The mobilization of resources and the consequent distribution of them, on the principles of gender justice during times of hardships, is not an easy task. From 2020 and on, Women’s Fund Armenia stated to operate in an emergency mode. The COVID-19 pandemic was followed by a devastating war in Nagorno Karabakh. Moreover, ongoing threats of a new war, internal political instability, attacks from anti-gender groups, and many consequences of multiple crises all became a quintessential part of everyday reality in Armenia.
There also exists a lot of rage, frustration, and hopelessness that permeates in the air. The existential feeling is like we’re living in some type of limbo for the past several years; that is to say, we aren’t not sure what will happen tomorrow, we’re uncertain about activities and strategies that we want to take, we’re uncertain about funding, and how many people we may employ at the Fund, how many partners we can support, and for how long, and so on, and so forth.
It also feels that we have to advocate for our crisis. This is due to the fact that there aren’t many people who know what’s going on in our region in general, and in Armenia in particular. Now it sometimes feels as though we are unrecognized, and our geopolitical region is somehow and somewhat blurry, or even worse yet that is not even seen on a given map. In fact, sometimes it’s really hard to find Armenia on the map, because it’s such a small landlocked country.
According to some donors and partners, we are considered to be Global South. Yet by others, we are not, because some see us as Eastern Europe, while some don’t even know where Armenia is situated. For example, at the Women Deliver conference in Rwanda, which took place in July of 2023, and hosted approximately six thousand people, hardly anyone knew that the country Armenia even exists, much less to know where it is located. Now, then, we are not Global North either. So, then, who are we? This identity crisis is becoming more exacerbated in light of the reality of ongoing crises and threats.
Due to this fact, there is not only a scarcity of funding, but also the important question coming from donors who ask the following question: Why should we prioritize funding for that region in our strategies? It requires a lot of work on our part in order to present our complex context in a succinct manner, and to do so in an eloquent manner befitting our donors such that they would understand the whole scale of historical, geopolitical, economic, cultural, psycho-social, and religious complexities of our situation.
Now in the meantime, and from time to time, we find ourselves in the situations where we have to prove that feminist philanthropy doesn’t serve a given neoliberal agenda, nor are we promoting any neoliberal values in Armenia. We often feel like an outsider in a feminist world. But we know that what we do is coming from our internal long struggle, and various painful stories of resource mobilization. We attempt to fight neoliberal agendas by challenging neoliberal notions of grantmaking, accountability, and donor-grantee relationship.
Our main concern during the crises is to make sure that our partners have hyperagency, and the capacities to accumulate/continue having resources to implement ideas that they believe in. What we are learning in this never-ending chaotic and unpredictable context is that we should practice radical feminist philanthropy, and tirelessly lift each other, and our partners up through solidarity and mutual support, while more than ever being mindful and caring toward each other. More resources and spending them wisely for feminist causes is more important than ever because it’s becoming a way to disrupt mainstream philanthropy in the times of hardships and uncertainty.
It is equally important to be very careful so as not to replicate exploitative dynamics of power. Radical feminist philanthropy also involves a lot of emotional work from our side, and the emotional empowerment of partners. A kind of emotional work that also involves connecting with fears, frustrations and sadness of our own, and of our partners. A kind of emotional work that requires a lot of empathy, solidarity and care.
In the process of mobilizing resources, and providing funding for local grassroots in times of hardship, it’s important to remember about mobilizers of those resources who are also living in the same kinds of crisis situations, and experiencing different personal and professional problems. That’s why it’s also important to expand and constantly reflect on even the most radical concepts, such as, for example, radical feminist philanthropy. Nowadays, it is unfortunately a chaotic and uncertain word, the process of expansion of radical feminist philanthropy is heavily influenced by multilayer crises, conflicts, and challenges that feminists are experiencing every day on micro and macro levels. We want to think that our contribution to radical feminist philanthropy through our healing programs, participatory approaches, and mindfulness about local context will enrich feminist philanthropy and make it more responsive to challenges of the 21st century.
Author: Gohar Shahnazaryan