The Ford Foundation hasn’t really awarded a huge number of water-related grants for the past handful of years. But we are talking about one of the largest and most influential foundations in the United States. So the water-related grants it awarded in the past tended to be substantial, often ranging from around $125,000 to upwards of $450,000.
So far this year, water and sanitation funding has been nonexistent at Ford. We were beginning to think that this area of grantmaking had been abandoned by the foundation. Our fears are assuaged just a bit, as Ford has (finally) awarded a water and sanitation grant.
The foundation has awarded a one-year, $150,000 grant to the Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA) in Brazil. The money goes toward the institute’s Water Alliance, to address the ongoing water crisis in São Paulo. This work includes seeking out increased accountability in water governance as well as water and sanitation rights advocacy.
The Ford Foundation doesn’t have a specific water and sanitation program, which explains why its related grantmaking has been inconsistent over the past 10 or so years. However, what Ford lacked in consistency here, it made up in grant amounts. For that reason, the foundation definitely deserved mention in the WASH funding space. But as most of us are aware, the times, they are a-changin’ at Ford.
Earlier this year the Ford Foundation announced that it would restructure to focus on just six program areas with the mission of combating rising inequality in all forms. It remains to be seen just how much this restructuring will impact the foundation’s funding preferences. And even though we came across the Socio-Environmental Institute water grant in Ford’s grant database, the foundation states, “This database reflects grants made prior to our 2015 programmatic reorganization.”
Okay, we get it. Ford is changing and evolving. But can we talk about that evolution as it relates to water and sanitation? This area of grantmaking is definitely hanging by a thread at Ford, but so far, the ax hasn’t fallen completely on its water-related giving, and we're betting that it won't, given the foundation's interests.
Women and girls are disproportionately impacted by the lack of access to water, sanitation and hygiene. In many places, girls don't attend school because they're busy hauling heavy jugs of water for their families. Women and girls also face the risk of sexual assault when they venture from their homes to go to the bathroom in private. Then there are, of course, the educational and economic opportunities that women and girls miss because they are spending so much time schlepping water.
What we’re trying to say, here, is that WASH is an issue that is inextricably related to gender inequality. And if Ford does decide to cut its water-related funding, let’s hope that other interested parties like the Caterpillar, Coca-Cola, and Gates foundations will be there to pick up the slack.