Fund for Central and Eastern Europe
Poverty, conflicts and traditional norms
‘Thanks to a substantial gift from an individual donor, Mama Cash was able to widen her field of activity to include women’s groups in Central and Eastern Europe’, the 1996 annual report states with pride. Although Mama Cash had given grants to several groups in Eastern Europe before, after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent deconstruction of the Iron Curtain, more grant requests started to trickle in from Central and Eastern Europe. In 1996, this inspired Johanna, a member of the network Women with Inherited Wealth to set up a work group especially for Central and Eastern Europe. This work group was part of the Culture Fund.
The position of Central and Eastern European women was difficult due to poverty and conflicts. Also, the influence of the church had increased significantly, and people had a strong tendency to return to nationalism and ‘traditional norms’. This caused, for example, the right for abortion to be challenged, whereas abortion had not been an issue during the communist era.
A great succes
Johanna’s initiative was a great succes. The Fund for Central and Eastern Europe received more and more requests. (watch interview) By 1998, the Fund for Central and Eastern Europe had become a respectably-sized fund. It had set up a network consisting of 25 advisors and, during that year, it received 145 requests from 28 countries, over half of which were granted support. Money went to lesbian women, sex workers and women with disabilities. It funded initiatives against sexual violence such as shelters for battered women. A temporary fund was set up specifically to assist women in the disintegrated states of the former Soviet Union: the Soviet Union Fund.
Lydia Sklevicky Award
The Fund for Central and Eastern Europe created an award named after Lydia Sklevicky. Sklevicky, who died in a car accident in 1990, was the driving force behind the first feminist organisation in the former Yugoslavia. The award went to the Albanian women’s group Motrat Qiriazi, named after the sisters Sevasti and Parashqevi Qiriazi, who had fought for girls’ education a hundred years before. The group organised discussions among young women and girls in Kosovan villages where patriarchical practices were still going strong, such as marrying off girls after primary school. The objective of establishing contact between girls and young women was to create awareness about their position and to break their isolation.
In 2002, the Fund for Central and Eastern Europe and the Fund for the Global South joined together and formed the International Fund for a short period of time. In 2004, Mama Cash had structured her grantmaking around separate regions: Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and Europe. The International Fund was not needed anymore.