3 Examples Highlighting How Investing in Women and Feminist Organizations Tackles Multiple SDGs

September 22, 2023

There has been a growing desire to address the 2030 agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in a holistic way, looking for the levers that unlock progress towards multiple goals instead of only one.  In this sense, SDG5 focus on gender equality is a promising area.

To illustrate some of this intersectional work on gender equality, on September 12th, ImpactMapper hosted the webinar “The importance of Investing in Feminist Movement Building for Justice” featuring four leaders from different grassroots organizations: Namnyak Sinandei, Deputy Program Manager at the Pastoral Women Council in Tanzania; Emanuela Paul, Rethinking Power Program Coordinator and Sara Siebert, Violence Against Women and Girls Prevention Specialist, both from Beyond Borders/ Depase Fwontyè yo in Haiti; and  Lipi Rahman, Executive Director at the Badabon Sangho in Bangladesh.

“When we look at the funding trends globally, we're not seeing enough money going to feminist organizations, and global, regional and local women's rights organizations and movements despite their often outsized contributions to critical law and policy reforms and institutional and normative change initiatives. So as Impact Mapper, we wanted to dig into this trend in more depth. We wanted to gather more examples and evidence of what change looks like from diverse feminist and women’s rights organizations and movements from a long term, decade-long perspective?” ImpactMapper Founder and CEO, Alexandra Pittman.

The Key to Change project, which includes 217 women’s rights and feminist organizations and nonprofits in the study, has showcased diverse global areas of progress and intersectional nature of education, strengthening leadership opportunities, changing laws and policies to be more gender equitable, eradicating gender based violence, and building more fair and sustainable communities and ecosystems. Below are a few examples of what this change looks like.

Economic Empowerment & Climate Change Mitigation in Tanzania

Founded 20 years ago by nine women, Pastoral Women’s Council has provided economic empowerment and education programs for thousands of Maasai pastoralists women and girls in north-eastern Tanzania.

“We have seen a significant shift in cultural norms around women's property ownership. We have worked with over 6,000 women to help them acquire and manage land, livestock and other significant productive resources,”  PWC Deputy Program Manager, Namnyak Sinandei said. As one father who had participated in PWC training programs reflects: "In the Maasai community women are not given the opportunity to own land and property, only men have this chance. I was very lucky to get this training course on securing your family's future as it has transformed me. I am going to make sure that my family will prosper by making decisions with my wife and am also going to give one acre of land to my wife. I will also give part of property to my daughter’s even if they get married"---Christopher Meyano This important work contributes to SDG 1 poverty reduction, SDG 5 gender equality, and SDG 10 reduced inequalities.

PWC has also focused on providing access to quality education and scholarships to women and girls. ImpactMapper produced a case study on PWC’s work highlighting how through the span of two decades their activities have evolved. Early on, their work focused on stopping young women from entering early and forced marriage, and they worked with them to find scholarships and sponsorships for their education. As their organizational structure began professionalizing, they slowly started partnering with other NGOs and government agencies to secure education sponsorships, expanding their reach and ensuring that more girls stayed in school. After 15 years of working with girls, providing scholarships and financial support where needed, this has resulted in over 1,500 girls finishing both secondary and tertiary education. As part of this work, Namnyak Sinandei shared, “We've also supported over 2,500 girls who are escaping from gender based violence in the forms of early marriage and female genital mutilation to access quality education through our scholarship program and quality education program.” This work contributes to multiple SDGS, including SDG 1 poverty reduction, SDG3 health and wellbeing, SDG4 quality education, SDG 5 gender equality, and SDG 10 reduced inequalities.  

Sinandei underscored the critical role that long-term and flexible funding had in ensuring their work could continue, especially their work on climate change mitigation and preparedness. On the latter, one aspect of PWC’s approach to climate change was their water access and sanitation program that helped over 20,000 pastoralists have access to boreholes when extreme weather conditions affect their lands. This work ensures critical access to water and backup resources for communities that are vulnerable to climate change impacts, contributing to SDG2, Zero Hunger and SDG6, Clean Water.

By investing in local feminist women organizations like PWC, multiple benefits are created that move beyond SDG5 and improve the quality of life of women and girls, future opportunities and assets,  and the sustainability of communities.

To learn more about PWC’s work, see the case study that ImpactMapper prepared for them.

The Key to Change: Why funders must support women’s and feminist movement-building to achieve the SDGs

Eradicating Poverty and Violence Against Women and Girls in Haiti

The Caribbean nation of Haiti is currently facing a challenging chapter with the rise of gang violence, civil unrest, and political instability leading to a surge in human rights abuses.

However, amidst these circumstances, civil society organizations such as Beyond Borders/Depase Fwontyè Yo continue to build movements of people committed to peace and ending violence in all forms--- from family violence, community violence to gender based violence.  

In Haiti, Beyond Borders works to address the root causes of violence and the imbalance in power between women and men in Haitian society. They work throughout towns and villages in southeastern Haiti, with men and women activists, community and religious leaders, and other powerful groups for community change. In collaboration with the Global Women's Institute and their Haitian research partners, Beyond Borders has implemented the programs SASA!, Power to Girls and Safe and Capable to much success. Through the community-based initiative Rethinking Power, the organization has reached 84 communities in Haiti asking people “How are you using your power?” which had contributed to a collective understanding that everyone can play a role in preventing violence against women and girls.

Rethinking Power, Program Coordinator, Emanuela Paul said that violence against women and girls has decreased in the communities where they work in the last 12 years due to the prevention and intervention programs they have in place, like SASA!, and also because of the flexible long term funding they have received in order to continue their operations and deploy capital flexibility to the communities that need it most. See the  results of the multi-year study on the SASA! Program outcomes recently published in 2022. This work contributes to SDG3 on health and wellbeing, SDG5 on gender equality, and SDG10 reduced inequalities.

Beyond Borders Violence Against Women and Girls Prevention Specialist, Sara Siebert explained that having feminist funding facilitates great impact and that the same amount of money in the “wrong hands can actually take us backwards and do harm.”

She defines feminist funding as:

  • Long term and flexible support
  • Focused on reducing power imbalances
  • Funds with an intersectional lens
  • Minimizes power imbalances between donors and grantees
  • Supports groups that are most impacted by different types of violence and/led by community members most impacted
  • Helps donors question their own internal procedures and how they relate to grassroots feminist organizations.

Previously, the organization had received core and flexible funding from the NoVo Foundation and the American Jewish World Service allowing the staff the ability to focus on programming that responded to local realities and needs that arose.

Siebert emphasized the importance of minimizing power imbalances between donors and grantees and the opportunity to re-educate or reform their relations through “donor education and advocacy to help donors question their own internal procedures and how friendly they are to grassroots feminist organizations and how well set up they are to support real work that transforms communities.”

Providing Economic Opportunities and Rights Protection to Lower-Caste Women in Bangladesh

The vision to establish a society based on the freedom of expression and the effective participation in social and economic development of the most vulnerable and excluded women and girls in the caste system has inspired the women’s rights organization Badabon Sangho to design feminist and transformative social programs.

With presence in the Bagerhat and Patuakhali districts as well as the capital city Dhaka, the women-led group has advocated for Dalit Women’s Rights, Women’s Migrant Worker’s Rights and Land, Agriculture and WaterBodies Rights to stop the displacement of female farmers, fishers and those socially excluded who are prohibited to inherit or own land.  

For example, Badabon Sangho works with women fisher-folk who are not recognized by local authorities and therefore are deprived of access to public safety net schemes. The fisher-folk groups, comprised of Dalit and Indigenous women, have organized and formed a fisher-folk association. The coalition and organizing that is now happening is a key success as now women fisher-folk have a platform to act and demand their rights. The association now advocates to protect the water-bodies and livelihoods of the women fisher-folk from tourism companies trying to establish hotels and tourist spots. These changes could have detrimental environmental effects and impact their livelihoods. This work contributes to SDG1 poverty reduction, SDG5 gender equality and SDG11 Sustainable cities and communities.

Currently, women’s rights to agriculture programme has helped mobilize 6 women farmers associations to protect irrigation canals, seeds and common lands while also providing co-financing opportunities to association members for leasing land and arranging organic agriculture inputs.

Capacity building activities and technical assistance training for land ownership documentation, leadership skills and environment protection have also created a positive social impact in addressing barriers of National Waterbodies Management policy and practices.

According to Rahman, investing in feminist movement building is needed because “Women's organizations are desperately underfunded, and long term and core funding is essential to enable them to bring about diverse social changes.Feminist movements aim to achieve gender equality by challenging and dismantling social, cultural, and political norms that practice and encourage gender based discrimination. Feminist movements empower women and girls by providing a platform for women and girls to raise their voices, advocate for their rights and take action towards gender equality. Investing in feminist movement building helps to create social change by raising awareness in purchasing influencing policy, and challenging social norms, societal norms, and also feminist movement address the intersection of gender with other identities such as race, class sexuality, to ensure that all women, including marginalized groups have their voices heard and their rights protected. Overall, investing in feminist movement building is important for creating a more just equitable and inclusive society.”

READ MORE The Key to Change: Why funders must support women’s and feminist movement-building to achieve the SDGs

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