Women’s rights are challenged all over the world, however, women living in the Pacific face intersecting challenges that can make them all but invisible to the rest of the world.
While globally funders are increasing their investment for gender equality and women’s empowerment, funding disbursements by members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have stagnated over recent years in the Pacific. Less than 1% of grant funding is directed to women’s organisations in the Pacific.
In 2019, the Fiji Women’s Fund (FWF) and the Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights, Asia & Pacific (UAF A&P) commissioned a scoping study to understand the funding realities for women’s organisations in the Pacific.
"The scoping study critically unpacks some important questions, such as who the funders and recipients in the Pacific are, and what are the challenges that women’s organisations face, and recommendations on the way forward. FWF and UAF A&P see this report as an empowering tool for Pacific women to transform the funding landscape in our region," said Michelle Reddy, FWF Fund Manager.
UAF A&P Co-Lead, Virisila Buadromo added that feminist activism in the Pacific is affected by not just ‘lack of resources’, but also lack of equity. Few grassroots organisations enjoy access to, knowledge of, or skills to develop proposals. Even the opportunity to participate in discussions on what resources and where they should be deployed is the privilege of few.
"Small and unregistered women’s groups or collectives are among the most marginalised. On the other hand, bigger feminist groups often struggle to stay afloat, as it requires continuous mobilising of resources to ensure adequate funding for their programmes and partners. In short, it is an unjust system perpetuated by an unequal playing field," she said.
Over 40 organisations including funders, financial and business intermediaries, women’s civil society organisations, and Disabled Persons Organisations (DPOs) were interviewed between February – May 2019 to seek insights into the funding of women’s organisations in Fiji, Papua New Guinea and more broadly across the Pacific.
The study highlights lack of transparency around funding data, especially on gender-disaggregated data available on funds disbursed to women’s organisations in the Pacific region in previous reporting years. This means that funders and women’s organisations often do not have the same information when discussing available funding and modalities for gender or rights-based programmes and women’s empowerment activities in the Pacific.
The study also puts forward three key recommendations:
- Establishment of an independent Pacific Feminist Fund, a regional women’s fund that is a conduit for Pacific women’s organisations to secure funding; to broaden the range of funders available; to represent and direct discussions within and outside the region; to amplify voices of organisations, and women and feminist movements in the region; to lead impact investing in women’s rights and gender based work; and to engage with Pacific Leaders, role models, celebrities and philanthropic networks to support Pacific women and girls.
- Improve transparency around funding data for more informed and inclusive dialogue, with a commitment from key funders to publish data annually on the funds directed to the Pacific region, funds directly provided to organisations in the Pacific and the funds reaching DPOs.
- Ensure that the UAF A&P and FWF, and in time the Pacific Feminist Fund, take the lead organising at least three events annually that focus on emerging issues in funding.
The study was launched on 17 February 2020 at the Australasian Aid Conference in Canberra. FWF and UAF A&P acknowledged the support of the Australian Government, Global Fund for Community Foundations and the Foundation for a Just Society in commissioning the scoping study.