Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
In recent years, the situation faced by women in Central American countries has become increasingly difficult, while women’s citizen sector organizations and grassroots organizations face mounting obstacles in funding their increasingly necessary activities. While previous sources of finances have dwindled, these organizations are severely limited in their ability to broaden their donor base and discover new sources. According to the U.N.’s most recent Human Development Report, more than 50 percent of all Central Americans (or 20 million people) live on less than $2 per day. Within this context, the relative situation of women as compared to men continues to deteriorate. In the last three years, the average per capita income for women was only 50 percent of that of men, and of Central Americans between the ages of 15 and 64 who have received no schooling whatsoever, 2.5 million are women while 1.9 million are men. In addition, maternal mortality rates in the region are growing, and domestic violence continues to escalate, with one in four women admitting that they have been victims of domestic or sexual violence, although most cases go unreported. At the same time, Central American women’s citizen sector organizations, which came into existence only after a regional women’s movement emerged in the 1980s, are facing a significant financial battle. Most women’s organizations are very dependent on outside funding for their survival; only a small part of their budgets comes from self-organized fundraising due to both time and energy constraints and lack of management skills among grassroots and rural groups. These groups cannot appeal to their own national governments for funds, as many are themselves dependent on international donations for survival. Thus, throughout the 1990s, Central American groups depended on international agencies for most of their funding. However, since 1992, there has been a more than 40 percent drop in government aid from the First World, and of the remaining funds, most has been directed to Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe, while Latin America’s portion continues to fall. In addition, donors put increasing emphasis on measurable, short-term results and emergency aid with direct services to the public, rather than longer-term development goals. Finally, funders are making more demands around planning, monitoring, evaluating, and accounting. While this has helped organizations become more efficient, it has also meant that the agencies tend to centralize their donations in larger, more consolidated and efficient citizen sector organizations, investing little in seed funds for new or developing groups outside capital cities. All of these trends combined mean that international agency funding for programs that bolster the women’s movement has dwindled. Local sources of income have further exacerbated this problem. Financial and material support from churches has also receded as women’s groups increasingly focus on secular matters that often contradict church mandates. Local business are willing to give one-time contributions in the form of products such as food or gasoline; however, legislation provides them no tax-break incentives to provide money for ongoing efforts. The citizen sector organizations are ill-equipped to deal with these changes; most do not have internal structures oriented toward fundraising. Many small women’s groups simply do not know how to approach large companies that might be willing to give them money. In general, philanthropy is not an established tradition in Central America. The only institutions that collect funds from individual donors or companies are the churches and organizations like the International Red Cross or children’s aid funds, all of which are nonoperational foundations. There exists no philanthropic foundation managed and administered from Central America that operates on a regional level.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
The Central American Women's Fund will mobilize new sources of financial contributions from individual donors both inside the region and among Central Americans residing in the United States and redistribute them to support women's organizations in Central America that defend and promote women's rights, particularly those made up of young underprivileged women. This will contribute to sustainable development of women's participation and leadership within the region and counter some of its main obstacles, such as women's lack of economic autonomy, access to education and adequate health care, restriction of sexual and reproductive rights, sexual and domestic violence, and scant participation in the political sphere. It will also pave the way for philanthropy in Central America, for the first time creating a fund led and managed from the region itself. In addition, Ana's fund will contribute to a cohesiveness and sense of community among Central American women at home and residing abroad, countering the individualism fostered by the dominant socioeconomic model.