“Often the narrative is simplistic, with an emphasis on how providing someone with a resource is to catalyze change,” she said at an event at the UN Commission on the Status of Women exploring funding for the Development Goals. “In health care, for example, there’s a lot of focus on access to prenatal care or building clinics. These are valuable, but if you don’t look at the structural issues behind it, such as if legislation on sexual and reproductive health and rights are being rolled back or budgets being cut, these gains will be lost.”
According to the research, more than 60 percent of the private sector partnerships involve NGOs that do not explicitly identify themselves as women’s organizations Only 9 percent of projects provide direct funding to women’s organizations. The report New Actors, New Money, New Conversations said that when a company or celebrity was looking for a women’s initiative to support, they went to well-known, larger organizations at the expense of smaller women’s rights organizations. However, failing to seek expertise from those who have been supporting women, often at the grassroots level, for years “may not only have limited results, but be counterproductive.”
The study indicated that the increasing role of the private sector in development, and its growing influence in setting funding agendas and priorities, meant it was important for women’s rights organizations to critically engage with corporations.
It added that resources are “urgently needed” to counter the backlash against women’s rights in many parts of the world.
One example of an organization that has engaged with the private sector is ELAS, a women’s fund in Brazil, which is working on a project with Chevron.
Kelly Kotlinski Verdade, program manager for ELAS, told the UN commission that lack of international funding and philanthropic giving in Brazil have forced women’s rights organizations to look to the private sector for money.
Yet ELAS initially turned down a US$1 million funding offer from Chevron due to the company’s environmental record. In 2011, however, Chevron and ELAS launched the Women in Motion program, helping women in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro and elsewhere to develop their businesses.