This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #BalanceforBetter. At Womanity, “balance” underpins all of our work. To mark International Women’s Day, we have a written a blog series that tells the story of our programmes through the lens of how they are helping to achieve balance for better. 

In this first blog of the series, Rafia Qureshi, Executive Director of Womanity Foundation, reflects on what#BalanceforBetter means to Womanity.

62 million girls are still denied an education all over the world. In 2017 female founders received just 2% of venture capital dollars. Meanwhile one in three women have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.

At The Womanity Foundation we believe that the most sustainable solutions to these challenges are a result of taking the time to understand and learn from those on the front lines. Mutual respect, collaboration and learning sit at the heart of our approach and our partners on the ground are the cornerstone of our success.

Balance for better

For us at Womanity, balance means shifting the dial back to the centre, in every way. Moving away from top down approaches and rather taking the time to listen, take advice, and then identify gaps to really understand where we can make a difference with our support. We’ve seen first hand the expertise and success that locally-led organisations have in addressing some of the toughest challenges. We work closely with local experts to run our own programmes, always checking that we are adding value to the sector. We take the time to understand the needs on the ground and find ways to uncover and develop catalytic solutions working in mutual respect with our partners.

This way of working guides all of our decisions. It led to the birth of Radio Nisaa, a Palestinian female-run radio station, set up in partnership with local entrepreneur Maysoun Odeh and has now been in operation for almost 10 years. The Womanity Award for the prevention of violence against women works with local organisations to unsurface innovative solutions that address the root causes of violence against women, and fosters partnership between organisations to scale those solutions across borders.

Going beyond capital

We are not a traditional grant making Foundation. We see ourselves at the intersection of venture philanthropy and social investment. We understand that change takes time and that to create systemic change, we have to take calculated risks and have a long term view. With this in mind we make sure our support is multi-year, highly-engaged and tailored. We stay for the long haul with an eye to ensuring we build a sustainability plan in every programme from the onset. This type of long term, flexible, patient support fosters an environment of shared ownership, building trust and openness between all partners involved.

Investing in systemic change

As part of our drive to redress power balance, we work alongside our partners to build up their organisational capacity. Great organisations and leaders can achieve much more with support and investment in core operations. It’s vital to their long term sustainability yet hugely under funded and resourced. By investing in core costs and strengthening their capabilities, we support great local organisations to scale their operations and impact and ultimately, we aim to get to a place where we are no longer needed. Ultimately that should be the aim for all of us in social development – to run ourselves out of a job!  

SDG17 – mandating a role for all actors

Goal 17 of the SDGs calls for more multi-stakeholder partnerships to address our shared global challenges. Working in a spirit of partnership, with the understanding that we all bring something valuable, is now our duty. If the SDGs are to be realised, it will require a broad range of partners to help deliver and finance them.

This International Women’s Day we stand together, alongside our brilliant allies, partners and supporters. Power dynamics are hard to overcome, especially when money is involved. But it’s imperative that we do so.  We will reach our final destination faster if we can work together with balance and mutual respect for the contributions we all bring.