On Friday, 22nd September, Ford Foundation South Africa hosted a workshop and a farewell to its Program Officer of 10 years, Dr Eka Williams.
As Program Officer, Dr Williams has overseen the Ford Foundation South Africa’s donations to human rights NPOs and NGOs in South Africa and in the continent. Speaking at the event, the Foundation’s Director, Nicolette Naylor, said that the most lasting legacy Dr Williams has left is her refusal to support only South African grantees, and has always seen South Africa as part of the greater continent.
Naylor opened the workshop portion of the farewell, the theme of which was intersectionality. The emphasis of the day’s activities focused on whether organisations use intersectionality as their framework, and how they do so. Furthermore, the importance of integration within each organisations’ different departments or focus groups while focusing on intersectionality. “What does being alive to the issue of intersectionality mean?” asked Naylor. She argued that the answer lay in organisations working in the fields of gender, HIV and LGBTI lend themselves well to studies of intersectionality. These organisations, she argued, treated intersectionality in a way “that goes beyond a tickbox exercise and is woven through their strategy, their target population and ask themselves the question of whether our organisations are led by members from their target populations”. Naylor emphasised the importance of intersectionality within the LGBTI sector by stating that Ford is finding a lot more space for intersectionality and integration in LGBTI organisations.
One of the speakers on the day, Lucinda van den Heever from Aids Accountability International argued that “if we miss out on focusing on class, gender, race and sexual orientation, individually and intersectionally, we miss out on making any real change to oppression.”
The focus on the LGBTI sector was again emphasised by Dr Eka Williams in response to a question on what she would have focused on if she were staying at Ford: “The areas I would really like to invest more money in and focus on would be the LGBT community and youths and adolescents.”
Dr Williams’ work has been invaluable to the many South African and African grantees of the Ford Foundation’s donations, including Pan Africa ILGA, and she will be sorely missed at the Foundation and by the NGOs and NPOs she has worked with over the last decade, and we wish her the best in her future endeavours.
Dr Williams will be at the Foundation until the end of the year.