Q&A with Emilienne de León Aulina, executive director of the International Network of Women’s Funds. INWF is an association of women’s funds that seek to empower women and girls in communities around the world. Global Greengrants, INWF, and the Alliance of Funds are co-hosting a Summit on Women & Climate this August. The Summit will bring together environmental and women’s movement leaders from around the world to share strategies women are using to combat climate change in their communities.
Why is an association of women’s funds getting involved in climate?
Climate issues deserve an urgent response. Every woman throughout the world, especially those who live in rural areas, is affected by these issues. And women are also the ones who are taking care of the Earth and its resources.
For the International Network of Women’s Funds, it is particularly important that we continue to identify, strategize, and clearly define the issues that our 42 members feel are priorities for advancing women’s and girls’ rights. But we also see a number of relevant intersections with climate issues that could potentially lead to very strategic funding initiatives.
Our members work at the national, regional, and international levels. They have access to local grassroots groups. This constitutes a great platform to broaden support to grassroots women’s groups working on climate mitigation and adaptation. The goal is not only to advance women’s and girls’ rights, but also to—whenever possible—integrate environmental justice into our grantmaking practices.
What does INWF expect from the collaboration with Global Greengrants?
It’s been over two years that we have been talking with Global Greengrants about working together to strengthen our influence through joint projects that truly enhance and reflect the various intersections between women’s rights and climate.
The Summit on Women & Climate, while it could seem like the end goal of our collaboration, is actually a first and important step in what we expect will be a broader, stronger, and lasting alliance. We hope that through this first encounter and exchange among women’s funds and Global Greengrants we will be able to spark new local, regional, and international projects that will re-shape the way in which members from both networks have been working.
What excites you about the Summit on Women & Climate?
We seek a more engaged movement among our members in terms of understanding the intersections between women and climate, the work environmental activists have done, and how they are also incorporating a gender lens in their grantmaking. During the upcoming Summit, we are looking forward to learning, to increasing our understanding, to listening, and to exchanging in ways that will allow us to define joint strategies and build new, innovative projects in the near future.
How have INWF members reacted to this collaboration?
They are thrilled to be able to participate and learn from this exchange. They have put a great effort into sharing their resources, stories, questions, and suggestions to make the Summit a great gathering. The unique opportunity that spaces like these offer representatives from our network is invaluable in terms of how many first-hand insights they can gather from listening to others’ experiences.
INWF invests in building these spaces because we believe that networks and collaborations happen because there is trust. Creating the space for this trust to be built is a big investment, and with 17 INWF participants attending and representing Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Europe, we feel very strongly about the outcomes—both in terms of our members learning more about climate-related issues and in new collaborations with Global Greengrants at the local and regional levels.
What obstacles do you see for women’s rights and environmental rights working together?
As I mentioned earlier, trust is a key element to any collaboration, and I believe that this Summit is a great step in trying to debunk a series of misunderstandings. It is a space that will allow for recognition, for experience sharing, and for showing how complimentary both movements are.
We have foreseen that a number of obstacles might come up, including a lack of knowledge of what others have done, how they work, why they do it in such a way, etc. The whole idea behind this Summit is precisely to talk it all out and listen to each other in a constructive and respectful way.
Another big obstacle that we face is the lack of financial resources, and the difficulty for local grassroots groups in accessing funding—both within the women’s and environmental movements. We understand how defending our territories is threatening many lives, and how men’s migration patterns, to either urban centers or foreign countries, have left women solely responsible for taking care of their resources and land. This is an issue that constantly comes up in our members’ work, and they have been supporting local grassroots groups in the defense and preservation of their land. Yet, a number of threats continue to render women’s human rights defenders’ work harder, more dangerous, and increasingly isolated.
We feel strongly about expanding our outreach and building support networks with partners such as Global Greengrants to strengthen our impact and voices. Working together will definitely help us clear the way to create positive synergies among women’s rights and environmental rights funds.
What do you think will be the greatest success of this collaboration?
Making the Summit happen is already a great success, but so is achieving a series of agreements on next steps. We need to focus on developing an engaged, working agenda after the Summit to truly inspire and support ongoing collaboration among our members.
One of the biggest tasks we have is to ensure that we are opening the spaces for women’s funds, Global Greengrants, grassroots organizations, and funders to continue working together at different levels and to define how we (INWF and Global Greengrants) are going to support these efforts. A great next step will be to engage donors in supporting new and innovative efforts, to raise more resources, and to help us advocate for more funding for women and climate issues.
Click here to learn more about the Summit on Women & Climate. And stay up-to-date on women and climate news by following our tweets at #WomenAndClimate.