December 7, 2016

Inside Mama Cash


This week: Zohra Moosa, Director of Programmes: “I want a full revolution. So that everybody can live a beautiful life, with joy, and community.”

Who are the people behind Mama Cash? What makes our organisation tick? As a new member of the team, our intern Liza Lunstroo decided to go out and explore. Read about the people and what they do at Mama Cash in these regular peeks behind the scenes. This is Liza's interview with Zohra, since July 2017 our Executive Director, while she was still Director of Programmes. 

How was your feminism cultivated?

“I have always been a feminist. I have never had the alleged ‘click-moment’. The first essay I wrote was about feminism. Of course, being a feminist activist is an evolving journey, and there are regular moments of learning and growing. In my role at Mama Cash, I really appreciate learning more about how patriarchy manifests itself in different contexts, the struggles that different groups of people face, and how the groups we support build up their resistance and create change. Being a part of cross-movement dialogues in this way is very inspiring.”

We are an ally to the groups we support, and don’t tell them what to do with the backing we provide.


Why did Mama Cash appeal to you?

“Mama Cash is quite radical in its approach: in the language it uses, the issues it supports, and the ways it does its work. Mama Cash doesn’t shy away from using terms like ‘feminism’ for example. I also really appreciate the role that the organisation plays in feminist movements. As a person from the Global North, I wanted to work in an organisation that offers useful contributions worldwide, without acting like it always knows what the best approach is. We are an ally to the groups we support, and don’t tell them what to do with the backing we provide. This for me is an important way of working – extending solidarity by following the leadership of those we stand with about what should be done.”

What does your work at Mama Cash entail?

“I coordinate and lead the Programmes Team. We make the grants to our grantee partners, support other women’s funds, and influence donors. My role is to think critically about social, political, cultural, economic and other issues affecting women, girls and trans people around the world, cultivate ideas about
how our programmes could address those issues, and develop strategies for achieving Mama Cash’s goals. Of course I also offer practical leadership, through coaching the staff. And as a member of the Management Team, we work towards making Mama Cash an enjoyable, impactful, comfortable, and safe work place.”

What do you like most about your position here?

“I like finding and mobilising funding for activists – the whole process, from influencing donors, to securing funding, to finding and then working with the groups that we support.”

From talking to others in the Programmes Team, it seems that one of the hardest things to do is to decline groups that apply for funding. What is the hardest part for you in your work at Mama Cash?

One aspect of my work that I find really challenging is trying to work with donors, especially governments, who are interested in supporting women’s rights, but whose fund allocation does not match our vision. There’s a discrepancy between the funding approach of Mama Cash and those of some governmental donors. They have limited funds, like we do, so they have to make strategic choices, but in making those choices they are often afraid to take risks.

So how do you deal with that?

We try to point out where we think they are missing opportunities to innovate and to resource the work that we think makes the biggest difference. We offer evidence for the need to change. For me, the most satisfying way to do this is by introducing grantee partners of Mama Cash to donors. This can really shift their thinking. Part of my role is thus to bridge this gap between more distant actors and activists on the ground.

What is the most inspiring thing that you were exposed to while working for Mama Cash?

She doesn’t have to think long about this: “It’s not just one thing. Inspiration is constant. Hearing from our grantee partners and their activism is extremely motivating.”

A final, perhaps tough question: what is the ultimate change that you wish to contribute to?

“I want a full revolution. So that everybody can live a beautiful life, with joy, and community.”

Zohra has been Mama Cash’s Director of Programmes since May 2013.
You can follow her on Twitter.

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