New York - The new UNIFEM-managed Fund for Gender Equality announced its initial allocation of more than US$9 million to 27 initiatives in 26 countries today. The recently-established Fund, a US$68 million multilateral initiative, is designed to advance innovative programmes which focus on women's economic and political empowerment at local and national levels. It is currently funded by the Governments of Spain and Norway.
The new grants fall into the Fund's Catalytic Grant category - one of two types of high-impact grants aimed to accelerate efforts of dozens of initiatives on the ground. Grantees will work on efforts ranging from changing attitudes towards women's political engagement in Sri Lanka, to boosting economic independence of HIV-positive women in Senegal, or amplifying the voices of Palestinian women refugees in Lebanon.
"This new Fund has tremendous potential to bring about concrete and sustainable changes in women's lives. Very impressive efforts to advance women's political and economic empowerment are underway in every corner of the world. Yet this work is critically under-funded. It is important that the Fund supports both governments and civil society organizations - and very significantly, partnerships between them as well," said Inés Alberdi, UNIFEM Executive Director.
The grantees represent broad regional and thematic diversity. Their initiatives range from supporting women in the informal sector in Cameroon, Egypt and the Philippines to increasing greater political participation by women in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Dominican Republic, Uganda, Morocco and in the Pacific Islands. Initiatives also focus on indigenous women and those in high-risk groups, such as women affected by HIV and AIDS. The grants further cover efforts to assist women farmers facing food insecurity and climate change and those who are systematically denied inheritance and property rights such as women in Afghanistan.
"In Egypt, currently female domestic workers are explicitly excluded by law, from any protection and dropped-out of civil society agenda. The UNIFEM grant is a unique opportunity to bring this underlying women's rights issue into the light. The project Al Shehab Foundation is implementing will not merely empower domestic workers on grass-roots level but will further advocate towards legislative protection for domestic workers on national level," said Abdo Abu El Ella of the Al-Shehab Institution for Comprehensive Development, a grantee from Egypt.
The Fund received 1,240 applications submitted through an online database in Arabic, English, French, Russian and Spanish, out of which 543 were for the Catalytic Category. Ranging from US$100,000 to US$500,000, 27 catalytic grants were selected - 89 percent led by civil society organizations and 11 percent by government agencies - by a technical committee of regional experts. The second category of Implementation Grants will be announced in June 2010 and will focus on the implementation of already-ratified national laws or policies. They will range from US$2 million to US$5 million, disbursed over two to four years.