The Mediterranean Women's Fund: all heading forward for equality!
“Do you know in which Mediterranean country women hold more than a third of decision-making positions? If you don’t it’s normal, this country does not exist”. The Mediterranean Women’s Fund, a French association founded in 2008, posted this provocative answer-and-question on Youtube to raise awareness among the wider public with the objective “to contribute to the improvement of women’s status and to the promotion of gender equality in Mediterranean countries through the reinforcement of women’s rights in the region, at both local and national levels”.
How to act to change, mind sets though? Undoubtedly by grasping local culture to better fight injustice against women in Mediterranean societies, and by encouraging feminist and feminine initiatives at all levels.
Progress and democracy must come through women
“No society can fit into modernity, progress and democracy without ensuring gender-equality”, explains Samia Allalou, in charge of the documentary resources at the MedWF. A twinkle in her eyes and a broad smile on her face, Samia Allalou’s enthusiasm is infectious. She welcomes us in the spacious and cosy flat located in the 19th arrondissement of Paris where MedWF shares its offices with other organisations.
“The Fund is more than a simple job; it is a passion”, she confides. “We work on different issues. One of our priorities is to reinforce women’s movements in the region”.
Supporting the activities of groups, associations, organisations and individuals contributing to gender equality in the Mediterranean, requires funding that MedWF is set to provide. “Women’s associations are mainly based on volunteering and the gift of self. But on the long term it is important to strengthen one’s structure and to become more professionalised, which is what we are aiming at”, tells Samia Allalou.
Since 2009, the Fund enabled more than 150 projects to come to life, supported by associations from 19 Mediterranean countries. It differentiates itself from other funding organisations by the flexibility and the rapidity with which demands are processed: an initial form is filled and submitted to the Fund who then evaluate the project within 15 days. Then the application is completed and the wheels are set in motion within a month.
Feminist revolution and cultural expressions
The Fund also aims at making women’s voice heard all around the Mediterranean. Culture and media are therefore the Fund’s favoured fields, with the support of a network of “New Media in the Mediterranean” led by young French, Algerian, Egyptian, Italian, Lebanese and Tunisian journalists and editors in chief. The Fund also supported the web-based platform “Les Nouvelles Antigones” on which bloggers, activists and poets share their rebellious writings. Another MedWF -supported production is “Nassawiyat”, a series of radio programmes broadcast on French station France Culture and dedicated to young feminists in Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia. A bountiful crowd of individual stories that tells the deep transformation of Arab societies dictated by women.
“Shortly after the Arab revolutions, we thought about organising meetings where feminists from a same country could reflect together about the relevant strategies to be implemented. For instance we supported in Tunisia the group Engagement Citoyen (Citizen Engagement) that was essential in the run up to the elections. In the same way we organised two strategic reflection meetings with several Tunisian women’s associations around the vote for the new constitution, we also organised meetings in Egypt in 2011 and Croatia in 2013”, explains Marta Giral, President of MedWF.
Apart from sharing knowledge and experiences, these meetings allow the MedWF team to remain close to the extremely diverse political and social contexts and to model its action according to those realities while weaving dense networks at both local and regional levels. Two new encounters took place in June 2015 in France, where women’s associations from working class neighbourhoods met, and in Tunisia, where the Fund organised a week of exchanges between feminists from different Libyan associations.
Reinforce personal capacities to create the conditions of collective actions
Starting from the basic consideration that young generations of female activists struggle to find their way within existing women’s organisations while representing nonetheless the vital forces of Mediterranean societies, Caroline Sakina Brac de la Perrière, Executive Director of MedWF developed a course in “Feminist Collective Intelligence Training” specifically aimed at them. “I think”, she explains, “that the revolutions enabled young women to realise that they had a voice and courage when they took part in the first demonstrations…These are the over-connected new Facebook generations of the global world that we want to help organize between themselves” .
The objective of these trainings is to give young women self-confidence in order to allow them to learn how to invest the public space with serenity. In the end, they also learn how to work with other groups, the feminist organisations’ landscape being still far too scattered. “Each training takes 3 5-day sessions: ‘Me and the world’, ‘Me and the group’, and ‘My group and the other groups’ split throughout the year. We organise everything ourselves in welcoming and totally independent venues”, tells Samia Allalou. “This neutrality is essential to foster confidence and trust. We work a lot on the body, using the techniques of the theatre of the Oppressed for group exercises. The energy released by the group and the transformation these young women go through in such a short period of time is incredible”.
Young women from both sides of the Mediterranean need these training sessions that already took place in Algeria, France and Morocco. On that point the Fund’s “wonder-women” are adamant: there is no opposition between North and South. Women’s rights are universal, and to varying degrees all countries are concerned by male domination and gender inequality. Next destination: Tunisia in September.
Those who make waves
Since 2010, the Mediterranean Women’s Fund has organised every year a photo contest open to amateurs on a strong women-related theme. The winners of the 2015 edition will be announced on the 15th of September 2015 at the latest on the MedWF’s website and will receive a gift voucher worth 400, 300 and 200 euros. This year the contest’s spotlight is on “those who make waves…and who slowly but surely make the ship of the world go forward”.
Contenu produit en collaboration avec Babelmed
 FFMED receives funding from the Global Fund for Women, Mama Cash, the Oak Foundation, the Rita Fund, Filia, the Sigried Rausing Trust, the World Fund for Human Rights, as well as from companies Arcône, Oleos and SO.MI.CAL. In Algeria companies Aladin and Lebon directly support the Fund’s partner projects.
 Initially quoted in an article published in La Marseillaise on January 29th 2014.
 Initially quoted in a radio interview of FFMED’s Executive Director by Charlotte Bienaimé on France Culture.