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The State of Funding for Women’s Environmental Action

“Donors investing in women to create their own solutions to the daily challenges they identify will support both positive environmental outcomes and women’s rights.” – Tulika Srivastava, South Asia Women’s Fund

Women around the globe are at the forefront of addressing the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation; designing, implementing, and scaling up their own solutions. They are leaders in environmental protection not least because socially defined gender roles often position women and girls as stewards of the physical, economic, and cultural well-being of their communities. This dynamic places the responsibility for natural resource management and use squarely on women and girls. As a result, they are also disproportionately impacted by damage to water, land, and clean air. Consequently, their leadership is key to protecting these resources.

Yet, as a new mapping report by Global Greengrants Fund and Prospera International Network of Women’s Funds reveals, only 0.2 percent of all foundation funding focuses explicitly on women and the environment. This means that there is a great opportunity for funders committed to protecting our planet to improve their interventions by supporting compelling women-led solutions.

Today, on International Women’s Day, we are proud to be launching Our Voices, Our Environment: The State of Funding for Women’s Environmental Action, the first-ever benchmarking of philanthropic funding in support of women and the environment. The report includes 34 interviews with funders, local women leaders, and regional and international advocates. It offers insights about the funding landscape, highlights lessons learned and funding strategies from peer grantmakers already active at this nexus, and provides funding opportunities and guidance from women advocates.

Our key findings include:

  • Most funders currently supporting women and the environment show limited engagement. In 2014, 269 funders provided 825 grants focused on women and the environment, totalling $110.2 million. However, less than one-third of these funders awarded more than one grant and only eight of these funders gave more than $1 million for work at this intersection. The median grant amount was just $7,000.
  • Among the 12 environmental issues tracked, agriculture and food security received the highest amount of support. In 2014, agriculture and food security received $64.9 million from 33 funders, or 59 percent of all of the support to women and the environment. This funding supported a range of entities, from grassroots women-led groups to agricultural research centers to international organisations focused on ending hunger.
  • Funders share common challenges when considering whether and how to fund women’s environmental action, including where limited resources can make the greatest impact.
  • Women’s funds, environmental funds, and other local funds connect peers to grassroots groups focused on women and the environment. More than half of all grants awarded for women and the environment in 2014 were provided by international intermediary grantmakers and local funds. These organisations both receive funding from other donors and make grants to support community-led efforts. In addition, they serve as knowledge resources for other grantmakers.

How environmental funders can support women’s environmental leadership

Appreciating that each foundation has its own priorities on how to spend its limited resources with maximum impact, in our landmark report, we outline numerous ways funders can engage or strengthen their current support for women’s environmental action without having to develop new funding areas, based on what we have heard from our interviewees. These include:

  • Listen to women most affected by environmental challenges, and support their participation in decision-making. Grantmakers can start by considering the extent to which grassroots women’s voices are included in the decision-making and implementation of both their own grantmaking practices and those of the organisations and projects they already support.
  • Fund training and capacity building for women on technical environmental information and processes. Training enables women to be more effective and compelling advocates for environmental protection. A related opportunity is providing resources for technical and scientific support to groups working on environmental defence that cannot afford to hire an external expert.
  • Recognise and help address increased threats to women who work to protect the environment and fight climate change. Intimidation, harassment, and physical violence, often linked to infrastructure or extractive projects, are becoming increasingly common. Women are affected in different ways when than men, facing gender-based violence and specific societal discriminations. When asked, “What do you think is your personal victory in past year?” an Indigenous woman environmental rights defender we interviewed replied, “The fact that I’m still alive.”
  • Facilitate women’s organisations’ engagement with national and global climate policy and finance architecture. Given the central role of women in agricultural production and natural resource management, it is critical that their perspectives be represented in national and global climate policy decision-making.
  • Support exchanges between environmental groups and women’s groups, and strengthen cross-movement sharing. Supporting opportunities for shared learning between women’s groups and environmental organisations will strengthen expertise on both sides and increase impact.

This call for more investment in women and the environment is about getting resources to those most affected by environmental damage and those on the frontlines of environmental protection. The impacts of climate change and environmental degradation are not gender neutral. Our funding of their solutions cannot be either.

Interested to learn more? Please get in touch with gender@greengrants.org for the full report, or a conversation about what we are learning as a grantmaker supporting women’s environmental leadership.

Eva Rehse is Executive Director, Global Greengrants Fund UK; Ursula Miniszewski is Programme and Development Officer, Gender and Environment, Global Greengrants Fund

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