IWTC Women's GlobalNet #285

Activities and Initiatives of Women Worldwide 

October 30, 2005

THE AWID INTERNATIONAL FORUM: BANGKOK, THAILAND

Where is the Money for Women's Rights?
AWID launches its groundbreaking report at the Funders' Forum
By Rochelle Jones

On Friday October 28, 2005, in front of an international audience of women's rights' activists and key donors at the Funders' Forum, Lydia Alpizar Duran of AWID, in collaboration with Cindy Clark and Lisa VeneKlasen of Just Associates, launched the much-awaited results of AWID'S action-research project ''Where is the Money for Women's Rights? Assessing Resources and the Role of Donors in the Promotion of Women's Rights and the Support of Women's Rights Organizations.'' One of the most alarming discovery from the research was that 51% of women's organizations are now receiving less funding compared to five years ago in 2000.

The Funders' Forum took place at the AWID International Forum in Bangkok, Thailand, and the unavoidable absence of AWID's Executive Director Joanna Kerr, as well as Just Associate's Ellen Sprenger, who played key roles in the research project, did not in any way hamper the huge success of the Funders' Forum, which marked the beginning of an initiative to increase the level of funding to women's organizations worldwide, improve access to funding globally, and affirm the legitimacy of women's rights organizations and movements worldwide.Also present at the Funders' Forum were representatives from the women's rights funding community: Sylvia Borren, Director, Novib-Oxfam Netherlands; Maria Eitel, President, Nike Foundation; Patti O'Neill, Special Advisor, Network on Gender Equality, Development Assistance Committee, OECD; Kavita Ramdas, President and CEO, The Global Fund for Women; and Dr. Rosalia Sciortino, Director, Southeast Asia Regional Program, The Rockefeller Foundation.

The opening address was from the charismatic Bisi Adeleye Fayemi, President of AWID, who described the many anecdotes circulating throughout women's organizations that they simply don't have the same amount of funding that had access to previously. As a result of these increasing messages from international women's movements, AWID decided to explore them with solid research focusing on the key questions: Where is the money? How do we mobilize more resources?

Cindy Clark presented the main findings of the year-long action-research initiative, which was conducted via surveys, international meetings and interviews with diverse women's rights organizations and AWID's member base. According to the report, ''women's organizations are in a position of survival and resistance''. She exposed how there are striking commonalities across regions in that women's rights organizations are not receiving funding despite an increase in money going to some regions. A snapshot of
Official Development Aid (ODA) in 2003, for example, revealed that out of USD 69 billion dollars in aid money, only 0.6 percent of ODA has gender equality as a principle objective and only 2.4 percent of this money supported the work of NGOs. Five main funding sectors were covered by AWID's research: Bilateral and Multilateral Development Agencies; Large Independent Foundations; Public Foundations / International NGOs; Individual giving / Family Foundations; Corporate Philanthropy; and Women's Funds. Among these, common threads were found in poor tracking and accountability systems, and most importantly, that the promises of gender mainstreaming have not been realized.

There is a sense in the funding community that gender has been mainstreamed, and hence there is no need to support specific women's programs anymore. Unfortunately, this has resulted in women's organizations receiving less funding, despite the Millennium Development Goals identifying that women's equality is a prerequisite for development.

Other trends include a clear frustration from funders regarding the impacts and outcomes of funding, and that Women's Funds are growing in numbers and are the most frequently mentioned as flexible and steady sources of funding, giving USD 15 million in grants in 2004. Kavita Ramdas, President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women (GFW), explained this by remarking that Women's Funds have been forced into existence because money is going elsewhere.

Overall, the research discovered a downward drift in funding for women's rights organizations, and revealed a need for urgent strategies to reverse this trend. Women's rights organizations need to identify and work with their allies in the funding community, working together on new policies and accountability mechanisms.

Importantly, there is a need for more evaluation efforts and for mobilizing broad, public support for women's rights. Recommendations from the funding representatives present on the panel were also invaluable, which was facilitated by Lisa VeneKlasen of Just Associates. For example, Sylvia Borren from Novib-Oxfam in the Netherlands, implored that gender equality is something for which we must keep working. Referring to the audience, she exclaimed: ''We are the ones who are going to make this world democratic, or not''. Women need to think big, demand more, and find allies.

Rosalia Sciortino, Director of the Southeast Asia Regional Program, The Rockefeller Foundation, recommended that in the face of recent negative political shifts and conservatism, women's organizations need to take a proactive stance rather than a defensive one. According to Rosalia, many Foundations have stepped back in defensive moves, and are now afraid to reclaim this lost space. Maria Eitel, President of the Nike Foundation, suggested that the power of corporations can and should be used, and that organizations can reap benefits through speaking the language of business and economics to corporate funders, and Sylvia Borren highlighted the importance of capacity building, and the need to start strategizing around the question: ''If we had all the money - would we have the capacity to put it to effective use?''

It's not all bad news for women's organisations, however, with Patti O'Neill from the Network on Gender Equality, Development Assistance Committee, OECD, sharing her feeling of a real sense of change in the air on the tail-end of lost momentum with donors. Norway, Canada and Sweden, for example, are reexamining and reenergizing their approaches.

At the end of the Forum, Lydia Alpizar Duran of AWID launched the new AWID initiative ''Fundher-Money Watch for Women's Rights'', which aims to increase the amount of funding for women's organizations all over the world, to improve access to funding globally and to build legitimacy of women's rights organizations and movements. This will be achieved through dialogue and alliance building between and among donors and women's rights
organizations and networks, and will include an annual report ''Money Watch
for Women's Rights'', to report on these issues.

As Lydia took the floor, she told Forum participants that this initiative
was for them, and that the dialogue between donors and women's rights
organizations, reinvigorated by this research, was only just beginning.

For more information, or to obtain copies of AWID's Report, contact
awid@awid.org.

From the AWID RESOURCE NET, Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID).

AWID is an international membership organization committed to gender equality and a just and sustainable development process. AWID facilitates an open exchange among researchers, practitioners, policymakers and others in order to develop effective and transformative approaches for improving the lives of women and girls worldwide. If you are not already a member of AWID, visit their web site at <http://www.awid.org> to find out more. -The Association for Women's Rights in Development, 215 Spadina Avenue, Suite 150, Toronto,ON M5T 2C7, CANADA. Tel: 416-594-3773. Fax: 416-594-0330. Email: awid@awid.org. Web: <http://www.awid.org>



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