Ending FGM in the United States and Abroad: Who Are the Funders?

The subject of female genital mutilation (FGM) — the practice of removing a female’s clitoris, sometimes accompanied by sewing together her labia — rarely makes it into the mainstream news, so recent public awareness campaigns like February 6th’s #EndFGM campaign are helping to put it on the agenda.

FGM Funders
An International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM has helped raise awareness, but more funding is needed to end the dangerous and unhealthy practice.

Ending FGM is central to movements for women to be free to direct their own lives both in the U.S. and abroad. Feminist philanthropists have been working on this issue for decades, and now, with legislation passing to criminalize the practice, there is more potential than ever to realize some bigger gains.

The work definitely needs to be funded more intensively to make that happen, though. Laws on the books don’t get very far without enforcement, and enforcement takes spending for legal advocacy to create the precedents of case law.

Who are the funders currently supporting campaigns to end FGM, and are there enough of them to really do this work both globally and in the U.S.? As a partial answer to this question, I recommend reading an article written by longtime feminist strategist Jessica Neuwirth in November of 2016. Neuwirth argues that now that FGM is considered child abuse, the problem lacks funders globally. Neuwirth found that a scarcity of funders was slowing down the effort to end FGM practices.

To end FGM, funders need to provide more support for awareness campaigns, along with on-the-ground strategies for legislative and public policy work, both in the U.S. and abroad. In the U.S., there are several organizations working specifically to end the practice by getting legislation passed at the state level to make FGM procedures illegal. It can be difficult to find information about the funders of these organizations. Many donors don’t announce their grants in this subject area on their website, and grantee nonprofits working to end FGM don’t generally list their supporters.

Grantmaking to End FGM

A significant proportion of the funding for ending gender-based violence comes from community foundations and women’s foundations and funds across the U.S. As the issue of ending FGM gets more traction in the U.S., community foundations and women’s funds may begin to provide more grantmaking specifically on this issue. If your organization is looking for support to start a grassroots campaign to end FGM in your geographic area, your local community foundation or women’s fund might be a good place to start when looking for funding.

One big hub for information about organizations working to end FGM is the recently formed U.S. End FGM/C Network website. The Network provides an extensive list of resources on ending FGM from advocacy, research, testimonials, and training materials. The World Bank also recently published a compendium of legal frameworks on ending FGM.  There is also a European Network of organizations working to end FGM.

In the U.S., the AHA Foundation does work in multiple states with getting state-based legislation passed to criminalize FGM procedures. Their 2017 Annual Report gives a state-by-state breakdown of the organization’s efforts to provide public policy guidance to states.

As an aside, governments are certainly able to make big funding moves to address ending FGM. One recent example is the Canadian government providing $3 million in funding to work on ending FGM in West Africa. More on that here. 

Funders Providing Support to End Female Genital Mutilation

Amplify Change: This grantmaker provides support for multiple issues related to gender equality, and makes grants specifically to end FGM. More about Amplify Change here. 

Associated Country Women of the World: This London-based grantmaker provides support to address gender-based violence, and makes grants specifically to address ending FGM. More information about funding and how to apply here. 

Donor Direct Action: Facilitated by Jessica Neuwirth (referenced above), this fund provides direct support to address FGM globally. DDA launched the Efua Dorkenoo Fund to End FGM in 2017. Learn more about the fund here. 

End FGM Grassroots Fund: This fund, housed by Girl Generation and supported by the Human Dignity Fund, has provided $1.8 million in funding in 172 grants to small organizations working to end FGM globally. More on the Fund here.

Girls Rights Project: Funding in both San Fransisco and in countries globally, the Girls Rights Project supports organizations like Tostan and others doing work on health and empowerment for women and girls, including addressing FGM. More from the website.

Human Dignity Foundation: This foundation, based in Switzerland, has provided grants to end FGM in Kenya, Nigeria, The Gambia, Sudan, Somaliland, Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso. Grants database for this foundation is here. 

Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation:  Located in Rome, Italy, this foundation has supported efforts to combat FGM in Senegal. More about the foundation’s grantmaking and how to apply here.

Obama Foundation: Given that the Obama Foundation is amplifying efforts to end FGM through its Global Girls Alliance Fund, it appears they are beginning work in this area. It will be interesting to see if the Obama Foundation goes further with supporting this work. Learn more about the Obama Foundation and the Global Girls Alliance.

Pollination Project: This funder provided support for a documentary project made by the Campaign to End Female Genital Mutilation. More about that grant here. 

Wallace Global Fund: The Wallace Global Fund has been one of the most visible funders of efforts to end FGM. It supported the formation of the U.S. Network with a $90,000 grant in 2016, and in 2017 sponsored the first-ever summit on ending FGM, and also provides support for the European Network to end FGM. More about Wallace Global Fund’s grants to end FGM here. 

Some Possibles: Funders Addressing Gender-Based Violence

The term “gender-based violence” is now sometimes being used to encompass ending FGM, so the funders working on gender-based violence might be open to grantee inquiries about this.  By going through our list of international funders for gender equality, you can pick out the ones that address gender-based violence and query them about funding projects specifically to end FGM. Some examples:

Humanitarian Innovation Fund:  This fund has supported work specifically around ending gender-based violence. More about the Fund here. 

Voices With Impact Film Grants: These grants have a specific category for funding films related to mental health and sexual violence. Learn more about the grants here. 

Global Fund for Women: GFW provides grants to end gender-based violence and may be open to supporting more work to end FGM. More about their grantmaking here. 


Author: Kiersten Marek

Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is the founder of Philanthropy Women. She practices clinical social work and writes about how women donors and their allies are advancing social change.

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