Funding Organising Led by Girls and Young Women


Mama Cash


From dusty villages in Kenya to urban centres in Mexico, teenagers and twenty somethings across the world are organizing, setting up feminist groups in community centres, schools, universities and online, running campaigns against child marriage, while also petitioning for better sex education. The United Nations estimates that youth currently account for approximately one billion of the world’s population and that one person in five is between the ages of 15 and 24. This generation is determined to change the world: They are motivated to build inclusive movements that address race, class, ability, and gender.

Recent years have seen greater attention to issues affecting girls 
in development sectors, but adolescent girls and
 young women still continue to struggle to access funding to support
 their activism. While the enthusiasm to enact change by forming their own action groups is there, the funding landscape for girls is sparse: the World Bank estimates that less than two cents of every dollar spent on international aid is specifically directed towards adolescent girls.

In order to increase awareness of the importance of funding girls’ and young women’s groups, and to create new models for supporting their activism, Mama Cash and the Fondo Centroamericano de Mujeres (Central American Women’s Fund) set up a Community of Practice (CoP) in 2011. ‘We saw an opportunity to bring together peer funds to collectively learn and channel more and better resources to girls’ and young women’s groups. The Fondo Centroamericano de Mujeres was an important partner as they are a pioneer in participatory grantmaking and resourcing young women’s rights organising,’ says Nicky McIntyre of Mama Cash.

Supported by funding from the Nike Foundation’s Grassroots Girls Initiative, the CoP was comprised of 11 women’s funds from Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin
America. Mama Cash and the Fondo Centroamericano de Mujeres jointly coordinated the CoP for three years, from July 2011 to March 2014, with a total budget of €150,000 (€50,000 per year).

Over three years of working closely with young women, exploring young feminist culture and re-assessing their own internal systems, the CoP members learned that it is not only necessary for funders to take notice of young women’s and girls’ groups, but vital. Following are seven recommendations to consider when venturing into this exciting sphere along with examples of how CoP members moved these ideas in action.

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