Global Affairs Canada - The Equality Fund: Transforming the way we support women’s organizations and movements working to advance women’s rights and gender equality 

Backgrounder

To build the better world we aim to achieve—a world in which women, men, girls and boys are equal—we have to think bigger, smarter and more strategically about how we finance development.

Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy places gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls at the centre of its efforts to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The policy recognizes that successfully advancing gender equality in developing countries requires innovative partnerships and new ways of investing in women’s organizations and movements.

Women’s organizations and movements play a central role in spearheading change in support of gender equality. They influence policies, laws and institutions, including the establishment of social norms and practices; they hold governments accountable for their commitments to protect and promote the rights of women and girls; and they work to transform power relations. Despite their critical roles, their influence and sustainability is impeded by a lack of funding. According to the OECD, globally only 0.5% of international assistance earmarked for gender equality goes to women’s rights organizations.

Therefore, in May 2018, the Government of Canada issued a call to action to change just that. It invited members of the philanthropic community, the private sector and not-for-profit and non-governmental organizations to create a unique partnership that would mobilize unprecedented levels of resources to create a sustainable and predictable source of funding for women’s organizations and movements advancing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in developing countries. The government committed up to $300 million to this initiative. This led to the government, through a competitive process, to work with the Equality Fund.

The Equality Fund is bringing together the philanthropic community, private sector, governments and civil society organizations to transform how we work to improve the lives of women and girls around the world and how we work to make more and smarter investments to accelerate positive change and build gender equality in developing countries. 

The Equality Fund is a consortium of Canadian and international organizations deeply rooted in and connected to women’s organizations and movements and with expertise in international development, investment and philanthropy. These organizations will combine their experience to create the first global platform whereby interested partners can pool and leverage resources to attract even more new partners and create opportunities to close gender gaps and eliminate barriers to gender equality. They bring together Canada’s only international fund for women’s organizations with Canadian community foundations, an international network of philanthropic foundations and the voice of women’s organizations and women’s rights leaders from developing countries.

The Equality Fund aims to contribute to solving the funding gap by providing predictable and flexible funding, along with technical assistance, to women’s organizations and movements in developing countries. Thanks to Canada’s commitment, the Equality Fund will be unique both in scale and in its objectives, which are to create a long-term and self-sustaining source of funding for women’s organizations and movements in developing countries; bring the spectrum of grants, commercial investments and impact investments together under one roof in support of gender equality; shift how investment decisions are made by mainstreaming gender equality; and achieve gender equality outcomes through gender-lens impact investing and by reflowing revenues to grants to support women’s organizations.

The Equality Fund has already mobilized an additional $100 million from Canadian and international philanthropic foundations and have an ambitious agenda to mobilize more than $1 billion in assets that work in support of gender equality over the next 15 years. They are also building a robust coalition with the Canadian Women’s Foundation to mobilize new resources for women’s organizations in Canada, complementing the Department for Women and Gender Equality’s existing financing mechanism.

Quotes

“Money is a very specific type of power, and we believe that one of the most powerful things we can do is move significant money and control into the hands of women leaders driving change in their communities. Canada and the world can do more to shift power in this way.”

- Theo Sowa, CEO, African Women’s Development Fund

“With women’s funds, community foundations, large philanthropic institutions, high net worth philanthropists, a leading Canadian bank, an impact fund manager and venture capital aligned, it is unprecedented to have this diversity of willing partners working to reach the ambitious goal of generating new assets to tackle gender inequality—once and for all.”

- Jess Tomlin, President and CEO, The MATCH International Women’s Fund; Equality Fund co-founder and partner

“This is an historic moment in the fight for equality around the world: together with global partners, Canada and Canadians have an opportunity to catalyze new investments and partnerships in support of gender equality.” 

- Jessica Houssian, Senior Advisor for Women Moving Millions; Equality Fund co-founder and partner

The following are Equality Fund members: 

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