As we wind down the year, we’re looking back at some of the incredible heroes we support—8 amazing grassroots activists—and how their work has transformed lives and created global change.
8 Activists to Celebrate
Solomiia Zinets-Matsyshyn: Saving Families in Ukraine
When families fleeing the Russian invasion began arriving in Solomiia’s town in western Ukraine, she and her fellow grassroots activists at Triangle, part of the Legal Development Network, got to work. They organized shelter, food, free legal and psychological support, and a 24-hour helpline for new arrivals. Today, hundreds of families have been safely resettled, parents are working, and children are able to attend classes thanks to Solomiia’s efforts.
Altaf: Helping LGBTQ+ Migrants in Turkey
On Altaf’s twelfth birthday, she fled her home in Syria. War was engulfing her country and Altaf, who is transgender, had been abandoned by her parents. She made her way to Turkey, where she earned money cleaning bathrooms and met a migrant activist who helped her settle into her new life. Today, she helps fellow LGBTQ+ migrants and refugees—including people escaping the Taliban in Afghanistan—secure health care and other essential services.
Marcelina Bautista: Changing Mexico’s Labor Laws—Again
In Mexico, more than 2 million domestic workers tackle every household task from before dawn until after dark. Until 2019, they labored without guaranteed work contracts, sick days, or minimum wage. That is all starting to change thanks to Marcelina, a domestic worker who founded Centro de Apoyo para Empleadas del Hogar—Mexico’s first-ever union for domestic workers’ union. Thanks in large part to their advocacy, the Mexican government has begun to reform its labor laws—affording domestic workers the right to thinks like sick leave, consistent pay, and, as of October 2022, access to social security.
Frank Muramuzi: Standing Up to Oil Companies in Uganda
When oil is discovered in Uganda, the environmental and human toll can be devastating— local people often lose their homes, crops, and livelihoods. As the founder of the National Association of Professional Environmentalists, Frank and his team give rural Ugandan communities the resources, training, and tools they need to stand up to exploitative and corrupt oil companies, to defend the land on which they rely for food and income, and to speak out for sustainability.
Akkai Padmashali: Standing Up for India’s LGBTQ+ Community
A leading grassroots LGBTQ+ activist in India, Akkai is the founder of Ondede—a group that played a pivotal advocacy role in overturning the ban on same-sex relations in 2018. Since then, she has continued her fearless activism, working to win over hearts and minds, and overcome the bias that her community continues to face while looking for jobs, homes, education, and health care.
Morena Herrera: Fighting for Reproductive Rights in El Salvador
Abortion is completely banned in El Salvador, with no exceptions even in the case of violence. Women suspected of terminating a pregnancy, even when they have actually miscarried, can face up to 40 years in prison. Morena is a feminist icon in El Salvador who has campaigned for women’s rights for decades. She and her organization, Agrupacion, work to change the law and free imprisoned women—they’ve secured the release of five women in the past two years alone.
Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri: Protecting Civic Space in Nigeria
As the founder of Fund grantee Spaces for Change, Victoria works to preserve activists’ ability to operate freely and effectively in Nigeria, where measures intended to counter terrorism frequently impinge on civil freedoms. In May, after years of research and advocacy, Victoria and the Action Group on Free Civic Space—a coalition of Nigerian civil society groups that includes Spaces for Change—finally convinced the Nigerian government to amend a set of onerous financial regulations that had been limiting grassroots groups’ ability to operate. She continues to lead efforts to create policies that account for security risks without negatively impacting the freedom of civil society.
Domestic Abuse Survivors Creating Change in the Philippines
More than a quarter of women in the Philippines age 18 to 49 experience domestic violence. GWAVE, originally devised as a support group by survivors, works from the ground up to counter gender-based violence. They partner with local authorities to make justice more accessible and educate men around their role in reducing violence against women. They’ve also launched a project to understand and advocate for preventing violence faced by women who go overseas to earn an income for their families.