A Window Into The Lives Of Activists

From the desk of Kate Kroeger reflecting on the meaningful and effective work done by the activists we support:
Every year around this time, I make it a practice to look back on Urgent Action Fund’s work and take stock of what happened in the world and how feminist activists responded.  Reading through the descriptions of each grant we made provides a window into the lives and work of individual activists and organizations. Looking at the overall numbers, the geographies, and the issues, provides a snapshot of the world’s hotspots and the conditions under which activists carried out their work.
This year, UAF made 167 grants – one of the highest numbers in our 22-year history. Our focus was on the Middle East, as well as Russia and Eastern Europe. And needless to say, in these times, the US also factored prominently in the support we provided.
As I read through the grants we made this year, it struck me just how many were for security and evacuation of activists. This was always a part of UAF’s work but it is growing. In the past, just about half of our grants were for this kind of request. They now make up almost three-quarters of our rapid response grants. This trend speaks to the conditions activists now find themselves in as they challenge repressive governments and take on ultra-conservative forces who have pitted themselves against these activists’ very survival.
Time after time, UAF used its resources in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Turkey, Russia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and yes, the US, to help activists to secure themselves and their organizations, and get out of immediate danger.
This included a children’s rights activist in Turkey being detained on false charges; women activists working to end child marriage in Yemen who had their phones tapped, were physically surveilled and harassed by both authorities and religious militants; lesbian couples receiving death threats because of their identity and activism in Lebanon; and HIV activists in Georgia carrying out public health campaigns who are targetted by the state for this work. And the list goes on.
Women and LGBTQI people on the frontlines of these struggles have fought back. In Armenia, we supported the women’s resource center to map out hate groups and create a communications campaign in response. Human rights lawyers in Serbia explored strategies to push back on increasing restrictions to civil society organizations. In Palestine, women’s rights organizations held peer-learning sessions on increasing physical security and supporting mental and physical wellbeing.
In the US, we supported frontline activists who are doing critical work to prevent a rollback of rights and are fighting back against cruel and inhumane policies. For example, we supported marches, communications campaigns, and information sessions organized by feminists in Alabama and Texas, where the legislatures considered bills restricting access to abortion and, in the case of Texas, even the introduction of the death penalty for women who terminate their pregnancies. The goal of these bills was to lay the groundwork for a challenge to Roe vs. Wade and a woman’s fundamental right to exercise choice, making these moments particularly important to fight back and stand up for hard-won gains.
In response to the government’s policy of mass deportation, we supported organizations on the southern border, as well as other community-based immigrant rights groups. For example, we provided a grant to a Southeast Asian community organization supporting Cambodian and Vietnamese women and youth, and raising awareness of immigrant and refugee rights and available services.
These are just a few examples of the work UAF supported. Each grant made a difference. Sometimes a single life was saved, sometimes it changed the conditions affecting thousands of women and LGBTQI people.
Thank you for being part of this work. Your support has been critical to this work and because of you, the work continues. Thank you for all you do.