Movement building: Joining forces to end violence against women and girls


UN Trust Fund grantees under the Spotlight Initiative are fostering and maintaining the women's movement

“Movement building is about a group of people working together for a common goal.” - Elizabeth Kayanga

In September 2017, the European Union and United Nations together launched the Spotlight Initiative to end all forms of violence against women and girls. One of its central aims is to strengthen women’s movements – the “crucial driver of progress” in ending violence against women – across the world.[1]

The UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund), as the only demand-driven, competitive grant-making mechanism specialized in ending violence against women and girls, is uniquely positioned to contribute to realizing this goal through funding contextually relevant initiatives and providing support to grantees, many of which are small, women-led and women’s rights organizations.

In Uganda, one of the grantees, the Integrated Disabled Women Activities (IDIWA), is leading a project to empower women and girls living with disabilities, and other at-risk groups, in order to maximize their potential and improve their standard of living. It works with survivors and those experiencing violence as well as professionals and people employed in the justice sector. As Elizabeth Kayanga, IDIWA’s Executive Director, says:

“A social movement requires collective power beyond a small group organizing to build and sustain a long-term change.”

In Cameroon, another grantee, the Rural Women Center for Education and Development (RuWCED), is working with formal and informal authorities in the community to promote better understanding of violence against women and girls, and, through participatory activity design, foster the voices and leadership of women and girls. Glory Leuong, founder of RuWCED, shares:

“Movement building is the process of drawing on the strength of vibrant civil society organizations and associated actors in the struggle toward social justice to amplify their voices, strengthen their leadership, as well as increase their advocacy skills.”

In 2019, funding under the Spotlight Initiative for 35 UN Trust Fund grantees from the Sub-Sahara region and Latin America aims to strengthen the women’s movement through a wide variety of projects. Among other things, these projects:

  • promote women’s economic empowerment;
  • push for institutional changes;
  • address harmful traditional practices; and
  • change mindsets to embrace gender diversity.

“The variety of projects under the UN Trust Fund’s Spotlight Initiative funding portfolio reflects how grantee organizations see the importance of including diverse voices in ending violence against women. Engaging diverse constituencies, such as youth, women and girls living with disabilities, those living with HIV/AIDS, indigenous women, and women and girl refugees, fosters the women’s movement at local, national and regional levels”, said Sandra Hollinger, Portfolio Manager at the UN Trust Fund.

Small, women-led and women’s rights organizations such as IDIWA and RuWCED are often the first to respond to the needs of the most marginalized women and girl survivors and at risk of violence, as seen first-hand during the COVID-19 pandemic. They will continue to be integral to building and sustaining the women’s movement.

[1] Spotlight Initiative. Annual Report 1 July 2017 – 31 March 2018.