FundsforNGOs “Great Grant Proposals Contest” Winner: Women’s Centers International

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We’re delighted to announce the first ever winner of FundsforNGOs “Great Grant Proposals Contest”, Women’s Centers International. We spoke to Susan Burgess-Lent, the Executive Director of the organisation to discuss their work from Kenya to the USA.

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FFNGOs:  Congratulation’s on being our first ever winner of our “Great Grant Proposals Contest”. Can you introduce Women’s Centers International to our readers?

SB-L: Women’s Centers International was developed out of the belief that we could support women who are chronically affected by conflict and poverty by coordinating training programmes in a safe environment.  My personal experiences in Darfour demonstrated that environments deeply affected by poverty can be particularly threatening to women’s aspirations. These environments deprive women of the resources they need to improve their circumstances and the cycle of poverty continues.

We discovered that many of the women in these communities are highly motivated to improve their lives but lack suitable opportunities. Women’s Centers International created our first center in Nairobi, Kenya only two years ago and already we have more 500 members from across the city.

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Our programmes are all women led and reflect the needs of our service users. Our two main services are in adult education and in particular literacy as well as entrepreneurial skills that women can use to become self sufficient. We support women to overcome the problems that are common in post conflict and poverty afflicted areas such as domestic violence and healthcare. We work to address these complex needs to bring women forward without one of the other limiting factors holding them back.

In just fourteen months the Center have been successful beyond our expectations. Due to demand we aim to launch one more centre in Nairobi as well as a center in Oakland, California. We want to establish a global network of support and providing services to one of the most deprived communities in the United States is a big step towards that vision.

5 members of Baraka Women's Center -WCI

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FFNGOs:  You won our “Great Grant Proposals Contest” for your successful proposal to fund your women’s center in Nairobi. What impact did the project make?

SB-L:  Our first 9 month course created 36 female graduates who emerged functionally literate for the first time in their lives. Being literate really does change everything for these women and in particular it enables them to take control of their own lives. No longer do they have to rely on others to help with their finances or legal issues where they can often be taken advantage of, instead they are self sufficient and empowered to inform themselves.

We’re in a wonderful situation now where most of our teachers are actually graduates of the programme. We offer a literacy programme as well as a certificate track for women with greater ambitions who are then able to pursue further and higher education. We’re due to start our second course next month and have 60 women registered, more than double our last intake. We really don’t want to turn anyone away but we’re about at capacity and it is proving to be a real challenge.

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FFNGOs:  What is the future for Women’s  Centers International?

SB-L:  We want to attract more women to our centers who can benefit from education whether it is in the form of vocational training or business development. We’re especially excited that our center in Nairobi is due to become self managed by the community before the end of 2014. It was always our intention to leave the tools in the hands of the local community to control and develop the centre as they see fit. We believe that the women are fully capable of managing the center and is the best way of creating a self sufficient and self sustaining community asset for years to come.

FFNGOs:  What will the $500 prize be used for and what difference will it make?

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SB-L: The money will be used mainly to pay our teachers and fund supplies. Our teachers are a wonderful asset and we’d be happy to pay them double if we could afford it. The cash will enable us to do more than we’d be able to otherwise. It’s great to have organisations like FundsforNGOs showing their confidence in us as we’re still fairly new.

FFNGOs: Why do you use FundsforNGOs?

SB-L: I use FundsforNGOs every single day. I always make sure that I’m aware of the latest funding opportunities, especially as I work on projects in different countries around the world. Once we have a budget for a project in place we’ll trawl through the latest funds to discover new opportunities.

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I personally took part in the recent training webinar on raising funds for women and girls projects which really helped us to understand the changing funding environment and how to discover great donors. FundsforNGOs has proved to be a major resource for me and Women’s Centers International and long may it continue. Discover more about this brilliant and inspiring organisation by visiting their website here.



  1. Avatar Chi Alastia mankah says

    I am the Director of women’s Empowerment and the Family center mundemba- cameroon. we carry out same activities as that of WCI Kenya. we will wish to apply for grant.
    hopping to hear from you.

  2. Avatar Sebastian Adala says

    Keep it up Women Centre International, women in society play a big role. Your training will enhance their daily undertakings. Thanks for FundsforNgos highlights.

  3. Avatar lulama koliwe says

    Please can you kindly help me with how to apply for grant.

    • Avatar Susan Burgess-Lent says

      Hello Lulama,

      WCI does not provide grants but we have a Women’s Center in Nairobi that offers a lot of training and support. Where are you and what is your speciifc interest?


  4. Avatar lulama koliwe says

    I need assistance as to how to apply for a grant.

    Thank you