Despite our 37 years of women’s rights work internationally, we have had a lot of firsts in 2013; the first Canadian international fund for women, the first call for proposals, and now we’re only weeks away from announcing the first round of grantees for The MATCH International Women’s Fund.
But the task before us is not an easy one. On December 6, 2013, we closed our global call for proposals. After just six weeks, we received applications from nearly 1,200 women’s rights organizations Holding Ground and Breaking Ground in the global South.
Our applicants have painted a clear picture of women’s rights work around the world.
Although we were initially awed by the number of applications we received, ultimately, this outpouring comes as no surprise to those of us who are well-versed on the financial realities facing women’s rights organizations today.
We know that around the world 25% of women’s rights organizations operate on annual budgets under $5,000 and that 90% of these organizations cannot access funding from large, traditional donors such as governments, bilateral agencies and international NGOs. Indeed, nearly all our applicants have indicated that they are operating on an annual budget that is less than the global average for women’s rights organizations – that’s less than $20,000 a year.
It is not surprising, then, that a call finally targeting women’s rights organizations would be met with such an overwhelming response. Our applicants have clearly demonstrated the need for women’s funds to exist – grant-makers that understand the financial constraints of women’s rights organizations and recognize the value of supporting ideas led by the women who are closest to the problem and therefore closest to the solution.
What these applications have ultimately shown us is that there are thousands of women in the global South working at the community-level to tackle the unique challenges they face. And that they are undertaking this work without much support. Approximately 200 of our applicants indicated that they have no access to other funders.
Our applicants have also given us many reasons to be encouraged.
Applications came in from women working in over 100 countries from around the world. From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe and everywhere in between, women are boldly and creatively tackling the obstacles they face. Moreover, their work focuses on a vast range of complex social challenges – from gender violence to unjust legal systems to climate change and oppressive religious structures. In today’s world, everything is a “women’s issue” and women’s issues affect everyone.
What’s more, nearly half of all applications are for Breaking Ground grants – with applicants from all over the global South demonstrating their capacity for developing new ideas and novel solutions to overcome the obstacles facing women.
This has confirmed the message that was conveyed to us time and time again when we started the consultation process that led to the creation of The MATCH International Women’s Fund. Women around the world are successfully innovating for social change, and they are greatly underfunded in doing so.
Canadians have an important role to play in supporting women’s rights organizations around the world.
During this whole process, there was one message that rang out the loudest: that Canada has an extremely important role to play in raising funds that go toward supporting women’s rights organizations around the world. Today, we find ourselves even more committed to growing our grant-making capacity in the coming years so that we can support even more organizations working for change.
In total, 1200 women’s rights organizations have cumulatively asked for more than $13 million in support. Ultimately, however, in this first year we only have the funds to support a small percentage of this work.
In early 2014, we will announce our final list of grantees for the first funding cycle of The MATCH International Women’s Fund. We look forward to introducing you to them then. In the meantime, please consider making a donation to The MATCH International Women’s Fund this holiday season and help us increase the resources available to women’s rights organizations in the global South. Together, we can extend the reach of our support to even more women in 2014.