Through an agreement with UK-based Alliance magazine, PND is pleased to be able to offer a series of articles about global philanthropy.
Over the past decade, we've seen an alarming increase in policies that undermine human rights and a continuing rise in state violence, with a particularly devastating effect on girls and women. In the midst of this, we've also witnessed powerful, thriving grassroots feminist movements working to dismantle oppressive forces and effect lasting social change.
At the NoVo Foundation, all our work is rooted in ending systems of violence and exploitation, particularly gender-based violence. From the very beginning, we've prioritized raising up the leadership of girls and women in their communities and Indigenous wisdom as a catalyst for global social change. The movements led by our partners in the U.S. and the Global South have deeply informed our own core values, which include respect for lived experience, social justice, and radical hope, and they continue to guide us in our learning.
Through our $80 million commitment to Move to End Violence (MEV), we've helped nurture a bold vision for those working to end violence against women and girls — including cis and trans women and gender non-conforming people — by supporting a robust network of change agents. The majority of MEV participants, called "Movement Makers," are women of color, Indigenous, and LGBTQ leaders who work at the intersections of gender justice.
In working with Move to End Violence, we started by listening and learning. We spoke with hundreds of stakeholders committed to ending violence against women and girls and asked what they needed to achieve enduring social change and an end to gender-based violence. They shared their challenges, including burnout, resource scarcity, and an inability to rise above their daily work to think creatively. Some of the things they recommended included prioritizing advocacy and leadership that is transformative, visionary, and movement-based, and developing self-care practices at the individual and organizational levels. Early on, the expectation was that MEV would build a community aligned around a world free of violence. Over the years, however, the program has evolved and deepened in powerful ways.
One such way is the program's deepened commitment to building alliances between leaders from the U.S. and the Global South. While the commitment to transnational movement building was part of the MEV plan from the beginning, we have learned that this kind of work is time-intensive and requires deep care and intentionality.
This year, Movement Makers took part in an International Exchange in Guatemala, where a fourth cohort spent time with NoVo partner JASS, a global network that works to strengthen the voice, organizing power, and safety of women activists and movements. The convening brought together Mesoamerican and U.S.-based women of color to exchange methodologies and histories and included a visit to the Landscapes of Memory memorial for victims of the 36-year-long armed conflict in Guatemala to learn how U.S. imperialism played a role in the 200,000 people who have died during the conflict. MEV and JASS organizers took part in a ceremony facilitated by Indigenous human rights advocates Rosalina Tuyuc and Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú Tum that looked at how U.S.-supported resource extraction led to violence against the Earth and the displacement, torture, and murder of thousands of Mayan girls and women. Everyone was inspired by how activists are continuing to defend their lands from extraction and reclaim Indigenous traditions, and by their steadfast activism against injustice and repression.
Another way the program has evolved is in how it grapples with tensions that have historically existed within social justice movements. Some of these tensions involve challenging anti-blackness and transphobia. During our Domestic Exchange in March, we hosted a roundtable of activists who are leading powerful work in black and brown communities in Texas, including Latinx and trans activists of color. Leaders pointed out the ways in which black cis and trans immigrants are targeted for punishment and criminalization in detention centers — "another way that anti-blackness shows up." The discussions highlighted the need for solidarity and cross-community organizing, while also underscoring the nuances and complexities of our ongoing struggles.
Movement Makers have also named and addressed Indigenous invisibility within movements, most recently illustrated by the lack of attention to the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people (MMIWG2S) in North America. MEV members have been able to partner with organizations like the Minnesota Indian Women's Sexual Assault Coalition to raise awareness of this largely invisible crisis while countering systemic patterns of colonialism and violence.
Our program has also allowed us to witness the transformative power of storytelling drawn from the lives of marginalized girls and women. During our convening in South Africa, MEV connected with groups such as the Whole World Women Association (WWWA), which works with refugee women from the region. Attendees heard from survivors who used poetry and theater to tell their stories, recounting the horrors that so many migrant women face, but also stories about their own resilience, activism, and hope. The experience ultimately sharpened their analysis of how the immigrant rights movement and the movement to end gender-based violence must be woven together, ensuring that the voices of those most affected are heard.
By fostering collective relationship and power-building, intersectional feminist approaches to social justice and practices of healing and liberation, Movement Makers continue to dismantle dominant narratives and systems of violence and oppression. MEV supports leaders in imagining a new reality and in truly having the space to reflect on, build, and strengthen their own capacity to drive systemic change. We invite others to imagine, and help create, a world of safety and dignity for all people and an even larger global movement to end violence against girls and women.
Monica Dennis and Priscilla Hung are co-directors of Move to End Violence (@MoveEndViolence). Pamela Shifman is executive director of the NoVo Foundation.