Gender equality and development

Donor support to southern women’s rights organisations: OECD findings



 ‌OECD findings: Donor support

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Donor support to southern women's rights organisations: OECD findings

Members of the OECD-DAC provided USD 35.5 billion in aid to gender equality in 2014; this was an all-time high. Around 28% − nearly USD 10 billion − went to civil society organisations (CSOs).
The majority of this aid supported international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) or CSOs based in the donor country. In 2014, 8% of gender focused aid to civil society went directly to CSOs in developing countries. Little was reported as going directly to women’s rights organisations. Where resources are reaching women’s rights organisations, they are typically small-scale and short-term. Small amounts of money can stimulate learning and innovation, but they do not enable vital expansion, scale-up and strengthening of organisational and operational capacity.

It was in this context that the GENDERNET initiated a review to deepen understanding of how donors are partnering with southern women’s rights organisations, and of what is working well and less well. This highlighted multiple ways in which DAC agencies are successfully funding southern women’s groups, often by partnering with specialist intermediary organisations, or nurturing medium and larger women’s rights organisations with established links to the grassroots. The effective approaches outlined in the report can be scaled up and more systematically applied across individual agencies and the DAC donor community as a whole.

Ways forward

1. Reaching women’s rights organisations takes deliberate effort and an intentional approach that builds support for women’s groups into the structure of funding mechanisms.

2. Better monitoring is needed of how much finance reaches southern women’s rights organisations – directly and indirectly, as core and project funding – and of the quality of this support.

3. Women’s movements require breath, depth and diversity. Donors can best fund this diversity using a mix of funding streams and mechanisms that allow partnerships with CSOs of different sizes and capabilities, working at different levels and on different issues.

4. Investing in the infrastructure of organisations and movements is the basics of sustainability, resilience and long-term change. This requires a long-term view of partnership that builds organisational capacity through multi-year core support.
5. Reaching the grassroots can be achieved by investing in specialist, well-anchored funding intermediaries, such as women’s funds.

6. A proactive approach is needed to reach beyond “usual suspects”. At the country level, donors should start by identifying local champions with a specialisation in women’s rights work.

7. Funding relationship-building, alliances and learning between women’s rights organisations, and with other social movements, is critical to strengthen collective voice, impact and sustainability. Donors can contribute by financing the co-ordination efforts required to build coalitions, investing in women’s CSO platforms and networks, and funding convenings.

8. Politically-informed and adaptive approaches improve the effectiveness of support to women’s rights organisations.
9. DAC donors should think big – beyond gender equality funds. The real win would be to influence large mainstream funds that can be hard for women’s rights organisations to access.

10. DAC members can use not only financial but also non-financial means, including engaging in policy dialogue to support safe and enabling environments in which women’s rights groups are able to thrive.