Urgent Action Fund sets up home in Asia and Pacific
A fund to enable women’s human rights advocates and organisations in Asia and Pacific to advance especially the leadership of young women in the defense of human rights of all is the hope shared by Sri Lankan feminist writer Subha Wijesiriwardena who launched Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights Asia and Pacific this week.
“The importance of a fund like Urgent Action Fund in Asia & Pacific ( UAF AP) clearer than ever: we hope that its work in our region will enable activists who foreground marginalized feminist and women’s issues, which are critical, yet ignored and under-funded, to continue their work and be strengthened,” reiterated Wijesiriwardena during her keynote address.
On Tuesday 24th October – UAF AP was launched at the same venue where 12 years ago, over two hundred women, lesbian, trans and intersex human rights defenders from over 80 countries converged in Colombo and discussed risks that they faced as a result of their identity and their human rights work. They launched a campaign on women human rights defenders internationally.
UAF AP runs a rapid response grant making for women, lesbian and trans human rights defenders at risk, the first of kind in Asia and Pacific. Available to individuals and organizations 365 days a year and in any language, UAF AP will relay a response to aid the defender within 72 hours and send up to $5,000 within a matter of days. The grants will allow defenders who are in danger to mitigate threats and get out of dangerous situations, including through relocation or seeking immediate legal assistance.
As a rapid response grantmaker, UAF has been in existence for 20 years. To date there are three existing sister funds: UAF in USA; UAF in Latin America and UAF Africa. As of 2016, UAF has disbursed a total of $7 million security and opportunity grants in numerous countries worldwide. UAF AP is the newest member of this international network of UAF sister funds.
UAF AP will have offices in Philippines and Australia. It is co-directed by two leads, Fijian feminist activist Virisila Buadromo and a long-time women’s human rights activist from the Philippines, Mary Jane Real. The UAF AP board includes women’s rights activists and philanthropists such as Kamala Chandrakirana who is the chair and her vice is Ambika Satkunanathan. Other board members are Ofa Guttenbiel Likiliki, Georgia Mathews, Roshmi Goswami and Xiao Pei.
Buadromo, who is the Lead, Strategic Partnership and Resource Mobilization for UAF-AP said, “UAF-AP will provide rapid response grants to women, lesbian, trans human rights defenders who take a stand to protect the human rights of others. They are activists key to movements that protect land and natural resources and tackle climate change, advocates responding to attacks on sexual rights, reproductive freedom, and women’s political participation. They are organizers committed to racial justice and indigenous peoples’ rights and campaigners against corruption and militarism.”
Real who leads on UAF AP’s Innovation and Programme adds, “Hundreds of these women, lesbian and trans human rights defenders continue to face multiple forms of adversity in dangerous and isolating conditions, often in the context of discrimination and violence. With the launch of UAF in Colombo, Asian and Pacific these defenders now have their own rapid response fund based in the region, and this, as women’s human rights advocate in the region, I believe, comes at such a critical time when gender equality faces new challenges, including drawbacks from earlier gains on women’s human rights.”