Women’s funds around the world generally adopt and support a feminist funding ecosystem approach that calls for true partnership, where grantees have the power to determine how the funds will be used. This places the onus on funders to understand their power and role within a larger field of resourcing. The Association for Women’s Rights in Development describes a funding ecosystem as “comprised of those leading social change (activists, organisations, networks, and movements) and those who support their work (philanthropic funders, governments, activists themselves self-generating resources, and more).
Using this approach, the Fiji Women’s Fund works with local women-led groups, organisations and networks to learn from their enriched experiences when designing our grants mechanism to ensure that resources are accessible and appropriate to the needs of the women’s and feminist movement in Fiji.
Since our inception in 2017, we have completed three rounds of grantmaking and with each round, we have gained insights into what was working and what needed improvement. In a recent blog, Kuini Rabo shared that our learnings stem from keeping our ears close to the ground and constantly listening to the feedback of women. Through regular analysis and discussions with our Steering and Grants Committee, we continue to identify gaps and use that to guide our approaches to meeting the needs of women’s and feminist movement in Fiji.
Emerging challenges and opportunities with our grants mechanism
Last year, we commissioned a Mid-Term Review (MTR) to assess our progress towards key outcomes. The MTR recommended changes to our current grants mechanism such as the categorisation of projects and the eligibility criteria which it stated was limiting projects from reaching their full potential. The MTR also recommended that the Fund consider committing long-term core funding to organisations that play an essential role in the Fiji women’s movement and to explore scaling up or replicating successful but small activities that demonstrated lessons learned around improving women’s lives.
We also draw on the learnings from the dual crises of COVID-19 and Tropical Cyclone Harold. Both crises have resulted in an unprecedented increase in gender-based violence, human rights violations and women’s sources of income becoming increasingly precarious. With an estimated 180,000 people affected, there is an increasing need for financial resources that diverse women can easily access. Many of the Fund’s grantee partners are at the forefront of response efforts and have shared with us the need for funding that supports core operational costs to ensure the full realisation of women’s and girl’s rights.
Our grants mechanism needs to be flexible and agile enough to respond to emerging challenges and opportunities. Also from start to end (application, due diligence, grant signing, orientation and disbursement), processing a grant can take up to six months. We are working to streamline and accelerate this process whilst ensuring that we are meeting the requirements of our various funders.
Despite these challenges, we were able to mobilise resources to assist grantee partners with addressing some of the short and long-term needs of their beneficiaries’ post crises. For example, we connected grantee partners Rise Beyond the Reef and Pacific Rainbow Advocacy Network with sister fund Urgent Action Fund for Asia and the Pacific who provided rapid response grants for food rations and the development of a security plan for human rights defenders. We also mobilised AUD 364,947 to pivot to COVID-19 and TC Harold response and recovery efforts through the support of the Australian Humanitarian Partnership and Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development which has been disbursed to eight of our current grantee partners. These grants contribute to raising awareness, resiliency, and preparedness of rural and remote communities on health risks associated with COVID-19 and Tropical Cyclone Harold such as food security. For two of our grantee partners, the grants ensured their very existence to continue the much needed essential services for people living with disabilities.
Where to from here?
As the Fund begins its exciting journey to becoming an independent entity, we are also in the process of revising our grants mechanism. This will be implemented through the fourth call for funding from mid-November 2020 to early- January 2021.
One major change is the naming of our grants which now will be called: Sustainability, Movement Building and Resilience. These three words come from and resonate with the diverse women’s and feminist movements in Fiji and globally.
Sustainability Grants: These grants will be used to support programs and projects as well as operating and program costs to help enhance gender equality in Fiji. These grants will be available for core costs and long-term activities for both registered and unregistered organisations. Maximum funding of FJD 150,000 per year and a turnaround time of three months for existing partners and five months for new grantee partners.
Movement Building Grants: These grants will support the organisation and participation of grantee partners in movement-building activities aimed at enhancing gender equality in Fiji. Maximum funding of FJD 100,000 per year and a turnaround time of two months.
Resilience Grants: These grants were created through our COVID-19 and TC Harold learnings and will support crisis management or crisis activities in the initial or recovery period of sudden crises. Maximum funding of FJD 50,000 per year and a turnaround time of one month. These grants will be available to the Fund’s existing grantee partners only.
We are really excited about opening our fourth call using our new grants mechanism which is driven by the diverse experiences of our grantee partners and of our own as a Fund Team. We will continue to adapt our grant mechanism by consulting, testing, reflecting and adapting. In one of the most uncertain times, we will be persistent in being a relevant, flexible, accessible and empathetic feminist funder in Fiji.
About the author
Menka Goundan is a feminist activist and has worked in research, advocacy and training in women’s human rights in Fiji and the Pacific. Menka is the Senior Program Manager at the Fiji Women’s Fund. She is a member of the Program Advisory Committee of the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW). Previously, Menka has worked at the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement and the Pacific Centre for Peacebuilding.
 Grantee partners who have received a grant from the Fiji Women’s Fund.