How can women’s rights organisations influence donor policies or decisions?

Get creative! When India’s federal government tightened rules governing access to foreign funding, the Manas Foundation saw an opportunity to initiate a public–private partnership that is making New Delhi safer for women. By partnering with the New Delhi municipal government and corporate partners, they were able to train over 200,000 New Delhi-based auto-rickshaw and taxi drivers in preventing sexual harassment and violence against women.

The New Delhi municipal government made the training a requirement for drivers wanting to maintain their licence, while corporate partners provided the necessary funding through their Corporate Social Responsibility programs. All stakeholders involved are learning from each other and conversations about expanding to other urban areas.

While resource mobilisation is not easy, and sometimes downright frustrating, it is not helpful to frame the relationship with funders as “us” versus “them”. The reality is much more nuanced. Many WRO leaders sit on foundation boards or are consulted on strategy issues, and many working in funding agencies have roots in women’s rights movements. Real transformation takes place when CSO leaders and funders come together around shared purpose and figure out how to best move money and power towards rights and justice.

A great example of an organisation that is influencing donor policies and decisions is the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID). By pointing out how little funding goes to WROs and movements, and by developing engagement strategies with allies inside funding institutions, they have, in my estimate, been able to leverage close to US$ 250 million in funding for WROs over the last 10 years.

While strong, mutually advantageous and transformational relationships between CSOs and funders are not always possible, when they do materialise they strengthen the larger ecosystem of advancing rights and justice that can achieve powerful goals beyond the reach of a single entity.