Giving Compass’ Take:
• Women’s movements help strengthen gender equality, yet unrestricted and sustainable funding for these initiatives is lacking. Françoise Girard, writing for PhilanTopic, explains how funders can support women’s leadership and build a path for social change.
• How might you change your giving strategy based on this information?
• Read more about why we must change philanthropy for women now.
Over the last two decades, U.S. foundations and the international development community have dramatically increased funding for women and girls in the Global South. Yet despite these outlays — avowedly dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls — evidence has shown that most funding going to women’s empowerment is not only ineffective but actually harmful.
So what kind of funding should donors provide to feminist movements and organizations? Social change takes time. To be effective, activists must be nimble and able to respond strategically to changing conditions. As such, they require flexible, long-term funding that allows them to control the direction of their work.
Yet over the past decade, the share of general operating support for gender equality from U.S. foundations has dropped from 30 percent to 15 percent. This trend reflects the philanthropic community’s increasing preoccupation with the need to demonstrate its own impact — which translates into funding for specific, time-bound projects with “measurable outcomes” that often have little to do with effective change.
Currently, less than 5 percent of empowerment funding from U.S. foundations goes to grassroots organizing, and only 0.1 percent supports convenings — spaces where women can collaborate, strategize, and build solidarity across diverse movements.
How do we reverse this trend? For thirty-five years, the International Women’s Health Coalition has supported and partnered with women’s organizations worldwide. We know that women are a unique force for equality and social liberation.
We invite other funders to join us and provid e women-led organizations with long-term, unrestricted, general operating support. Donors should celebrate the coalitions built by women and encourage cooperation, not competition, among feminist groups. Most importantly, funders should support women’s leadership and agency and commit to women’s own priorities. If even a fraction of U.S. foundations revised their strategies to recognize the need for consciousness raising and political action, they would be helping to catalyze sustainable social change in countries and regions where it is desperately needed.
Read the full article about women’s movements by Françoise Girard at PhilanTopic.
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