Kendeda began our girls’ rights work ten years ago. At that time, our vision was to catalyze the creation of a world in which all girls systematically have the capabilities, choices, security and power to fully realize their human potential.

We focused on early and child marriage as our entry point because it's a human-rights abuse and also a gateway issue for changing how families, communities, and governments value girls.

Our strategy rested on a belief that cultural change has to come from communities themselves, and cannot be legislated, mandated, or internationally driven. Thus, we relied on community-level investments as the backbone of our strategy around which everything else was built. That said, we understood that community-level change could be stymied or given tremendous momentum by larger forces. Thus, we sought to do what we could to influence the environment for community groups and movements. This included things like bringing more focus and attention to girls’ issues, elevating the voices of the Global South, or sharing what we or others were learning about effective practice as quickly and loudly as possible.

Given this “vertical” funding model (grassroots groups + larger allies + learning + advocacy) as well as our belief that grassroots grant making is the fundamental pillar upon which other grant making must rest, it was critical that our “on the ground” work be done with partners that both we and communities trusted.

As we got into the work, we identified some goals for ourselves over the ten-year lifespan of this portfolio:

  1. Significant evidence of attitudinal and behavioral shifts amongst girls and their families in targeted communities about girls’ rights in general and marriage in particular.
  2. Information about what generated the above shifts.
  3. A stronger network of organizations and social movements working on this issue explicitly (both MORE organizations and more connected and capable organizations).
  4. More nuanced, robust dialogue and representation around the problem and the most promising solutions.
  5. More aligned public and private money flowing into this issue space.

Futuring in complex times

The following report is written in the collective voice, which acknowledges several realities, both positive and negative. As we started this grantmaking, child marriage was not generally considered a “feminist” issue; rather, it was squarely in the domain of child protection. Over 10 years, our grantmaking helped to knit together a strong tapestry of organizations and movement actors who brought a feminist orientation to the work, one that acknowledged patriarchy, not poverty, as the critical driver of child marriage.

The fact that our grantees could speak in a collective voice was a testament to their alignment and the strength of their shared understanding. That said, I would be remiss to not acknowledge that their collective voice also serves as a protective factor. As this report details, our grantees are not being ignored; rather, they are being targeted by conservative, authoritarian forces who would seek to silence social movements and activists.

While I will always proudly represent our grantees work as best I can, I’d encourage you to engage them directly on any reactions to this report. They are among the most generous, thoughtful colleagues I have ever known, and I’m confident that your engagement with them will be as transforming for you as it has been for me.