Dilemmas of Funding

Dilemmas of Funding

Newsletter March 1984

FOR several months before we started Saheli we discussed how we could raise funds for our work. Each time we calculated our expenses for running a shelter, we found that we did not have the required finances. Though we were aware that money was available from government and foreign agencies for women’s projects, we as a group felt that unless we had practical experience we would not be able to utilise resources effectively.

Our first decision therefore was to be completely self reliant. Saheli was started in a donated space with donations worth Rs. 80/- collected from volunteers. We decided that we would take women into our homes if they needed shelter. All work in Saheli was done on a voluntary basis and expenses met through individual donations. We receive donations ranging from Rs. 2/- to Rs. 100/- a month from working women and men and this has been our main source of funding for the last two years.

As the work in Saheli has grown, our need for funds has increased. Over a period of time we have found we need more space for an office, to house women, to take up legal matters, to undertake educational and other activities. Within Saheli opinion has been divided as to what kind of funding is acceptable. Foreign funds are a source of controversy. We did not want to become dependent on foreign agencies and progammes, because previous experience has shown that such dependence either leads to a collapse of work when funding is withdrawn or having an assured source of funding makes a group lethargic.

Closer home, government funding is available through the Ministry of Social Welfare. To get these funds is at once easy and difficult. For a small and new group, the regulations that have to be met are insurmountable. There is also the fear, whether our right to protest against government institutions and policies will be contained by our dependence on government funding International experience also shows that at times of economic crisis, women’s programmes are one of the first to be cut back. Therefore dependence only on - government funding is not advisable.

Though ideally we would like to continue to raise all our resources from individuals, practical experience has shown that this is not always possible. For the time being we have come to the conclusion that funding from a number of sources can be used judiciously to make- our work effective and at the same time to maintain our autonomy.

We feel that individual contributions should always form the base of Saheli activities. However the government should, fund and take the responsibility for short stay homes. A safe place to live in is a woman’s right.

To date we have raised Rs. 30,000 - through individual donations and this year received Rs. 30,000 form the Legal Aid committee for case work and Rs. 8,000 from the Ministry of Social Welfare to start a short stay home.

We have also decided to take institutional funds for certain one time expenditures. These may include, library, equipment and some specific activities.

Our thinking has evolved over time and decisions have been made based on urgent needs. We would like to maintain and extend our links to individual donors because they have been the most valuable source of funds in providing us with autonomy and at the same time informing us of the relevance of our work.