Connecting Grassroots Indian Women to a Global Movement for Gender Equity
Year Established: 1998
Member of Women's Funding Network Since: 2002
2009-2011 Grantmaking Budget: US$56,503
Reach: Southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Karnataka, Jharkhand, and Bihar
How Nirnaya Is Elevating the Status of Women and Girls in India
Nirnaya is India’s first and only women’s fund. Established in 1998, Nirnaya means “decision,” and the fund’s vision is to position women as decision makers and agents of change so they can lead lives of dignity as equal partners alongside men. Nirnaya is improving women’s education and literacy, raising women’s awareness of legal rights, and creating sustainable social change by funding grassroots women most affected by major challenges.
Nirnaya has created a unique peer network model for its grantees that both oversees evaluation of funding and serves as a community that unites women drivers of social change. Nirnaya’s network facilitates sustainable solutions to complex challenges by emphasizing the experiences and vision of women who, when empowered, spread change to their families and in turn their wider communities.
How Nirnaya and Women’s Funding Network Are Reaching a Common Goal
With more than 160 member funds in 27 countries, Women’s Funding Network is the largest philanthropic network in the world dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls. Nirnaya’s membership in Women’s Funding Network allows it to conceptualize the progress it is making with its network of grantees in India as part of a worldwide movement for gender equity.
Through its membership, Nirnaya learned about Making the Case™, Women’s Funding Network’s framework for planning and evaluating sustainable social change, and Smart Growth©, Women’s Funding Network’s tool that allows women’s funds to plan for sustainable organizational growth and funding.
Like many of our members, Nirnaya took the concepts and frameworks from both tools, adapted them to the communities they serve, and translated both tools into five dialects, as well as into pictures that break down complex ideas and better educate their grantees. Guided by mutual accountability, collective responsibility and respect for diversity, Nirnaya uses these tools for its own annual assessment, as well as quarterly assessments of grantee partners. Grantees use stories, images, games and brainstorming activities to find a common ground, despite cultural differences and varying levels of literacy, that lead to concrete action plans.
Nirnaya has also transformed the funding application process by accepting proposals verbally or in person. Adapting this way reduces communication barriers for women and allows Nirnaya to better understand the work being done in the most remote and marginalized regions. Nirnaya also hosts quarterly meetings where applicants can request funding in their own language through stories, pictures and diagrams, both one-on-one with Nirnaya staff as well as in a group setting with other potential grantees. This process creates an atmosphere of learning and supportive engagement, instead of discouraging grassroots women from applying with bureaucracy and technical jargon.
Results of Nirnaya’s Partnership With Women’s Funding Network
Nirnaya has completed three out of four phases in a peer-network reflection process that began in 2006 to incorporate two Women’s Funding Network tools -- Smart Growth© and Making the Case™ -- into grantee evaluation.
- Phase I: Nirnaya worked with grantees to refine their existing organizational goals and develop future goals for creating social change in their respective communities.
- Phase II: Nirnaya created a culturally specific tool – based on Women’s Funding Network’s Smart Growth© and Making the Case™ – that allowed grantees to assess social change and created a peer review process.
- Phase III: Nirnaya worked with grantees to develop a financial review to ensure the sustainability of their projects.
- Phase IV: Moving forward, Nirnaya and its grantees will develop peer-to-peer field visits where grantees assess each other’s progress in their communities.