WVL 2.0 Blog Series: Ukrainian Women’s Fund

WVL 2.0 Blog Series

Part 3: Ukrainian Women’s Fund

This blog series offers readers a chance to witness the work of women’s funds in action. All across the world, and as implementers of Canada’s Women Voice and Leadership program, women’s funds are demonstrating a strategic feminist edge when it comes to resourcing women’s rights and LBTQI+ organizations. This series shows that work up close. 

In Part One, we explored the innovative work of the Women Fund Tanzania Trust. In Part Two, we shifted perspectives, hearing from the queer advocacy organization Intersect about what it is like to be resourced through a women’s fund.

In our third and final installment, we travel to the frontlines of crisis in Ukraine. Natalia Karbowska, Director on Strategic Development at the Ukrainian Women’s Fund (UWF) shares the organization’s critical work during times of conflict and helps us understand how UWF supports its community beyond traditional humanitarian aid. 

At the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the Ukrainian Women’s Fund was uniquely positioned as first responders to the crisis. Given their strong ties to the local communities, UWF was able to provide essential humanitarian aid within days. With their network, UWF connected with women’s rights organizations and feminist groups around the country to deliver much-needed targeted support to local communities. Through their quick actions,  communities caught in the middle of conflict had access to resources that would have otherwise been delayed. Natalia explains in the video: 

Natalia shared that women’s funds such as the Ukrainian Women’s Fund have deep connections in their communities. They are able to support organizations not only survive a conflict, but also rebuild and thrive as the conflict ends. UWF’s grantmaking focuses on immediate humanitarian aid and includes funding for advocacy, creating opportunities to think of the future. Natalia explains:

Natalia emphasizes the need to listen to and empower women, especially in times of conflict. She notes the need for trust and flexibility in a landscape where situations drastically change within a few days- or mere hours. Additionally, women’s funds like UWF and local women’s rights organizations should be trusted to address issues that arise in their communities. After all, these organizations live in and work with the communities in need of support. Moreover, women’s funds and women’s rights organizations have a strong presence in local communities, making them well positioned to respond when conflict arises. They are on the frontline and will be there to rebuild when the conflict ends. Natalia shares her reflections: 

UWF recently supported the drafting of the Charter of Feminist principles which exemplifies the organization’s commitment to a long-term strategy. Done in collaboration with feminist groups, the Charter outlines the unifying principles and values of the feminist movement in Ukraine, particularly during times of conflict. The Charter was the initial step towards the development of the Women’s/Feminist Movement of Ukraine, a roadmap to guide feminist actors as they address the challenges of war and its impact on women and girls. The Ukrainian Women’s Fund demonstrates that survival is not its sole focus during conflict: it is also committed to building a better future for the movement and their country. 

The Ukrainian Women’s Fund shares valuable learnings about feminist funding in a crisis. Their presence in local communities enables them to react immediately and mobilize resources with minimal delay. The focus of women’s funds to extend funding beyond humanitarian aid is unique in the crisis-response landscape. They effectively fund in the humanitarian/development/peace nexus. Funding advocacy work permits women’s rights organizations to craft long-term strategies rather than only focusing on survival. 

Looking ahead: women’s funds are a powerful model for change

From Tanzania, to Antigua and Barbuda, to Ukraine—and across the world—women’s funds are demonstrating a unique ability to deliver transformative support to women’s rights organizations at a time when their work has never been more urgent.

As this series has touched on, the deep local ties of women’s funds, coupled with a powerful intersectional approach, mean that they consistently excel at reaching the most marginalized. And because women’s funds have long-standing relationships with feminist organizations at the local and regional level, they are directly accountable to feminist movements. 

Importantly, women’s funds also show us that it is possible to translate feminist values into concrete funding practices. With a feminist approach to risk, for example, they are more likely to invest in nascent and emerging organizations doing some of the most innovative work. 

Add it all up and the picture is clear: Women’s funds show us that a better way is possible. Their work stands as a powerful model for others all across the world. In a time of global crisis and challenge, this good news story is one we all should share. 

Do you have a story to tell about women’s funds? We’d love to hear it! Share your story and feedback on our social media channels below or contact us at [email protected].

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