Key Findings and Recommendations

This research aimed to fill gaps in the understanding of the girls’ funding landscape in terms of identifying the funders, the amounts and ways of funding distributions, and to what extent adolescent girls themselves are present across the funding landscape intended for them. Our goal is to provide critical insights for funders, policy-makers, and practitioners who want to center adolescent girls and deliver transformational funding and support for them.

Key Research Findings


Girls are political actors and agents of power contributing to vital justice efforts around the world, yet they are severely under-resourced.

Girls and their allies lead, support, and contribute to a broad range of justice efforts locally, nationally, and transnationally with individual and collective liberation as a goal. Yet, most funders are not recognizing girls’ political agency in their funding or resourcing them adequately to meet their needs and materialize their visions. Girls’ needs are vast, therefore vast interventions are needed. While not all interventions are the same, and some can cause harm, centering girls and moving direct resources to them is a core element of funding lasting change in girls’ lives.
All actors need to support and resource girls’ voices, agency, and power to control and decide on their own social, sexual and economic lives. And, while it is almost impossible to track funding amounts to girls – a problem rooted in broader invisibility and disbursement of girls across funding sectors, girls being lumped together with other unique populations (e.g. women and girls, children, youth, young feminists), and girls being positioned as add-ons, thus depoliticizing and decentering them – we know that there is not enough money, or nearly the right quality of money, to support a vibrant funding ecosystem for adolescent girls. We know this because girls tell us this, over and over again, as is evidenced in this research and elsewhere., We also know this to be true because of decades of experience working with, moving resources to, and advocating for adolescent girls across systems, sectors and settings.

The adolescent girls funding landscape is characterized by inconsistencies and opacity, and fails to recognize girls’ power and agency and embrace accountability to girls.

Girls want a world where they have power, freedom, success, protection, safety, a strong cultural identity, confidence, love and joy. – Girl research contributors
After reviewing the publicly facing material of funders and practitioners across the landscape, it was evident that many describe their work through the language of liberation. However, there is a broad disconnect between language and practice. The use of similar terminologies, such as ‘girl-centered,’ among funders and practitioners can be misleading because it creates the impression of a cohesive and well-funded field, despite significant differences in how actors apply and interpret these terms. Such inconsistencies in understanding can have harmful effects, including co-optation.
Funders generally fail to communicate transparently and in ways that create accountability to girls. Information regarding funding amounts, eligibility criteria, and application processes is not easily accessible to girls and their allies in the public domain. Girls are often engaged in tokenistic ways, where individual leadership is prioritized over collective, intergenerational, community-based engagement, perpetuating further harm. Despite the rhetoric of individual institutions, the bulk of current funding for girls treats them apolitically and as recipients of support instead of as essential stakeholders. While this failure to recognize various populations’ political agency and power overall can be said about philanthropic practices in general, we find it particularly true for adolescent girls, coinciding with intersecting age and gender-related social norms that limit trust in girls’ agency.
“We strive to ensure the experiences, context and work of young women are highlighted, so we facilitate spaces for peer learning and political dialogue.” – Fondo Centro Americano de Mujeres
Feminist funders who support adolescent girls offer insight from novel funding strategies that recognize power dynamics and girls’ political agency – including direct resourcing of girls and various engagement approaches. While they do not yet wield significant resources relative to other funders in the landscape – a survey of 13 feminist funders supporting girls reported a total combined $41.3 million in grantmaking dollars in 2021 – they look beyond their own organizations to improve the funding landscape for girls through philanthropic advocacy and learning and with other funders.

The dominant funding frameworks in the girls funding landscape tend to be contradicting one another.

“We aim to recognize and understand power relations, age specificities and diversity of experiences and backgrounds of girls.” – FRIDA
The frameworks funders choose to guide their engagement with girls reflect the funder’s politics and purposes, which in turn shape their funding priorities and practices. The frames that funders choose impact everything from how decisions are being made (and by whom) to the practical, technical details of program design and implementation. The two predominant frameworks used by funders in our analysis center girls’ protection or their agency. These two frameworks are sometimes in tension with each other not only across the landscape, but also within individual institutions, particularly private foundations. Thus, a framework analysis of the girls funding landscape by sector and issue funding streams, rather than by actor, is a more useful approach to understanding how girls are being resourced. Reviewing frames and comparing them with practices is helpful in identifying gaps and disconnects between what funders say they want to do and aspire to achieve and what they are actually doing. Understanding these dynamics help address a central inquiry of this research: how do the politics and practices of funders impact the lives of adolescent girls?
While approaches will look different depending on the type of actor, when adolescent girls’ political agency is recognized in funding frameworks, for example human rights and feminist frameworks, funding approaches address the root causes of girls’ oppression. When funding is moved through framing that does not recognize girls as political actors, which can happen when focusing only on their protection, funding approaches address symptoms of oppression and can work to perpetuate systems of oppression. Each funding intervention needs to consider girls’ own visions and voices, thus expanding frameworks and related implementation approaches to include girls’ political agency. In this way, funders can contribute to a funding ecosystem where girls can thrive, where girls’ safety and agency are in harmony, while also ensuring support for adolescent girls is connected and productive.
“We are ambitiously working to reframe power in philanthropic practice, showing what is possible when girls are put at the centre of resource distribution.” – Purposeful

Key Research Findings


All actors
Funding girls and allies directly: Feminist funders, women’s funds, youth funds, some INGOs, some NGOs.
Funding intermediaries: Private foundations, bilaterals and multilaterals, high net-worth individuals.
Programmatic interventions: INGOs, Feminist funders, women’s funds.
System change: government ministries, education, health, public services and systems, girls.

Recommendations to build an effective funding ecosystem that centers girls


See girls as political actors.

Recognize, center, and trust girls in all programming by asking them about their needs and involving them in creating solutions and decision-making processes, trusting them as experts of their own lived realities, recognizing them for their contributions, and where possible, compensating them.

Embrace transparency, humility, accountability, and collaboration to reduce barriers and track data collectively.

While this recommendation may be understood as value-based, there are practical ways to integrate it. Communicate with transparency and clarity about funding limitations and requirements. Hold space and bridge conversations with a diversity of partners on how they can deepen their accountability to girls. Approach this work with humility by recognizing there are many actors in the landscape and all are at different stages of learning. Partner across the ecosystem and collaborate with other funders to overcome limitations or barriers and to learn and track funding data collectively.

Integrate power-building approaches into all program strategies, frameworks, tools and curricula.

A power-building approach is distinct from empowerment approaches and means building a common understanding and educating all staff across the organization, beyond the programmatic or grantmaking team to finance, operations and fundraising.

Detailed practice tools to support actors funding girls and allies, and programmatic interventions can be found in the publications Building Girls Power, No Straight Lines, and Weaving a Collective Tapestry.

Center girls’ power and agency in advocacy and funding strategies.

Build a strong analysis of the political power of girl-led activism into your advocacy and funding, including how to fund movements in their diverse representation. Incorporate strong throughlines to fundraising and external affairs teams so that girls’ power and agency are being named across institutional departments.

Align politics and practices across all internal institutional functions.

Centering girls’ power and agency means building a common understanding and ways of working across the organization, beyond the programmatic or grantmaking team to finance, operations and fundraising. How that is understood both internally and externally is critical to tracking the money and the state of funding for girls.

Plan and be transparent when leaving or switching fields.

Give forethought to and provide transparent communication when leaving the field or changing priorities.

Prioritize flexibility and funding core support.

A lack of funding for girls and their allies is often the result of funder criteria that restrict contextualized organizations from applying for funding. Providing this kind of funding respects local expertise, centers girls’ experiences, and allows for responsive interventions to meet girls’ needs.

Dedicate funding for adolescent girls within strategies and budgets.

This means being both inclusive and specific, committing to girls as a population distinct within sector-, population-, and issue-based strategies and budgets. It also means providing accompanying direct funding for girls.

Use access, relationships, and power to support girls.

Use your access, and relationships to funders and funder convening spaces, to advocate building girls’ power and resourcing them. And use your power – particularly with national governments – to open space for girls and ensure their voices and visions are foregrounded in decision-making (in particular for governments and multilateral agencies).

Integrate politicized approaches.

Where you are engaged in direct work, partner with practitioners to integrate politicized approaches to the work across program lifecycles – from advocacy to services to communications. This means addressing root causes of issues, grounding directly in what girls need as an ongoing practice, providing political education for girls, working in context-specific ways in the broadest, most rooted sense, naming all choices as political choices (because there is no neutral girl’s work), and understanding girls as autonomous power holders who also have unique needs at the intersections of age and gender.

Engage and work directly with local and national based groups that are centering girls.

And, partner with and channel resources to funders (e.g. intermediaries such as feminist funders, and women’s funds) who are well placed to reach girls organizing where they are and directly fund them. This applies in particular to source funders including private, multilateral funders and bilateral funders.