INNOVATING WITH CREATIVITY AND ART
Amina Doherty, founding coordinator of FRIDA, has been described by her colleagues and friends as a ‘force of nature,’ ‘incredible thinker,’ and ‘beautiful soul.’ Amina’s commitment to working, with creative spirit and artistic innovation, and always from a place of love, is remembered by so many.
The following write up is a collage of blogs, articles and interviews written by, written about, and undertaken with Amina Doherty, founding coordinator of FRIDA.
“As I travelled to Beirut in November 2010 I had the feeling I was about to be a part of creating something with the potential to be very, very big.” Amina describes what would be the founding meeting of FRIDA, convened by AWID and FCAM, bringing together eight young feminists from around the world:
“Over three days, our group spent time outlining our visions for a fund that would strengthen and support a younger generation of feminist activists and that in a much broader sense would contribute towards a strong, well-resourced and multi-generational women’s movement. We elaborated on a vision of the kind of movement that the fund would contribute to: one that was inclusive, fun, self-critical and progressive in its politics and values… We talked about our dreams for building a culture of resources mobilization that recognized ‘resources’ as more than just money – and how the fund could act as a platform for building a more democratic culture of dealing with resources within our feminist movements… We talked about wanting to transform power relations between ‘donors’ and ‘grantees’ by employing a model of shared decision-making where grantees get to decide collectively what issues and groups should get funded… We shared our experiences as youth organizers, grantmakers, and activists and discussed how our experiences in these various would help guide the future direction of the fund.”
Three years later, Amina speaks back to the intergenerational leadership, solidarity and commitment exemplified by FRIDA’s thriving development since that meeting in Beirut. “I am reminded of the ways feminists of all generations have come together both to support FRIDA and also support my own leadership… Together we dreamed about creating something beautiful and relevant for ourselves and in the spirit of sisterhood and solidarity we have. My experience at FRIDA has taught me much more than I could have ever imagined.”
In an interview at the 9th Women’s Forum Global Meeting, Amina mentions one of her sources of inspiration being the African feminist movement in particular, “where many women, on many levels, are struggling for women’s rights on the continent… Women across the continent have supported me in all the leadership roles I have taken up.”
Throughout the process of developing the FRIDA Memory Project, there was not a single founder who did not pause to reflect on their awe and appreciation for Amina’s leadership and courage to take on the task of coordinating FRIDA’s beginnings. Angelika Arutyenova describes Amina as “an absolute force of nature”: My “favourite moments could go anywhere from watching Amina create the most complex but pretty excel sheets to do grant-making things, to watching her sitting in the meetings and drawing our conversations. She would bring her collection of crayons and pencils and she’d just draw the entire time. She’ll come out of the meeting with the most beautiful map of FRIDA, with words and flowers and all of this artistic representation of things… It has been an absolute joy to watch Amina in action. It’s been phenomenal, the entire memory of seeing Amina work.”
Cindy Clark mentions, “I give a lot of credit to Amina, who I think was very brave stepping into that role… In Beirut, we had done some initial thinking about who the profiles of those we want to support with the fund are, and what our vision is for the role it should play in the world. Amina was able to take that and make a concept note that could be shared with funders… I remember sitting with Amina thinking, okay – virtually sitting, right – we need to do an operational plan. And she would ask, ‘What do you mean an operational plan?’ We need to do an operational plan – what does that look like? How are we mapping all of this out? I don’t think we did a full assessment in the beginning of what it would take [to start FRIDA], and how hard it would be… In many ways, we could and should have supported Amina more. If we were to do this again, I would have another vision of just how much time internally and resources are needed to do it in a way that is healthy and supportive.”
In her interview at the 9th Women’s Forum Global Meeting, Amina describes one of FRIDA’s greatest successes at the time as simply getting started. “Many people believe that young women cannot be involved in grant-making and philanthropy, that there is no space for young women. And yet, here we are: a fund founded and managed by young women, mobilising resources and making the case for more resources…”
On the last day of Amina’s tenure at FRIDA, recognition flooded in from advisors and grantees alike:
“Starting up a new organization from scratch always requires a lot of courage, persistence, optimism, creativity, imagination, vision and commitment. Starting up FRIDA the Young Feminist Fund was even a bigger challenge, taking in account its innovative model and its global ambitions. However, you made it happen, Amina, with such grace and lightness! We could feel your love for art, painting and music vibrating behind you, pushing you ahead even during the most difficult times, when sometimes it seemed impossible to achieve so many things at the same time.” – Ana Criquillion and Carla López, FCAM
“Amina has been a fearless leader to FRIDA. Her enthusiasm, energy, dedication and belief about what FRIDA was becoming was contagious from the moment I met her.” – Marisa Viana, AWID
“Amina, you have been the first courageous young feminist to work with young feminists, and shown to us that good heart of, understanding our issues, giving us equal opportunities and sharing information.” – Julie, Crested Crane Lighters
“The leadership, creativity, vision, commitment and passion that Amina gave FRIDA as its Coordinator during its start-up phase has made FRIDA what it is today.” – Lydia Alpizar, AWID
“As Y-Fem I am honoured to have met such a vibrant womyn as Amina. She is driven by love, and strong drive behind that love is appreciation and celebration of young womyn. Amina has supported us not only on a donor -grantee relationship but she has walked this path in solidarity with me” – Florence, Y-Fem
In Amina’s reflection on the European Foundation Centre’s annual conference in 2012, the same belief in young feminist activism, passion for the impact that FRIDA can make, and insistence on the importance of young feminists taking up space, described in the appraisals and thanks of advisors and grantees, were apparent.
“This was the first time I had ever attended an EFC Conference and truth be told I was a little nervous and not entirely sure what to expect. Given FRIDA’s relatively new presence in the world of grant-making and philanthropy together with our comparatively small grant-making budget, I did find myself wondering –Would I have a place? How could I contribute? What would I learn? What I discovered quickly is that not only did FRIDA have a place but that we also had a role to play in sharing our experiences and contributing to the learning of other larger foundations… FRIDA’s role as a Fund must continue to be about building and strengthening relationships with and between ‘people.’ In this work we often hear about ‘donors’ and ‘grantees’ and sometimes forget that in spite of our different roles we are all ‘people’ committed to improving our communities and lives… I was glad to share the ways that FRIDA acknowledges existing power dynamics and continues to push to be a fund that is led by its constituency for its constituency. I shared that we may not have it ‘right’ yet but by encouraging participation at all levels and by being open to ongoing engagement about how to make our grant-making better, we are committed to being less about what we say we will do and what we actually do.”
Amina appropriately sums up her experience of the Women’s Funding Network Annual Conference in 2012. “In the words of one of my favourite poets June Jordan: ‘We are the one’s we’ve been waiting for!’”