Development Manager at the Women’s Fund for Scotland, Shona Blakeley, talks about the Funds’ role as a champion for women and girls.
“We invest in inspiring women; we are supported by inspiring women; we are inspiring women,” begins Shona Blakeley, Development Manager at the Women’s Fund for Scotland. Established in 2002 and a constituent Fund of Foundation Scotland, the Women’s Fund for Scotland acts as a grant maker, supporting groups that fall into one or more of its investment themes: building skills and confidence, improving health and wellbeing, moving on from violence and building social networks. In other words, the Fund exists to make a difference to the women of Scotland.
The Fund supports a variety of women and girls, so much so that in Scotland, you are never more than 50 miles away from a project supported by the Fund. “The Fund’s vision is of a safe, healthy, prosperous and connected Scotland. You may think that society has already achieved this for women, but there is a long way to go,” says Shona. This is reinforced by concerning evidence; one in four women will require treatment for depression and one in five women experiences domestic abuse. The gender pay gap still exists and women continue to face sexism in their everyday lives. For Shona, this illustrates why the Fund is important, “It is imperative to the groups we support that there is a grant maker that has a specific gender focus. The Fund immediately resonates with groups for women and girls, in turn giving them more confidence to apply.”
Since its launch, the Fund has made more than £2million worth of grants to over 700 community groups and local charities across Scotland, “The impact of the Fund is twofold; firstly, there is the bigger picture, where we are trying to achieve our vision of making a difference to the women of Scotland. Secondly, it is about the difference it makes to individuals. Although we support groups, I know some of our grants have made life-changing impacts on individuals.”
- The Fund’s vision is of a safe, healthy, prosperous and connected Scotland. You may think that society has already achieved this for women, but there is a long way to go.
The Women’s Fund focuses on small grants ranging from a few hundred to 5,000 pounds. This seemingly small act can have a big impact and Shona validates this by explaining that receiving support from the Women’s Fund is often the first step for the organisations to secure further funding, “The Women’s Fund for Scotland is in the right place to make connections and share information. This can make a big difference to organisations and it is a privilege to be in such a position.
“Everything I do in my role is focused on raising money for the Women’s Fund,” she says. “Baillie Gifford’s support has helped to fund my salary. This has given us the flexibility, freedom and confidence to continue to secure funding, which makes such a difference to the women who benefit from our grants.”
Shona speaks passionately about the difference the Fund can make and in continuing to publicise the good work that the Fund does, aims to secure its future and ensure it can provide grants to those that need them. To that end, Shona is currently recruiting brand champions and brand ambassadors to help spread the word on the Fund, “Brand ambassadors are women or girls who have benefited as a result of a grant made to their group. Champions are connected influencers who can help mentor the ambassadors.”
The Fund exists to inspire women; it could be a woman who is trying to get away from violence. She could be ill, lonely or be struggling with money. It could be a girl who doesn’t know what she wants to do next, or it could be a combination of all these factors. What is clear is that with the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report stating it will take another 100 years to achieve parity, the Women’s Fund for Scotland’s work is more important than ever.