Issues Affecting Women

In the Issues Affecting Women Programme, we seek to contribute to a world in which women are safe from violence and are free to exercise their full and equal human rights. We seek to build a strong and vibrant movement of women who are empowered individually and collectively to challenge patriarchal norms and tackle the root causes of inequality.

We support organisations that work to end patterns of violence and exploitation that disrupt women’s lives by ensuring that rights-based laws and policies guarantee an environment free from violence, and by transforming harmful social norms. This is complemented by support to a range of comprehensive services that empower women to recover from the trauma of violence and rebuild their lives. We particularly recognise the vital importance of giving marginalised groups of women a chance to exercise their influence and have their voices heard.

Women and girls throughout the world continue to experience violence, discrimination, inequality, and poverty. Despite the existence of international covenants, regional treaties and domestic laws intended to codify and realise women’s human rights, the reality is that women and girls are routinely unable to claim their basic rights.

Priority areas
In the Issues Affecting Women Programme (IAW), we fund two priority areas (pillars): movement building and ending violence against women. Within the first pillar, we fund initiatives that promote movement building through women's funds, "anchor” women’s organisations and networks. Within the second pillar, we focus more specifically on: human trafficking and exploitation; intra-familial violence; and violence against women that takes place in situations of crisis.

Within these two pillars, we provide core support and project funding. We commit our resources to organisations that work within a rights-based framework.

I. Movement building
The movement-building pillar aims to create strong, visible and effective women’s movements that are unified by rights-based principles and that help to ensure the physical, social, economic and political rights of women. A major component of this pillar is women’s funds, which are international, regional and national grant-makers that support local women’s groups working towards women’s empowerment, rights and equality. These funds invest in women and in women-led solutions and build the capacities and leadership of women-oriented grassroots groups.

We are also committed to supporting women’s organisations, coalitions and networks that aggregate and amplify the voices of grassroots women’s rights activists at global levels, linking and strengthening these individual parts to build strong, vibrant and resilient women’s rights movements.

As part of our commitment to women’s rights movement building, we also work to increase resource mobilisation for women’s organisations both at a global philanthropic level, as well as by funding the development of local philanthropy in the contexts in which we work (for example through our support of women’s funds) to encourage local participation and investment in women and women’s rights issues.

Please visit our women's fund page for more information.

II. Ending violence against women
Within this pillar, we focus specifically on the following:

Trafficking and exploitation
We recognise that human trafficking is fuelled by complex and interconnected factors. We believe that a rights-based approach is fundamental to combating human trafficking and ensuring justice for trafficked persons. We also recognise the importance of supporting women who experience severe forms of exploitation in informal or unregulated industries, as well as those who may not qualify as victims of trafficking, as defined by the Palermo Protocol.

We are committed to supporting initiatives that prevent trafficking and exploitation by raising awareness of the patterns and factors that lead to trafficking and exploitation, and engaging with and empowering groups of women most at risk: women migrants, sex workers and domestic workers. We also work to link organisations and networks.

Please visit our trafficking and exploitation page for more information on our strategy for combating trafficking and exploitation.

Intra-familial violence
We define intra-familial violence as any violence that affects women in their private lives. This includes family and intimate partner violence as well as violence stemming from culture, religion or tradition. We support organisations and networks that advocate for the adoption, implementation and enforcement of domestic violence legislation.

We commit our resources to strengthening organisations that meet the needs of victims of violence through services that are coordinated and comprehensive and which promote the agency and self representation of survivors within a rights based framework. To that end, we also support these organisations and their networks in advocating for the effective adoption, implementation and enforcement of domestic violence legislation including ensuring the sustainability of their services through public funding.

We are also committed to addressing the root causes of intra-familial violence by investing in initiatives that create awareness among women and girls of their rights, promote a “positive masculinities” approach and offer services to violent and abusive men who want to change their behaviour.

Crisis situations
We seek to provide flexible and responsive support in crisis zones where violence against women is systematic and stands in the way of rights-based recovery. Examples include in conflict, post-conflict, refugee and immigration settings, and following natural disasters.


We provide funding to programmes in the Balkans, Brazil, Central America, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mexico, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. We also fund in Moldova, Bulgaria, the North Caucasus and (Jharkhand and West Bengal) India. The movement-building pillar of the programme has a broader geographic focus. 

The Issues Affecting Women Programme primarily supports women’s organisations, groups or funds that:

  • adopt a rights-based approach;

  • recognise women as rights holders and advance the rights of women and gender equality;

  • have a participatory and empowering approach that places women centre stage, building on their strengths and ensuring their full and equal participation in society;

  • take an integrated and holistic approach, considering women in the context of their environment and culture as well as understanding the nature and causes of the issues affecting them;

  • promote systemic changes that hold duty bearers (i.e. governments and institutions) fully accountable for respecting, protecting and fulfilling women’s rights;

  • contribute to the broader women’s movement by complementing individual and community action with networking and joint advocacy initiatives; and

  • build evidence that contributes to best practices and catalyses innovation.


Photo band © Nobel Women’s Initiative