I am just back from a three-day meeting in Kathmandu of 16 South Asian community foundations and community philanthropy institutions from India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Although the GFCF has made a handful of grants in South Asia, it is a part of the world where we have been eager to take a more proactive approach with our work. When we started to explore the idea of convening current and potential partners in South Asia, we had no doubts as to the venue of our meeting: Tewa, Nepal’s women’s fund, is a great example of the kind of institution that the GFCF seeks to support. Its founder, Rita Thapa, is also on our board and was keen to host these discussions. A local grantmaker, which was established in 1996 and which prides itself on having funded all its small grants from local sources, Tewa has been providing support to women’s – and occasionally men’s – groups through what has been a turbulent period in Nepal’s history. During that period it has built an entire complex of buildings: offices, meeting rooms, a cafeteria, a shop and – opening soon – dormitories set amid landscaped gardens. The whole complex overlooks what was until recently entirely green fields, which are steadily being encroached upon by new building sites which are emerging all over the Kathmandu valley. (To read the founder’s story, ‘Tewa, Doing the Impossible: Feminist Action in Nepal’ click here)
Sitting in the beautiful meeting room at the Tewa complex as we discussed the question of how to connect, strengthen and provide greater visibility for institutions of community philanthropy in South Asia, it was hard not to be inspired by the possibilities of what can happen when institutions emerge which set out to do things differently. And with organizations like the Dalit Foundation, the Manusher Jono Foundaiton, the South Asia Women’s Fund, Sampradaan, and IPartner in the room, the conversations were rich and intense.
Over the coming weeks and months we will all be following up on commitments made individually and collectively to move this work forward. Watch this space!