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Ensuring holistic security does not remain an afterthought

By Vanina Serra, Senior Programme Officer

At Mama Cash, we make it a priority to check in on the security of grantee-partners. Since we piloted the R&R initiative, I've been doing this much more intentionally, just to make sure grantee-partners know they can use their grant from Mama Cash for holistic security needs, even if it's not in the work plan.  

Holistic security is often an afterthought for grantee-partners. The R&R initiative gave them devoted funding to put explicit focus on the breadth of their security needs. When they receive core funding, we always try to make sure the grantee-partners know that they can use it for self-care, physical security, collective care, healing work, digital security – really anything that they see as making an important contribution to their individual and collective security. However, the R&R initiative was different – it provided project money specifically for holistic security. As a result, it required grantee-partners to stop and think about what they may consider a luxury and often leave out of their plans. Or, in some cases, it may be that it’s funders that see holistic security as a luxury, and activists deprioritise it because they think they won’t be able to find funding. In any case, with this initiative, we made sure that holistic security received explicit focus.  

At the same time, when we suggest to grantee-partners that they focus on their holistic security, we needed to be careful not to over-step a boundary. It is very easy to fall into the paternalism of being directive. As funders, we have to walk a fine line. We have to be aware what we can offer, but respect that grantee-partners may prefer to continue using the funding differently rather than prioritising their own holistic security. We need to be mindful that power is always present in the funder-grantee relationship. For example, partners may experience a subtle pressure to “please” us by doing what they perceive we want them to do, or they may feel that disagreeing with us could have negative consequences for their funding. We have to be really aware that nothing we say is neutral because we are the ones saying it! 

What the R&R initiative has given groups – has provided tangible resources for – is to be able to pick the space and the time that they need to talk about holistic security. 

The initiative gave a small number of grantee-partners the opportunity and resources to stop and reflect about their holistic security needs and allowed them to do it on their own terms – hence, they have the ownership over the process. What we’ve seen is that this approach provided grantee-partners the resources and the space to approach holistic security as an integral part of their work, activism and lives.