MATCH International: This Is What Funding for Women's Rights Looks Like
Jessica Tomlin - MATCH International Women's Fund
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April 1, 2014

MATCH International has a story to tell. It is a story of resilience, determination and hard work. (The MATCH International Women's Fund)

Somewhere among our conversations about the role of women and girls in international development, we have lost our way.

Once recognized as agents for change, today women are increasingly portrayed as tools for economic progress or, worse, marketable commodities filling the pages of holiday brochures.

While we know this comes from a concerted effort to raise more money for the plight of women and girls, it is troubling. By focusing on the return on investment of women, conversations about women’s rights have been silenced.

Basic human rights, like the right to a life free from violence or the right to be included in national decision-making, have been set aside in favour of activities like ensuring girls stay in school so that they can boost their country’s GDP.

Getting more girls in school is important work; we just need to ensure that we are doing it for the right reasons. We should also be reflecting on whether the education they receive teaches women’s leadership or perpetuates existing stereotypes. An educated girl without awareness of her rights and without legal systems to protect her will only grow up to reinforce the status quo.

Women’s funds around the world have stepped up to boldly reframe the debate and put the focus back on women’s human rights. They are also putting their money where their mouth is as one of the most respected human rights funders globally.

Women’s funds prioritize the needs identified by women in the community, supporting women-led ideas for change. They are flexible in their grant-making, recognizing the need to fund complex and sometimes dangerous work for human rights. And they commit to funding for the long-term – for the amount of time it takes to create transformative social change for women.

The MATCH International Women’s Fund is Canada’s only international fund for women and is part of this global movement of funding for women’s rights. Last October, The MATCH Fund launched its first global call for proposals. And the results speak for themselves.

Almost 1,200 women’s organizations applied from over 100 countries. With average annual budgets of $20,000, they were not asking for much (the average amount was only $11,000), but collectively, these organizations requested $13 million to carry out their important work.

We are pleased to announce that we are now funding a small percentage of these applicants; organizations that, together, are addressing the full spectrum of women’s rights.

We are funding organizations that are ensuring comprehensive health services, including safe abortion, are accessible to survivors of sexual violence in Mexico. We are funding police training in South Africa so that survivors of rape have the support they need to seek justice. We are funding advocacy efforts of former sex workers in Nicaragua to bring their line of work out from the shadows and into an environment that is safer for women.

This is what funding for women’s rights looks like.

We are funding the convening of underrepresented indigenous women in the Pacific to raise their voice at the United Nations’ World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. We are funding the capacity building of local women leaders in the Great Lakes region of East Africa to ensure their voices are included in peace negotiations and mediation efforts.

This is what funding for women’s rights looks like.

We are funding a documentary on lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LBT) human rights abuses in the Caucasus to help shift prevalent homophobic and transphobic attitudes. We are funding creative uses of technology that open up public spaces for women in Egypt. We are funding media training for grassroots women’s organizations addressing rape and sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

This is what funding for women’s rights looks like.

We are funding women working in their own communities. We are funding marginalized and often entirely ignored communities of women. We are funding organizations that have been there for thirty years and will continue to be there for another thirty in the future. Hundreds of thousands of women’s organizations are working tirelessly at the grassroots in diverse and complex ways. We will continue to fund them for the years to come. It is not tidy and does not always make for great marketing, but this is what funding for women’s rights looks like.

Learn more at the MATCH International Women’s Fund website

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