MATCH: Funding global grassroots women’s groups

The MATCH International Women’s Fund supports girl-run innovation labs in India, pictured here. (Photo: COMPLIMENTS OF THE MATCH FUND)

The MATCH International Women’s Fund supports girl-run innovation labs in India, pictured here. (Photo: COMPLIMENTS OF THE MATCH FUND)

Taking in the rolling mountains, swaying corn fields and cloud-studded skies of Guatemala’s Patanatic Route, it’s impossible to believe such a beautiful place could have once been the stage for an ugly civil war. In fact, many tourism companies bank on it.
But a savvy group of Mayan women living near Lake Atitlan saw an opportunity to do tourism differently. Launching an eco-tourism business on their own terms, their guided tours offer a glimpse into the Guatemala they know. They don’t gloss over realities, such as the high rates of femicide and violence against Indigenous women. Instead, these women showcase their leadership alongside their struggles, generating a sustainable income, all the while serving up a steady supply of homemade tamales.
For The MATCH International Women’s Fund — Canada’s only global women’s fund — this type of innovation at the local level is the norm, not the exception. The MATCH Fund is a talent scout for small groups of women who dream big. With partners spanning the globe, the fund invests in ideas such as girl-run innovation labs in India, digital maps of street harassment in the Middle East and female radio DJs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The fund’s own journey mirrors the tenacity of the women’s groups it supports. Forced to nearly close its doors a decade ago, The fund knew Canada still had a role to play for women at the grassroots level. Its near-breaking point allowed the fund to emerge at the intersection of women’s rights and innovation, funding at the margins and taking risks on the women with the most to lose.
Proving time and time again that women’s ideas are worth the risk, the fund invested $1 million in 30 grassroots women’s organizations since re-launching as a women’s fund in 2013. In that time, women and girls have reported that their innovations have led to increased access to resources, changes in social norms and behaviours and changes to the laws and policies that hold them back.
Poised to more than triple its capacity in the coming year, the fund has set its sights on even more than providing seed funding for grassroots groups.
“The future of The MATCH Fund’s work is about creating a fundamental shift in power,” says CEO Jess Tomlin. “Women’s movements around the globe are rising up in response to violence, discrimination and extremism. Money is power, so our imperative is to get more money into the hands of women at the local level. That’s how we’re going to see more women at the decision-making table during peace talks or pitching their creative solutions on a global stage.”
Part of that power shift is seeing more Canadian funding directed outside of Canada’s borders. At the government level, Canada’s new feminist international assistance policy sets out a progress framework to support women’s movement building. The challenge will be to transform the vision into concrete programs that meaningfully invest in the women’s movements driving change on the ground.
At the individual level, however, only eight per cent of Canadians’ donations support international causes. The MATCH Fund makes it easy for Canadians to support women’s groups innovating for change. The fund has its finger on the pulse of urgent and emerging issues for women around the world, ready to channel funding to where it is most needed and to where women and girls are willing to test new approaches to deep-seated problems.
“There’s a reason people say that necessity is the mother of invention,” Tomlin says. “Every day, women and girls face incredible odds. They innovate as they live — on the edge. As Canadians, we must meet them there, too, by funding the unanticipated and supporting change from the ground up.”
To learn more about The MATCH International Women’s Fund, please visit www.matchinternational.org.

Beatriz Gonzalez Manchon is vice-president of global programs for The MATCH International Women’s Fund.

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Beatriz Gonzalez Manchon is vice-president of global programs for The MATCH International Women's Fund.

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