Until recently, there was little understanding of the specific impact of human rights violations on young women or recognition of the critical role young women play in realizing women’s rights and tackling global challenges. Today, because of concerted advocacy by youth activists, the situation is very different. Governments, multilateral institutions, private sector initiatives and civil society are increasingly adding a focus on young women to development programs, and channeling resources toward addressing the specific challenges and obstacles faced by young women.
Nevertheless, women’s rights advocates working at a community level with young women, and especially with initiatives designed and led by young women struggle to find funding to act on their priorities, agendas and strategies.
In addition to the pervasive scarcity of funding for women’s rights activism, young women face discriminatory stereotypes related to age, experience and capacity that limit their ability to mobilize resources. The methods of organizing and strategies used by young women activists may be quite different to standard NGO practices, and often their initiatives are not housed within a registered NGO. As a consequence, they find it hard to convince funding agencies and donors to place trust and confidence in their projects. Donors also tend to be wary of small or new initiatives, instead often seeking out established projects with the infrastructure to manage large amounts of money.
Additionally, many young women’s initiatives do not have the increasingly specialized financial management, communications, and proposal-writing skills required to access funding. In fact, young women interviewees concerned about “NGO-ization” or professionalization of activism question whether time spent developing these skills and managing donor needs would be better channeled towards activism instead.
At the same time, young women recognize that the other skills related to receiving and reporting on grants, such as clear project design or on-going review and evaluation, can enhance the implementation and impact of their work. Many donors focus on distributing money, rather than providing this type of support, but some including, the International Women’s Health Coalition and the Central American Women’s Fund do help their grantees build these skills.
Because of this, they have been able to fund innovative activism and multiply their impact by fostering strong and effective individuals and projects.
Young women not only have the best understanding of their needs, they are also best positioned to define solutions to the issues that most affect them. Young women’s unique perspectives and strategies for organizing expand efforts to fulfill women’s rights, and contribute to strengthening and sustaining the cause of women’s rights and gender equality. Greater dialogue and decisive action to promote strategies to tailor funding opportunities and mechanisms for women’s rights initiatives designed and led by young women is urgently needed.