THE POWER OF RESILIENCE
On 14 March 2023, on the occasion of the 67th Commission on the Status of Women, the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund) held a webinar, “Supporting civil society and women’s rights organizations working to end violence against women and girls in protracted, complex and overlapping crises”.
Impact of crises
Some 70% of women experience gender-based violence in crisis settings, compared with 35% of women worldwide.Despite being at the forefront of such crises, women’s rights organizations are underfunded and under-represented in crisis settings. In response, the UN Trust Fund established a special funding window in 2016 that supports organizations which specifically address violence against women and girls in the context of humanitarian crises and disaster response. So far, the UN Trust Fund has supported 18 organizations with a total of USD 7.2 million, reaching over 127,000 affected women and girls.
Women’s agency is key
During the webinar, a panel of UN Trust Fund grantees and experts provided insight on the diverse challenges faced by women and girls worldwide and the key role of women’s rights organizations, activists and grassroots women’s committees in empowering women to exercise their agency amid crises and conflicts.
Hala Al Karib, Regional Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Horn of Africa (SIHA) shared how the solidarity, agency and network building among women’s organizations enabled women’s activism for change in Somalia and South Sudan. She explained: “Women activists on the ground are the biggest supporters of our work”, referring to SIHA-led school-based project to prevent violence against women and girls in the large camps for internally displaced people.
Lizeth García, Asylum Specialist Lawyer, Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración explained how women’s organizations play a vital role in helping women seeking asylum in Mexico to rebuild their lives.
Kevin Schumacher, Deputy Executive Director of Women for Afghan Women Afghanistan highlighted the crucial role of international solidarity in challenging times. He added: "Empowering local activists is the most important way to invest in social transformation”.
The panellists said the UN Trust Fund plays an important role in their successes through its flexible funding, supportive and enabling approach, and forums such as this webinar that create platform for exchange, learning and advocacy for more direct, core and flexible funding to local women’s rights organizations.
A window of hope
The presentation of “Synthesis Review of the UN Trust Fund Special Window on Ending Violence against Women & Girls Refugees and/or Forcibly Displaced” authored by Dr Erin Stern* provided insight in programming elements that contributed to the effectiveness of this portfolio:
- Collaboration with groups and stakeholders such as host communities, men and boys, and civil society to reach primary target beneficiaries and partners.
- Addressing information gaps and mental health and trauma needs.
- Adapting projects quickly.
- Supporting capacity building for civil society and women’s organizations as well as the mental health, safety and well-being of staff.
- Providing flexible, core and longer-term funding to ensure sustainable and accountable support for refugee and displaced women and girls living in fluctuating crisis situations.
The full synthesis report will be soon available on the UN Trust Fund’s website.
Funding gender-responsive crisis action
Dr Marta Perez del Pulgar** presented the key findings of a study on funding landscape to civil society and women’s rights organizations to end violence against women and girls in protracted, complex and overlapping crises. Dr Perez del Pulgar concluded that, “the UN Trust Fund brings much needed long-term, flexible and core funding to women’s rights and civil society organizations”. By investing in the organizational resilience and preparedness of civil society and women’s rights organisations, the UN Trust Fund enables them to continue operating in crisis settings while pushing for a localization feminist agenda.
The UN Trust Fund’s 26th Call for Proposals
On January 25th, 2023, the UN Trust Fund closed 26th Call for Proposals. A total of 1,609 applications from 113 countries amounting to USD 756 million were received, representing a 15% increase in applications compared to the previous year. The special focus on protracted crises attracted 23 percent of overall applications.
In her closing remarks, UN Trust Fund Chief Abigail Erikson said: “We have witnessed the importance of providing flexible and long-term funding to autonomous women’s rights organizations as a key strategy for achieving transformational change” and reiterated the Fund’s commitment to empowering women and girls.
* Dr Erin Stern is an Independent Consultant and Gender Equality and Violence against Women Prevention Specialist
** Dr Marta Perez del Pulgar is an Independent Consultant, Gender Mainstreaming and Gender Based Violence Programming across the humanitarian-development-peace nexus