On the occasion of the mid-term review of the Generation Equality Forum at the UN General Assembly in New York (September 17), the French Minister of State for Development, Francophonie and International Partnerships, Chrysoula Zacharopoulou, confirmed that France would continue to subsidize the Support Fund for Feminist Organizations for the next 5 years while doubling its contribution.
At the 2019 Generation Equality Forum, co-chaired by France and Mexico, French President Emmanuel Macron kicked off the Feminist Organizations Support Fund (FSOF) for a three-year commitment (2020-2022). This initiative was operated by the AFD (Agence Française de Développement) in association with the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, and was quickly welcomed by civil society organizations. With a 120 million euro budget co-managed by AFD and the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, the fund was intended to support feminist organizations worldwide. In recent months, stakeholders in France’s humanitarian aid scene rallied to demand the renewal of this funding mechanism, now a symbolic component of French feminist diplomacy.
Over the past three years, 134 million euros were granted under the FSOF, helping some 1,000 associations in 75 countries. This fund allowed France to “become the world’s leading donor to feminist organizations,” according to Delphine O. The FSOF has also been instrumental in fostering a dynamic of cooperation and dialogue between grassroots associations, NGOs, the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, and the AFD, in defining the terms of implementation of the mechanism and optimizing its effectiveness to ensure that it meets the needs of feminist organizations in the South in a tangible and sustainable sense.
Renewing the FSOF must entail a relaxation of measure
The first three years of operation of the FSOF allowed us to observe its relevance. Indeed, such a system aligns with efforts to promote the “localization” of official development aid. Yet, to live up to its ambitions, the renewal of the FSOF should be backed up by new measures that could facilitate grassroots feminist organizations’ funding access and streamline the financial management process.
The FSOF primarily targets small organizations that hardly access funds from donors, mainly institutional donors. Some beneficiary organizations receive this type of funding for the first time, which means that the FSOF has to be flexible in terms of the administrative and financial compliance and reporting obligations that weigh on grassroots associations. It is essential to relax the rules and procedures to meet their needs.
We must bear in mind that the FSOF is not only a financial resource for grassroots organizations that defend and promote women’s rights but also a way for local feminist ecosystems to learn and grow. Renewing the FSOF should be an opportunity to capitalize on previous successes and step up our efforts in supporting feminist organizations as they expand over the long term.
The Feminist Organizations Support Fund is a prime example of France’s pledge to promote women’s and girls’ rights as a global priority. Apart from renewing the FSOF, a step we must commend, it is now time to work on perfecting and perpetuating its system.