16 October 2012

Zambia: Global Advocacy Group Catapults Fight for Girls, Women's Health

Global advocacy organisation, Women Deliver last week launched Catapult, the first online funding platform dedicated to advancing the lives of girls and women worldwide.

The launch fell on the same day that commemorates the International Day of The Girl-Child on Thursday October 11, 2012.

This is according to a report released by Women Deliver which is an organisation bringing together voices from around the world to call for action to improve the health and well-being of girls and women.

It works globally to generate political commitment and resource investments to reduce maternal mortality and achieve universal access to reproductive health.

The report on the launch of Catapult said by partnering with some trusted organisations and connecting them with a new online audience, Catapult would provide a call to action to help bring an end to gender inequality.

This is because girls' and women's organisations were generally underfunded, despite their key role in addressing inequality.

According to the report, one-fifth of all women's organisations report the threat of closure, and only two cents of every development dollar went towards adolescent girls.

And yet investing in girls' and women's health and well-being strengthened families, communities and nations.

Harnessing the power of social networks, Catapult is a digital hub driving donations to organisations working to improve the lives of girls and women.

"Catapult is a connector," said Founder, Maz Kessler in the report.

"It's a tool for people to take direct, effective action to create change. Catapult unites online supporters with trusted organisations to help fuel the movement to end inequality for girls and women."

Organisations could upload their projects to Catapult, and donors could fund the issues that speak to them most, such as agriculture, ending child brides, education, family planning and gender-based violence.

Donors could also learn about projects by following Catapult curators who are thought leaders championing specific projects in their areas of focus and passion.

Curators include actress and advocate Maria Bello, Man Up campaign founder Jimmie Briggs, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation director of family health Gary Darmstadt, Girl-Up teen advisor co-chair Annie Gersh, and Women Deliver president Jill Sheffield.

To ensure transparency, each Catapult project includes a breakdown of how donations would be applied.

These are project budgets, including administrative costs, GPS coordinates, and video and are all standard features of the platform.

Catapult is free for all parties.

Catapult is launching with projects in more than 30 countries around the world, including: a mobile literacy class, using mobile phones and texting to accelerate literacy for Afghan girls and women; birth waiting homes for women in Sierra Leone which is housing pregnant women in homes close to hospitals to avoid long, dangerous journeys, while in labour and empowering youth to challenge early marriages.

It is also helping young people particularly boys and men, to challenge the underlying attitudes of child marriage.

"I am always inspired by the commitment of women I meet in the developing world to create a better future for their families. Investing in women can be transformational for entire societies. Today reminds us that we all have a role to play in unlocking the potential of women and girls," said Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Catapult was a featured commitment at the 2012 Clinton Global Initiative meeting and has been endorsed by the World Bank and United Nations (UN) Women.

"UN Women is proud to support Catapult," said Michelle Bachelet, executive director of UN Women.

"When more people contribute, change comes faster for girls and women."

The method that Catapult is using to raise funds is called crowd funding.

Crowd funding is rapidly transforming the funding landscape and democratisation philanthropy.

It is making it easier for people from any part of the world and of any income participate in helping other people.

Crowd funding is defined as the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet. Musicians, filmmakers and artists have successfully raised funds and fostered awareness through crowd funding.

As of 2011, in America alone, charitable giving through crowd funding exceeded US$636 million and grew at a rate of 43 per cent.

Over the next three years, Catapult has committed to raise $45 million.

Developed at Women Deliver, and funded, in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Catapult is working with a variety of partners both large and small, including the Global Fund for Women, the UN Population Fund, IPPF, the Akilah Institute for women and One-Heart World-Wide.

When Catapult has been launched, one has to think of what they could do to support the enhancement of the girls' and women's health and well-being.

Could Catapult be the route one could use to help vulnerable women and children?

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