The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) assignment of £50m ($64.3m) to help end female genital mutilation (FGM) is great news. The biggest ever financial commitment by any donor, it could be a game changer for the African-led movement to end this abhorrent subjugation of women.
We have yet to see how exactly the proposal may work, but one of the best parts of the announcement was a pledge to fund women on the front lines. This sets a precedent that I hope other governments will follow.
Funding the front lines is an approach that is often talked about but rarely translated into action. For years, I have seen with my own eyes the importance of the work that happens at the grassroots. The Tasaru Rescue Centre in Kenya has done life-saving work to protect Maasai girls at risk of FGM.
In Nepal, the Forum for Women, Law and Development has changed the law to better protect Nepalese women from cases of rape and acid attacks. In South Africa, Embrace Dignity has helped start a movement of sex trade survivors, fueling the conversation to end sex trafficking on the African continent.
However, despite the growing evidence that locally-led advocacy is more effective and more sustainable, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), only 8% of the $10 billion given in 2014 to non governmental organizations (NGOs) working on the promotion of gender equality in economically developing countries, actually reached groups that were located in those same countries.
In response to the growing gap between the needs of these national grassroots groups and the allocation of resources to larger international NGOs, I set up Donor Direct Action in 2011 to help level the playing field and get more funding to the women’s groups working on the front lines where it will have the most impact. At least 90% of funds we receive to support these groups are re-granted directly to them.
The women who work on the front lines to end violence and discrimination against women get little attention. They are brave, insightful and effective. Their biggest need is almost always core funding, so our grants are largely unrestricted.
These women should be trusted to invest funding where they know it is likely to be most needed. They determine their own priorities for how best to use the funds. We then help build their public profiles, get their issues highlighted in international media, link them with major donors and political leaders, and provide other forms of strategic support.
On this “Giving Tuesday”, I hope that you will join me in supporting one or more of our partner groups, who are carrying out such critical work. Please also take a moment to share this article on social media or with anyone you think may want to help. If you use Facebook please start a fundraiser. Do anything you can do to help get donations where they are most needed.
Together we are changing the lives of women and girls around the world. It is challenging work but it is moving forward. Let’s keep the momentum going!
Jessica Neuwirth is founder of Donor Direct Action, an international organization which partners with front line women’s groups around the world.