Women from the Northeast gather in Salvador for local fundraising training

Raffles, lotteries, feijoadas, bingos, auctions, donations, chocolate truffles… these are the many ways social organizations and movements use to raise funds and carry out their activities.  Creativity and willingness are the drivers for those who, every day, swim against the tide, who need to roll up their sleeves in order to transform the reality in which they live.  Inside and outside the organizations, it is the women who are mostly on the frontline, fighting sexism day after day and joining forces to guarantee their livelihoods and the sustainability of the movements they belong to.  What if these initiatives could be systematized and new strategies could be taught to strengthen this work? What if these women could come together to share their experiences?

This is the goal of the Local Fundraising training CESE ran between 25 and 28 April in Salvador.  About 25 women from women’s organizations in the Northeast attended the course, which aims to present new management and fundraising tools, and promote the exchange of experiences.  The initiative is part of the 2021-2025 “Giving for Change Programme” CESE is running, which aims to strengthen the influence social movements have in Global North-South power relationships regarding the defence of rights.  It is also part of the “Change the Game” methodology, a programme CESE is implementing in Brazil, which includes training in fundraising and mobilizing political support.

“Oh, make way so the women can pass,

Many things will change with this march,

Our place is not at the stove or oven

Our flame is the fire of the revolution!”

Black women, indigenous women, female coconut breakers, young women, LGBTQIA+ women, fisherwomen, female artisans, female peasant workers – the female companions who made up this group have many origins and come from many different contexts.  They hailed from eight states in the Northeast; CESE’s decision to provide the course for women from this region did not come about by chance.  “Women from grassroots sectors, black women, women from the city peripheries – many of their rights are seriously violated.  So we thought we would invite women’s organizations from the Northeast, a region strongly impacted by inequalities, precisely to strengthen the capacities of these organizations,” explained Viviane Hermida, CESE’s Projects and Training Advisor.  “We are seeking to systematize and provide more visibility for the contributions that women already make for all the struggles in the defence of rights and democracy in Brazil,” she concluded.

Érika Farias is one of the representatives of Marias Voices (Vozes Marias), a feminist organization in Pernambuco which understands christianity as an important factor in the lives of women. One of the strongest points of the course for her, was that it helped her understand the work they have already done in their community. “We understood our potential, how much we’ve done, how much we’ve achieved. We have the potential to make these funds circulate, to make this funding happen,” she noted.

Viviane confirmed that this change of perspective is also one of the training objectives.  “I think that the course allows them ‘to look in the mirror’, as a person and as an organization.  Within this field of women’s organizations, we have a series of practices, a lot of funds circulating, because of these women’s power, through the strength of their networking, knowledge, partnerships or fundraising activities.  Only, within these organizations, this is often seen as something very informal, something that, although it carries great weight, doesn’t include a strategic vision about how to incorporate these practices.  So when the organizations come to the course, they see that there are many other possibilities,” she noted.

“Help me, my friend

I cannot walk alone

I’m fine when on my own

But I’m better with you too”

Another fundamental role of the training is to encourage exchanges of experiences between the participants who, although they have very different trajectories, have many challenges in common – confronting sexism, racism and class exploitation are only some examples.  For Elis Lages, from the Network of Black Evangelical Women (Rede de Mulheres Negras Evangélicas: RMNE), finding out about the women’s different experiences helped her to think about the issues her own organization is facing. “This course is very good in helping us understand other realities too, and it helped us to understand how we could act in different situations.  Having contact with female coconut breakers, fisherwomen – these are very different contexts, but when you listen, you think, ‘wow, we could take this and implement it in that community we know, where we have a representative.” So the exchanges with every one of these women are very good, it’s incredible,” she declared.

Set up in 2018, the RMNE’s main goal is to overcome racism inside and outside the churches.  Following the critical period of the pandemic, Elis explained that now one of the organization’s challenges is strengthening the network’s presence in the country’s five regions,  in order to carry on the struggle, and the training will significantly help with this planning.  “This course helped us to think about how to mobilize every type of resource – both financial and human – to strengthen the regions, the territories,” she noted.

Fátima Ferreira, Association Coordinator of the Interstate Movement of Babassu Coconut Breakers (Movimento Interestadual das Quebradeiras de Coco Babaçu: MIQCB), highlighted the course’s importance in generating income for women in her organization. “When a woman has income, everything changes.  Her daily life changes, her knowledge, she progresses more because she sees the results, right?” said Fátima with a smile.  She also noted the role the training plays in women’s empowerment and autonomy.  “We, as coconut breakers, when we go on a course, some training, it’s like a light, because we see ourselves there, we are organizing to be in the grassroots and hold a raffle, an auction, to supplement our day-to-day.  When we get a little more money for our products, we feel more empowered, we can go out more often to visit other territories, other groups, to take our products.  It improves the lives of the women and the group,” she noted.

Giving for Change

The Giving for Change programme is an initiative CESE runs in Brazil with support from the Dutch cooperation agency Wilde Ganzen, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  The programme operates in seven other countries in the Global South – Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Palestine and Uganda.

Based on support to projects, training meetings, political mobilization activities and campaigns, the initiative seeks to support the adoption of more equitable practices in relations between the Global North and South, including practices based on the ideas of domestic fundraising and community philanthropy.  This is the first in-person fundraising course, which last year took place in March and April online.