2023: Sonal Dhanani

The 2023 GRÓ GEST March 8 Fund was awarded to Sonal Dhanani, GEST alumna of 2022 for the project Women’s Digital Financial Inclusion Advocacy Hub. Ms. Dhanani is the founder of Parindey; a Karachi-based social enterprise working to build resilient communities through wellness, peace building and mental health programmes in Pakistan.

According to a 2020 estimate by the World Bank, only 1% of entrepreneurs in Pakistan are women as compared to 21% male entrepreneurs. When it comes to female labour participation, the 2021 World Bank estimation showed that only 20% of women in Pakistan were part of the workforce. With a gender gap in access to digital technology, skills, and financial products, women face additional challenges in accessing financial services. Despite all of this, women and their businesses are critical drivers of the economy, as service providers, employers, and household CFOs.

Ms. Dhanali‘s project will work directly with 60 women workers and women-owned businesses in the District Thar of Sindh, mobilising them, forming them into functioning groups, and connecting them with a range of services and resources (access to finance, markets, skills development, and enterprise development etc). Capacity building along with technological tools will be provided to maintain a financial mobility that can establish links with relevant service providers and the private sector. Importantly, linkages with government led social protection initiatives, as well as micro-finance institutions, will be developed during the implementation. This project will incorporate Ending Violence Against Women and Girls (EVAWG) as a cross cutting theme. All direct women beneficiaries, multiple indirect beneficiaries, and stakeholders will be exposed to training, sensitisation, and orientation sessions on EVAWG.

Parindey considers violence against women and girls (VAWG) as an economic issue, as it has cost implications on individuals, households, businesses and society. The close linkage between women economic empowerment and ending violence against women is therefore of strategic importance in all Parindey programming; Parindey has learnt through experience that addressing violence has a positive impact on women both socially and economically. Women’s economic independence and increased decision-making ability reduces the risk of violence as their financial status improves and they are empowered to directly address violence inflicted on them, particularly domestic violence.

In selecting this project for the GRÓ GEST March 8 Fund, reviewers made note of a well-organized application and timeline, as well as very clear goals and activities that are fully in line with GRÓ GEST priorities. In addition, the attached budget was both frugal and realistic, and accounted for all necessary items. The application left no doubt that this project will be cost-effective, implemented according to plan, and have a positive impact on its target population.


2022: Claudia Pamela Chavarría Machado

The 2022 GRÓ GEST March 8 Fund was awarded to Claudia Pamela Chavarría Machado, GEST alumna of 2021 for the project Community response to access to the right of women to live free from violence in Mexico City. Ms. Machado is a Research and Development Coordinator with Iniciativa Ciudadana y Desarrollo (INCIDE) Social in Mexico City.

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is one of Mexico's most prevalent types of violence and in the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic the number of reports increased. The response from the justice system has failed to provide safe and efficient solutions, and the services and programs for victims and survivors of IPV have been unable to consider the efficiency of working with communities.

Ms. Machado’s project proposes to place victims' needs in the center and building a community-based response (CBR) while aiming for structural changes. The project will

  • Initiate actions with the participation of local communities by promoting the integration of a committee that addresses the issue of IPV, called Committee to access to the right of women to live free from violence in Mexico City. The committee will promote the demands of IPV victims and survivors and promote the implementation of concrete actions.
  • Provide capacity-building alternatives and gather data to begin to transform a generic response to IPV to an intersectional one.
  • Build a 10-months safe learning space in Mexico City for promoting literacy in access to social services, financial services, legal and non-legal alternatives to protect oneself and/or get out of violent relationships.

CBR is a welcome new approach to facing the urgent increment and isolation of victims and survivors of IPV, with the goal not only to provide options for women to exit violent relationships but also to be a part of a transformative process where communities engage and participate in working together to change the reality of violence as something normal.

The project relates directly to GEST priorities, especially SDG 5 and SDG 16. It is built on a nuanced legal analysis and considers the aftermath of COVID-19 and the shifting landscape of violence that has come with it. Instead of sticking with older models, the project builds on cutting edge work to introduce a comprehensive overhaul of Mexico City’s response to intimate partner violence by supporting victims while addressing both the roots and causes of violence. The proposed project’s survivor-cantered approach brings together intersectionality, feminist legal theory and education to better address this pressing issue

2020: Chinenye Anekwe

The 2020 8 March Alumni Fund was awarded to Chinenye Anekwe, GEST alumna of 2018. Ms. Anekwe is a Development Specialist at Solar Sisters, an NGO that has helped kickstart more than 5.000 women on clean energy entrepreneurs and continues to deliver clean energy directly to homes in rural African communities.

Ms. Anekwe received the grant for the project "Business Booster Programme for 100 Rural Women Energy Entrepreneurs." The grant will fund community sensitization programmes for 100 Solar Sister Entrepreneurs in each of the 25 states where the organisation operates. The project aims to support 100 participants to double their local clean energy business enterprises through targeted activities conducted to improve their capacity, expand their customer base and increase their market visibility. The grant will enable the Solar Sister Entrepreneurs to create additional impact by funding community-based market awareness and sensitization campaigns, as well as provide marketing materials that will build awareness of gender-inclusive business, increase the uptake of clean energy conversion, and provide enhanced economic opportunity to women entrepreneurs.

The project relates directly to GEST priorities and the proposal displayed a convincing connection to beneficiaries and their needs, as well as how project activities would lead directly to proposed outcomes. Moreover, the project activities reflected realistically in both the timeline and the budget, and it was clear from the proposal that Ms. Anekwe was unequivocally in charge of the coordination of the project, with strong support from the Country Director and Training Manager of her organisation.