Equality Fund receives landmark $15 million grant from the Ford Foundation

March 31, 2021

Signals unprecedented momentum among foundations, governments, and the private sector to mobilize support for global feminist movements

MARCH 31, 2021—The Equality Fund, a new model for sustainable investment in global feminist movements, will receive a landmark $15 million grant from the Ford Foundation, leaders from the two organizations and the Government of Canada announced today. The grant is the largest private investment to date in the Equality Fund, and the first partnership of its kind between a government and a private foundation to support a sustainable fund for global gender equality.

The announcement comes as the work of feminist movements gains even more urgency with COVID-19 threatening to reverse decades of progress towards gender equality across the globe. 

The new partnership is an effort to reimagine the ways that government, private philanthropy, and the private sector can work together to unlock capital for grassroots feminist and women’s rights organizations. It is grounded in a commitment to forge new and unlikely alliances, accelerate the pace of social change, and reimagine traditional ways of doing business in order to sustainably support feminist movements around the world.

“Feminist movements hold solutions to the biggest challenges of our time, yet they’ve been systematically denied resources all around the world,” said Nicolette Naylor, International Director of the Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice Program at the Ford Foundation. “The Equality Fund is an important and distinct opportunity to innovate, collaborate, and reimagine a better approach to funding that shifts power and resources into the hands of feminist leaders who are on the frontlines of global movements. Our future depends on it.”

The Equality Fund launched in 2019 with a $300 million CAD contribution from the Government of Canada, the largest single funding commitment for gender equality ever made by a government. As a new model for sustainable resourcing of feminist movements, it brings together gender-lens investing, government funding, and multi-sector philanthropy strategies to unlock and deliver new capital for feminist work globally. 

“In 2019, Canada envisioned a gender-equal world shaped by collaboration across every sector to deliver new resources to women’s rights organizations and feminist movements,“ said the Honourable Karina Gould, Minister of International Development. “Today, the Ford Foundation has boldly answered the call, bringing new momentum and possibility to this collaborative effort to fund feminist movements for lifetimes to come. I hope other funders, big and small, established and emerging, will be inspired to join in this effort.”

The Equality Fund is designed to offer governments, philanthropists, and impact investors the opportunity to mobilize and multiply resources—and impact—in a more collaborative and sustainable way. With partnership from leaders in every sector, the Equality Fund aims to activate over CAD 1 billion for gender equality, making it the largest self-sustaining fund for gender equality in the world.

“This is a major sign of momentum in feminist funding, and a major step forward for the Equality Fund’s vision of government, philanthropy, and the private sector breaking down barriers and working together to support feminist movements all around the world,” said Jess Tomlin, co-CEO of the Equality Fund.

The announcement was made at the Generation Equality Forum, a virtual global gathering on gender equality hosted by UN Women and the Governments of Mexico and France. One of the forum’s key goals is to mobilize “bold new global commitments to catapult progress on gender equality,” such as “new and innovative partnerships” among “governments, feminist and youth movements and organizations, the private sector and international organizations.”
Twenty-five years since the Beijing World Conference on Women, the world has even more proof that feminist movements are the key drivers of change—whether in ending all forms of violence or re-building economies that work for all. 

Yet the latest data show that feminist movements still receive less than one percent of all gender-focused bilateral official development assistance. Data on foundation grants find that only 0.42 percent of total foundation grants in 2017 were for women’s rights. 

The Equality Fund offers grants, technical assistance, institutional strengthening, and network building to women’s organizations that are advancing the rights, gender equality and empowerment of women, girls and non-binary people. It supports groups at local, national, regional, and global levels. It is also engaged in multi-stakeholder dialogues on policy and funding for feminist organizations and movements.

As a new addition to a growing ecosystem of feminist funders, the Equality Fund will increase overall investment in women’s rights organizations and feminist movements from the grassroots level to the regional and global stage.

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