Let's Go Dutch

a Cambodian girl drinks from a pump. Photo by S. Smith Patrick.


In 2008, Global Fund for Women received its largest gift at the time: $2.9 million from the Dutch Foreign Affairs Ministry’s Millennium Development Goal 3 Fund (MDG3). Through its 82 million euros investment, the MDG3 Fund was at that time, the single largest government gift to support civil society organizations working on gender equality and women’s rights. Acceptance of the Dutch government money signaled a major shift for the Global Fund, financially and philosophically. “It showed that the Global Fund could have other sources of funding that hadn’t been tapped,” said board member Lydia Alpízar. “We could take money from bilaterals without compromising our vision and values.”

Global Fund was one of the 45 networks, organizations and funds to receive this support to reduce violence against women, enhance women’s economic independence and rights, and increase women’s participation in politics and public administration. unlike most government grants, MDG3 funds go directly to support international and local women’s funds and organizations.

This historic commitment by the Dutch government to gender equity and women ́s empowerment has undoubtedly allowed women’s movements to widen their influence and deepen their impact. According to research conducted by the Association for Women’s Rights In Development (AWID), the MDG3 Fund reached 220 million people, of which 65.5 million were women and girls, and strengthened 100,000 women’s organizations.

With flexible support from the Dutch grant, Global Fund hired an external consultant to conduct a multi- year evaluation of our grantee selection process, specifically whether we were identifying and supporting groups influencing transformative, systemic change. The study confirmed Global Fund’s effectiveness in selecting groups using a rights-based approach that were more likely to achieve concrete wins towards gender equality.

“It changes the discourse and lifts the boat for everybody.”

Recognizing the life-changing impact of the MDG3 Fund, in 2012 the Dutch Foreign Affairs Ministry launched a new 80.5 million euros fund — Funding Leadership and Opportunities for Women (FLOW) — to advance women’s leadership in more than 100 countries around the world. This investment fills a critical gap in the funding landscape for women, girls and the women’s movement, and serves as a shining model of bilateral funding for women’s empowerment and gender equality.

The MDG3 and FLOW funds are a powerful tool for the Global Fund as we can leverage those grants to open doors — to other large donors and progressive governments. CEO Musimbi Kanyoro believes, “Tracking impact and supporting big ideas that originate from women requires giving them larger grants for longer periods. This is why we must continue to access government funding where such funding supports our values and mission.” In the end, it’s a win-win proposition: women and girls realize their human rights; communities and countries become more just, for everyone.

Photo by S. Smith Patrick