How MacArthur Is Helping Some of the World's Most Vulnerable Women

The MacArthur Foundation’s Population and Reproductive Health program focuses the better part of its funding attention on the sexual and reproductive rights of young people and reducing maternal mortality in India, Mexico and Nigeria. In general, MacArthur takes a traditional approach with its related grantmaking, giving heavily to organizations that work toward strengthening sexual health programs, access and interventions. It also awards a decent number of grants supporting sexual and reproductive health research.

But the foundation also tackles some less common niches in the SRHR space. A case in point: its recent three-year, $350,000 grant to the Women’s Refugee Commission for the support and promotion of maternal and reproductive health in emergency settings such as refugee camps.

Women that have fled their homes due to conflict or civil unrest are already vulnerable and marginalized to begin with. Once they have fled, they become increasingly vulnerable, and according to the Women’s Refugee Commission, "Lack of access to sexual and reproductive health care is the leading cause of death, disease and disability among displaced women and girls of reproductive age."

Pretty horrendous, right? So it's great to see a major foundation on the case. 

MacArthur has always targeted marginalized women and girls in its Population and Reproductive Health grantmaking program. Though the foundation is still shaping its complete strategy, it looks as though it may be planning to expand both regionally as well as programmatically. The latest $350,000 grant to the Women’s Refugee Commission may be evidence of those changes, but this isn’t the first time MacArthur has backed the organization’s reproductive work with women and girls in emergency and crisis settings.

MacArthur began supporting the WRCs sexual and reproductive health work in 2009 with a $300,000 grant toward reproductive health interventions for displaced women and girls.

It should be noted that the WRC was founded in 1989 as an offshoot of the International Rescue Committee. MacArthur has awarded the International Rescue Committee and the Women’s Refugee Commission over $1.2 million in grants since 2003. A handful of those grants have gone toward sexual and reproductive health rights and access work. The remaining past grants have backed different causes, including $250,000 toward the support of human rights reporting and post-conflict development activities, and $50,000 in response to the ongoing crisis in Darfur.

Editor’s Note: The MacArthur Foundation is currently winding down its population and reproductive health grantmaking. As it brings this grantmaking to a close, the foundation has narrowed its focus to advancing the field of midwifery in Mexico; improving the quality of maternal health care in India; and training health care workers in Nigeria. MacArthur has not yet indicated an official end date, only that it plans to bring its Population and Reproductive Health program to a close “over the next several years.” We’ll keep you posted as new information comes in.