Who are we? The Urgent Action Fund for Women´s Rights of Latin America and the Spanish-Speaking Caribbean (Fondo de Acción Urgente de América Latina y el Caribe Hispanohablante para los Derechos de las Mujeres, FAU-AL, in Spanish) is a feminist civil society organization that promotes and defends the Human Rights of the diversity of women. Founded in Bogotá, Colombia, in 2009, FAU-AL supports women activists and their organizations in all of Latin America and the Spanish-Speaking Caribbean. Our history: In 1995, during the Fourth United Nations World Conference on Women, in Beijing, various activists enquired about the greatest challenges faced by Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) and their organizations. And the answers matched: no matter what the country or cultural origin, there was a clear need for rapid and effective access to funds in support of front-line women defending women's Human Rights. Thus the Urgent Action Fund (FAU in Spanish), with its Rapid Response Grant Making Program was born. Originally founded in the United States in 1997, from its inception the goal was to become regionalized in order to better understand local contexts and be closer to the places of work of grass-roots activists:in 2005, the Urgent Action Fund of Africa was established in Nairobi, Kenya; and in 2009, the Urgent Action Fund of Latin America in Bogotá, Colombia, came into being. Today we are an alliance of three independent sister funds that support Women Human Rights Defenders and their organizations throughout the world. What we believe in: Our Vision: We dream of a continent capable of peacefully transforming its conflicts; one that is safe, just, and sustainable, and that guarantees Human Rights based on feminist principles. Our Mission: We mobilize resources in support of women´s organizations and Human Rights activists through Rapid Response Grant-Making and Collaborative Initiatives. Our work: *We mobilize and distribute resources through Rapid Response Grants (RRG) when activists and their organizations require urgent access to small sums of money in order to take advantage of unforeseen opportunities or to face unexpected threats. During 365 days a year, we respond to requests from indigenous, Afro-descendent, and peasant organizations; from displaced, urban, and rural women; from LBTTI groups, NGO and feminist networks, as well as from women´s organizations that defend the environment.
*We coordinate encounters and conversations related to the sustainable activism of Women Human Rights Defenders and their organizations, strengthening their collective and individual wellbeing. We understand that security and protection is a comprehensive and holistic concept that includes notions of self-care and as well the acknowledgment by activists of their right to protection and security.
We believe that Women Human Rights Defenders must take care of themselves and their organizations as much as they do of others if they want to ensure the sustainability of their activism. * We support Collaborative Initiatives that address specific Human Rights issues faced by women on the continent. These initiatives are designed, developed, implemented, and evaluated jointly with other women´s organizations, and they may include participatory research, training, publications, and advocacy. * We carry out research, publish, and share the results of our research, reflecting the wish of FAU-AL to be an organization that learns from its own experiences. We share information with communities of women´s organizations and with philanthropic entities. The publications are made public on our website in three languages; and, whenever possible, printed copies are distributed. * We participate actively in the following regional and international networks: AWID (Association of Women in Development), INWF (International Network of Women's Funds), WFN (Women's Funding Network), IHRFG (International Human Rights Funders Group), Edge Funders Alliance and CONMUJER (Consortium of Women´s Funds in Latin America), because we are convinced that collective work helps to build confidence, to pool forces, wealth and resources to reach common dreams and goals; and, at the same time, we know that more voices together can achieve greater resonance in society as a whole and, in particular, among decision makers.
Where do we work? Between November 17, 2009, and December 31, 2012, the Urgent Action Fund of Latin America (FAU-AL) has contributed with 134 RRG in 18 countries, as follows: Mexico -11 Guatemala-3 Honduras -12 Nicaragua -8 Dominican Republic -3 El Salvador -2
Costa Rica -3
Panama -3 Paraguay-1
Uruguay - 1
Peru -12 Bolivia -4 Chile -9
With whom do we work? FAU-AL provides Rapid Response Grants to organizations of the diversity of women under the following four categories: Situations characterized by increasing fundamentalisms, social and armed conflict, violence, and political instability. Example: The soliciting organization is an Afro-descendent womenÂ´s grass-roots organization promoting education, especially of immigrant Haitian women who lack information and knowledge in the areas of sexual health, family planning, abortion, STD prevention and HIV-AIDS, human rights, and gender equality. A group of 15 women Human Rights promoters from the organization required special attention and accompaniment due to the increase in physical and sexual violence on the part of male partners. They requested support to rent a space to be used as shelter, to provide professional psychological support, and to carry out training workshops on sexual and reproductive rights. Likewise, resources were used to offer practical courses on economic sustainability and to prepare materials for the training sessions. In their final report, they highlighted that the support allowed these women to feel more secure because, being able to stay in the shelter in the company of other women who had been through similar situations, contributed to reducing the panic they felt about their partners, increasing their self esteem, as well as learning about their rights and how to defend them in the face of acts of violence and abuse. The organization also supported insertion in the labor force of some of the women, the majority of whom say they now feel safer and more independent. Protection and security of threatened Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRD) Example: Between 2005 and 2012, thirteen (13) women journalists were assassinated in Mexico, and more than 100 denounced having been victims of some form of violence as a result of their work. These data come from an organization of journalists specialized in ensuring a gender perspective through recording and documenting specific cases. Support was sought from FAU-AL to train twenty (20) women journalists on how to manage the fear and stress produced by the violent context and on how to assess risks and security protocols in the Mexican state where they live. The final activities report indicates that the workshop made it possible to acquire tools for physical and digital security and for the personal integrity of the journalists in their daily lives and work; as well as to address their needs and to face their fears and the implications of such fears in their personal and professional lives. It says that the journalists involved in the project are interested in replicating the workshop with their colleagues, at least as far as issues of security are concerned.
Potentially precedent-setting legal and/or legislative initiatives or those that protect rights already secured. Example: After the approval of a Trafficking in Persons Law, the number of cases of abuse against sex workers, justified by the authorities as a mechanism to fight human trafficking, was rising disproportionately. The norm is not sufficiently clear regarding measures to effectively combat this crime; rather, it generates confusion by equating sex work and human trafficking. A group of adult women who willingly and knowingly chose sex work as a means of survival received support to shed light on the difference between sex work and human trafficking and to monitor the sex workers who were illegally detained in raids following the Trafficking Law. Thanks to the actions and accompaniment of the sex workersÂ´ organization, those women were released. Protection of women's rights to territory, the sustainable use of mother earth, and related public policy formulation.
How to request a Rapid Response Grant? The FAU-AL receives requests 365 days a year in Spanish and Portuguese, and an initial reply is provided within 72 hours. To present a request or for any other information, please contact: info@fondoaccionurgente .org.co The formats for presenting proposals, in Portuguese and in Spanish, can be found at: www.fondoaccionurgente .org.co
Example: An organization of indigenous women who define themselves as community feminists has the goal of promoting the struggle for recovery and defense of their territory. The conflict regarding their territory became more acute in the last days of May 2012, after confirmation that one of the 15 mining licenses granted for exploitation would come into being. The women received support to hold an assembly and other meetings with women of the community as well as with representatives of social, feminist, and community organizations of the northeastern region of the country, to generate an urgent follow-up plan for the defense of their territory, and to come up with a coordinated territorial strategy. According to the final report, they were able to get the Attorney General and the Head of the Public Ministry to monitor the most urgent cases of women human rights defenders at risk; in addition, the creation of a specialized prosecutorÂ´s office for women has been proposed, shedding light on the plight of women who live in the mountains. Each proposal received by FAU-AL is analyzed according to the following four criteria: Strategic: The proposed action is related to political aims and/or plans that promote the Human Rights of the diversity of women. Urgent: The action must be carried out in a timely manner in order to be effective, normally within three or six months. Sustainable: The group is capable of carrying out the action proposed in an effective way. Recognized by affinity groups: The organization is recognized by groups involved in the defense of the Human Rights of the diversity of women or similar topics (at the local and/or global level).
Sounds of the Conch “I don´t doubt that I got sick because of all the extra energy I put in, almost uncalled for, in order to be able to leave with a good conscience. Which is something I do a lot of these past few months in order to feel that I am really doing something to change and improve the lives of others. I give everything and more of myself, overstraining myself many times – in order to be able to feel that I deserve the little or much that I might have. This is the perverse learning many of us share… that we must suffer in order to deserve anything good.” Reflections from a Guatemalan activist.
Beginning in 2008, the Urgent Action Fund of Latin America has accumulated conceptual and practical experience on the subject of integrated protection and security through coordinating training workshops with women activists in various countries and in different contexts. Likewise, the Fund has drawn from the work and the two publications of the Urgent Action Fund based in the United States:- “What's the Point of Revolution if We Can't Dance?” and “Insiste, Persiste, Resiste, Existe.”
Sounds of the Conch is a call to the heart of women who defend the human rights of the women of Latin America in order to think about deepening the sustainability of their activism in conditions of wellbeing, healthy living, and emotional, spiritual, political, and cultural development, both at the personal level and at the level of the organizations they are part of.
Sounds of the Conch is a holistic proposal that springs from the collective, from the bodies of women themselves, and from the care and self-care practices that encompass the physical and the psychosocial. It is much more than the concept commonly defined by States as military, police, or merely legal security; ultimately, it complements the many contributions of Human Rights organizations on the subject of protection and security of the diversity of women activists. Sounds of the Conch promotes the renewal of activist practices that allow women to look deeply within themselves, not only as individual human beings but as collectives and networks, since they are not isolated persons without reference to a community, a society or a State. SOME OF THE CONCEPTS UNDER DISCUSSION Women´s bodies: Women live political realities at the personal level, in the deepest intimacy of their beings, in their bodies. We must listen to our bodies because that is where information related to our wellbeing, to the presence or absence of disease, to spiritual, bodily, and emotional balance is stored. The patriarchal system and the “inherent” handling of manly power and violence, at times carried to the extreme of war itself, generate disease, insecurity, lack of protection, and fear.
Resistance: When women's methods of resisting become problematic, when they bring harm to the defenders themselves, for whatever reason, another way of struggle must be found. It seems we have taken on manly ways of struggle without asking any questions. Sometimes it is a matter of having the audacity to rethink political work from a different stand-point. Support Networks: It is necessary to ask where the diversity of women activists situate themselves, and to help them name their vulnerabilities, personal as well as collective.
They are all members of a collective or several collectives, and therefore protection and security must be thought of collectively. What and where are the support networks? How are these networks constructed? Risk Maps: Likewise, a collective mapping and analysis of external and internal risks that threaten women activists must be undertaken, recognizing the specific and the differentiated risks that each woman faces; the collective and individual responses of different types; and the role of each woman when a threat appears or materializes. Fear: Women often keep their fears to themselves or deny them so that both fear and impunity are collectively silenced. The strategy of instilling fear so impunity continues is not a personal matter: it is a collective concern, a societal issue. Nonetheless, every attempt is made to individualize fear, and likewise, impunity, so that women censor themselves in order to avoid creating problems. THE PROPOSAL The aim is to promote and coordinate a series of dialogues and encounters, designed and implemented with activists and their organizations, in order to promote and deepen concepts and practices related to the sustainability of the activism of the diversity of women Human Rights defenders. Our starting point is the ethical position emanating from the foundational proposal of feminism in that the personal is political; as well as from the belief in the interdependence between the personal and the collective, and the collective as a manifestation of the universe. As a consequence, we relate closely to eco-feminism, acknowledging that the oppression of women and the destruction of the planet have a common origin: the patriarchal system that imposes the power of one gender or of one species over others.
Just as it has been important to bring to light the violence unleashed against women in their work of defending human rights, there is a second phenomenon that deserves to be viewed from a different perspective: the political becomes personal. That is, the work that women carry out becomes a struggle to the death because along the way their dreams and illusions are snuffed out, and their wellbeing and vitality are diminished. What we find are activists who are ill and alone, who have no access to health services or social security. It is urgent that we turn our gaze toward them, toward their individual life stories, toward their history, in order to understand what is happening and, at the same time, to identify steps that can be taken to transcend individuality. Women defining themselves as the subjects of rights is insufficient to guarantee their protection and security; this is an interdependent condition dependant on multiple factors, synthesizing the individual and the collective and requiring actions of various types that do not depend only on State guarantees and legal frameworks. That is why, moving beyond the traditional concept of â€œtrainingâ€?, FAU-AL has opted for promoting shared conversations regarding the sustainability of the activism of women who defend the human rights of women as a learning methodology and construction of knowledge.
UPDATE ON THE FIVE-YEAR PLAN OF STRATEGIC DIRECTIONS 2011-2015 For those who are not familiar with the Five-Year Plan of Strategic Directions of the Urgent Action Fund of Latin America and the Spanish-Speaking Caribbean (FAU-LA), 2011-2015, we wish to point out, first of all, that it was drawn up collectively by staff and the Board of Directors following one and a half years of reflection. The Plan is not a straightjacket, but rather a path, a guide that allows the Board and the staff to move forward according to a shared directionality, taking into account: our identity as a Latin-American feminist organization; the complexity of changing contexts; the conditions of marginality, exclusion, threats, and violence faced by the majority of women supported by FAU-LA; and the historically low representation of women in government entities and in the formulation of public policies. Our Five-Year Plan is geared toward Change, Impact, and Learning; it is based on a theory of change that involves small, sequential transformations, aiming at broader and long-term structural transformation. It contains five main results to be achieved within five years and each is accompanied by its respective indicators and milestones to be achieved year by year. Our Proposed Change Results and Progress Achieved: I) FAU-LA has incrementally increased the capacity of its Rapid Response Grant Making Program to respond proactively, according to pre-established principles, criteria, categories, and amounts, to requests from women´s community and grass-roots organizations, as well as from NGOs and networks of the diversity of women, living in conditions of poverty, exclusion, armed conflict, violence, and fundamentalisms in Latin America and the Spanish-Speaking Caribbean. At the end of 2012, the number of approved Rapid Response Grants (RRG) had increased by 30% over 2011, although it must be mentioned that in 2011 the total had fallen slightly in comparison with 2010. Thus we don´t yet dare to make definitive predictions regarding the volume of RRG; however, we do stress the reduction in the number of proposals unsuitable for FAU-AL, indicating that our niche in the philanthropic community and our criteria and categories have become better understood over time. The quality of the final reports from the groups receiving support has improved, and they provide us with much valuable information; additionally, we have strengthened internal instruments for data collection. LBTTI groups continued to make up approximately 30% of our contributions in 2012, an indicator of the strength of fundamentalisms and the violent backlash from conservative sectors of Latin American society. Our volunteer advisors in each country help to deepen our analysis of political tendencies, and finally, we are proud to be able to support organizations of the diversity of audacious, brave, and creative women in Latin America. ii) Organizations and networks of the diversity of women, strengthened through Rapid Response Grants, as well as allied movements and organizations working in Latin America and the Spanishspeaking Caribbean, have improved their strategies to promote, protect, and advance women´s Human Rights, incorporating lessons gathered through the systematization and thematic evaluation of FAU-AL´s RRG, undertaken jointly between FAU-AL and the organizations that received support.
Between April and September, 2012 we carried out a third par ticipatory RRG systematization/evaluation related to the promotion and protection of the rights of LBTTI communities in Latin America. The process involved the elaboration of a document dealing with the political context as well as a workshop with 20 participants from 11 countries. At present we are systematizing the information gathered during the entire process, with the aim of returning a summary to participants, obtaining their feedback, and disseminating the results through electronic means. Evaluations by the participants who took part in the workshop were highly positive and “affectionate,” also emphasizing the richness and creativity of the groups regarding the strategies used to promote LBTTI rights. It was mentioned that the type of financial support offered by FAU-AL continues to be useful and very important in the life of these organizations.
iii) Activists and organizations of the diversity of women have improved their understanding and capacity to replicate concepts and practices of Integrated Security and Protection and the Sustainability of Women's Human Right Activism, as well as their capacity to promote the same at the level of individuals, families, support networks, and communities. Progress was significant in this area during 2012: a document, Sounds of the Conch in two versions (short and long) in Spanish and in English was completed and circulated, as well as a three-panel brochure for general distribution. Because FAU-AL hopes to make a significant contribution in the years to come on the subject of the sustainability of the activism of women who defend the Human Rights of the diversity of women, we have included a specific excerpt about this work; this information, therefore, will not be repeated here. It is important to point out that we are de-emphasizing the concept of integrated protection and security and increasingly focusing on the sustainability of women's activism or the search for alternative and sustainable activism. iv) Grassroots organizations of the diversity of women, activists, feminists, and women policy makers have improved their understanding and defense of the human rights of women in two situations: in contexts of violence exercised by “hidden” or “shadow” powers and the defense of territory and Mother Earth; through the implementation of Collaborative Initiatives, designed and implemented collectively between FAU-AL and participating organizations. These two Collaborative Initiatives will begin in 2013. The Initiative regarding the promotion of the rights of women in contexts of “shadow” or “hidden” powers- often linked to illegal drug trafficking and important quantities of arms and money, and with great capacity to blackmail and co-opt State institutions themselves – will be carried out in an interesting context. On the one hand, in Latin America the clamor grows for the decriminalization of drugs; and, on the other, in the United States the same message is heard, coming from organizations of black women whose children fill that country´s prisons in disproportionate numbers. The Initiative includes a “think tank” in which grass-roots leaders, women from academia, and women policy makers from the global north and south will discuss and share ideas and strategies. Likewise, with the participation of women from a Latin American network defending women's rights to territory and Mother Earth, FAU-AL will initiate a process of participatory research, training, and dissemination with women interested in shedding light on the specific effects and consequences of large mining operations and other extractive industries on the lives of women, their families and their communities, as well as the generation of strategies for the defense of territory, food autonomy, and the right to a healthy environment. v) FAU-AL has strengthened its capacity to grow in a sustainable way, with a consolidated management structure at the level of Board, Staff Team, and the alliance of the three Urgent Action Funds (Latin America, Africa, and the United States).
FAU-AL has achieved initial internal consolidation: it has an active Board, tools for public communication, basic internal procedural manuals, a budget that grows modestly from year to year, three successful institutional audits, a growing installed capacity in English and Portuguese in addition to Spanish, a specific database for the Rapid Response Grant Making Program, and relations with important national, regional, and international women´s, human rights, and philanthropic organizations. We have successfully laid the foundations of the organization and can now fly higher, following, of course, the general outlines of the Five-Year Plan of Strategic Directions. Despite many changes, the alliance of the three sister funds consolidates, having participated in a joint Board Meeting in 2012 and in the elaboration of a Memorandum of Understanding.