Press release

Gender progressives must step up efforts against the ‘anti-gender juggernaut’, warns new research

Published on 12 March 2024

Philanthropists must step up their funding for gender and women’s rights activists and organisations, against a well-organised anti-gender movement rolling back rights of women and LGBTQ+ people globally, worth $1bn in the USA alone and growing across Europe, warns a new report.

The new research published today highlights that orchestrated anti-gender movements in the USA spent over $1billion between 2008 and 2017, while the UK has become a key producer and exporter of anti-gender narratives. It warns that philanthropist organisations supporting gender rights have been slow to respond and are many steps behind the anti-gender opposition with regard to funding and coordination.

Anti-gender rights efforts have been increasing across Europe. The report raises the example of the UK Government directly funding anti-LGBTQ+ churches in Uganda, a country that passed ‘anti-gay’ laws. Meanwhile, research in Europe showed significant and orchestrated funding of anti-gender movements by religious extremists.

The new report ‘Anti-Gender Backlash: Where Is Philanthropy?’ was commissioned by a research partnership called Countering Backlash, led by the Institute of Development Studies, based on empirical and desk-based research, including interviews with staff working in some of the largest philanthropic funding organisations. The research has been produced ahead of UN Women’s conference – the 68th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) 2024 – which is focusing on ‘financing with a gender perspective’.

This new research shows how philanthropic institutions who support gender justice are stepping up and seeking out new ways to respond to the scaled-up, well-financed and globally coordinated ‘anti-gender juggernaut’ and anti-gender ideology today, and how they support activists and civil society organisations. The research also calls for increased funding for collaboration among feminist activists and organisers. There is an urgent need for more funding to enable activists and organisers to create their own spaces for analysis and discussion for more meaningful and effective coordination.

Jerker Edström, Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies, said:

“Asking ‘where is philanthropy?’ is very timely and indeed urgent, particularly in relation to the current swell of well-resourced authoritarian anti-gender backlash we are witnessing now around the world.

“Most research on backlash focuses on government actors, public policy, discourse, and social movements, so this report is a crucial and timely addition to building our understanding of anti-gender backlash, and where the money needed for defending gender justice may lie.

“In addition to mobilising funding, it is vital that philanthropists support and engage in building ecosystems for resistance along with progressive activists, researchers, policy makers and other funders. This is not just vital to protect – let alone progress – rights for women and LGTBQ+ people, but also to combat rising authoritarianism and polarisation more broadly”.

Lisa VeneKlasen, author of the report and Independent Strategist and founding former Executive Director of Just Associates, said:

“I’m encouraged by the ways that key donors are increasing their funding and worried about those who are retreating. My question as a long-time cross-movement organiser and activist is ‘where is the money to organise ourselves?’  Activists and organisers need more spaces for structured analysis, dialogue and building the ‘connective tissue’ essential for power-building and complementary strategies on multiple fronts that this work demands.”

Notes to Editor


Related content

Working Paper

Anti-Gender Backlash: Where is Philanthropy?

10 March 2024