Women's aid group loses federal funding

An Ottawa-based aid organization that supports women's rights in the developing world has had all its federal funding cut.

Executive director of Match International blames politics for decision

An Ottawa-based aid organization that supports women's rights in the developing world has had all its federal funding cut.

Match International has relied on government funding for 34 years to support programs that help women gain leadership skills and start their own businesses in countries such as Ghana, Mali and Tanzania. The group also works to prevent violence against women and female genital mutilation.

The non-profit organization has been getting about $400,000 a year — about 75 per cent of its budget — from the federal Canadian International Development Agency. The rest comes largely from charitable donations.

Match International's executive director, Kim Bulger, said the group is trying to figure out how it might continue its work despite the drastic cut.

International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda said the group lost its funding because of performance issues. However, that came as a surprise to Bulger.

"I think it's disingenuous," she said. "It was a political decision."

CIDA previously told the organization its proposal, which incorporated the agency's recommendations, was good, she added. The agency never requested additional performance information.

Bulger suggested the real issue was that CIDA itself was under scrutiny by the auditor general's office, which asked the agency to focus its work on fewer countries.

Women's rights targeted: May

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May also suggested the funding cut was for ideological reasons. She thinks it's part of a larger government trend.

The federal government disclosed on April 26 that it will not fund abortions in its G8 child and maternal health-care initiative for developing countries.

However, May said Match International's loss of funding shows this is about more than just abortion.

"It got cut because it deals with gender rights and women in leadership. It's a sad day," she said. "Things are being cut out of the CIDA budget that work."

She also pointed to the case of Planned Parenthood International, another group that supports women's rights, including abortion as a reproductive choice. It has been without government funding since December. Prior to that, it received $6 million a year for three years.

The group's spokesman, Paul Bell, confirmed Tuesday that Planned Parenthood International has still not heard back about a funding renewal application submitted last June, which is unusual.

However, he noted that the group has not yet had any indication that its funding won't be renewed.