Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, Oxfam conducted a rapid global survey with partners and allies in the women’s rights sector to understand the impact of this unprecedented global health crisis on women’s rights and feminist organizations and networks and the communities with whom they work.
There were no doubts going into this research that the responses would be only a snapshot of the true extent of the sector’s dire situation. Organizations at the forefront of the fight for gender justice – especially those in the Global South – have consistently been the most underfunded, despite increasing donor commitments to fighting gender inequality.
The sharp fallout of a global pandemic on women's rights organizations did not come as a surprise and we saw our hypothesis of diminishing financial resources and closures of organizations sadly confirmed: 33% had to lay off anywhere between 1 and 10 members and 9% of organizations faced closure. We also saw unexpected results from our research. The most surprising result was a near-unanimous concern at not being able to access decision and policy-making spaces – whether due to travel restrictions, closing civic space or not being seen as partners in the global pandemic response. This is a clear indication of the need for a roadmap for those working in this sector towards a more equitable partnership model and support system, addressing both financial resources and political and civic space.
These findings are a clear and loud call, not only for an increase in core and sustainable funding, including institutional funding to preserve the sector that has been at the heart of gender and societal gains for decades and to prevent further backsliding in gender equality, but also an unequivocal demand for better partnership and meaningful participation in decision-making at all levels for organizations and their members.
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