The Girls First Fund is pleased to announce that it will distribute grants ranging in size from $5,000-$50,000 to 150 organizations, for a total of $3 million in its first granting cycle. The fund received nearly 1,400 applications and the grantees selected are a promising mix of community-based and locally-focused national organizations. Over 90 percent of the organizations selected are led by women.
The Girls First Fund chose to focus on learning in the 2019-2020 granting cycle to allow the fund to gather feedback and insight across various geographies and contexts and to collaborate with girls, grantees, and local stakeholders to co-create the multi-year strategy. This approach enables the fund to test grantmaking criteria, structures, and processes that will shape the fund’s multi-year strategy.
The fund is piloting grantmaking in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Dominican Republic, India, Nepal, Niger, and Uganda. The fund chose countries with high prevalence and absolute numbers of married children and that also represent different regions of the world, cultures, religions, and levels of progress toward addressing child marriage so that it can learn and evolve its grantmaking.
With the goal of finding and supporting the best grassroots organizations and women-led groups, the fund created a low-barrier application process that reached a wide variety of organizations, allowing applicants of all literacy and English proficiency levels to apply easily.
Applicants submitted information through an online portal, over email, and through a WhatsApp channel. Applicants were also allowed to submit handwritten applications or audio and video applications. A Girls First Fund program advisor in each country served as a resource throughout the application process, helping to answer applicant questions and providing necessary support.
In three countries, the fund tested the use of panels to review and recommend potential grantees. Panels were made up of local experts working on the issues related to child marriage, and one country panel was comprised totally of girls and young women. In this case, the girl and young women panelists met with short-listed applicants to understand their organization and approach, which they found to be crucial to making well-informed and thoughtful recommendations to the fund.
By creating an inclusive application process, the Girls First Fund was able to find a promising set of innovative and passionate grassroots organizations. Examples of grantees include a women-led organization promoting girls’ leadership through rugby, an organization in Nepal forming groups to help girls learn about their rights and gain self-confidence, and a women-led Dominican Republic-based group that’s challenging social norms and attitudes regarding girls’ value in society. The fund selected organizations that are implementing a variety of locally-relevant strategies to affect child marriage and its drivers, including:
- Advancing girls’ rights leadership through a wide range of programs that work directly with girls by investing in them, their participation, and their wellbeing.
- Mobilizing families, communities, and influencers to change attitudes, behaviors, and norms related to child marriage. In some communities this will include gender transformative approaches that engage boys and men as well as mothers and influential women in the community, to transform cultural norms, promote gender equality, and end child marriage and early unions.
- Providing direct services to at-risk, married, and formerly married girls so they can have access to quality resources, education, information, and services across sectors; these services reinforce one another and are tailored to the specific needs of their beneficiaries. The fund is particularly interested in education and sexual and reproductive health services, including abortion rights (where legal) and post-abortion care.
- Advocating for effective laws and policies to ensure a robust legal and policy framework for preventing child marriage is established and effectively enforced.
By advancing these strategies, the fund will support local organizations and movements working to achieve positive impact for girls and communities across a range of development outcomes. This will—over time—allow girls to be able to reject or delay marriage, say no to unwanted sex, protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy, complete secondary school, and become economically self-sufficient.
We are excited to see the transformative change these 150 organizations and leaders will bring to their communities.
To get future updates on the Girls First Fund, including our next application period, please visit our website regularly and sign up for our email distribution list.