#GivingTuesday: How Fondo Semillas Fights For Gender Equality Across Mexico

A deep dive into Fondo Semillas’ initiatives around women’s bodies, LGBTQ+ identities, labor laws, and land defense and rehabilitation.

“Mexico is a lot of Mexicos. In the cities, you will see buildings and people that are more cosmopolitan,” said Tania Turner, co-Director of Fondo Semillas. “If you walk 20 or 30 minutes away, you will begin to see the inequity. A lot of people are below the line of poverty, but we also have individuals listed in Forbes for their net worth. You have the richest of the rich and the poorest people in the same place. That’s the kind of inequity you can find in Mexico.”

Though numerous Mexican citizens experience the harsh reality of economic inequality, women also endure and often are the victims of gender-based violence and discrimination that threaten their livelihood. Guided by its feminist principles and justice-oriented perspective, Fondo Semillas seeks to provide resources to grassroots organizations addressing women’s issues by connecting them with donors looking to sponsor associated projects.

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“What we do as a fund is that we work as an intermediary. We go to big foundations, corporate funders, private philanthropists, and individual donors; take that money, and give it to organizations who would not be able to receive resources directly from funders,”Turner said.

Deciding how financial support is disseminated includes many steps, a few of which occur concurrently. “Since 2016, we have used a participatory grant selection process. Instead of us deciding what we think is important to finance, we let the feminist movement decide by itself,” said Turner.

Fondo Semillas
PHOTO Fondo Semillas

First, potential recipients are given a code to register their organization’s profile for consideration and divided into one of five categories corresponding to the programs overseen by Fondo Semillas. This list is distributed to donors to inform them who could receive support. Once the funds are secured, registrants are asked to provide a plan for spending the money if given. Responses are reconstructed into resumes that are voted on by all the registered organizations. At the same time, Fondo Semillas meets with experts, academics, and other key actors to discuss the issues that will be financed. Their input is essential to decide what work is presently needed in the community and which initiatives would be the most beneficial. The expert input, program proposals, and amount of funds sourced all contribute to which initiatives receive funding and how many.

This process is extensive and only occurs every two years, but it is necessary as many of these smaller organizations would struggle to find the funds on their own. Groups working in rural or Indigenous areas lack the visibility to attract donors, others don’t have members who speak Spanish or English, and a handful are just too small and far away to be noticed. Not only does this laborious coordination bridge the gap between donors and these grassroots organizations, but it also allows resources to be allocated to a broad set of issues without losing focus or impact.

Pride Month
Pride Month. FACEBOOK Fondo Semillas

This is achieved by separating projects into categories based on the specific issues they address. The first of the five programs tackle issues related to the body and encourage individuals to defend and make decisions about their physical wellbeing, particularly as it relates to issues like domestic violence, health, and abortion. Las Borders, a Mexicali-based collective, provides assistance to women and people with gestation capacity to access abortion care and information. Due to the organization’s increased visibility and partnership with Fondo Semillas, it was able to consolidate a drug bank in 2022 that has sustained itself for over a year. This facility’s existence has further protected the bodily autonomy of hundreds of people across the country amid lagging legal action to defend abortion rights.

Another one of Fondo Semillas’ programs focuses on identity-related issues. Though this nonprofit is a feminist organization, it uses this concept as a framework to benefit people besides women.

Fondo Semillas
Do you want to know better what happens in your body during your menstrual cycle?🌖
We leave you this text from @clitorito with information about each stage and the manifestations of our body in each one. Learning and inhabiting our body is revolutionary. Illustration by Leona Leoni. FACEBOOK Fondo Semillas

“Because for me, the feminist movement is beyond protecting women. It is more about using the women’s perspective that has been oppressed for a long time, because we know how it feels to be oppressed. What it is to be put aside only because you are born as a woman,” Turner said.

“We decided to support transwomen and intersex people, because we know that they are struggling with discrimination here and in other parts of the world. In Mexico, however, the average life expectancy is 35 years for transwomen. It’s terrible, and for intersex people, it is worse,” said Turner.

With the trans rights movement gaining momentum in the United States and Mexico, the visibility for that community has turned into legal and social recognition. For intersex people, the spotlight has coaxed them away from the shadows of even the LGBTQ+ community in order to find solace and compassion in each another.

Brújula Intersexual, or Intersexual Compass, was born out of the immense need to create community for these people. It became the first space in Spanish that allows intersex people to meet safely, share their experiences, exchange knowledge, and hold space in the world. Organizations like this are crucial because of how few there are. Even with its reach, Fondo Semillas is only supporting two or three organizations that cater to intersex initiatives currently.

#BuenosYFeministasDías
#BuenosYFeministasDías / #GoodDayFeminists. FACEBOOK Fondo Semillas

The Work and Land programs focus on funding organizations that have initiatives that center around labor rights and restorative agricultural practices, respectively. Turner said:

“We have been living for centuries in a patriarchal perspective, in which we thought we could degrade and exploit the earth forever and that wouldn’t have any consequences. Now we are seeing the consequences of being so disruptive with the earth, with the animals, and with each other.”

Organizations like The Guardians of Estero El Conchalito tackle both issues by supporting women’s economic needs through fighting the exploitation of natural resources. The 12 women who comprise The Guardians collaborated to rehabilitate 40 hectares of the San Martín estuary in La Paz, Baja California Sur. After restoring the population of oysters and scallops in the coastal waters, the community was able to fish sustainably and sell their catches.

Even with the incredible organizations it has been able to partner with, Fondo Semillas is still looking to expand their reach. “Right now, we have an incredible cohort. It is 169 organizations, and we then received another grant so maybe 15 more. It depends on how much money we can mobilize. If it’s not too much work, we want to go further to 200 organizations,” said Turner. Striking a healthy balance between its capacity for assistance and the number organizations that receive that support is important. “We do not only give them the money. We accompany, follow them, and visit them. We make meetings and workshops as well,” said Turner. Maintaining sustainable work is crucial to making sure this nonprofit can be around to continue its work for a long time.

Fondo Semillas
Muchas mujeres han encontrado su red de apoyo en Nduva Ndandi A.C., organización que financiamos, que brinda acompañamiento legal en su lengua materna a mujeres que han sufrido violencia en la mixteca oaxaqueña. FACEBOOK Fondo Semillas

Even with this limitation, Fondo Semillas has been able to earn many outstanding achievements. According to its 2022 report, it financed 157 organizations, 83,647 girls, women, and trans and intersex people were direct beneficiaries; and the lives of more than 800,000 people were positively impacted in that year alone. Overall, the nonprofit has supported 1,292 organizations and benefited 1.3 million women directly.

“We have to collaborate from where we are to make a different world. A better world in which all of us can live good, dignified, happy lives,” Turner said.

These efforts are to work towards a better future for all citizens of Mexico and the world, even when things seem so bleak. “I can see the work. I can see the impact. When you see what they are capable of doing, it is like returning hope to the world. That’s why it is still worth it to have faith that things will get better,” said Turner.

The future of Fondo Semillas and its portfolio projects are secured by the tireless work of activists and the generous support of donors.

Jade Hargrove

Jade is a Georgia native who has enjoys trying new foods, podcasts, and long car rides with friends. She hopes to one day travel to every French-speaking country in the world to experience the different dialects and cultures that can be found around the world.

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