Strengthening Women’s Movements through Storytelling, Media, and Art:
The Merger of International Museum of Women and Global Fund for Women
Catherine M. King, Executive Producer, Global Fund for Women
Global Fund for Women and the International Museum of Women (IMOW) merged in March 2014 with a goal to increase awareness and action on vital global issues for women. The merger brought together Global Fund for Women’s expertise in women’s issues, grant making, and fundraising with IMOW’s skills in curation, digital storytelling, and audience engagement.
Now operating under one name, Global Fund for Women’s vision is a world in which every woman is strong, safe, powerful, and heard.
No exceptions. Global Fund for Women describes itself as a global champion for the human rights of women and girls, getting money and attention where it will make the biggest difference in the fight for gender equality. It uses its networks to find, fund, and amplify the courageous work of grassroots women globally who are strengthening women’s movements in their communities.
Inspired by the legacy of IMOW, Global Fund for Women’s digital storytelling and multi-media projects speak to the power of creative art and activism in mobilizing women’s rights. These projects serve as important tools for sparking conversation about the women’s human rights movement and its direction for the future.
Giving voice to women through storytelling, media, art, and creative campaigns is a powerful and essential component of social change. Today, Global Fund for Women’s new direction as a storyteller and grant maker allows it to bring together resources for women’s rights movements that are working to transform systems, economies, and cultures.
Inclusive Practices on the Global Level, Friday 21 October 2016
International Women’s Museums Conference – Women’s Museums: Centre of Social Memory and Place of Inclusion, Istanbul, 20-22 October 2016
PRESENTATION TEXT IN DETAIL
Thank you, it’s a pleasure to be here. I’m Catherine King, Executive Producer at Global Fund for Women.
On behalf of my colleagues, Global Fund for Women is proud to be a sponsor of this convening and to be included in the dialogue. I want to acknowledge the Women’s Museum Istanbul, Istanbul Bilgi University, and the organizers for their extraordinary efforts to bring us together as a cross-disciplinary group to discuss critical questions about women’s museums as places of inclusion and their important role as catalysts of social change.
At Global Fund for Women we care deeply about these questions. I’m pleased to share the story of our recent merger with the International Museum of Women (IMOW). As the former Vice President of Exhibitions and Programs at IMOW, I’m also pleased to report that the museum legacy informs the work of Global Fund for Women to strengthen women’s movements through storytelling, media, and art.
In that spirit, I want to start with this quote from Eman Asim, a participant in one of the museum’s cross-cultural exchange media projects:
- “I want to be part of the project because I want to reflect the young Sudanese girls’ opinions about what is happening in the world… Sudanese girls’ voices are mute and no one in the world knows what we are thinking.”
Eman reminds us why the work we are doing work matters. And she challenges us to remember to include the diverse thoughts and perspectives of women and girls who otherwise too often go unheard.
Many women’s museums have asked, why did IMOW and Global Fund for Women? The conversations were grounded in both a shared missions to advance the human rights of women and girls globally, and a shared desire to have more impact. We also recognized that we had different and complementary strengths, one as a funder and one as a storyteller, and thought together we could be potentially be stronger.
Brief history of IMOW
The museum was founded in 1985 as the Women’s Heritage Museum and later renamed International Museum of Women (IMOW) to reflect a more inclusive global perspective. The museum created art, history, and media exhibitions to advance public awareness of critical issues for women and girls globally. Although at one time the founders envisioned building a physical museum in San Francisco, over the years the model evolved to a virtual social change museum. IMOW was ground-breaking in many ways, recognized as one of the first virtual museums producing online exhibitions, virtual events, and pop-up installations in dozens of countries around the world. It also helped define the growing field of ‘social change’ museums.
Brief history of Global Fund for Women
Also established in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1987, as one of the first global funds for women its founders believed that grassroots women leaders are uniquely qualified to tackle the problems in their communities and that by trusting and supporting women transformative change can happen. Over the years Global Fund for Women developed an extensive network of grantee partners and advisors. It has invested in nearly 5,000 grassroots women-led organizations in 175 countries, helping to win rights for millions of women and girls.
Both organizations wanted to have more impact. After study and discussion about shared mission and complimentary skills, we came to the conclusion that we could be stronger together.
“The changing world requires a new approach to women’s rights. An approach that catalyzes both VOICES and RESOURCES for the world’s women.”
Completed in March 2014, the merger brought together Global Fund for Women’s expertise in women’s issues, grantmaking, and connections on the ground with IMOW’s skills in awareness raising, online advocacy, and storytelling.
Today, we operate as one unified organization (staff, board, finances, mission are fully integrated) under the name Global Fund for Women.
Vision and Identity
After the merger, we went through a strategic planning process, rebranding, built a new website, and updated all of our communications materials to represent the new identity and vision:
Global Fund for Women’s vision is a world in which every woman is strong, safe, powerful, and heard. No exceptions.
Although the name Global Fund for Women stayed the same, our new identity presents a fresh face to the world and speaks to our strengths and the combined organization we created together.
We work across several key impact areas. We campaign for freedom from violence, economic and political equality, and for sexual and reproductive health and rights. We believe these are the most critical building blocks for women’s human rights. Only when women and girls are safe and free from violence; can earn their own money; can have an equal voice in their family and community; and can decide if, and when, they get married or have children, will we be able to say that they have equality and justice. These issues inform all of our work, from grantmaking to advocacy, and storytelling.
Our scope is global. We work in five regions: Latin America and the Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa, Europe and Central Asia, Asia and the Pacific, and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Our work is grounded in supporting movements, the idea that a group of people with a shared purpose can create change together. Movements need strong leaders, partnerships, grassroots support, and a shared plan. When women organize and join together, they create the lasting shifts in power, opportunity, laws, and culture that are necessary for women to live fair and equal lives. This is a key part of our theory of change.
Movements are strengthened through multiple, related strategies including Advocacy and Media. We believe that giving voice to women through art, film, and media is an essential component of social change.
We produce awareness-raising art and media storytelling campaigns that are grounded in the needs, voices, and priorities of women’s movements.
Examples of Recent Campaigns
Two years since merger we believe we have created a louder global voice for women’s issues and have begun to see the impact.
Our first project after the merger was a crowd-sourced campaign called Imagining Equality. We asked the question ‘What is the Future of Women’s Human Rights?’ and invited participation from women all over the world. In response, we received more than 400 submissions of art, video, stories, essays, and ideas and selected 60 of the strongest. With a goal of inclusivity our curators prioritized work that represented a range of critical issues and diverse voices that are too often unheard.
Mex-tli Mexican Goddesses by Sissy Reyes and Yunuen Perez
Many of the submissions are from artists who expressed their personal identity as women, such as Mex-tli Mexican Goddesses by Mexican multimedia artists Sissy Reyes and Yunuen Perez. After moving to Australia in 2007, Reyes and Perez were frustrated by the superficial treatment of their rich Mexican cultural heritage. They created this series of self-portraits to express the complex process of assimilation female migrants to a new country face. Through their work they pose universal questions such as: Who are we in this country? What does it mean to be a woman here? What does it mean to be a Mexican woman?
Foot Soldiers of Change by Kelly McIlvenny
In addition to identity, some submissions spoke to issues such as maternal health. We exhibited a short film by Kelly McIlvenny called Foot Soldiers of Change about advances in maternal health in Nepal. Thanks in part to an incredible network of over 50,000 community volunteers across the country, some who you meet in the film, Nepal has seen a 75 percent reduction in maternal mortality, and further reductions in the risk of newborn deaths and complications in birth.
“Equality Is” graphic badges
As a whole, the work exhibited reflects the diverse thoughts, ideas, and visions women have for their lives, families, and communities. Beyond elevating individual women’ voices, a goal was to engage audiences and extend the conversation beyond the website. Visitors created their own “Equality Is” graphic badges and shared them with us, through the power of social media, creating a rich global dialogue.
Determined presents the portraits and stories of 20 women and girls from 19 countries. It features original photographs commissioned from international photographers accompanied by first-person interviews made possible through Global Fund for Women’s network of grassroots, women-led groups who are advancing women’s rights in their own communities.
Like Wasna. She left Baghdad fleeing an abusive husband and found shelter, safety, and legal support in Kurdistan thanks to Asuda, a local women’s organization supported by Global Fund for Women working to end violence against women.
Audiences meet the women, connect with them through their stories, and learn about relatable aspects of their lives to help foster understanding and connections.
For example, 16-year-old Maria Fernanda tells us she loves soccer, dancing and reading books. As part of an outreach group called “Born to Fly” she works to empower girls and to combat teen pregnancy in Nicaragua. 27% of girls in Nicaragua will become pregnant as adolescents.
We meet Asipa, who stands up for the rights of women with disabilities in Kyrgyzstan; Gözde, a young leader winning LGBTQI rights in Turkey; and Nela, the founder of an organization for women survivors of rape in Croatia.
In addition to raising awareness of these issues, and learning about groups leading change, we offer audiences opportunities to take action, to get involved by joining us as champions for gender equality, or by making a donation.
DefendHer: Standing Together for Justice
In September 2016 we launched Women Human Rights DefendHer, an online art and media campaign tells the stories of amazing women who are working, often at great personal risk, to advance rights in their communities.
We chose an art-driven creative approach, commissioning Peruvian activist artist Maria Maria Acha-Kutscher to create powerful graphically illustrated portraits that depict and tell the story of each woman.
The campaign was simultaneously launched online and at the AWID (Association for Women in Development) Forum where1,800 feminists gathered in Bahia Brazil and experienced the campaign first-hand.
The project was created in partnership with two sister organizations: JASS (Just Associates) and MADRE who served as part of the nominating committee. Together, we sought to represent a variety of countries, issues and voices and to be inclusive of indigenous and LGBTQI voices. We also prioritized groups whose work is timely and would benefit from increased visibility and resources through the campaign.
In Zimbabwe Melania is demanding women’s rights to land ownership; In Nicaraugua Leduvina is fighting violence against women; in Mexico Forces United for Our Disappeared – a group of mothers are calling for justice for their children who have been disappeared. In the Philippines Bai is defending rights to ancestral land. Audiences can sign the petition against the forced displacement of the community.
Our goal with the campaign is to raise awareness of women human rights defenders, elevate their critical work, and drive money and attention to their activism so that they can continue to do their important work free from violence and threats. Audiences can take action by signing petitions, sending #DearDefendHer messages, making donations.
Recent smaller campaigns and rapid response content features focused on the Nepal Earthquake, Women and the Refugee Crisis, and Women Demanding Progress in Middle East and North Africa.
- Visibility, voice, and awareness
- Advocacy actions
- Online audience and social media growth
- Major media coverage and thought leadership
- Internal News bureau
- Bi-monthly movements newsletter
Future? What Next?
Looking ahead, our strategic plan continues to prioritize a focus on funding grassroots change and raising awareness and visibility in support of strong and active women’s rights movements. As we further develop this new program within Global Fund for Women, priorities include:
- Awareness: continue to elevate the diverse voices of women who are too often unheard, engage audiences in women’s rights, and drive new awareness of critical gender equality issues.
- Engagement: provide audiences with information and resources to become advocates; grow a pipeline of people who can be contributors, advocates, and eventually possibly donors.
- Innovation: continue to innovate with creative treatments. We plan to use art, photography, crowd-sourced content, and new and emerging multimedia platforms. A documentary film led campaign is in development.
- Expanding audiences: for example, reaching out to men and younger college-age people.
- Capacity building: social media training, communications, and digital storytelling labs for grantee partners.
- Integrate our Advocacy and Movements team: to better align our campaigns, promotions and social media work with the needs of women’s movements on the ground.
- Learning, Evaluation, and Impact: Create a robust LEI Framework and learning from our impact evaluations.
While Global Fund for Women has changed with the times, the philosophy of our founders has remained: trust women. Women are the best agents of change in their communities. Giving them both voices and resources can change the world.
The goal is a stronger and better resourced women’s human rights movements.
As a global champion for the human rights of women and girls, we are committed to getting money and attention where it will make the biggest difference in the fight for gender equality.
I would like to end where I started with the voices of women, speaking to the importance of sharing their unique voices.
I believe in stories, and I believe if I tell my story to one person I can empower someone through my story. I believe my stories can change someone, and that person’s stories can change my life.
It’s very important [that we collect stories from women in Uganda] … information that we got from the women has helped us to advocate for women’s rights, to the donors, communities and local governments and other stakeholders. Documentation and hearing the stories of the women is at the base of our program.
[My husband] told me “I am happy and proud of you, because you will talk from here to there and who knows where your voice will be heard!” Not only here but it will reach many countries…for me it was a pleasure, a joy to be able to share a part of my story.