Calls to reform ‘racist’ aid funding have gained support from celebrities including Little Mix’s Leigh-Anne Pinnock and actor Jameela Jamil.
In an open letter to donors, Nimco Ali, CEO of anti-Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) organisation The Five Foundation, called for more funding to go directly to grassroots African women’s groups.
Despite promises to “do better,” she wrote, large foundations had often used “an approach to international aid on the African continent that withholds power, excludes and disempowers women…”
She added: “We have seen time and again how they are happy to use African women on the covers of annual reports, or as the “faces of fundraising drives, but almost never directly fund the women’s groups they represent.”
The Association for Women’s Rights in Development last year found only 1% of gender equality funding was going to women’s organisations.
Ms Ali said her foundation’s experience showed African women’s groups are among the least well funded.
“Against this dire backdrop,” the letter reads, “we are requesting you, as trusted allies in the space who have pledged to support the rights of women and girls, to directly fund African women’s organisations, so we can collectively shift the dial on ending FGM, child marriage and other forms of gender based violence, while flipping the switch on economic injustice and women’s economic empowerment, and fueling girls’ education.”
The letter was signed by The Good Place star Jameela Jamil, Little Mix singer Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Kenyan actor Kate Kamau and author Janet Mbuga.
“With Black Lives Matter we have had a rare opportunity to hold a mirror up to society to see how we can improve the way we deal with racism – including in the international aid sector,” Ms Jamil said.
“As an activist, I have seen how women of colour have to work ten times as hard to get heard and to be funded.
“This has to change. Whether it’s ending FGM or child marriage or sexual violence the most credible agents of change are those who are based in the communities where the abuse happens.
“There are so many amazing organisations doing incredible work at the grassroots level. I am calling on donors to invest more wisely and to support them directly.”
Ms Pinnock added: “I’ve seen how important it is to trust activists at the grassroots who are doing such heroic work to make the world a more equal place for girls and women.
“We need to get funding to them directly so they can scale up their efforts.”