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Canada’s New Equality Fund: Questions That Need to Be Addressed

by Aniket Bhushan, Bridget Steele and Matthew Gouett

Published: June 1, 2018

Ahead of the G7 Summit in Charlevoix, Canada’s Minister of International Development, Marie-Claude Bibeau, launched a new CAD$300 million “Equality Fund” as the latest government initiative to increase gender equality worldwide. While we applaud this initiative, given its ambitious mandate to “mobilize unprecedented financial resources to advance gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in developing countries,” the announcement is sparse on details.

Seeing as the government plans to consult civil society, the philanthropic community, and the private sector over the summer to build the Equality Fund platform, we thought it useful to outline key questions stakeholders should ask of the new Fund:

How Will the Fund Be Structured?

Clarification is needed on whether the Fund will operate as purely a grant-making function or if it will take other positions (such as equity, hybrid equity and debt, or other forms of blended finance). If the Fund takes a multi instrument approach, it would be valuable to get a sense of how financing will be made transparent to investors, philanthropic organizations, CSOs and NGOs as well as to partners in Canada, donor countries, and developing countries.

In What Ways Should the Fund Pursue Financial Leverage?

It has yet to be established if financial leverage will be pursued in the typical way (for example, co-financing or pooling grant funding for projects) or if it will target the much larger investment portfolios that make up the endowments of some foundations.

How Will the Fund Be Managed?

It is unknown if the Fund will be managed entirely under the auspices of Global Affairs Canada (GAC) or located outside of the department.

How Will FinDev Canada Be Involved?

A key element of FinDev Canada’s mission is to empower women. FinDev Canada already has an experienced Chief Investment Officer and Gender Equality & Empowerment Advisor on staff. It would make sense for the Fund to interface with FinDev Canada, but the question is how.

What Will the Fund Target, and How?

Stakeholders should push the government to clarify which of the myriad of gender and empowerment indicators this Fund will seek to target and move the needle on. Gender equality and economic empowerment are already complicated terrains. Without some discipline regarding the ends that this Fund targets, its efficacy will be blunt. Moreover, the types of ends it targets will influence the organizations, institutions and projects it invests in, and how it makes those investments (whether purely as grants, as blended finance, or aiming for double bottom line returns).

How Is This New Fund Going to Be Different, or How Will It Enhance and Complement Canada’s Current Investments Targeting WEE?

As details emerge, it will be essential that there is communication on how the fund complements Canada’s preexisting efforts to empower women, such as Canada’s role in the Women’s Voice and Leadership initiative in Haiti and the Women’s Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi).


Image Source: Abbie Trayler-Smith / Panos Pictures / DFID

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