Girls want a world where they have power, freedom, success, protection, safety, a strong cultural identity, confidence, love and joy. – Girl research contributors
After reviewing the publicly facing material of funders and practitioners across the landscape, it was evident that many describe their work through the language of liberation. However, there is a broad disconnect between language and practice. The use of similar terminologies, such as ‘girl-centered,’ among funders and practitioners can be misleading because it creates the impression of a cohesive and well-funded field, despite significant differences in how actors apply and interpret these terms. Such inconsistencies in understanding can have harmful effects, including co-optation.
Funders generally fail to communicate transparently and in ways that create accountability to girls. Information regarding funding amounts, eligibility criteria, and application processes is not easily accessible to girls and their allies in the public domain. Girls are often engaged in tokenistic ways, where individual leadership is prioritized over collective, intergenerational, community-based engagement, perpetuating further harm. Despite the rhetoric of individual institutions, the bulk of current funding for girls treats them apolitically and as recipients of support instead of as essential stakeholders. While this failure to recognize various populations’ political agency and power overall can be said about philanthropic practices in general, we find it particularly true for adolescent girls, coinciding with intersecting age and gender-related social norms that limit trust in girls’ agency.
“We strive to ensure the experiences, context and work of young women are highlighted, so we facilitate spaces for peer learning and political dialogue.” – Fondo Centro Americano de Mujeres
Feminist funders who support adolescent girls offer insight from novel funding strategies that recognize power dynamics and girls’ political agency – including direct resourcing of girls and various engagement approaches. While they do not yet wield significant resources relative to other funders in the landscape – a survey of 13 feminist funders supporting girls reported a total combined $41.3 million in grantmaking dollars in 2021 – they look beyond their own organizations to improve the funding landscape for girls through philanthropic advocacy and learning and with other funders.