Rapid Response Grantmaking: A Successful Strategy to Protect Women’s Human Rights

Eleanor Douglas, Fondo de Acción Urgente de America Latina

The Urgent Action Fund of Latin America (UAF-LA) is recognized as a unique funder due to the timeliness, dynamism and responsiveness of its Rapid Response Grantmaking Program, which operates 365 days a year. Through its ability to get small grants (up to $5000) into the hands of women human rights defenders quickly – within seven days or within hours in cases of extreme threats – UAF-LA enables women to seize opportunities and to quickly and efficiently respond to unexpected and unpredictable threats. While most funders require several months to process a request, many interventions have only a small window of opportunity. This is the niche funding role played by the UAF in Latin America.

UAF-LA relies on a network of volunteer advisors in each country who serve as both thematic and geographic experts as a key part of its due diligence efforts. Groups that receive funds also report on their usage three months following disbursement.

The following examples demonstrate how a small amount of money, disbursed quickly and carefully, can make a huge difference in the life of a threatened activist, in the ability of an organization to continue its work, or to set a precedent for the protection of women´s human rights:

  • The Women’s Communication Collective in Mexico (CIMAC) used UAF-LA resources to improve office security after being raided for the second time. They installed fences, electronic doors, structural reinforcement, and security cameras. This allowed CIMAC, in spite of difficulties, to continue its information activities – mainstream and alternative media, Facebook, blogs, etc. – without interruption.
  • A small rural-based organization in Panama, working with indigenous and rural women, witnessed how, without warning, a dam overflow affected the livelihoods of 16,000 people. Local communities believed that the government would ignore the case, so resources were urgently required to contract legal services to prepare reparations documentation for the affected families.
  • A Colombian organization working with displaced women used UAF-LA resources to relocate a women’s human rights defender and her two daughters who had been approached by strange men asking for their mother. Two threatening pamphlets signed by illegal groups had already warned her to leave town within two weeks. The mother and her daughters were evacuated to a safe area where they had family support.
  • Crisálida works in provincial Argentina on sexual orientation and gender identity rights. UAF-LA resources were used to prepare a precedent-setting legal case enabling two transsexuals to legally change their identity without surgical intervention. In both cases the change of identity was granted, setting a legal precedent in a conservative area of Argentina.

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