This month, I had the pleasure of speaking with Jess Tomlin, the Executive Director of The MATCH International Women’s Fund. This is the second part of a two-part series about MATCH and their latest round of grantees. Click here to learn more about The Match Fund, and here for the first article in the series.
The Match Fund is a grant-making non-profit that funds women’s rights organizations in the global South. The organizations in which MATCH invests are either holding or breaking ground in their communities.
To hold ground is to maintain the rights that women have already won. This involves providing women and families with basic support and services, because it is impossible to move forward without a stable foundation.
To break ground is to innovate and transform society, to come up with new ideas and novel solutions that can stop the cultural, societal and physical oppression of women. The MATCH Fund supports these organizations that are bringing about lasting change in their communities and for future generations.
This year, The MATCH Fund received 12,000 grant applicants, far beyond their initial estimates. They had to narrow down the choices to six recipients–a challenging decision when faced with so many extraordinary organizations and varied approaches. Among this variety, the focus on violence against women was a near constant element, present in 75 percent of the applications.
According to Jess Tomlin, “the best and worst thing was we read every single one.” Reading through the applications and getting the pulse “really grounded us in the movement … [and] made us challenge a lot of the fuzzy assumptions” about where aid is needed.
Driving Social Change
Small local women’s rights organizations are the best placed to drive social change, in that they are deeply connected to and aware of the context and circumstances of their region as well as its people. “They are experts on local context,” says Jess, and, from the use of travelling tents to support migrant communities to an organization that stays with LBT individuals who fear for their safety, their “entry points are so unique and homegrown.”
However, they are rarely the recipients of grants and support. “The aid structure has looked for big and scalable solutions,” says Jess, as it is built to protect money. Large organizations provide big projects and deliverables that make it easy to invest in them, but small organizations don’t have that luxury. Those that do receive funding are often given tight timelines to turn around projects.
Jess pointed to the civil rights movement to emphasize that true, lasting success is slow, and development cannot be treated as a race. “The challenge is, when you’re fearful [of losing your funding…], it’s hard to be open to risk and change.” “What if they can’t pay their rent? What if they have no one to talk to? What if they can’t afford an accountant?”
It is important to fund the structural elements that aren’t as “sexy,” so the organization can focus on their work without fear of the doors closing. By providing direct grants, The MATCH Fund taps into and helps sustain the magic and buzz of these organizations.
What emerged out of the choices was a “beautiful intersection of legendary women’s leaders and social innovators.” The following bold, resourceful organizations are the 2015 Match Fund Grantees.
Akili Dada – Kenya
Founded to address the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions in Africa, Akili Dada, which means “brain sister,” provides girls with sponsorships and seed grants. The MATCH Fund grant will go towards scholarships and expanding their entrepreneurial programming.
Fem Alliance (FEMA) – Uganda
In the face of rising violence against LBT individuals, FEMA creates safe spaces for LBT people, committing to protect them even when all else fails: “We go out and stay with people if they think they’re in danger. We’re always there.” The MATCH Fund grant will assist LBT individuals to access healthcare, keep each other safe and unite against discrimination.
Law and Advocacy for Women (LAW) – Uganda
LAW trains local paralegals and raises awareness of Ugandan practices that discriminate against women, including female genital mutilation (FGM), which is illegal but rarely reported. The MATCH Fund grant will support intelligence gathering, investigation and prosecution of FGM practices.
In a travelling tent, AMURA provides counselling, legal advice and information to migrant women in remote neighborhoods of Buenos Aires. This unique approach enables them to reach women and children disproportionately at risk of trafficking and sexual exploitation. The MATCH Fund grant will help expand the reach of their campaigns.
Corporación Vamos Mujer – Colombia
As Colombia has a very low female vote, the Corporación Vamos Mujer empowers women to demand their right to participate in the political process and to live free from violence. The MATCH Fund grant will support the female vote in the 2015 municipal elections.
Her Turn – Nepal
In a country where 41% of girls marry before the age of 18, Her Turn provides girls and young women with leadership skills, knowledge and education so that they are better able to reject forced marriage, domestic violence, sexual violence and trafficking. And when information isn’t enough, Girl Support Committees, in collaboration with NGOs, schools and governments, advocate on their behalf. The MATCH Fund grant will support Her Turn in encouraging girls to go back to school and ensuring their safety in post-earthquake Nepal.
It will take a vast amount of work to elevate and support women everywhere, but “women are uniquely and bravely creating change in their communities,” and The MATCH Fund is ensuring that they are able to continue this vital work.
To learn more about The MATCH International Women’s Fund, visit their website at http://matchinternational.org/.