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Erika Guevara-Rosas, Program Officer

Global Fund for Women

It’s a shame that with advances in so many different fields each and every day, the one area that’s loath to change is the equal and respectful treatment of humans towards one another, particularly when it comes to women’s rights. Yet despite the seemingly endless battle for equality, it’s reassuring that groups and people like Global Fund for Women (GFW) and Erika Guevara-Rosas, 29 , Program Officer for the Americas won’t stop fighting to make an impact. GFW is the only internationally focused foundation for women’s rights based in the U.S. Over the years, they’ve donated millions of dollars to countless organizations that do more than just empower women: they also help to protect cultural identity, help education, and improve the overall lives of groups of people. It’s this wide-reaching impact that makes GFW this week’s Non-Profit Spotlight.


Global Fund for Women





Name, Title

Erika Guevara-Rosas
Program Officer for the Americas




Mexico City, Mexico

Current residence

Oakland, California


York University, Master of Arts, Women’s Studies (2002);
York University, Graduate Diploma, Refugees and Migration Studies (2002);
Universidad de Londres, Law Degree (2000)

Work Experience

– Global Fund for Women, Program Officer for the Americas, 2006-current;

– Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention Center (Canada), Counsellor, 2005-2006;

– United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (Venezuela/Peru), Protection Officer. 2004-2005;

– United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (Ecuador), Protection Officer, 2003-2004;

– United Nations High Commisioner for Refugees (Panama/Venezuela), Protection Officer, 2002-2003;

– United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (Ecuador), Eligibility Officer, 2001;

– Sin Fronteras (Mexico), Project Coordinator, 1999-2001;
– United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (Mexico), Protection Assistant, 1998-1999



About the non-profit

The Global Fund for Women is a nonprofit grantmaking foundation that advances women’s human rights worldwide. We are a network of women and men who believe that ensuring women’s full equality and participation in society is one of the most effective ways to build a just, peaceful and sustainable world. We raise funds from a variety of sources and make grants to women-led organizations that promote the economic security, health, safety, education and leadership of women and girls.

The Global Fund for Women recognizes that investing in women’s leadership at the local, national and international levels is among the most effective instruments for achieving lasting and transformational social change. Yet, the efforts and effectiveness of local women’s rights organizations around the globe are severely hampered by their lack of access to financial resources. Women’s non-governmental organizations (NGO), especially in poor countries, are frequently ignored and/or under-funded by both governments and international development programs. By creating a publicly supported grantmaking foundation that provides financial support directly to such local women’s groups, the Global Fund is able to intervene in a manner that is respectful of local expertise and responsive to women’s own priorities and needs. Our grants strengthen the ability of these organizations to mobilize, organize and empower women to participate fully in all aspects of their societies. Our grants are designed to provide both moral and financial support to women’s groups around the globe working to end gender-based violence and build peace; advance health and sexual & reproductive rights; ensure economic and environmental justice; expand civic and political participation; increase access to education; and foster social change philanthropy

What are your day-to-day responsibilities?

As the Program Officer for the Americas, I am responsible of managing the regional portfolio of grants for our program in Latin America and the Caribbean. I review, manage and prioritize requests from women’s groups and organizations seeking our support. We receive about 600 requests a year, and fund about 120 of them.

Most notable milestones

Since 1987, we have awarded $54 million to more than 3,000 women’s groups in 164 countries. In the Americas, we have awarded $16.2 million to 952 organizations in 35 countries. The Global Fund is often compared to a venture capital firm for women who are playing the role of social entrepreneurs around the world. With small grants between $500 and $20,000, we seed, strengthen and link women’s organizations, many of which would not be able to access other kinds of funding.

What’s the niche?

We are the only foundation in the U.S. that focuses exclusively on advancing women’s rights internationally. Our grantmaking approach is designed to empower women at the local level by awarding grants directly to women’s organizations and giving them autonomy to use the funds in ways that best address the needs of women in a given community. Our grants create both direct and systemic impact. Direct impact is seen when a grant of $7,500 allows a Wuayuu indigenous women’s group in Colombia to protect their collective right to land, their language, culturally specific education and political autonomy.

A $5,000 grant helps Aymara women in Bolivia launch an initiative producing high-quality potatoes, while learning how to have more influence in the labor unions. We also know that our grants have a ripple effect that contributes to systemic impact. Organizations to which we have provided seed grants often develop into strategic, innovative NGOS that are both effective service providers and powerful advocates for social change. We believe that one of the most effective ways to create a significant social impact and bring about social change is to support locally driven solutions that women themselves have developed to address the challenges faced by their community. By listening to women and allowing them to define how best to use the financial resources the Global Fund makes available, we build women’s leadership, strengthen their independence and self-determination, and support community-based, democratic decision making processes.

Our governance structure and grant decision making processes as well as our fundraising philosophy challenges traditional notions of philanthropy so that the very process of giving money embodies democratic values of inclusion rather than traditional notions of charity. For example, we have a very diverse, international board of directors, the majority of whom are or have been leaders of women’s rights organizations and networks in other countries. Another way we model this alternative approach is by allowing women’s groups to write to us in any language and in any format, thereby decreasing the fundraising barriers most grassroots groups face. An advisory council of over 160 women and men located around the globe help define our grantmaking priorities for regions and assess applicants.

What’s the biggest challenge?

The fact that discrimination against women is so deeply entrenched in most societies and that in many instances women themselves have internalized their own oppression, make this a particularly difficult and stubborn problem to address. In addition, most religions implicitly or explicitly justify the subjugation and secondary status of women as being divinely ordained, thus making the struggle for women’s rights one that is often waged in opposition to prevailing norms and social customs. Lastly, the struggle for women’s rights, unlike most other social movements must be waged both in the public spheres of workplace and government, as well as in the most private spheres of family and personal relationships. Yet, it is women themselves who offer the most promising levers for changing this reality.

What’s in store for the future?

The Global Fund for Women is committed to playing a leadership role in the 21st century’s global women’s movement for social justice and political transformation. We will continue to significantly expand our ability to fund women’s groups and networks with both small and large grants and to work towards establishing a strong financial base from which we can ensure such support. We are also committed to building strategic partnerships with allies in related social movements, such as the environmental, peace, migrant, labor, and human rights struggles. As an international organization based in the United States, we also plan to build stronger alliances with the US women’s movement so that we can strengthen its connections to global networks also working for gender equality and justice.

Who would you like to be contacted by?

Since we began in 1987, we have viewed the Global Fund as a network of equal partners – whether grantees, donors, advisors, staff or board members. The Global Fund was started with the donations of 30 individuals, which allowed us to make 7 grants totally $22,000 in our first year. The Global Fund continues to raise every dollar that we give away, and we depend upon the support of individuals to carry out the work we do. Almost 40 percent of our gifts come from people who give anywhere from $10 to thousands of dollars. Another 41 percent of our donations come from foundations. And 79 percent of our budget goes to program expenses.

We believe that philanthropy is a shared responsibility and that each of us should have a chance to give and to receive. Unlike many nonprofit groups, we do not categorize our supporters by the amount they have donated. We welcome interaction with women’s rights activists, foundations, and other potential supporters.

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Best way to keep a competitive edge

I never accept limitations as a Latin American woman. I never let radical discrimination, that is discrimination that is overt and clearly targeted at your race or gender, stop me. I deeply believe that if you aren’t given the opportunity, you can’t use your skills or even try them out. So whatever situation I find myself in, I simply cannot wait, I always step forward when the space begins to open up. I found that I do not have to be aggressive. All that is necessary is to have a presence– a presence where I can touch people through interaction. If you have an impact on people, you can achieve whatever you want.

Guiding principle in life

Value and respect the wisdom and experience of humans in all their diversity.

Yardstick of success

My yardstick of success is based on knowing how much of an effect results from a grant to women in Latin American and the Caribbean and seeing the positive motivation of donors to look critically at the work we fund. For example, I traveled to Nicaragua last month, and had the opportunity to meet with women’s groups. It was so clear that what we consider a small amount of money, such as $5,000, makes a huge difference. That $5,000 can represent the entire annual budget of a group, and it is humbling to see how wisely and effectively they manage that money so that it is the power to change women’s lives for the better.

Goal yet to be achieved

Find a better balance between my personal and professional life.

Best practical advice

Being always open to new challenges.

Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture

From my brother: “Be strong and always be confident in who you are and be willing to lead the way and open doors for others.”

Mentor and why?

My parents who taught me tons about courage!

Like best about what you do?

Having lived in different countries in Latin America and been a first-hand witness of the difficulties women’s groups and organizations face to advance women’s rights, what I treasure the most is having the opportunity to provide some resources to support their actions. One might ask why invest in women.It is because one of the most effective strategies for improving the world is ensuring women’s full equality and participation in decision-making in every aspect of their lives.

Like least about what you do?

As you saw above, we receive about 600 requests a year, yet can only fund 120 of them, in large part because we do not have enough money to support all of the worthy organizations. Declining these women’s groups is one of the hardest things that I have to do.

At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An actress.

What was your first job?

Working with Guatemalan refugees at the Mexican border with Guatemala.

Biggest pastime outside of work

Reading Latin American literature and dancing salsa!

Person most interested in meeting and why?

Rigoberta Menchu. MenchĂș, as a Mayan women living in Guatemala, witnessed and experienced first hand the terror of war and discriminations against women. She has become something of an icon, not just for the experience of Guatemalan indigenous, but for the experiences of indigenous peoples and, particularly, women around the world.

Leader in business most interested in meeting and why?

Miriam Rivera, the Deputy General Counsel at Google Inc. I have read a lot about her work and high ethical standards. She is one of the most powerful Latinas in the tech industry.

Three interesting facts about yourself

1. I was a theatre actress in Mexico, performing in experimental plays for more than 2 years.
2. I am married to a Cuban, that’s why I love salsa.
3. My favorite place is Jaque, a remote community in the Panamanian Darien Jungle, where I lived for one year.

Three characteristics that describe you

1. extremely sensitive
2. determined
3. passionate

Three greatest passions

1. My family
2. My work
3. Social justice

Favorite book

Ensaio sobre a Cegueira (Blindness: a novel), Jose Saramago.

Favorite cause

Human Rights

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Interview by Saba Nasser
Introduction by Kaiser Shahid
Edited by Sumaya Kazi

Also this week

Victor HwangUdai

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