In October 2020, Purposeful and partners interviewed 2,239 out-of-school girls, aged between 13–19 years old as part of the Girls’ Circles programme. Their responses affirm what we know – that girls’ lives in Sierra Leone, especially those who are out of school, are characterised by multiple hardships: little to no education; the ubiquity of transactional sex; teen pregnancy; and everyday violence. But also, that to be a girl is to resist, and girls are primed to change their lives for the better when there is a shift in their ability to access and imagine their choices.
Despite ongoing efforts, global philanthropy remains largely an elitist, top-down process. That colonial model, however, is starting to change. In recent years, there has been a concerted push to make philanthropy more democratic, responsive and inclusive by shifting power to the affected communities and constituencies that we seek to serve. One exciting way to share power is through participatory grantmaking—the practice of ceding grantmaking power to affected community members and constituencies.
Like any other crisis, the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the existing systemic oppression and violence that positions girls and young people as particularly vulnerable. The Global Resilience Fund was the coming together by those across the funding ecosystem committed to resourcing girls and young feminists’ activism, who recognised that something bold and propositional was required in this moment. Moving resources to young activists is full of complexity, tension, and the profound possibility for transformation, and this work is demonstrating that a new kind of humanitarian response is possible.
‘Weathering the Storm’ lifts up the hopes, dreams and realities of young activists organising against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing on lessons from a feminist fund set up to resource their resistance through the crisis, this report brings together a diversity of voices from across the globe and from funder and activist communities. Rooted in community conversations, creative expressions and political analysis, these collective contributions show beyond doubt that it is not only possible to fund girls, trans and young women activists now, but that to do so is essential for our collective liberation.