As we enter the giving season, I have been reflecting on our work here at the Batonga Foundation — supporting women and girls in their struggle towards equality and opportunity — and the resources we need to do it well. As an organization with a yearly budget just under one million dollars, Batonga is definitely a small fish in a big pond. And while it might seem to some that resources are out there, and one just has to go and get them, recent research and data confirms a trend that many of us feel every day: it’s hard to obtain financial resources for women and girls.
Why is that? We all know the importance of doing this work. Take Batonga. We focus on women’s economic empowerment, and providing girls and young women with the life and financial skills they need to be financially literate and independent. Not only is this work important, it is crucial if we are to reach the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, let alone ensure that young women and girls have access to decent and sustainable employment opportunities. According to the ILO, the current global labour force participation rate for women is close to 49%, but 75% for men. That’s a difference of 26 percentage points, with some regions facing a gap of more than 50 percentage points. The urgency couldn’t be more clear, and yet, funding for programs working on these issues with the hardest-to-reach girls is scarce and incredibly hard to secure. “Aid targeting women’s economic empowerment as the principal objective remains especially low, at USD 861 million in 2013–14. This is just 2% of the aid going to the economic and productive sectors — a mere drop in the ocean” (OECD, 2019).
The truth is, we have to do a better job at explaining why this investment is so crucial for the future of our world. By not investing in these issues, we are not investing in the backbone of the global women’s rights movement, leaving it with little room to innovate and expand. Research has shown that about 71% of nonprofits dedicated to women and girls have budgets of less than $50,000 — and that includes staff wages and benefits — when many major global development organizations operate with over $100 million each year. We’re also falling short of the investments we need to actually fix the problems we are addressing in the first place. Organization on the ground, working on the front lines of gender inequality, lack the resources they need to scale impact. For example, Batonga Foundation is now serving just below 4,000 girls and young women in rural Benin. With the right resources, we could rapidly double that number, since villages around those we serve have been asking for us to come and run our programs there too. With careful planning, we could multiply that number by five within a year. Our model works, and there is a demand for us to grow to scale. But the truth is, we just don’t have that financial pipeline to help us get there.
A recent article shared that only 1.6% of Americans’ charitable giving goes toward nonprofits helping women and girls. But this number doesn’t have to stay that low. This giving season, I invite you to give to an organization like Batonga Foundation who is doing this work. Give small, give big, give what you can, but give intentionally. Only when we manage to raise the amount of resources available to tackling gender inequality will we deliver on our promise of leaving no girl behind!