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UN Trust Fund commemorates 25th anniversary

KARACHI: “The UN Trust Fund is more important today than ever, because women have begun to recognize that they have a right to a life without violence.” – Charlotte Bunch, founding director of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, Rutgers University.

On 25th day of October 2021, the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund) hosted a virtual event to mark its 25th anniversary. Moderated by actor and activist Gabriella Wright, the event welcomed over 800 participants representing civil society and women’s rights organizations, donors, UN Member States and UN partners around the globe.

Opening the event, UN Secretary-General António Guterres congratulated the UN Trust Fund’s record of support for civil society and women’s rights organizations in the past 25 years, representing the commitment of stakeholders and partners alike. He said:

“We must build on this work to strengthen multilateral partnerships and increase support and funding for civil society, so that every woman and girl can live free from violence.”

UN Women’s Executive Director Sima Bahous echoed the sentiment, recognizing the UN Trust Fund as the only grant-making mechanism that “led the way to inform and accelerate the UN System’s efforts to end violence against women and girls.” She added:

“In the current context of multiple gendered crises, our mission of finding solutions to ending violence against women is now more pressing than ever.”

Indeed, the UN Trust Fund’s role has become increasingly important as violence against women and girls has spiked in recent crises, including the global COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters and political turbulence around the world.

One of the biggest strengths I think of the Trust Fund is its vital contribution and support to civil society, particularly women-led organizations and human rights defenders.” – Reem Alsalem, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences.

In the opening session moderated by Cindy Clark from the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), Roxanna Carrillo, First Chief of the UN Trust Fund and member of the Board of Direction of Outright Action International, reminded the event that it was the 1995 World Conference on Women in Beijing that provided the opportunity to raise the issue of violence against women and girls “to get governments to put the resources necessary, to provide them to organizations that were doing the work on the ground.”

Since then, the UN Trust Fund has proudly supported 609 initiatives in 140 countries and territories. In the past five years alone, its grantees have led projects that reached nearly 55 million people, among them approximately 150,000 survivors of violence. From 2016-2020, 34% of grants were awarded to small organizations working to end violence against women and girls.

Chinyere Eyoh, founder and CEO of Sexual Offences Awareness and Response (SOAR) Initiative, a small feminist organization in Nigeria, reflected on how SOAR’s partnership with the UN Trust Fund landed the organization grants from the UN/EU Spotlight Initiative and USAID:

“[The UN Trust Fund] has also provided us with the platform to attend networking events, to actually learn best practices… and also [strengthen] our capacity to add community mobilization.”

Sohini Bhattacharya, President and CEO of the NGO Breakthrough in India, highlighted that the UN Trust Fund’s grant-giving practices were rooted in trust and productive dialogues with grantees within a feminist framework.

Looking ahead: Sustainable support for feminist movements

“The UN Trust Fund provided support to us, to try this new idea and to serve the women who were silenced.” – Jaya Luintel, co-founder of The Story Kitchen, Nepal

Three panelists representing past and current UN Trust Fund grantees from Guatemala, Nepal and Uganda described the impact of long-term funding and partnership in ending violence against women and girls, especially in marginalized communities. Kate Flatley from the Women’s Justice Initiative in Guatemala said:

“It’s really these multi-year commitments and the trust from funding partners that has allowed us to support the advocates over a longer period of time and to truly earn their trust… in turn, [they] can earn the trust [of] and support women in their communities.”

All the three grantees echoed the values of their partnership with the UN Trust Fund: trust, passion, integrity, mentorship and guidance.

Government commitment

Government representatives expressed gratitude for the partnerships with the UN Trust Fund and reiterated support for civil society and women’s rights organizations. H.E. Mr. Per Olsson Fridh, Sweden’s Minister for International Development Cooperation, said:

“The fact that the UN Trust Fund has established a mechanism that enables effective funding, hand-in-hand with capacity building, broad learning and a sharing network, is a great achievement.”

Senator the Hon Marise Payne, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, emphasized:

“This Fund plays a unique role bringing together governments, women’s rights organizations and civil society to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls.”

Mr. Bård Vegard Solhjell, Director General of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), emphasized that the UN Trust Fund was “essential to facilitating the knowledge and contributions of these local actors into robust cross-sectoral efforts at scale.”

Closing the event, Gabriella Wright reiterated that everyone has a role to play in preventing and ending violence against women and girls. She called on the general public to take concrete action, by engaging in the #Give25forUNTF25 campaign and giving to the UN Trust Fund to continue resourcing the vital, life-changing work of civil society and women’s rights organizations. | YouTube Channel

Dr. Iffet Sultana

Prof. Dr. Iffet Sultana PhD (Education), IQRA University, M.Phil. (Environmental Education) IQRA University, Master’s in Educational Administration & Management (University of Karachi). Dr. Iffet Sultana has been associated with IQRA University as an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Management Sciences, Department of Business Administration since 2013. Her PhD Thesis is on “Girls’ Access & Equity in Primary Education in the Slum Areas of Karachi”. In the past, she has worked for the Ministry of Environment, Government of Pakistan. She has presented numerous research papers in National and International Conferences. Her areas of special interest are Girls’ Education, Inclusive Education, Environmental Education and Gender Studies. She has been actively teaching and stimulating student’s interest in Social Science and Developmental Sciences Subjects including Education, Sociology, Psychology & other Contemporary Subjects. Dr. Sultana is also associated with various NGOs in the capacity of Consultant. Writes for News as Contributing Editor (particularly focusing on the UN International Days.)