The past five years have been a time of challenges and flourishing for Poland’s feminist movement. During this period of both threats and momentum, activists founded FemFund, a national feminist fund, in 2018.
In 2016, prominent politicians voiced clear support for tightening Poland's already restrictive abortion law. Attacks on abortion rights were familiar, but activists sensed that this threat was different. A massive feminist mobilisation unfolded in response: demonstrators took to the streets; Facebook groups sprang up; grassroots groups formed. The conversation also shifted. Women said 'abortion' out loud, openly demanding safe and legal access.
According to Justyna Frydrych, one of FemFund's three founders, 'we felt the energy.' Hundreds of activist groups representing disabled women, queer people, sex workers, and women from different parts of the country were organising around abortion and many other issues. Still, there was no money to support their activism.
In this pivotal moment, FemFund was born. Since its founding, the Fund has increased its staff from three to eight and launched four grantmaking programmes. In 2021, they received over 400 applications from all over Poland.
FemFund includes its grantee-partners in participatory decision-making as part of the grantmaking process. This approach raises awareness among activists of the movement’s needs, but it also brings challenges. Justyna: ‘Our community is diverse, and groups on the “margins" such as trans and queer people, women with disabilities, sex workers, and migrant women are an important part of it. These groups experience inequalities in society but also in the feminist movement. We share power through our participatory approach, but we also struggle with how to acknowledge and use our power to create space for groups that have never had a home in the movement.' These important conversations are ongoing.
In 2021, FemFund received a Solidarity Fund grant to strengthen its social media work. The grant enabled FemFund to create an Instagram page and hire a young activist to develop its social media presence.
‘Instagram has allowed us to reach young people, sex workers, and trans and queer activists,’ according to Justyna. 'We are also in touch now with celebrities and feminist influencers who support our outreach. The conversation on Instagram is progressive and enthusiastic. We are more in dialogue with our community. A lot of organising has moved to digital spaces during the pandemic, and Instagram is where the feminist conversation in Poland is happening. This was an opportunity that we didn't want to miss.'
Being chosen by other women's funds to receive this grant was significant for FemFund. 'We are in a moment of momentum, and it was meaningful to have the importance of our work recognised.'