The following is a conversation between Latanya Mapp Frett, President & CEO of the Global Fund for Women and Author of The Everyday Feminist: The Key to Sustainable Social Impact Driving Movements We Need Now More Than Ever, and Denver Frederick, the Host of The Business of Giving.
Denver: Latanya Mapp Frett is the author of The Everyday Feminist: The Key to Sustainable Social Impact Driving Movements We Need Now More Than Ever. She’s not just an accomplished feminist, activist and executive, but also a storyteller giving voice to the unsung heroes of feminist movements worldwide.
From her roles with the United Nations, the US Government Foreign Service, Planned Parenthood Global, and now as President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women, she brings forth a wealth of experience and wisdom. And she’s with us now.
Welcome to The Business of Giving, Latanya.
Latanya: Thank you, Denver. Thank you for having me here today.
Denver: What inspired you to write The Everyday Feminist, and how has your own journey as a feminist activist influenced the book?
Latanya: Well, thank you. Denver, it’s interesting because I’ve lived in… because of those roles that you’ve mentioned, I’ve lived in more than 15 countries and across four continents. And whether it was an NGO or UN or government, or foundation like where I am now, I kept meeting women who were just doing incredible things.
They befriended me. They taught me. They helped me to find my own power in what I’m now proud to call an everyday feminist. And so serving in this role, and as you know, I’m on the boards of Oxfam, Management Scientists for Health, I now have this unique perspective over the last three decades– understanding the actual value of the everyday feminist because I’ve actually had this opportunity to speak with them and to really help set strategies on their issues and what they wanted to see happen in their countries. And then I could watch up close the long-term impact as I moved around. So if I served in Iraq, now, 20 years later, I get to see what those women who have, who were doing that work, actually succeeded in making this kind of impact that I think sometimes we just forget.
And so yes, they show up in the social media feeds; they’re in their offices, and we can read about them, but I just am so grateful and thankful that I’ve had the time to spend with them in person to really see the impact that they’re making. And that’s not just in an overseas country, that’s right here in the US as well.
Denver: Yeah. I’ve observed, Latanya, if we can hang around long enough, we do get to see the long-term effect.
Latanya: That’s right.
Latanya: And that’s a blessing, right? Because the opposite…
Denver: That is a blessing.
Latanya: …is not what we want, right?
Denver: We want to keep on hanging around, that’s for sure.
Denver: Latanya, do women have a different way of looking at the world than men?
Latanya: And so I want to be humble when I answer this question because I don’t want it to be perceived as one way is better than the other. But I do think that women have this, by necessity– probably because of the role we play in society, the care that we give to our families– we do have to view social problems from this very intersectional perspective.
It’s very difficult for women activists to be able to focus just on one thing at a time, where I think a lot of men activists, organizations, executives really do have this, I think, privilege to be able to sort of really focus in and go deep on one thing, where we have to sort of scan the multitude of social issues that are happening in our communities.
And so, I mean, I’ll take the example of my own life. I’ve written in the book about the years of domestic violence that my mother suffered, the limited educational economic pathways for mothers with dependents, and then the racial profiling my father and my grandfather endured.
And then there’s all this institutional shame and denial that’s going on around teen pregnancy, which is when my mother had us. So I think women have to often put all of these problems on their plate to handle, right? And more importantly, how to solve those problems in very discreet ways.
And so it’s that interconnectedness that I think, and we talk about it as intersectional work, but those are the things that I think women have to face early in their careers and their work. And they instinctively sort of accept that this is the expansive lifetime work that they have to do.
“And I am trying to say in this book that these everyday feminists are really showing up for us. They’re doing the work. We got to show up for them. We got to be there to protect them. We have to be there to resource them, and we got to stop this thinking that they can’t burn out or that this is something that they can continue to do without support for the rest of their lives and we just sort of accept it.”
Denver: Yeah, it’s a much more holistic look, and I’ve observed it in that women look at things both from the public and private spheres because so much of the harm happens in their homes. So guys tend to just look at what’s out there, and you have to have that 360-degree wraparound in terms of being able to address these problems.
I love the idea of everyday feminists. I mean, it’s just a great concept. How do their roles differ from the more prominent activists and other leaders?
Latanya: Well, I wouldn’t say that they’re different. I would say that most of the everyday feminists that we’re talking about in this book are routinely under, sort of, appreciated. I think I have to say that. And so these may not be the lightning-bolt leaders that we all see, the heads of that, or the vice president, or the prime minister.
But these are going to be the women that are, over time when you look at sustainability of social issues, especially around gender justice and racial justice, climate justice, you are going to see that these are the women who continue to show up, continue to connect in and to make the work happen in their communities, in their countries, in their regions.
And so I don’t think that it’s different. I just think that there’s something about the way that we appreciate the work that women do. I think there’s this expectation that women– we’re the mothers, we’re the aunties, that we do it because we have to. We do it because that’s the role in the family and the role in the company, the role in this or that.
And I am trying to say in this book that these everyday feminists are really showing up for us. They’re doing the work. We got to show up for them. We got to be there to protect them. We have to be there to resource them, and we got to stop this thinking that they can’t burn out, or that this is something that they can continue to do without support for the rest of their lives and we just sort of accept it. That’s what I’m trying to get at.
Denver: Why are they so underappreciated and under-resourced?
Latanya: I’ve got this theory about, sort of, I call it the “mama effect.” I think because, you know, I mean it’s because women are the mothers. They are the givers. They’re the carer, the caretakers. They are the ones who often have to play that role and enjoy playing that role.
I’m not saying that they don’t, but what I also think is like most of us who have children know, that it takes a long time to appreciate that. I mean, you’re born into a structure in societies where women are often seen as less than men, and so then you internalize that. And so the work that they do then becomes less valuable than the work that men do.
And I think from that perspective, from that cultural perspective, we tend to bring that into the workplace. We tend to bring that into activism and community work. And we just see it as something that women do because that’s what they’re supposed to do, and that work obviously is not as valuable as what men do. And I think that’s the effect I think that we’re seeing.
And I am saying in Everyday Feminist that that’s actually the opposite. The work that everyday feminists are bringing to transformational change, to social issues, to changing hearts and minds, is more important even than changing a law. So those are the things that I think we have to kind of check ourselves on, and that’s what I’m hoping the book will do.
Denver: Yeah. And sometimes when I look at organizations, I take a look at the org chart, and I see how much gets done on the org chart, but then I realize nothing would ever get done in the company if it wasn’t for those informal networks and those grassroot initiatives.
And that’s where women and everyday feminists really excel. They just have a way of connecting and collaborating. And sometimes their fingerprints are not as vivid as they otherwise might be, but it’s how everything happens. At least in my community, that’s the case.
Latanya: Oh, absolutely. I always talk about the PTA moms, the soccer moms. I mean, we’re quick to praise like the nurses and the teachers and the soup kitchen volunteer coordinator, but we’re not as quick, and some of the data that you see in the book, is resourcing these guys. We don’t see that work as something particularly from philanthropy, from corporate government.
Wherever you look, you don’t see… the amount of money that reaches these grassroots organizations is so dismal. I talk in the book about the 1%. My organization, Global Fund for Women, is doing a campaign now, and that says 1.9% and rising because that’s how much gets to grassroots women organizations, is 1.9% of the overall gender equality resource bucket or basket.
And so that we got to change. We got to… if we want them to keep showing up, we want them, like you said, to keep getting shit done, then we got to make sure that they can thrive.
“And what Global Fund for Women does really : we try to fund these emerging movements in these emerging organizations so that they become a pipeline in some ways to this work. And because they have the relationships with the community, it’s almost crazy if we don’t invest in them because they’re actually driving in the most profound social impact just by being in their communities.”
Denver: Yeah. I mean, I think a lot of it has to do with funders having, let’s say, if you want to call it, best practices, and so many of these organizations don’t have the history, or the years of service, or the money in the bank. So they’re almost excluded because they don’t meet this artificial standard that someone has got to take a look at and say: This is not the way to make this a better world.
You’re just funding the same old, prominent 80-year-old organizations. And that’s not really how these communities are thriving.
Latanya: Yeah. And there’s a couple of ways, Denver, that I talk about it. I mean, you think about your portfolio, right? Let’s think about your financial portfolio a little bit, and you’re trying to invest in a life for yourself and probably some bits of that for your children after you leave.
And so you’re going to like have some of these long-term, very fixed institutional investments that you make, right? The things that you know will be long and strong. And then you’re going to make some commitments to the things that you really care about and make sure that you invest in those.
And then you’re going to invest in stuff that maybe you’re not so sure, but you have a good feeling about. And I feel like that’s where our investments, especially with philanthropy and government, we have to have that kind of portfolio. So I’m not saying: don’t stop. I love the Oxfams, I love the Cares.
Don’t stop those things, but also make sure then that you are investing in local capacity, so institutions in countries where they’ve already gotten there. And then make sure you have a good part of your portfolio for emerging work that’s happening with women in communities.
And what Global Fund for Women does really is: we try to fund these emerging movements in these emerging organizations so that they become a pipeline in some ways to this work. And because they have the relationships with the community, it’s almost crazy if we don’t invest in them because they’re actually driving in the most profound social impact just by being in their communities.
Denver: No question about it. Well, I’ve always believed in philanthropy… we have a four-letter word. And that four-letter word is risk. And in our portfolios, we try to take all the risk out. Well, some of these emerging organizations, okay, they’re a bit risky, but they’re also the ones that are going to have the huge payoffs.
And just the way I have my financial portfolio, you need a couple of those, and failure is not… is really just learning. And not many of them are going to fail anyway, but you got to get this old, safe, tried and true… are not going to solve our problems without going to some of these emerging organizations.
Borrowing from the subtitle of your book, in terms of creating sustainable social impact, what’s the key to that, and what role do everyday feminists play in it?
Latanya: I think the best way, and that’s why it’s so important for me to sort of tell stories, one of the stories that I tell in the introduction is about Innocent who was a refugee.
Denver: In Nairobi.
Latanya: Yeah, and in Kenya, coming from Burundi, the Rwanda-Burundi crisis, in the early ’90s. And while she had just a one-room salon that took care of everyone, really what she was doing was organizing right there in that salon. And so most of the work that was happening, we call it in the Black community in the US… it’s the barbershop effect.
So you go in and you talk about things that are important to your community, who needs what, what’s happening, who’s in trouble. And that’s really what her salon was. And I talk about that because it is so different from our notion of these large humanitarian baskets that happen in emergencies.
It is like the crux of: How do people, who don’t even know about these places or can get to those resources, know where to go to tell someone that they’re in trouble, or to tell someone that they need something? And that’s why everyday feminists are so important.
And so we talk about Innocent in light of her story, but what is the really important thing is that these women, in particular, and some men as you know, are sort of the center of what’s happening in a crisis. And right now we’re in, whether it’s COVID or climate crisis… we have so many happening in our country… gun crises.
But these are the people who are actually connecting, the connecting tissue of their… and they kind of know where the resources are, and they know where to get it to the people who actually are suffering and have to get it. So that’s why it was so important to me to tell these stories of these women.
I talk about Leymah Gbowee in Liberia, who won the Peace Prize. I mean, I try to lift up their voices and their stories because… and even my own personal stories with these women, because it’s hard to explain if you don’t do it that way. And people always are like: What’s the difference between an everyday feminist and a feminist?
It’s like nothing, really, but I want you to understand that these women are doing this work without any resources for the most part. And they continue to do it throughout their lives. And they are the monumental impact, is what I say. They provide the opportunity for us to reach those who are most capable of profound social change, and that’s why they’re so important.
Denver: Yeah. And they’re really at the center of how people live their lives. They’re not a problem with the solution because we don’t really experience these things sequentially. They’re all happening at once.
Latanya: That’s right.
Denver: So when you’re at the barbershop, you’re talking about: This is what’s going on with my life. Sometimes there’s not a single solution; it’s a multiplicity of things that need to be done.
In your experience working with organizations like the UN, how have you seen the work of feminists and everyday feminists influence policy making and decision making?
Latanya: Well, and I’ll just tell you really quickly, it’s been amazing to watch. Since I’ve been at Global Fund for Women, I’ve been working with our partners in the Pacific around the climate crisis. And you probably remember that at the last convening, which took place in Egypt, there was a large conversation around loss for like communities– let’s just say who have to move from coast into the interior, or in some cases onto a mainland.So leaving their countries all together.
That conversation was started some years ago by everyday feminists who were understanding the impact that was happening and the changes that needed to be made in small island states.And we supported at Global Fund for Women a lot of activists to go into that space, the convening around, we call it COP, around the crisis to talk about what they’re experiencing, to ask for the…. yes, we got to get emissions down by 2050 and all that big climate stuff, but there’s also this adaptation and mitigation stuff that was happening on the ground that required some support.
And it was watching these women come, and I’m telling you, they showed up, they showed out. And they were pushing these guys to talk more about that part, the human part, and that was actually going through these crises and not just sort of what we need to do in order to turn the tide.
And so that’s why I know that this is so important for us to pay attention to, because even in a span of four years, I’ve watched how they move even in spaces like these large, multilateral spaces. They’re powerful. They’re powerful, Denver.
“…it really is, I think, for men to recognize their allyship in this, to recognize how men and boys actually play a crucial role in supporting the work that’s happening in communities. Often, we talk about their leadership or perceived leadership in communities, and how they actually can oftentimes turn the tide on big social issues by just getting involved, by just making a statement, by just amplifying what everyday feminists are doing, and being everyday feminists themselves.”
Denver: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, look, I study a lot of social movements. That’s what I do in this program. And women seem to be at the forefront of every single one. And I guess if I want to know what I’m going to be talking about 10 years from now, I should probably be listening to what everyday feminists are saying today because it will be on the front page of the New York Times in about a decade.
What about men and boys? What’s their role in a feminist future, and how can they make a meaningful contribution?
Latanya: So first, I mean, it’s such an important question, and one that I try to answer also with stories because I don’t want to pretend like everyone, that everyday feminists only work for women. That’s actually a counter narrative that is false. Most everyday feminists are working on issues that in fact impact all of us in society, in particular, men.
So it’s not true that they are only working towards some gender justice agenda. And in fact, some of them, most of them don’t even think that way. The things that they’re doing are for everyone. And also on the flip side of that, we can’t pretend that the gender justice is separated from racial justice, or for climate justice, or you know, you go down the list of the injustices…
Denver: All connected.
Latanya: …economic. Right. They’re all connected, and they’re not connected by gender, if you get what I mean. These are things that impact men, and men and boys very much are affected by these injustices as well. So I just want to put those two things out. But then I think the role for men is very important.
Everyday feminist needs… I actually have a section, I think it’s Chapter 14 of the book, it’s like: Why do everyday feminists need you? And while I’m talking to the quintessential you, it really is, I think, for men to recognize their allyship in this, to recognize how men and boys actually play a crucial role in supporting the work that’s happening in communities.
Often, we talk about their leadership or perceived leadership in communities, and how they actually can oftentimes turn the tide on big social issues by just getting involved, by just making a statement, by just amplifying what everyday feminists are doing, and being everyday feminists themselves.
Denver: There you go. Let’s talk a little bit more about resources because that is so critical. And give me your take on feminist funds. I see a lot of them in the Global South and I’ve always been impressed at the relationships that they have with grassroots feminist organizations too, as you sort of alluded to before… get the money where it’s needed.
Talk a little bit more about what you said about it in the book, but also what your organization is doing to sort of change the picture on all this.
Latanya: Yeah. And Global Fund for Women has been around now for almost four decades. And the founders were still doing their thing. They’re still everyday feminists. And their perception was just that we need to fund women. At the time, it wasn’t even a thing that you could get a check to a women’s organization for many different reasons, right?
One, like Leymah Gbowee, if it wasn’t for Global Fund for Women, she never would have been able to start the work she does. And philanthropy at the time, and especially government, but philanthropy for sure was looking for things like, well, they need to have an organization around them.
They need to have a monitoring and evaluation structure. They need to be able to show impact and real numbers and things like that. So that meant that for the most part, these women who are doing this amazing work in communities, who really don’t have time to sit down with your flowchart to, you know, on impact….
Denver: They got work to do, real work to do.
Latanya: Right. They got work to do. We’re not getting anything. And so feminist funds started, and I interchange women’s funds and feminist funds because feminist is not used everywhere in the world, right? So these women’s funds started with that perception.
So Global Fund for Women, and it’s, I call it its second phase, really started seeding these women’s funds closer to the ground. I mean, thank God, we seeded the Ukraine Women’s Fund maybe a little more than a decade, 11, 12 years ago. And quite frankly, if it wasn’t for the fact that that fund was on the ground right now, I’m not sure how these communities would have fared.
These women have stayed. They continue to do their work from Ukraine. They continue to pivot. They’re agile. They’re moving money where it needs to go. They’re helping people, especially intergenerationally. So that is why the feminist funding model really works because it is the relationships that they build, staying close to the ground so they understand what’s happening, particularly in a crisis, but even through development stages.
So this is why we have been supportive of incubating and seeding funds in geography, so whether it’s region or country. But I’ll even just say one more thing, Denver. There are feminist funds now that are focused specifically, like there’s FRIDA, which is the young feminist fund.
There’s Astraea, which focuses on LGBTQI issues. And then there’s, just recently, we’re incubating the Black Feminist Fund, which is very much focused on Black feminists and the diaspora, because as you can imagine, I talk about the 1% that the grassroots women get from the overall gender equality money. But for Black feminists, it’s even worse. It’s less than half of that.
So we’ve been… I think it’s very important, these relationships. And I have a chapter that actually says, don’t recreate the will. These guys are in community with these everyday feminists. If you need to get to them, we’re not saying that you need to go out and start a relationship with every single country around the world.
Global Fund for Women is in 177 countries. We have more than 7,000 partners, whether resource partners or grantee partners. And so it’s like we’re asking people, don’t recreate what’s already happening. Let’s innovate on that, and let’s support that work to continue to happen.
“And I’ve seen some of the most profound ideas come from our young feminists. And so in the book, I talk about just getting out of their way. We don’t have to agree with the way that they’re doing things, but we certainly want to set them up for success. We certainly want to allow them to explore these methodologies that they’re looking at. I mean, come on, they’re the leaders of the climate movement.”
Denver: And that’s very smart. Not enough of us plug into the established lines of communication. We all think we have to start something ourselves.
Latanya: Yeah, exactly.
Denver: And I had… I think I said to somebody, I forgot whether… it might have been Cheryl Dorsey from Echoing Green or something like that, about starting an organization. And I asked her what advice she would have, I hope it was her… but I think it was her, and she said, “I wouldn’t start one.” You know what I mean?
In other words, just don’t incorporate. Look to see who’s doing some great work out there, and see what you can do to amplify. And that really should be our first default position before we begin to try to create something.
So you mentioned a second ago, Latanya, young feminists. Do they approach the work differently than the feminists who preceded them?
Latanya: Of course they do. And first of all, I love Cheryl, so I’ll go ahead and attribute that to her because she’s a great sister friend, and it sounds like something she would say.
Denver: It does, doesn’t it though?
Latanya: Yeah. And so I was thinking though, I have a 17-year-old; she’s about to graduate. I mean, she’s definitely going on 35, right? And we all say that. There’s just something sharp about young people. The things they don’t worry about that we worry about as we get older.
Their ability to enter the world in this fierce way and to offer suggestions that we never thought about, and to work towards them, and how they want to use their voice. I know a lot of us are like, oh my God, they’re on their phones all the time, they’re TikToking and blah, blah, blah. But it is the world that they’re moving into and the world that they care about.
And I’ve seen some of the most profound ideas come from our young feminists. And so in the book, I talk about just getting out of their way. We don’t have to agree with the way that they’re doing things, but we certainly want to set them up for success. We certainly want to allow them to explore these methodologies that they’re looking at.
I mean, come on, they’re the leaders of the climate movement. They are the ones who have already identified that their world is crashing… and how they want to move forward and make sure that doesn’t happen. So I am a huge believer in just sort of giving them space. And I don’t mean like putting them on a stage so they can speak, or hiring them to do your social media. I mean, really engaging them.
At Global Fund for Women, we have the Adolescent Girl Advisory Council. We’re trying to flip it a little bit. So most people like start at 18; we’re starting at like 14…
Denver: There you go.
Latanya: …and ending at… you know what I mean? So that area. And I watch these girls around the table; they’re amazing. They talk about what they’re concerned about, and they have a hundred things they want to work on. And our role is to just sort of pin it down to a couple things, and then give them some resources and space to do that work. And I think that’s what we all should do.
Denver: Yeah. Get out of their way. I think that’s great advice because they’re coming. And one thing that’s amazing about that cohort too, they have a way of just figuring things out.
They don’t know where they’re going; they don’t know what they’re doing, but they do it really fast, and they learn, and they do something else. And they just figure it out. And they have a tremendous confidence that they will figure it out. Just don’t try to put me in a harness or anything like that… let me go.
Finally, Latanya, in writing The Everyday Feminist, how has it affected your own approach to activism and to leadership? And what were some of the key insights you gained in actually putting this book together?
Latanya: So that’s a great closing question, Denver. And I want to say that I used to be of the school of thought, younger in my career, where I needed to be able to help build the strategy in country X,… like I’m in Afghanistan, I’m in Pakistan, or even South Africa.
And I have some answers; I’ve been studying. I know what works, right? And I think I am… if now you look 30 years later, I am completely humbled to say: I don’t know anything. But what I do want to do is, I want to support these people that are doing the work, even if what ends up happening is that they completely fail, which as you know, doesn’t happen much.
But even if that was the case, I am now so humbled by the work that these women get up to do. I feel it’s a privilege to raise money for them. I feel it’s a privilege to get resources to them. I think it’s a privilege to argue with these folks who don’t see their value. And it’s been a real privilege to write this book and tell these stories because I think it’s probably the most significant thing that I can do in the world. Yeah.
Denver: Well, I think it would be a real privilege to some of our listeners if they would help support the Global Fund. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about your website and how people can get involved and financially support the work you’re trying to do to support women.
Latanya: Yeah. And it’s really easy, globalfundforwomen.org. And we are a fund that we do give unrestricted, core, long-term funding to the movements that we support around the world. And so we invite you to both give in this unrestricted way, and the website will, of course, point you very quickly to how you can give.
But also think about, in crisis, coming over to Global Fund for Women. If there are countries… I mean, right now, we’re sort of going through the Sudan issues, but you know, every week is something different, and we have to be able to hold resources and space for women who are trying to manage through conflicts. And so we do offer also a very special crisis fund if folks are interested in giving in that way as well.
Denver: And if they need to learn a little bit more before they give, one way to do that is to pick up The Everyday Feminist: The Key to Sustainable Social Impact Driving Movements We Need Now More Than Ever.
Thank you so much, Latanya, for being here today.
Latanya: Thank you.
Denver: It was a real pleasure to have you on the program.
Latanya: Thank you, Denver. You’re a joy. Thank you.
Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving serves as a Trusted Advisor and Executive Coach to Nonprofit Leaders. His Book, The Business of Giving: New Best Practices for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Leaders in an Uncertain World, is available now on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.