Special Edition Newsletter

The Government of Canada Renews its Commitment to Funding Women’s Rights Organizations Around the World

Written by Diana Apostolides

Last month, Global Affairs Canada (GAC) announced it would be renewing funding for its flagship ‘Women’s Voice and Leadership Program (WVL),’ committing to $195 million in funding over five years, and $43.4 million annually thereafter.
The WVL program was GAC’s first feminist pilot program and was a clear departure from the typical bilateral assistance programming GAC has funded in the past, especially pre-Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP). The pilot ran between 2018 to 2023 and represented a $150 million commitment, with 30 bilateral projects funded across 28 countries.

The WVL program is unique in that all projects funded were not prescribed a specific thematic focus but were required to abide by common program design features. All were coded as GE03 (gender transformative), they all had a common theory of change and the same anticipated outcomes, as well as the same key performance indicators. All projects were also required to include four types of programming interventions which included on-granting of core, multi-year grants and responsive grants to local women’s rights organizations (WROs); the provision of organizational strengthening and programming support; and finally, support for network and alliance building within each respective country context. Each implementing partner was also required to transfer at least 50% of project funds to local WROs and had a 37% cap on their management costs.

In May of last year, the Evaluation Division within GAC conducted a formative evaluation of the program. While most of the funded projects at the time had less than two years of implementation under their belt, a diverse range of WROs has already been identified for support by executing agencies, and 423 multi-year grants, and 366 responsive grants had already been on-granted. One critical finding of the evaluation however was that GAC’s own corporate processes and systems were not fit for purpose for feminist programming, and for the provision of direct support to local WROs; this is reflected in the fact that over 50% of executing agencies awarded with funding were Canadian based organizations, who ultimately had to absorb the administrative burden caused by GAC’s unwavering approach to risk management. As phase two of the WVL program is rolled out, it will be interesting to see what, if any adjustments are made to GAC’s risk appetite, and whether we will see a shift in the number of Canadian based organizations funded.

One thing that is clear is the funding model and approach of the WVL program is already influencing other funding initiatives; take for example the Together for Learning Campaign and associated call for proposals launched in 2021. Regardless of the model, partners will still need to ensure that whatever projects they submit for government funding not only adhere to the principles of results-based management but can adapt to the new programming approach GAC is prioritizing in support of its localization agenda. For proposal development support or government relations support more broadly, reach out to the team at JN Clarke Consulting, and set up a quick consultation call with us, to see how we can best support your organization in its strategic objectives with government!

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