We Are Part of the Global Community of Human Rights Funders

In October 2018, we took part in the international conference in Mexico City „Reimagining Human Rights: New Energy for a New Era“ organized by the Human Rights Funders Network (HRFN), a network of grantmakers and philanthropists committed to advancing human rights through effective philanthropy.

2018 HRFN Global Philantropic Conference and 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

In 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. 70 years after this event we face the rise of right-wing extremism and conservative attitudes influencing public opinion and politics. Responding to this situation, HRFN as the conference organizer made decision to open the space for strategies and action in order to promote positive change.

Recently, around the globe we can observe the growing danger of violence and violent conflicts, local wars and increasing poverty. People are concerned about losing jobs and a lack of social security, not to say about the rights of ethnic minorities, gays and/or lesbians who face hate, attacks and open aggression, to name a few. Nevertheless, the world is full of amazing stories of compassion and understanding coming from the whole communities of people who provide support to refugees and migrants, give their share of food, listen to others, respect and avoid making judgments. This is the energy the conference was focusing on and which is still worth of nurturing. We want to do the same as a women’s fund, as women, daughters and sisters – we want to provide support and nurture activities to accelerate positive social change.

What We Experienced and What We Bring to Slovakia

Thanks to a grant given to Slovak-Czech Women’s Fund from Prospera – International Network of Women’s Funds, we could attend the 2018 HRFN Global Conference which was held in Mexico City in 15-19 October 2018. The SCWF was represented by Zuzana Pešťanská. During the conference we were given the opportunity to talk about the situation in Slovakia by presenting the work of organizations and groups we have supported. We are aware that the conference was a great opportunity itself to learn, get inspired and critically assess our own work and feel the support by the community of fellows.

The conference was rich in its program as it addressed issues such as participatory grantmaking, art and activism, movement building strategies, political influence of public protests, resistance and integrity in the daily work of human rights activists and human rights defenders, social media and technology in human rights work, social economy and self-care. Besides panel discussions, workshops and working groups meetings, the conference hosted many side activities and events focusing mainly on the work of local NGOs. Zuzana visited the community of indigenous women of the Hidalgo State. Women of this community participate in the project of alternative economy supported by Thousand Currents and Ñepi Behña / Women of Dignity. The aim of this project is to support establishment of local cooperatives producing local crafts and arts which become the resource of income.

The Protection of Women’s Rights – Our Engagement and Presentation

During the conference we got a chance to present the situation in the area of women’s human rights protection. The first panel titled “The Old Enemies in a New Mask: Protection, Enlargement and Support of Human Rights in Changing Europe” was organized by the European Women’s Funds. The participants including women’s funds themselves described the situation in their respective countries of operation. As was remarked by Nadejda Dermendjieva from Bulgaria, “We would like to disprove a stereotype that Europe is a region where the grass is greener and the sky bluer. Europe is changing, human rights have been restricted in many countries, extremist groups are seated in parliaments, and conservative groups threaten the rights and freedoms of women to make their choices about their bodies and lives without fear and restrictions.”

The European region was represented here by Nadejda Dermendjieva (Bulgarian Fund for Women), Natalia Karbowska (Ukrainian Women’s Fund), Nino Ugrekhelidze (Taso Foundation, Georgia), Marion Duquesne (Mediterranean Women’s Fund, France). The panel was moderated by Elisa Slattery from Open Society Foundations. After the discussion the participants could share their experiences and propose solutions for better and more effective cooperation in specific areas of advocacy, communication and grantmaking.

The second panel was organized by Urgent Action Fund who became one of our donors this year. At this panel, Zuzana was an active participant presenting the growing influence of extremist and conservative groups in Slovakia. She also spoke about our strategies while supporting women’s rights groups and organizations – that we prefer to support (1) local groups of women with potential to make their cases and bring them to the fore of attention of the public and (2) cross-movement cooperation (feminist/women’s rights and antifascist movement). As a good practice example Zuzana presented the work of two organizations – the cooperation of Roma women and The Centre for Civil and Human Rights and the activities of the Initiative of Uprising Continues.

During the panel the publication Feminist Resistance and Resilience was introduced. It includes the interviews with the feminists and women’s rights activists from Poland, Uganda, Honduras, Turkey and Spain. These interviews depict the contexts the women’s rights activists live in and challenges they face (threats and attacks, prohibition of activities). In their own words, despite this reality, they keep on doing this work which makes sense for nothing but a whole society as it leads to a more gender and socially just society.

One of those moving moments which the panel raised was the story of young woman Dolly from Nicaragua. Within the discussion she talked about the situation in her country: about the protests and demonstrations to achieve the resignation of the authoritative president, end violence and launch election. She spoke about the work of young feminist group she is a member of.