Alarm over funding for women's groups

About 18,000 voluntary sector women's groups could close in the next two years because of a lack of funds, according to the Women's Resource Centre.

A survey by the charity revealed that 63 per cent of the country’s 30,000 women’s groups are not confident about surviving into 2009. There are 11,000 women’s charities and almost twice as many not-for-profit campaigning, self-help and community groups that focus specifically on issues affecting women.

The centre is so alarmed by the number of organisations shutting down – such as the Maternity Alliance and Rape Crisis centres, which have halved in number over the past two decades – that it has started an ‘obituaries wall’ in its office to mark each closure.

"The problem the women’s sector faces is that women’s organisations are no longer seen as a priority by the Government,” said Tania Pouwhare, policy co-ordinator at the centre. “There is a feeling that equal opportunities has been achieved.”

She said the Treasury should “put its money where its mouth is” after last week’s Third Sector Review recognised the Government needed to do more to ensure fair access to funding for marginalised groups. A charitable trust funding audit conducted by the centre in June revealed that only 2.7 per cent of grants went to women’s groups.

“Women’s groups account for seven per cent of the sector, but receive only 1.2 per cent of central government funding,” said Pouwhare. “They are struggling to obtain public donations because they are dominated by large charities.”

The centre has launched a Why Women?’ campaign to highlight the funding crisis and to raise the issue up the political agenda (Third Sector, 13 March).

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