An organisation that promotes leadership in Pakistan, a network that helps girls and young women working in the sex industry in Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of China, and a project that supports Palestinian refugees in the West Bank are among 20 groups from 19 countries awarded grants of up to $50,000 (£32,900) each on Monday.
The grants, which totalled $1m, were awarded by the With and For Girls Collective, set up to support grassroots organisations working to promote the rights of girls and young women. A number of the grant winners were projects created by girls. The grants are not tied to specific programmes, which means grantees can decide how best to spend their money.
Muna Wehbe, CEO of the Stars Foundation, convening partner for the collective, said: “Despite the critical role that women and girls play in sustainable development, the World Bank estimates that less than 2 cents of every $1 spent on international aid is directed towards adolescent girls.
“The With and For Girls award provides flexible funding to grassroots, girl-focused NGOs, empowering them to invest their funds where they need them most. We want to shine a spotlight on these outstanding local organisations and encourage more funders to support girls in their role as vital agents of change within our sector.”
Some 125 organisations were nominated for the inaugural awards, which were whittled down to a shortlist of 47. The 20 winners, which span five continents, are understood to work with more than 37,400 people.
Grant winners include Aware Girls, which works in Peshawar, in north-west Pakistan. The organisation has set up girls’ power clubs to teach leadership skills, and also runs HIV and Aids discussion clubs. It has a helpline to support girls and women who have experienced abuse. During the 2013 general election, the organisation led a team of 100 young women to monitor voting, and in local elections this year three young women trained by Aware Girls won seats.
“This is the power of grassroots organisations,” Gulalai Ismail told the award ceremony in London – she founded Aware Girls in 2002 when she was 16. Ismail said local groups can be more accepted in the places they work because they know the values and structures of their communities.
“If a campaign is run by a local organisation, it can be accepted as an organisation of the community, so the community trusts them, and they are not seen as [promoting] western propaganda trying to change culture. When grassroots organisations are supported, they can do wonders.”
She welcomed the With and For Girls initiative for supporting local groups, which often struggle to access funding.
The Shoruq Organisation, another grant winner, works with Palestinian refugees in Bethlehem. It runs media training, organises dance troupes and music groups, and provides legal and psychological support for young people.
Shoruq means sunrise in Arabic. “This is where we came from. We wanted a new beginning and a new dawn for girls and the young,” said Suha Ziyada, who has worked for the organisation for two years. “We focus on Palestinian refugees, advocating for their rights – especially their right to return. We provide support for them to be able to determine their rights and protect them in the future, hopefully.”
The collective, which announced the initiative at the Girl summit held in London last year, said: “Girls are disproportionately affected by the burden of poverty, but remain invisible in the efforts meant to tackle it. We believe girls are a powerful positive force for change and must have more of a say in decisions that affect them.
“The awards will seek to amplify the voices of those less often heard – the voices of girls and the voices of locally led development efforts.”
As well as the Stars Foundation, the With and For Girls Collective is made up of EMpower (the Emerging Markets Foundation), Mama Cash, the Nike Foundation, NoVo Foundation, Plan UK, The Global Fund for Children and the Malala Fund.
In order for Mama Cash to be eligible for a 'consultative status' with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), some countries require use of the officially agreed UN language for their designations. Mama Cash uses these country designations so that we will not be excluded from UN spaces for decision-making and debate as a civil society actor.