Urgent Action Fund was founded in 1997, following the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. The co-founders, Ariane Brunet, Margaret (Mudge) Schink and Julie Shaw, identified a severe gap between activists’ needs in the face of crises or unexpected opportunities and the resources available to them, especially in areas experiencing armed conflict or escalating violence. Most donors required several months to process a grant request, but many interventions had only a small window of opportunity in which they could be effective.
A significant portion of UAF’s Rapid Response Grants were going to women’s rights groups in conflict-affected areas of Africa. UAF consulted with activists throughout Africa, and the Board decided to establish a local presence in Nairobi, Kenya to provide more strategic and informed support to women activists throughout the continent. Kaari Betty Murungi, a Kenyan lawyer and former UAF Board member, became the Director and co-founder of Urgent Action Fund-Africa. UAF-Africa became the first rapid response Fund in Africa, first women’s Fund in Kenya, and the second independent African women’s Fund following the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) in Accra, Ghana.
Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights and Urgent Action Fund-Africa were thrilled to announce an addition to the UAF family of funds supporting women activists and human rights defenders worldwide. Urgent Action Fund-Latin America began operations out of Bogotá, Colombia, supporting all requests coming from Central and South America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. UAF-Latin America continues to draw upon the collective wisdom gained in Rapid Response Grant-Making over the years to support women human rights activists. In addition, UAF- Latin America is developing a Restorative Justice Initiative addressing the particular concerns in the Latin American context which is built upon the strengths of UAF-Africa’s Transitional Justice Program, and UAF’s Sustaining Activism research, publications and advocacy.
Ms. Brunet is Coordinator of the Women’s Rights Program at Rights & Democracy, Montreal. She served as President of UAF’s Board of Directors from 1999-2005. Ariane is also a Founder of Coalition on Women’s Human Rights in Conflict Situations, which seeks to strengthen international and regional capacity to monitor the respect of women’s human rights in conflict and post-war situations. Ms. Brunet played a key role in encouraging Canada to take the lead of a resolution at the UN Human Rights Commission to establish the office of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women. She was the Co-Director of the Third International Feminist Bookfair held in Montreal in 1988 and opened l’Essentielle, the first trilingual feminist bookshop, also in Montreal, in 1986.
Ms. Schink was an activist philanthropist since establishing the Shaler Adams Foundation and the Caritas Fund in San Francisco in 1989. Both funds were formed with the primary objective of promoting the worldwide movement for women’s human rights. Recognizing that the rights of women and girls cannot be achieved by declaration alone, the funds provided grants to projects addressing a wide range of women’s human rights with a primary focus on facilitating long-term structural change and collaboration between international, national, and local organizations. In addition to her role as co-founder and former Board member for the Urgent Action Fund, Ms. Schink was a former member of the Board of Directors of The Global Fund for Women, the International Development Exchange (IDEX), and Knowles Electronics.
Ms. Shaw served as the Executive Director of Urgent Action Fund from its inception until 2008. She is a veteran activist in the fields of philanthropy, environmental justice and women’s human rights. Prior to co-founding UAF, Julie was Senior Programme Manager of The Global Fund for Women, where she worked in all aspects of the foundation and coordinated the first Donor Circle against Sex Trafficking. Ms. Shaw also has undertaken policy-related work concerning women criminal offenders in the U.S. and as committee staff for the U.S. Senate. She is now the executive director for Global Education Fund.