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Our Investing Wisely Initiative seeks to ensure that donor funding is invested in ways that enable effective violence prevention and support and empower local NGOs and feminist movements.


In today’s world, most efforts to prevent gender-based violence in low- and middle-income countries are still funded by outsiders—international donors and foundations that support local groups working to end violence and advance gender equality.

Funding flows primarily through two streams:

  • Northern donors and foundations pass money to a large network of intermediary women’s funds, which in turn give small grants to women’s rights organisations and feminist movements.
  • Northern governments and multilateral organisations pass much larger sums of money to United Nations agencies, large international nongovernmental organisations, or private consulting companies via competitive contracts to implement work on violence prevention and response, based on terms of reference set by the donor.

These UN agencies (such as UN Women, the United Nations Development Programme, and the United Nations Population Fund) and large intermediary organisations (such as CARE, Oxfam, ActionAid, the International Rescue Committee, and various for-profit development firms) in turn contract with local ‘partner organisations’ to implement the country-level activities of these large projects.


This funding reality has profound consequences for the effectiveness and sustainability of efforts to address gender-based violence in the Global South. First, it reduces local organisations to mere cogs in the bureaucratic machinery of the international development and humanitarian aid sectors. Groups that used to be able to set their own agendas and invest in growth and sustainability live ‘project to project’—handmaidens to priorities and projects hatched in Bangkok, London, or Washington, DC.

Second, it means that national and local anti-violence groups must work within the bureaucratic and often unrealistic rules and timelines set by Northern donors. Time and again, we at the Collaborative have witnessed the negative consequences of the current aid system’s unworkable demands for both programme effectiveness and women’s safety.

Our goal at the Collaborative is to make money flows, timelines, and donor expectations more conducive to effective violence prevention and more empowering for local NGOs and feminist movements. We firmly believe that most violence donors share the aspiration to empower women and invest wisely in violence prevention. But many do not fully appreciate the waste,
missed opportunities, and unintended harms that accompany current practice.


The Collaborative’s Investing Wisely Initiative aims to rectify this situation using four strategies:

  • Document the costs of current practice to both violence prevention and women’s safety through a series of case studies and global dialogues
  • Analyse the political, bureaucratic, and institutional constraints and incentives that perpetuate current dysfunctions
  • Identify a series of policy and contracting reforms that would encourage innovation and facilitate sustainable practice for violence prevention
  • Work in coalition with other activists and donor allies to advocate for needed reforms

We invite others wishing to ensure that existing violence funds are well spent to join our Investing Wisely Initiative. Improving the impact of today’s funding is just as important as mobilising added funds for the future.

For more information, please contact Ruti Levtov at

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