Around the world, women are working together to dismantle barriers, challenge perceptions and improve the lives of women and girls in their communities. Since 1976, MATCH has supported this work through partnerships with over 650 grassroots women’s rights organizations in 71 countries. And we continue to do so today because our experience (and research) shows that local women’s movements are the most successful in driving social change.
It’s no surprise that grassroots women’s organizations are so successful. As women-led organizations, they have the best pulse on the state of women’s rights in their communities. Women are in the best position to know what changes are needed to protect the rights of women locally. Working at the grassroots level, they are able to adapt to local needs while mobilizing community members to create positive change for women and girls.
A recent study identified two social factors as key drivers for the removal of laws that discriminate against women: the ratification of international rights conventions and more women in political office. But if we dig a little deeper, we know that its women’s organizations like CEDEMUNEP that are educating women on their political rights and encouraging female leaders in their communities to run for office. And it’s the work of women’s legal organizations that are building the momentum on the ground that drives the ratification of international rights conventions at the national level. Without such grassroots women’s rights organizations, important social factors like these would be nonexistent.
Women’s Organizations Hold Ground and Break Ground for a More Equal World
At their core, all women’s rights organizations work to advance gender equality and women’s rights. At MATCH, we’ve identified two key priorities in the work of women’s organizations: holding ground and breaking ground.
Women around the world have fought very hard for their rights to be recognized and upheld. But many women’s organizations must hold ground against the backlash from religious and cultural fundamentalism to ensure that women don’t lose these rights. From protecting a woman’s right to live a life free from violence to ensuring women have freedom of mobility and speech, holding ground work remains a crucial component in the pursuit of gender equality.
However, to end the cycles of violence and discrimination, we must also find ways to break new ground and dismantle the barriers that continue to hold women and girls back. Women’s rights organizations are driving these discoveries, using innovative tools and practices to create lasting social change. From developing new, sustainable products that help young women stay in school to applying old laws in new ways to sue governments for not protecting girls from sexual violence, breaking ground work redefines how we think about women’s rights.
Wherever there are women, we must continue to hold our ground and break new ground for change. Whether it is in education or economic empowerment, in health services or legal systems, or in ending violence against women, women’s rights organizations are balancing the need to both maintain our progress and to forge ahead in creating a more equal world.
Funding Remains a Huge Barrier to Women’s Rights Work
Despite their demonstrated track record for success, women’s rights organizations continue to struggle for the funding required to make gender equality a reality in their communities. The average annual budget of a women’s rights organization is $20,000. With a budget this size, most women’s organizations are volunteer-run and operate month-to-month. The vast majority of them – 90% in fact – are unable to access funds from international organizations, national governments, and bilateral agencies. Most women’s organizations have never received core funding to cover basic costs, such as electricity and Internet. In 2011, one-fifth of all women’s rights organizations faced the serious threat of closing their doors forever.
But with the international momentum around women and girls continuing to build over the last few years, why do women’s rights organizations continue to struggle for funding? Despite the recognition that investing in women has positive impacts on families, communities and nations, the money is just not reaching the women’s rights organizations working on the ground to drive change.
Together, We Can Change This Reality
It’s time we put our money where our mouth – and heart – is. We have come a long way for women’s rights and gender equality, but think of how much more we can achieve if women’s rights organizations are not constantly preoccupied with wondering where next month’s rent will come from. Women are ultimately the ones who will change the world and it is our job to ensure they are properly supported in doing so.
At MATCH, we know the best way to achieve this is through a women’s fund. International women’s funds ensure that more money goes directly into the hands of women working on the ground by creating direct relationships with these organizations. Women’s funds grant more ownership for these organizations to work on local priorities, ensuring that solutions are crafted and executed by and for the community.
That’s why on October 29th, we will be launching the MATCH International Women’s Fund. Join us.