, to attracting new advocates, people who want to take action on behalf of the issues, and also people who we hope will ultimately become donors one day. Our strategies for increasing audiences include reaching out to younger people. Traditionally, we focused on our donor audiences and increasingly our donor audiences are becoming sixty and seventy year old women, whose support we absolutely rely on, but we know that we need to build new audiences in the future.

We have specific strategies through media, through social media, through news, to engage young people, to engage more diverse audiences. In terms of young people we are planning to focus on college students. We also have a specific strategy going to engage men. In order to fight for gender equality, it needs to be not only women working towards gender equality, but women and men working together. So that is another key strategy that we have going forward.

It really is about building new audiences, it is about growing the base for support, and as we say you can become an advocate, you can become a donor, you can do both. But we really need to work together if we want to see the truly inclusive world that we are seeking, where women’s rights are equal.

Women’s Museum Istanbul:  What can you tell us about the merger of the International Museum of Women and Global Fund for Women?

Catherine M. King: The reason for the merger was that the two organisations had very similar missions and also very similar goals. Missions both aligned around supporting women and girls globally. Both organisations wanted to have greater impact. We felt that by coming together, perhaps we could do that. Ultimately the decision was made that we would couple and marry Global Fund for Women’s expertise in grantmaking, the expertise in fundraising, knowledge of issues on the ground together with International Museum of Women’s strengths, which were digital storytelling, public awareness and audience building. And so by bringing the two organisations together, we felt that we could be much stronger, and move forward to get money, and attention, where it matters the most in the fight for gender equality.

Interview: Kristina Kraemer, Gül Aydın


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