UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality: Why It’s Needed, and How It’s Making a Difference

Date: Thursday, March 1, 2012

More coverage and photos of Ms. Bachelet's activities at CSW56 »

Remarks by UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet at the official launch of the Call for Proposals for the second phase of the 2011-2012 grant-making cycle of the Fund for Gender Equality, UN Headquarters, New York, 1 March 2012. (Read the press release.)

[Check against delivery.]

Distinguished Delegates, UN Colleagues, and Civil Society Leaders,

I would like to thank all of you for being here today at this event for UN Women's Fund for Gender Equality. We are proud of this Fund, which provides direct grants to women for their political and economic empowerment.

Distinguished Delegates and Friends,

This past century, we have witnessed tremendous advancements in society — from medical breakthroughs to fight disease, to scientific discoveries to improve our quality of life and well-being. But we know that in order to achieve real human social progress for all, women need to be treated equally to men and afforded the same opportunities. They need their economic and political rights to be at the centre of public policies, reflected and respected in their daily lives, in their communities, at school, in their work place, in the field, and at home where they live.

In other words, women need to be able to access and control economic and financial resources, and have political power to speak out, run for office, and support themselves. We all know that this, in turn, builds good and vibrant communities and nations.

And while we have no doubt that this world will one day see women achieve full equality and have their full rights respected. We know that there needs to be more and bolder financial investments directly into the hands of women today to catalyse greater progress.

We know that investing in women yields high development results and healthy economies and societies.

Archived Webcast of the Event

In 2009, Spain made a bold and visionary statement by contributing USD 65 million (in “non-core resources) to create the Fund for Gender Equality.

Shortly after Spain's generous contribution, Norway, Mexico, and the Netherlands brought the total fund's income up to USD 71 million. The Fund for Gender Equality is one of the largest grant-makers in the world today to advance gender equality and women's empowerment.

Representatives of these incredible government contributors are here with us today and I wish to thank them for advancing their bold vision and for investing in the world's women. They are:

  • Ambassador Juan Pablo de Laiglesia from the Government of Spain,
  • Ambassador Morten Wetland from the Government of Norway,
  • Ambassador Herman Schaper from the Government of the Netherlands, and
  • Ms. María del Rocío García Gaytán, President of the National Institute of Women from the Government of Mexico.

We thank you!

They say that when you invest in women, it pays!

In only three years since its inception, the Fund has awarded 43 million dollars in 40 countries with grants that have had a real and direct impact in the everyday life of women and communities. Let me share with you some examples of the results of the Fund's Economic and Political Empowerment grants:

  • In Liberia, in 2011 the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Market Women's Fund received a USD 3 million four-year grant to create sustainable income-generating markets reaching 9,000 women and their families and communities. So far, eight markets have been constructed and they have access to safe water and sanitation, electricity, health care and day-care facilities for children. (A representative from the board of the Market Fund is here with us today in the audience.)
  • In Rwanda, in 2011 Grantees Justice et Democratie and Haguruka received a USD 2 million grant for three years to support thousands of women gain access to their legally guaranteed right to inheritance and land ownership. Through a mobile network of paralegals and attorneys, working with both local customary and formal courts, 1,034 women's claims have been processed in less than one year. Traditional community leaders are now reaching out countrywide so more rights can be claimed by women.
  • In India, in 2010 Gender at work and the Project of the Mitra Service Society received a USD 492,000 grant that resulted in awareness raising of the government's Employment Act. Grantees secured decent employment for 14,174 Dalit women (compared to 2,811 in 2009), and 9,000 of them now have bank accounts to invest in their own futures and the future of their children.
  • In Mexico, in 2011, five leading women's organizations including Equidad de Genero and Mujeres Trabajando Unidas received a USD 3.1 million grant for three years supported also by INMUJERES, the governmental women's agency of Mexico. The goal? To increase women's political participation in 10 states of Mexico. So far, the first election in Michoacán saw an increase in the number of women mayors from 5 to 12 percent. Women's representation in Congress increased from 13 to 38 percent. And there is more to come … (Representatives from civil society and government in this partnership are here today in the panel and in the audience.)
  • In El Salvador, in 2010, Las Dignas and Las Melidas received a USD 500,000 grant to launch a massive public campaign and conduct advocacy with parliamentarians to adopt a new equality law. The law passed in March 2011 and paves the way for brighter futures for women in El Salvador.
  • In Bosnia and Herzegovina, in 2010, Young Women Kult Association, Experts Association, and Kosnica, received a USD 462,770 dollar grant for two years to mainstream gender in the municipal youth strategies. So far 180 young women leaders have led the effort training others using social media. They have mobilized over 6,000 people to support gender-responsive national and municipal youth policies and other municipalities are now replicating this programme.

Now I want you to hear first-hand about the Fund's impact from women themselves.

I am very honoured to introduce you to two representatives of our grantee partners.

  • Marta Sanchez, of Amuzgo indigenous origin in Mexico, is a leader in the indigenous and young women's movement, representing grantee International Forum of Indigenous Women, a global network. She will speak about her life and work with indigenous and rural women and about the world's urgent need for respecting Mother Earth.
  • Patricia Munabi is Director of the grantee Forum of Women in Democracy from Uganda, a leading women's organization. They work to improve equitable distribution and resource use in Uganda and have advanced accountability by mainstreaming gender in the Ministries of Agriculture and Lands, among others.

As you hear their stories, I am sure you will be as inspired as we are to have them here today. I wish to thank these bold visionary leaders for what they do for the world. Let's welcome them with a warm applause.

[Grantees speak 6 minutes each, then Ms. Bachelet continues with her remarks.]

From Mexico to Uganda, to the world, we are indeed inspired by their stories.

Distinguished Delegates and Friends,

It is my pleasure now to officially announce the launch of our 2012 Call for Proposals to advance gender equality in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe and Central Asia.

At this moment of historic change, we cannot afford to leave women out.

That is why through this Call today, we invite national and regional women's organizations and governmental agencies committed to gender equality to apply for funding so they can advance women's economic and political empowerment.

With this Call, UN Women's Fund for Gender equality responds to women's best ideas.

Information about this Call for Proposals and how to apply during this month of March is available in the back of the room today.

At the end of last year UN Women's Fund for Gender Equality called out for concrete proposals from governments and civil society in the Arab States to support women's political and economic empowerment.

It is my pleasure to now announce the Fund's New Grantees from the Arab States region.

The 15 organizations selected are receiving grants today totalling USD 4.85 million.

From advancing women's political participation in Egypt, Libya and Yemen, to maximizing the use of technology for advocacy, to community-based allocation of resources for leadership projects, and economic empowerment initiatives for sustainable development run by women in rural Morocco, Algeria and the occupied Palestinian territories, the programmes being funded are wide in scope and innovative.

Distinguished Delegates and Friends,

Women make up more than half the world's population, but the majority of them live in poverty. Your support for equal opportunities can enable women to make and manage money, and their families and societies to prosper.

The Fund for Gender Equality provides an effective vehicle to reach millions of women in a cost effective manner. For every dollar in direct operating expenses, the Fund has awarded USD 7.5 in grants.

In the Fund's inaugural Call in 2009, a total of 1,239 applicants from 127 countries submitted proposals, representing more than USD 3 billion in requests.

Applications were reviewed by independent experts in the field. Fifty percent of applicants had viable and strong proposals that we could not fund. We expect a similar or higher demand through our new Call for Proposals today.

This figure shows the vast need for support, but as our grants demonstrate, the potential for impact and real change is even greater.

The grant-making budget available for these regions is USD 10.5 million. We are committed to tripling this amount by the end of this year.

We ask for your generosity and invite you to join the network of supporters of UN Women's Fund for Gender Equality. By making a contribution, you make a difference, one life at a time, in big ways, in dozens of countries. We know that when you invest in a woman this has a multiplier effect that extends across families, communities and nations.

I ask you to be bold because what these women have achieved with this funding is bold.

And now, it is my pleasure to invite our distinguished contributors and Permanent Representatives from Spain, Norway, the Netherlands and Mexico without whom we would not have been able make the Fund's achievements a reality.

Before we hear from them, let me tell you that grantees and contributors have at least three things in common:

  • One, they are passionate about gender equality.
  • Two, they both give in bold ways.
  • And three, their joint work is at the core of real human social progress.

Let us hear from our visionary donors, I thank you.

[Donors speak]:

  • Ambassador Juan Pablo de Laiglesia from the Government of Spain,
  • Ambassador Morten Wetland from the Government of Norway,
  • Ambassador Herman Schaper from the Government of the Netherlands,
  • Ms. María del Rocío García Gaytán, President of the National Institute of Women from the Government of Mexico.]

I would like to thank everyone here today for your commitment to women's empowerment and gender equality. UN Women is proud to be your partner.

Equality takes all of us!