New $1bn gender fund launches to support Global South NGOs

Regional networks and grassroots organisations working in healthcare, education, and advocacy will benefit from the fund that aims to support women’s leadership and correct harmful gender norms.

Global donor initiative, Co-Impact, has launched its $1bn Gender Fund, naming the first 15 organisations it will support. The 10-year initiative, which was first unveiled last year, is targeting women-focussed NGOs, with the aim of advancing gender equality and female leadership, and correcting harmful cultural norms across Asia, Africa, and Latin America. 

The first grantees include ARMMAN, an Indian nonprofit using technology to improve healthcare for pregnant women and mothers; the Kenya-based Partnership for Economic Policy (PEP), which will undertake a gender-sensitive policy analysis of the labour market in five countries to identify work barriers for women; and Breakthrough, an NGO seeking to transform social norms that perpetuate gender-based violence and discrimination against in India. [See below for the full list]

Melinda French Gates, Mackenzie Scott, Roshni Nadar Malhotra and the Shiv Nadar Foundation, and Tsitsi Masiyiwa, Zimbabwean philanthropist and social entrepreneur, are among the primary donors to the fund, which has already received contributions of $320m.

“To make progress on gender equality, we need systemic change in the structures, laws, and policies and processes of government, in how markets function, and how social norms are shaped and enforced,” explained Olivia Leland, Founder and CEO of Co-Impact.

“The mission of the Gender Fund is to deliver on the ambition of a world where systems and societies are just and inclusive, and where all women have the opportunity to exercise power, agency, and leadership at all levels.” 

“This is our once-in-a-generation chance to rebuild our systems to finally work for women and girls.” 

Melinda French Gates, co-founder Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Funding partners confirmed to-date

Cartier Philanthropy
Children’s Investment Fund Foundation
Estee Lauder Companies Charitable Foundation
Melinda French Gates and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Vijay and Marie Goradia Foundation
Kate James and Hans Bishop
La Alataya Foundation
MacKenzie Scott & Dan Jewett
Roshni Nadar Malhotra and the Shiv Nadar Foundation
Tsitsi Masiyiwa
Elizabeth Sheehan
Target Foundation
Thankyou Charitable Trust
The Rockefeller Foundation

Commenting on the grantee announcement, Melinda French Gates said: “We need change to happen at every level of society. And it starts with opening more doors for women to step into their power and craft policies that lift others up like them. "This is our once-in-a-generation chance to rebuild our systems to finally work for women and girls.”

A 10-member advisory board will oversee the Gender Fund’s grantmaking, which is targeting 100 million people over the next decade.

Members include: Vidya Shah, the executive chairperson at India’s EdelGive Foundation; Anita Zaidi, president of Gender Equality and director of Vaccine Development & Surveillance at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Liz Yee, executive vice president of The Rockefeller Foundation (which is also a donor); and Mabel van Oranje of Girls Not Brides.

Sohini Bhattacharya is CEO at grantee BreakThrough, an Indian NGO catalysing leadership in communities to address deep-rooted cultural norms that perpetuate gender-based discrimination and violence.

"The vulnerable girl from a poor background doesn't need to reach her full potential only because it will improve her country's economy, she needs to do so because it is her right,” she said.

“True change is one where opportunities given to girls in all their diversities flow hand-in-hand with a change in hearts and minds of people who create the ecosystem around them."

Over the next decade, Co-Impact aims to support initiatives in 13 focus countries: India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Brazil, Peru, and Mexico. Currently, no Middle Eastern countries are being targeted by the fund. - PA