The Womens Crisis Center Movement:. Funding and De-funding Feminism
ven as the new Russia was inhospitable to global feminism, liberalization and then the collapse of the Soviet regime opened Russia to a variety of global interventions designed to foster women’s mobilization, the first objective of global feminism. Some feminist foreigners and foreign women’s advocacy groups came at the invitation of local groups hoping to join already existing global campaigns; other activists invited themselves, but found locals who shared their interests. Transnational feminists in alliance with development agencies and large charitable foundations also secured for women’s mobilization some of the West’s optimistic infusion of financial assistance into the region. By 2002, some funding was even also coming from foreign and justice ministries, such as from the U. S. State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Do these various interventions—transnational feminist networking, alliance with donors, and state preemption—foster feminist mobilization against gender violence? Do different types of intervention have different consequences?
The analysis of these various interventions into women’s mobilization in the new Russia shows that, although transnational feminist networking can help establish and shape feminist mobilization, greater financial assistance is required to expand beyond a few organizations into a small social movement. What began as only a handful of organizations in prominent Russian cities in the early 1990s became, with monetary support, a small women’s crisis center movement, in 2004
consisting of two hundred organizations engaged in a combination of service provision and advocacy. Yet, more invasive intervention—from antitrafficking initiatives undertaken by strong states—undermined feminist mobilization. The new millennium brought de-funding of many of the older and more feminist organizations, a relative windfall for the least feminist, and increased ill feeling between them.
In terms of the global feminist goal of fostering mobilization, intervention is more effective when there is an alliance between feminists and donors rather than when the state preempts activists by accepting (some of) their ideas, but excludes them from the process. Foreign intervention justified by global feminist ideas works better when global feminists are actually involved in the process of assisting women’s mobilization. Global feminist involvement is much more likely to keep the focus on feminist mobilization and more likely to encourage global-local partnerships. At the same time, even at its best, global feminist intervention does not counter the forces pushing NGO-based mobilization rather than grassroots oppositional movements.