Networking, Knowledge, Voice.

How Women’s Funds are Providing More than Just Money

In our last blog post, we explored the critical role that grassroots women’s rights organizations play in improving the lives of women and girls. We looked at the ways in which these organizations are Holding Ground and Breaking Ground to unearth a more equal world.

Yet we also shared some startling statistics about the funding realities that many of these organizations face. Like how 90% of women’s rights organizations aren’t able to access funding from bilateral agencies, national governments or large international NGOs. Or how, in 2011, one-fifth of women’s rights organizations were facing the very real possibility of having to close their doors forever.[1]

In this post, we examine how The MATCH International Women’s Fund, and other women’s funds like it, are helping to change these funding realities by ensuring that more money and resources reach the hands of women working at the community-level.

Committing to Change

It means supporting the grassroots organizations making change happen on the ground.

Since MATCH began in 1976, a lot has changed for women and girls. Today, the value of investing in women is well-known, and empowering women and girls has become an important priority for many development agencies and organizations – at least in principle. But what about in practice? In 2010, only 1.3% of multilateral funding earmarked for gender equality went to women’s rights organizations making change happen on the ground.[2]

It is clear that the funding realities facing women’s rights organizations have not caught up to the widespread rhetoric around the importance of investing in women and girls – at least not yet. But women’s funds are actively working to change this.

In recent years, women’s funds have emerged as solid supporters of women’s rights organizations, recognizing the importance of the work they do and making strong commitments to promote them.[3]

From the United States to Bangladesh, from the Netherlands to Argentina, from Ghana to Canada, women’s funds are helping to change the world for women through direct grant-making. On average, 75% of the money raised by women’s funds goes toward supporting grassroots women’s rights organizations. This means that more money is reaching the women who are making change happen on the ground.

But it is not just about the money. A recent survey by AWID found that women’s funds are also demonstrating an unparalleled quality of support to women’s rights organizations.

Looking Beyond the Money

Although every women’s fund is unique, there are several key values that unite them in their work. These values are reflected in the type of support they continue to provide long after the money has been handed out.

Recognizing the value of women’s voices

Women’s voices and ideas are critical to improving the lives of women and girls, often offering new solutions to old problems. That’s why women’s funds encourage greater ownership over projects by their grantees. By providing the space for women’s rights organizations to present projects they’ve identified as crucial for women in their communities, the work being done better reflects local needs and priorities.

Providing access for marginalized women

The unique approach of women’s funds also enables organizations who are working on issues outside of the mainstream to access funding for their work. Women’s funds also make it a priority to support some of the most marginalized populations, such as cultural and ethnic minorities and women living in rural and remote areas.

Networking and movement-building

The louder the voice for women’s rights, the greater the chance for change. That’s why women’s funds encourage networking and movement-building to create critical mass around issues that affect women and girls throughout countries, regions and the world. These activities also encourage knowledge sharing and learning as well as leadership training and skills development, building the capacity of women’s rights organizations.

Changing attitudes, changing systems

In order to break down the obstacles and challenges women face, we must change the systems that work to keep these obstacles in place. Women’s funds support projects that address systems change, be it at the level of shifting individual attitudes or changing policies that negatively impact women and girls. Women’s funds also recognize that systems change takes time and are therefore much more willing to make long-term investments in women’s rights organizations to provide them with the financial security they need to operate with long-term goals in mind.

The MATCH International Women’s Fund

The MATCH International Women’s Fund provides Canadians with the opportunity to join this funding movement by supporting women’s rights organizations in the global South. We offer Canadians who believe in the work of women’s rights organizations a means to increase the resources they have access to. With the MATCH International Women’s Fund, we can support women working to achieve dramatic and lasting changes in the lives of women and girls around the world. Learn more.


[1] Arutyunaova, A. & Calrk, C. (2013). Watering the leaves, starving the roots: The status of financing for women’s rights organizing and gender equality. Toronto, ON: Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID). Available at: http://www.awid.org/Library/Watering-the-Leaves-Starving-the-Roots.

[2] Esplen, E. (2013). Leaders for change: why support women’s rights organisations? London, UK: Womankind Worldwide. Available at: http://www.womankind.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2013/03/LeadersForChange-FINAL.pdf.

[3] Arutyunaova, A. & Calrk, C. (2013). Watering the leaves, starving the roots: The status of financing for women’s rights organizing and gender equality. Toronto, ON: Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID). Available at: http://www.awid.org/Library/Watering-the-Leaves-Starving-the-Roots.