ongoing progress, women’s rights and gender inequality remain a
critical need. It is a moral, ethical and human imperative: How can we
justify having more than half the globe’s population being treated less
fairly than their male counterparts?
Women everywhere need
prioritised, dedicated and consistent investment and resources. However,
investments in gender equality are vastly insufficient and only a small
proportion of aid addresses women’s specific needs. For many decades,
funding for gender and women’s rights programmes has been largely
dependent on mainstream funders and donors.
The heavy reliance on
external donors has had the effect of stifling growth and slowing down
progress in realising gender equality.
for new and innovative approaches to women’s rights funding. At this
year’s HLP, a challenge was put to our generation of women’s rights
activists to starting thinking beyond conventional forms of funding.
chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma suggested: “Instead of always
scrounging around and begging for money for these gender events, often
at the expense of our principles and our autonomy, is it not time that,
as women activists, we contribute and mobilise other women to contribute
even just a dollar a month to fund the activities and programmes we
think are important for African women? Why can’t we say 'enough of
begging'. Let's put the first dollar ourselves and then ask the
neighbours to help.”
Indeed, this is a call to all women activists
to play a part in the financing of the work that we so passionately
love and wake up to do.
For example, it will take only a million
of us to commit to this for us to raise $12 million in a year. While
this will not necessarily solve all our challenges, it will be a step in
the right direction. The idea is that by mobilising our own funds, we
can decrease our dependence on outside donors.
gender and women’s rights work has been severely underfunded. A 2010
Association for Women's Rights in Development study revealed that the
median budget for 740 women’s organisations was a measly $20 000.
comparison, in the same year, the income for Save the Children
International and World Vision International was $1.4 billion and $2.6bn
This is a worrying trend, often characterised by
piecemeal funding offers to women’s rights programmes, which are not
We could not agree more with the call for new
approaches to funding for gender equality. While joint efforts by women
and men are important, there is a need for innovative strategies.
creating our own streams of self-reliant funding will give us the
much-needed currency and power to define and shape our own agendas.
will make our own decisions on what and how to use the resources we
collect. We will create our own negotiating tables, sit on those tables
and not wait to be called to tables created for and by men. After all,
she who pays the piper calls the tune.
It is also important to
note that indigenous forms of giving are not new to African women.
African women have traditionally been heralded for their generations of
life-changing service to society.
Women have always been at the
forefront of indigenous forms of giving through informal and sporadic
ways: providing care and support to a sick family member or neighbour,
helping a beggar, supporting an extended family member.
women are not limited to contributions of service, as they are
achieving full confidence in their capabilities as financial-savings
Research has also found that women have unique giving
patterns as a result of their socialisation. Women do not give the same
way men do.
Grounded in a tradition of volunteerism and sharing,
women can bring a new voice to philanthropic giving, one that is based
on partnership and engagement and has the potential to transform the
world of fundraising.
In South Africa, for example, you’ll find makgotlas for funeral expenses or stokvels for group purchasing or community entertainment.
Kenya, you’ll find groups designed to save for a large investment that
benefits the community, usually investing in a business or the Nairobi
The principal idea being to work together towards a common goal.
follows that replicating a similar model, starting with mobilising
resources for our own meetings and events, is likely to succeed in the
African context. By building on women’s tradition of service, leveraging
current expertise and strategic financial giving, African women can
shape the future of gender equality and women’s rights on the continent.
is a call to every woman, from every class, age, race and across ethnic
groupings. Despite our diversities, we share common challenges and
sometimes common aspirations.
This is therefore an opportunity for
us to rally together towards a common cause and for our common good. It
is an opportunity for us break our own barriers, one dollar at a time.
of us are in a position to give at least a dollar a month, some can
give more than a dollar a month, while others less than a dollar.
contributions are important, and those who are not able to contribute
in monetary ways can find alternative ways of contributing. We all have
different skills: some are good at mobilising, some at supporting other
women, some at breaking the silence of abuse. Every one of us needs to
take a measure of responsibility and demonstrate our commitment.
once we have created our own sound financial base and strengthened our
solidarities can we confidently approach and hold to account those in
the mainstream to ensure sufficient funding to support women’s rights.
commitment to giving could be one of the indispensable means of
transforming the women’s rights agenda on the continent. For a (gender)
group that has often been marginalised and reduced to second-class
status, philanthropy is a powerful expression of uplifting solidarity.
Simply put, it is at the core of the ties that bind us.
gathered in Kigali proposed a task team to set the plans in motion.
African women are being presented with an opportunity to drive
transformation for gender equality and the empowerment of women and
girls. This is no small ambition, and we all ought to play our part.
Sibanda is a gender specialist at the Centre for the Study of Violence
and Reconciliation. She attended the third High Level Panel on Gender
Equality and Women’s Rights in Kigali, Rwanda.