Mah Jabin was only ten years old when she was raped, burned and married off to an older man in Afghanistan. She was desperate for help and ran from home. Thanks to the emergency shelter run by the Humanitarian Assistance for the Women and Girls of Afghanistan (HAWCA) she has been able to change her life. She has divorced her husband and is now out of harm’s way. Mah Jabin is one of around 200 girls and women for whom HAWCA provides emergency relief each year.
In Somalia the Galkayo Center was able to provide urgent medical support to Istar, a 15 year old survivor of female genital mutilation (FGM), who had been cut open on her wedding night. She is now doing much better and is trying to rebuild her life. 98% of women and girls have undergone FGM in Somalia - the highest prevalence rate in the entire world. There is a long way to go before every girl is protected.
Groups like HAWCA and the Galkayo Center are doing so much life-changing work with so little funding. They face regular crises such as earlier this year when HAWCA’s emergency shelter was at severe risk of being closed down for lack of funding. With the support of generous individuals around the world who were able to respond quickly, we helped HAWCA in its time of need. Its shelter remained open while they worked on sourcing longer term funding.
I set up Donor Direct Action six years ago to make sure that brilliant activists on the front lines are given the resources they need to protect women and girls and promote women’s rights. We re-grant at least 90 per cent of funds raised to our partner groups in countries where it is needed most and where it can have the greatest impact. Our partners determine their own priorities - they decide where funds are best spent. We also help our them build their public profiles, link them with major donors and political leaders, and provide other strategic support.
The Tasaru Rescue Centre, which is working to end female genital mutilation in Kenya; ORMUSA in El Salvador, which is working to end femicide, the murder of women; the Forum for Women, Law and Development in Nepal, which supports cases of rape and acid attacks; and Embrace Dignity, which works to end sex trafficking in South Africa, are all run by brilliant leaders. These organizations have the vision and ability to accelerate change in their own communities - which they do on a shoestring.
For years, I have heard governments and major donors talk about the importance of this front line work, but reality has lagged behind the rhetoric and the funding still doesn’t get there. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, only 8 per cent of the $10 billion given in 2014 to NGOs which work on gender equality in economically developing countries was given directly to groups that were located there. Canada has shown a growing commitment on this issue. Earlier this year government announced that women and girls will be at the heart of its future development assistance and that $150 million would be given directly to women's organizations around the world. Most other countries are lagging behind.
Unless governments and aid agencies actually update their budgets to reflect their commitments to the theory of front line funding - it seems unlikely that this will change anytime soon. In the meantime, we will try to help fill the huge funding gap. To be able to do this we need you to donate or support in whatever way you can.
Today is Giving Tuesday. We hope you will join us and give wisely and generously to support women's groups working on the front lines. Choose one (or more!) that inspires you most.
Remember, too, that there are many different ways to give. In addition to making a donation, we hope you will give us a moment of your time to help spread the word by sharing this article. You could have a major impact by forwarding it to just five friends and colleagues.
It is an amazing thing to be able connect with women on the other side of the world and know that you were able to help in some way. We can change everything by giving these women leaders the power they need and the chance to make a real difference.