Lightful’s Gender Equality Fund: addressing the digital divide

Róisín McGovern
Digital Training Lead
18 Sep 2023

The persistent gender gap in digital access and skills is preventing women and young girls from unlocking technology’s full potential. Gender justice and reproductive rights organisations have been battling with a huge swell of demand for services, yet they face a severe lack of funding, resources, and digital training to strengthen their organisation and keep up with other sectors.

Women and girls remain underrepresented across the tech space, including the use of social media and online fundraising and marketing tools. At an individual level this limits their personal digital empowerment, but at a sector level, this limits the transformative potential of the gender equality movement as a whole. According to  UN Women, over the past decade, women’s exclusion from the digital sphere has shaved $1 trillion off the GDP of low- and middle-income countries.

Despite the risk of furthering inequality, the new digital age we live in does also offer opportunities for the empowerment of women and young girls. Digital technology allows women and girls to access information, contribute to online conversations, and participate in digital campaigns and movements. It’s vital that women and girls feel confident occupying digital spaces. One key way to achieve that is by prioritising digital training for women-led organisations.

Advanced digital skills and gender equality go hand in hand

Ahead of International Women’s Day, Lightful launched our first ever Gender Equality Fund, a transformative initiative that will support feminist grassroots organisations to go through Lightful’s Building Resilience in Digital Growth and Engagement (BRIDGE) programme - a high-impact learning initiative that has already strengthened thousands of organisations by enhancing their proficiency in utilising technology to advance their communication, fundraising, and advocacy efforts.

At the heart of this fund are the participating organisations and sector-expert partners which Lightful has worked alongside to co-create the curriculum. Ensuring all our learning content was reviewed through a gender equity lens was a priority. By listening to the needs of women-focused nonprofits, and supporting them at scale to use digital, we know we can multiply impact and bring an equitable future closer to today.

Through a process of contextualisation, we created new e-learning content that responds to the challenges and needs of participants including digital storytelling as a feminist practice, intersectional communications and creating safe spaces online. Putting organisations front and centre is a vital aspect of the Gender Equality Fund to ensure our learning offerings are sensitive to the needs of a diverse group of nonprofit professionals.

The first cohort of The Gender Equality Fund kicked-off their programme in February 2023 with participants graduating from their digital learning journey just last month. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we worked with GlobalGiving and Amplify Change to select 160 organisations to take part in the new programme. Nearly 300 organisations worldwide applied for the Gender Justice and Reproductive Rights (GJ&RR) cohort. The demand for digital skills within the nonprofit sector is overwhelming, but particularly so when it comes to gender justice and reproductive rights organisations.

Empowering collective advocacy through digital

Women’s rights organisations have been and continue to be at the forefront of creating change. When drive, commitment and experience intersect with the digital space, the impact can be transformative.

The GJ&RR programme encouraged participants to tap into the power of collective advocacy, implementing their new digital skills to add their voice to global movements. The cohort worked towards three key campaign moments, GlobalGiving’s Little x Little and July Bonus Day campaigns, and Menstrual Hygiene Day. During a Campaign Review webinar, 100% of attendees said that BRIDGE learnings helped with the planning and implementation of their campaigns!

What next for Lightful’s Gender Equality Fund

In July we launched our second BRIDGE programme within the Fund, in partnership with Namati and Greenwood Place. This cohort will put into practice their new digital skills by developing campaigns for 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence to kick-start their year-end fundraising.

This is just the start of our work in the gender equality space. Lightful's Gender Equality Fund was launched to foster a collaborative network focused on enhancing the rights of women and girls across the world. By supporting passionate individuals and organisations to leverage the power of digital, the fund empowers them to elevate their online presence, reach new audiences, and raise more funds to continue tackling gender-related issues.

This creates a virtuous cycle of trust and empowerment, encouraging further support from donors and stakeholders and magnifying impact. Grounded in the belief that those doing the greatest good deserve the best technology, Lightful leverages tech to facilitate social change and promote inclusivity, aiming for a future where everyone has a seat at the table. If you want to be part of building a fairer world through technology, get in touch. We’d love to hear from you and discuss ideas for collaboration and partnership! Contact the team at hello@lightful.com.

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