Ecorys celebrates International Women’s Day 2024 with launch of Scottish Government’s Women and Girls Fund 

The WGF, forming part of the Scottish Government’s international Development Equalities Programme, will deliver grant and capacity support to women and girl-led organisations (WGLOs) across Malawi, Rwanda, and Zambia, aiming – broadly – to contribute to the realisation of Sustainable Development Goal 5 (Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls).   

Announcing the launch of the fund, Scotland’s Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development, Kaukab Stewart said: 

“Gender inequality remains one of the greatest human rights challenges globally, and we must work together to address this. Reflecting our commitment to equalise power, the Women and Girls Fund will provide direct support to local women and girl-led organisations in our Sub-Saharan African partner countries. 

“Direct funding is central to driving transformational change; this fund will empower women and girls, locally, to define and meet their own priorities. 

“As we mark International Women’s Day, it is fitting that we launch this incredibly valuable programme, which puts feminist principles into action and will help us to advocate for a world without gender inequality.” 

Meanwhile, Ecorys Team Leader Mpala Nkonkomalimba added:  “The funding opportunity cannot be coming at a more opportune time, as women and girls are still struggling to have voice in decision making processes and with the global economic downturn, they continue to be the face of poverty. 

 “Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) capacities to respond to the many emerging global and national issues affecting women and girls needs to be built and what is exciting is that the fund is planned to be participatory with CSOs themselves co-creating the funding mechanism.” 

Empowering women and girls: designing the fund according feminist principles 

The Fund will be designed in line with the Scottish Government’s feminist international development principles, centring women and girls as experts by experience, with the knowledge to identify challenges in their own lives, families and communities, as well as to develop potential solutions, in all aspects of the programme. 

Grant support will be prioritised for initiatives and activities that challenge existing, inequitable social norms and empower WGLOs and women, girls, and their communities to “do things differently”.  We will ensure impactful funding to WGLOs through a bottom-up, participatory approach that engages women and girls in all aspects of grant design/delivery.  

Ensuring support and downward accountability to WGLOS 

Critical attention will be given to ensuring downward accountability from the fund to WGLOs, by building in structures and mechanisms to ensure WGLO representatives play an advisory role at each stage of design/delivery and have decision-making power about the allocation of grants.  In doing so, the management of the Women and Girls Fund will aim to move beyond making sure that everyone’s voice is heard (participation), to ensuring that everyone’s voice actually influences/informs what is done (empowerment). 

Key to the success of the WGF will be in reaching out to identify and support small, nascent WGLOs with grants that are responsive to self-defined needs and priorities.  Ecorys and FAWE will undertake rigorous analysis and engagement with these WGLOs during the fund design so that they are given opportunity to define what they do, how they want to do it, and what is needed to deliver (e.g., in terms of flexibility, levels/length of resourcing, and wider support beyond the grant itself).  

Through a highly participatory approach we will ensure that the process of grant-making can, in itself, challenge and transform structural inequalities that .impede women’s full potential and the realisation of their rights. 

Speaking on behalf in Malawi, Forum for Women Educationalists Malawi’s Wesley Chabwera concludes ‘’This fund will immensely contribute towards gender transformation in our country and empower women and girls to achieve their aspirations and live dignified and fulfilling lives.”