What did the world look like in 1983 when Mama Cash’s five feminist founders sat around a kitchen table and dreamt up the radical idea of starting the world’s first international women’s fund?
Banks in the Netherlands were refusing to give loans to women entrepreneurs. Around the world, women’s rights were not included in conversations about human rights and economic justice. Marginalised groups such as lesbians, domestic workers, indigenous women, and sex workers were barely visible to human rights funders. There were no international women’s funds.
In this difficult environment, Mama Cash’s visionary founders began to raise money solely for women’s rights. As they developed Mama Cash’s grantmaking strategies, they never played it safe. They believed that making fundamental change demanded radical action.
Marjan Sax, founder of Mama Cash: ‘In the beginning we had to find our way.’ (Watch Video)
Mama Cash’s founders pioneered a new loan guarantee model in the Netherlands that persuaded banks to give loans to women entrepreneurs. The programme changed banking culture in the Netherlands forever.
Mama Cash supported women and girls who more mainstream funders could not even see, or who they simply ignored. Girls and black, older, lesbian, and refugee women received funds to organise and launch ground-breaking cultural productions that helped to build solidarity and move people to action. Grantees said time and again that Mama Cash was the first funder to believe in them and support their work.
From the 2011 AWID Global Survey Where is the Money for Women’s Rights?: ‘But today, more than half of women’s rights organisations still have annual budgets of 50,000 US dollars or less and have never received multi year funding from any institutional donor.’
Today, Mama Cash is still daring to support reshaping the world for women and girls. She gives multi-year, core support to approximately 100 groups and networks annually. Her grantees are self-led organisations and movements of women, girls and trans people working to bring their agendas and voices from the margins to the centres of activism and power worldwide.
From 1983 till 2012, Mama Cash has mobilised over 67 million euros for women’s rights and has supported more than 6,000 women’s organisations and funds worldwide.