A legacy of movement building
Being a feminist fund in Europe
By Iulia Pascu, Officer for Philanthropic Partnerships, Mama Cash
When Mama Cash was founded in 1983, women in the Netherlands were one year away from having abortion rights legally recognised, Czech born athlete Jarmila Kratochvílová set the 800m world record, which still stands today, and Madonna released her debut album, under the same name. In 1983, for the first time British women could pass their nationality on to their children. It was an era of breaking down barriers surrounding women’s sexuality, combating gender-based oppression within the family, marriage and sexuality, and of effervescent feminist movement building in the Netherlands and in many other European countries.
The European feminist movement was feeling the influence of important historical events, such as the Paris uprisings in 1968, anti-colonialist theory and politics in some places and feminist anarchist movements in others, and the Dolle Mina (Mad Mina, a women’s liberation group) started in 1972 in the Netherlands. It was also a time of significant challenges and gender stereotypes. Women faced active and normalised political, social and economic discrimination.
In the early 1980’s there were very few women in formal leadership positions in the Netherlands. Financial institutions doubted women’s entrepreneurial skills and were reluctant to do business with them. More than three quarters of the European Parliament was made up of men (85%, 1979-1984). Homosexuality was still considered an illness, and was criminalised in most European countries. Abortion was criminalised in many European countries, including Belgium, Greece, Portugal, and Romania – where the ban on abortions claimed the lives of almost 10,000 women. But feminists were organising to achieve sexual and reproductive rights, full citizenship rights, to reform legislation on divorce, rape, including marital rape, and to claim the personal as political.
According to many Dutch feminists active in that time, Mama Cash captured that radical spirit and message of social change.