Update: The Spotlight Initiative responded to the CMI! Open Statement Regarding Accessibility of Spotlight Initiative Funding. Their response to our concerns and recommendations can be found here.

In May 2018, the Count Me In! Consortium submitted to the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative 18 recommendations developed on the basis of consultations with feminist movements, organisations and activists. Spotlight has already implemented a number of these, either fully or partially. For example, a part of all country allocations in Africa and Latin America are being disbursed by UN Funds through open, competitive processes; guidance to country and regional teams and the terms of reference for the global reference group include the aim that at least half the members of every civil society reference group be affiliated with women’s rights and feminist organisations, and diverse constituencies be represented; and Spotlight is drafting an integrated protection approach to mitigate risks and provide protection and security to women’s human rights defenders engaging with Spotlight. Congratulating Spotlight on these efforts, and in the spirit of partnership between civil society and the Initiative, we write to call for renewed attention to the very first of the 18 recommendations, that ‘50% of Spotlight funding should reach constituency-led women’s rights, girls’ rights and feminist organizations and networks […]’. This recommendation recognised that supporting, leveraging and strengthening feminist movements is critical to Spotlight’s mission of ending gender-based violence. Reaching grassroots groups, self-led by those who are marginalised and/or working on contested issues, is essential to advancing the objective of ‘leaving no-one behind’. To achieve this benchmark, deliberate and focused efforts are necessary to channel funds to local and grassroots feminist groups and organisations.

Over the course of 2019, Spotlight implementation has been rolled out in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America through UN country teams and UN funds. Regrettably, some aspects of these implementation efforts limit the ability of women’s rights organisations to access funds, particularly those working at the grassroots level. Not only does this hinder the achievement of Spotlight’s objective of ‘leaving no one behind’ but it also jeopardises Spotlight’s overall mission of ending violence against women and girls.

  1. Onerous application processes

In some instances, such as the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women’s (UNTF) Call for Proposals for Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa under the Spotlight Initiative, applicants had to submit a detailed concept note, budget, legal registration documents, certified financial statements and organisational audit reports for up to three years – all this just to qualify, upon which they had to prepare and submit full-fledged proposals. These requirements put an undue burden on small- and medium-sized organisations, which usually do not have dedicated staff for preparing grant applications, and oftentimes have to put their programmatic work on hold in order to prepare these long and complex applications.

Further, the online application system did not function in ways that would facilitate access. For example: Applicants could not view the steps ahead, which did not allow them to prepare efficiently. In case of errors in filling out the application, the system would not communicate to the applicant what the errors were, thereby taking more time to identify and rectify them. There were glitches in the system due to which they could not download their draft applications, which was necessary for coordinating with collaborating organisations.

  1. Short deadlines to apply for funding

The Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund’s (WPHF) Calls for Proposals from six countries in Africa under the Spotlight Initiative were open for one month each. The UNTF call was open for three weeks for the submission of detailed concept notes, following which applicants who were invited to submit full-fledged proposals had only three weeks in which to prepare them. UN Women put out a call for proposals under the Spotlight Initiative country programme in Malawi, which gave applicants only two weeks to submit their application, involving the completion of six mandatory forms! These are examples of short submission deadlines within implementation of the Spotlight Initiative.

Short submission deadlines do not provide sufficient time to organisations to prepare the complex applications required by UN calls for proposals. This is particularly true for: organisations seeking to form partnerships and prepare joint applications, which takes time as it usually involves a series of discussions and preparatory meetings; as well as organisations lacking staff with dedicated time and expertise to prepare complex applications, which is the case with most local and grassroots women’s organisations. Longer deadlines allow a wider range of organisations to apply, and allow them to develop robust applications.

  1. Unregistered organisations cannot apply for funding

There are many reasons why an organisation may not be able to register. For example, the registration process may be too complex or costly; registering may endanger their staff, volunteers and members in a hostile social climate; a restrictive legal regime may hinder registration if they work with criminalised populations, such as sex workers, queer and trans women; or a hostile political climate may hinder registration if they do human rights-based advocacy.

Calls for proposals put out by the UN system under the Spotlight Initiative do not allow unregistered organisations to submit an application. They may only participate in submitting a joint application together with a registered organisation, and as discussed above Spotlight submission deadlines have not favoured joint applications. These practices exclude organisations doing important work at the grassroots level to end violence against women and girls. In order to strengthen efforts to end violence against women and girls, it is important for funding practices to be creative and flexible, and to actively identify ways to support unregistered grassroots organisations.

  1. Regranting of Spotlight funds is not allowed

Women’s funds mobilise resources to support the critical work of women’s rights movements fighting for women’s rights and gender equality. As such, they are an important partner in funding efforts to end violence against women and girls. In particular, they have the ability to channel funds to grassroots organisations, unregistered organisations, and those doing innovative work through the practice of re-granting funds through open, competitive calls. Working with such organizations could substantially strengthen the reach of Spotlight funding.

However, calls for proposals put out by the UN system under the Spotlight Initiative do not allow applicants to re-grant. The calls put out by the UNTF and the WPHF encourage women’s funds to apply but also inhibit their ability to do so, because the only way women’s funds could apply is if they pre-selected grantee partners, and prepared a joint application with them. Not only is this contrary to their way of working and exhibits a lack of understanding how women’s funds operate to support women’s rights movements, as discussed above Spotlight submission deadlines have not favoured joint applications.

  1. Language accessibility

Programme documents, calls for proposals, and other materials of the Spotlight Initiative have been translated into some of the languages most widely used in the Initiative’s focus countries. For example, the WPHF calls for proposals for Burundi and the DRC were available in French; the UNTF call for proposals was available in English, French and Spanish. However, the official language of the focus country, Mozambique is Portugese, and Arabic is one of the two official languages of Chad. In order for calls for proposals to be accessible to the widest array of organisations, it is important to make them available in all the widely used languages of all the countries they target.


Spotlight has expressed its intention to centre civil society at the heart of the initiative, including in governance, decision making, design, implementation and monitoring. At this critical stage of implementation, it is important that Spotlight develop and undertake considered processes that centre its most key civil society partners – women’s rights and feminist organisations, including local and grassroots feminist groups. In order to support and strengthen feminist and women’s rights movements, and successfully reach local and grassroots feminist groups and organisations, we recommend that the Spotlight Initiative:

  • Simplify application and reporting procedures, at the very least for small grants, so that Spotlight funding is accessible to small- and medium-sized, local and grassroots, women’s rights and feminist groups and organizations.
  • Ensure that deadlines to apply for funding provide sufficient time to allow those with limited resources to engage – at a minimum 8 weeks.
  • Similarly, ensure that timelines for other processes, such as participation in consultations, joining reference groups, and giving input on programme documents, are also reasonable and provide sufficient time for women’s rights organisations to engage.
  • Meaningfully engage the entire ecosystem of women’s rights movements, including unregistered organisations and women’s funds, and enable their access to Spotlight funding.
  • Make calls for proposals available in all the widely used languages of the countries they target.

Endorsed by:


  1. A.FE.SO.D.D, République Démocratique du Congo
  2. ABAAD-Resource Center for Gender Equality, Lebanon
  3. Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, Canada
  4. Action pour l’Education et la Promotion de la Femme (AEPF-Tchad), Tchad
  5. Action pour la Lutte Contre l’Injustice Sociale (ALCIS), République Démocratique du Congo
  6. Actions des Femmes Engagées pour le Développement Intégral, République Démocratique du Congo
  7. Actions des Femmes Solidaires pour les Droits et le Developpement, République Démocratique du Congo
  8. Advocacy for women with disabilities initiative, Nigeria
  9. African Association for Prevention of Elders and Child Abuse (AAPECA), Nigeria
  10. AFVMC Assistance to Families and Victims of Clandestine Migrations, Cameroun
  11. Akahata A.C., Argentina
  12. AMNB- Articulação de Organizações de Mulheres Negras Brasileiras, Brasil
  13. Articulação Nacional de Profissionais do Sexo, Brasil
  14. Asociación Calidad de Vida, Honduras
  15. Asociacion de Lesbianas de El Salvador, ALESLAVINIA, El Salvador
  16. Asociación de Mujeres Trabajadoras Sexuales del Paraguay “Unidas en la Esperanza – UNES”, Paraguay
  17. Asociación de mujeres ts Liquidámbar, El Salvador
  18. Asociación Movimiento de Mujeres por Nuestros Derechos Humanos-MOMUNDH, Nicaragua
  19. Association de Défense et de Promotion des Populations autochtones, République du Congo
  20. Association Papillon Libre, Guinée
  21. Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, United States
  22. Awaken Resistance, Singapore
  23. Baku Volunteer Center, Azerbaijan
  24. Bangladesh Institute of Human Rights, Bangladesh
  25. Bella Foundation for Child and Maternal Care, Nigeria
  26. Breakthrough Trust, India
  27. Bulgarian Fund for Women, Bulgaria
  28. Calala Fondo de Mujeres, Spain
  29. CEFEMINA, Centro Feminista de Informacion y Accion, Costa Rica
  30. Center for Women’s Global Leadership, USA
  31. Center Women and Modern World, Azerbaijan
  32. Centre for Liberian Assistance, Liberia
  33. Centro de Derechos de Mujeres, CDM, Honduras
  34. Centro de Promoción de la Mujer del Norte, Perú
  35. Centro de Promoción en Salud y Asistencia Familiar, Honduras
  36. CHRISTAD ASBL, République Démocratique du Congo
  37. Coalition of Women Living with HIV and AIDS (COWLHA) Malawi
  38. Colectivo Nacional de Mujeres Trenzadas Somos Mas ´Fundacion Arco Iris Iglo XXI, Colombia
  39. Collectif des Femmes du Mali (COFEM), Mali
  40. Community Teen Foundation, Nigeria
  41. Cuts – Central Única de Trabalhadoras e Trabalhadores Sexuais, Brasil
  42. Development Initiative for Community Impact, Nigeria
  43. Dimbaza Victim Empowerment Centre, South Africa
  44. Doxa Youth Programs & Family Care, South Africa
  45. East Eagle Foundation, République Démocratique du Congo
  46. Els Gandal, Mali
  47. Ensemble pour la Paix et l’Encadrement de la Femme en Milieu Rural, EPEFMR ONGDH, République Démocratique du Congo
  48. Equality Fund, Canada
  49. Facilitation for Integrated Community Rural Development, Uganda
  51. Family Rights, Elderly and Child Protection (FRECHIP), Malawi
  52. Federation of Filipino Association in Amman (FEFAA), Jordan
  53. FEJOYCE (OTOUNGA Micheline Georgina), Gabon
  54. Feminist Solutions towards Global Justice, USA
  55. Femmes et Éducation des Adultes (FEDA), République Démocratique du Congo
  56. Fiji Women’s Fund, Fiji
  57. filia.die frauenstiftung, Germany
  58. FOKUS -Forum for Women and Development, Norway
  59. Fondation WETU MAMA International, République Démocratique du Congo
  60. Fondo Centroamericano de Mujeres, Nicaragua
  61. Fondo de Acción Urgente de América Latina, Colombia
  62. Fondo de Mujeres del Sur, Argentina
  63. Fondo Lunaria, Colombia
  64. Fondo Semillas, México
  65. For Gender Integration Association, Albania
  66. Fundacion angelica quinta, El Salvador
  67. Fundacion Arcoirirs por el respeto a la diversidad sexual, México
  68. Fundo ELAS, Brasil
  69. GFA (Groupe Femmes Autochtones), République Démocratique du Congo
  70. Girasoles Nicaragua
  71. Global Welfare Association (GLOWA), Cameroun
  72. gnc urban and rural development association of zimbabwe, ZIMBABWE
  73. Good Health Community Programmes, Kenya
  74. Grupo de Mulheres Negras Nzinga Mbandi, Brasil
  75. Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), Lebanon
  76. Haus of Khameleon, Fiji
  77. Initiative for Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights Awareness(ISRHRA), Nigeria
  78. International Indigenous Women’s Forum-FIMI, Global
  79. Internet Democracy Project, India
  80. Itohan Hope Rising Foundation, Nigeria
  81. Jeunesse Congolaise pour les Nations Unies, République du Congo
  83. Justice Makers Bangladesh, Bangladesh
  84. Kadiwaku Family Foundation, République Démocratique du Congo
  85. Linda Oluwabunmi Foundation (LOF), Nigeria
  86. MADRE, United States
  87. MAISHA-ONGD, République Démocratique du Congo
  88. Mariwala Health Initiative, India
  89. MenEngage Global Alliance, Nepal
  90. MOMUNDH, Nicaragua
  91. Movimiento de mujeres angelica Quintanilla, El Salvador
  92. movimiento de mujeres Orquideas Del mar, El Salvador
  93. Moving The Goalposts, Kenya
  94. MOVULAC ONG, République Démocratique du Congo
  95. Muslims for Progressive Values, USA
  96. NAMHHR, India
  97. Niger Delta Abia Empowerment Society, Nigeria
  98. Odara Instituto da Mulher Negra,Brasil
  99. One More Percent, Kenya
  100. ONG Coeur Citoyen, Niger
  101. Open Stadiums Iranian women movement to open sport stadia, Iran
  102. Organisation Internationale des Femmes du Millénaire Tchad Tel. 00235 66299921, Tchad
  103. Pacificwin
  104. Pakasipiti Zimbabwe
  105. PROMSEX, Centro de Promocion y Defensa por los Derechos sexuales y Reproductiuvos, Perú
  106. Radio Souriat, Syria
  107. Red de Mujeres Trabajadoras Sexuales de Latinoamérica y el Caribe (RedTraSex), Argentina
  108. Rede Nacional de Mulheres Negras no Combate á Violência – Brasil
  109. Reseau des Organisations de la Jeunesse Afrcaine Laeders des Nations Unies pour l’atteinte des Objectifs de Developpement Durable (ROJALNU.ODD/Niger)
  110. Resilient Women’s Organization, Uganda
  111. Rozaria Memorial Trust, Zimbabwe
  112. Shanduko Yeupenyu Child Care, Zimbabwe
  113. Stoop To Rise Initiative, Nigeria
  114. Sukaar welfare organization, Pakistan
  115. Support for Women and Youth in Development Network, Uganda
  116. The Red Elephant Foundation, India
  117. Uganda Woman For Water and Sanitation, Uganda
  118. Umuryango Nyarwanda w’Abagore Bafite Ubumuga/UNABU, RWANDA
  119. Universal Versatile Society, India
  120. Voces de la Ausencia, México
  121. Volontaires d’Autopromotion Solidaire, “VAS”, République Démocratique du Congo
  122. Womankind Worldwide, UK
  123. Women Co-operation Forum Pyuthan, Nepal
  124. Women Coalition for Agenda 2030, Cameroun
  125. Women First International Fund, United States of America
  126. Women for Equity Initiative, Nigeria
  127. Women in Distress Organisation, Nigeria
  128. Women’s Resource Center, Armenia
  129. WomenSpace Trust, ZIMBABWE
  130. XOESE, The Francophone Women’s Fund, Togo
  131. Zanzibar Peace, Truth & Transparency Association (ZPTTA NGO), Tanzania


  1. Aayush Rathi, India
  2. abdelhakeem shebani, Palestine
  3. Amakobe, Kenya
  4. Amanda Mercedes Gigler, Netherlands
  5. Amb.Leonard R, Nigeria
  6. Amber Brandner, USA
  7. Ana Cernov, Brazil
  8. Ana Maria de Figueiredo, Moçambique
  9. AYEDE Kafui, Togo
  10. AZANLIN Béralde Charbelle A., Benin
  11. Beatrice Mateyo, Malawi
  12. Ben Swanton, Australia
  13. Bonney Corbin, Australia
  14. Carine MUBAKE, République Démocratique du Congo
  15. carlota inhamussua, Moçambique
  16. Carmen da Silva Wells, Netherlands
  17. Cerue Konah Garlo, Liberia
  18. christine, France
  19. Christine NDOMBI MAYINGA, République Démocratique du Congo
  20. Colleen Rogers, South Africa
  21. Cynthia Rothschild, USA
  22. Delia Leertouwer, The Netherlands
  23. Diana Soares, Brasil
  24. Douglas Antonio Mendoza Urrutia, Nicaragua
  25. Dr Chris Ugwu, Nigeria
  26. Dr. Kelly Thompson, USA
  27. Ekaterine Gejadze, Georgia
  28. Elie Losleben, New Zealand
  29. Elif Aydinligil, Turkey
  30. Erika Gabriela López Arteaga, México
  31. Erika Salinas Valadez, México
  32. Esmie Tembenu, Malawi
  33. Esther Adhiambo, Kenya
  34. Facia Harris, Liberia
  35. Fátima Valdivia, Perú
  36. Fatoumata sougoule , Guinée
  37. Fortunatus Fungatwende, Tanzania
  38. Françoise Kpeglo Moudouthe, Cameroun
  39. Frida Guerrera, México
  40. Getasew Nigussie, Ethiopia
  41. Gloria Careaga-Perez, México
  42. Grace John Kenyi Geri, South Sudan
  43. Gul Jahan Ahmad, Afghanistan
  44. H.R. Lammers, The Netherlands
  45. Halima Abdelrahman, Sudan
  46. Hazel Gloria Virginia Davenport Fentanes, México
  47. Hilde Kroes, Netherlands
  48. Iman, Somaliland
  49. Ireen Dubel, Netherlands
  50. Irené Barrantes Jiménez, Costa Rica
  51. Irma A. Velásquez Nimatuj, Guatemala
  52. irma kituku, Kenya
  53. Janet Price, UK
  54. Jean Luc LIKILO BOSONGOSONGO, République Démocratique du Congo
  55. Joseph Saidi, République Démocratique du Congo, Sweden
  56. Julia Gataulina, Russian Federation
  57. Juliana Okoh, Nigeria
  58. Kathy Durand, Canada
  59. Katusiime Mary Elizabeth, Uganda
  60. Larissa Arroyo Navarrete, Costa Rica
  61. Latoya Nugent, Jamaica
  62. Liesl Theron, South Africa
  63. Lizbet Sánchez Licea, México
  64. Lucy Ambler, UK
  65. María José Chaves Groh, Costa Rica
  66. Miguel Blanco, Argentina
  67. Miriam Semisi, Fiji
  68. Miriam Viridiana Verástegui Juárez, México
  69. Morgane Boëdec, France
  70. Natalie Abad Rosales, Perú
  71. Newman Tekwa, Zimbabwe
  72. Nita, Netherlands
  73. NYENAMA Cathérine, Burundi
  74. Paula Ponkanen, Finland
  75. Rachael Misan-Ruppee, Nigeria
  76. Rona Donefer, Canada
  77. Rosa Alma Ramos, San Salvador
  78. Roxana Hidalgo Xirinachs, Costa Rica
  79. Salima Bacchus-Hinds, Guyana
  80. Shaheeda Fryddie, South Africa
  81. Shamah Bulangis, Philippines
  82. Sharmin Sultana, Bangladesh
  83. Steff Zeuner, Germany
  84. Sunitha BJ, India
  85. Tatenda Nzinga Muranda, South Africa/ Zimbabwe
  86. Thembani Gqiba, South Africa
  87. Tumie Komanyane, South Africa
  88. Vanessa B. Ward, New Zealand
  89. Vidyaratha Kissoon, Guyana
  90. Wamba André Le Doux, Cameroun
  91. Wezi Moyo, Malawi