Urgent Action Fund

Mission: Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights, as part of women’s rights movements worldwide, is dedicated to supporting women’s human rights defenders (WHRDs) working to create cultures of justice, equality and peace. We provide rapid response grants that enable strategic interventions and participate in collaborative advocacy and research. Urgent Action Fund is led by activists, rooted in feminism, and strengthened through solidarity.

Vision: Urgent Action Fund’s core belief is that women’s rights are human rights, and that the realization of universal human rights is a fundamental prerequisite for establishing secure and stable civil societies. Strong civil societies are in turn the foundation upon which global peace is built. Urgent Action Fund believes that WHRDs themselves are the primary change agents in securing women’s human rights at the local/village, national, regional and international levels. Above all, we value the ideas, autonomy and capacity of women’s human rights defenders to create change.

History: Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights was established in 1997 following requests by activists from around the world who said they had nowhere to turn when they face a crisis or critical opportunity. Since then, Urgent Action Fund has granted more than $5 million in 1,000+ Rapid Response Grants to support women’s and LGBT human rights defenders in 97 countries around the world. Our unique philanthropic strategy has served as a model for other funds, including sister funds Urgent Action Fund – Africa and Urgent Action Fund – Latin America. Urgent Action Fund is located in San Francisco, CA.


Working areas

Urgent Action Fund supports women human rights activists working on a diversity of issues, including peace, social justice, environmental justice, political rights, land rights, reproductive rights, sexual orientation and gender expression, and more. Urgent Action Fund is the only Rapid-Response funder that specifically focuses on women’s human rights defenders (WHRDs) around the world.

When an unanticipated situation arises that requires an immediate response in order to prevent the deterioration of women’s human rights or to promote further advancement of women’s rights, Urgent Action Fund makes resources available quickly. To this end, Urgent Action Fund reviews Rapid Response Grantmaking (RRG) applications every day of the year and responds to all applications within 72 hours.

RRGs of up to $5,000 are provided in a timely fashion to women’s organizations in support of the following three categories: 1) Response to armed conflict, escalating violence or politically volatile environments; 2) Potentially precedent-setting legal or legislative actions, or actions that aim to protect a precedent that has already been set; and 3) Protection and security of WHRDs. All grants must be unanticipated and time-sensitive (3 months or less), strategic, sustainable, and supported by others involved in women’s human rights or a related field. Even though each grant is relatively small in monetary terms, the impact is often disproportionately large. There are few resources available that women can access quickly in areas of high need.

Grantees can apply, in any language, on any day of the year, and are guaranteed a response within 72 hours. The Urgent Action Fund trusts that women know best how to solve problems in their communities.


In addition to Urgent Action Fund’s RRG program, we engage in collaborative advocacy and research. For example, after 9/11, governments around the world exploited the fear of the moment to create oppressive laws criminalizing activism and the expression of dissent. Such laws have been used to justify the arrest, torture, and disappearance of women human rights and peace activists. Urgent Action Fund has played a leading role in documenting this trend, supporting women’s human rights activists, and advocating in funder and policy circles. This is just one example of the way we use the information we gain in our day-to-day grantmaking activities to advocate for women’s human rights defenders.

Working context

In the last few years, Urgent Action Fund has seen an unfortunate trend – requests for protection and security of women’s human rights defenders have continued to increase. As an organization dedicated to providing the resources women need to sustain their work and themselves, Urgent Action Fund is striving to meet the needs of this growing demand for safety.

Stories from UAF

in January 2012 Urgent Action Fund received a request from a confidential grantee in Pakistan for support in installing a panic room in one of their offices in response to an escalation in threats to their members. This particular office being threatened is located in the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), specifically in FR Peshawar (Frontier Region Peshawar), which is a remote and mountainous area outside the city of Peshawar, and as such, “is a hideout of the most dangerous militants in FATA.” The organization’s work rebuilding schools destroyed by militants puts it at extreme risk for attack by Taliban and other militant groups who are not in favor of girls’ education and who have easy access to rocket launchers and grenades. Just in the last year, one collaborator was kidnapped and is still held in captivity, one was attacked with an explosive device in his home, one was murdered, and staff have received calls threatening to blow up the office if they continue to work in the FATA region. Funds were used to create a panic room- a safe room made of concrete walls and an iron door, along with a video monitor and emergency survival kit. The organization will also conduct trainings and drills for staff to be prepared in case of attacks.

Additionally, in April 2012, Urgent Action Fund received a request from peer funder Mediterranean Women’s Fund (MWF) in response to the increasingly dire situation facing Syrian women activists in the midst of the social uprising and government crackdown that has intensified since early 2012. MWF has recognized the urgent need to support women political refugees who have fled to France and are seeking asylum. The activists have survived political persecution, threats, and in some cases torture and rape. Although many of their basic needs and asylum application support are being covered by other sources, the activists are still lacking assistance to communicate with French authorities and access the medical, psychological, and legal support that is potentially available to them. MWF is in a unique position to respond to the imminent needs of the activists at this time due to its history of supporting women’s groups in the region and connection with immigrant solidarity networks in France. An Urgent Action Fund board member met with the Executive Director of MWF at the AWID Forum in April 2012 and decided that providing a rapid grant to MWF would be a strategic way to support Syrian women affected by the country’s political violence.




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Parivartan Kendra, India, June 2007

Marriage Equality, Ireland, January 2012

Colectiva de Mujer y Salud (CMS), Dominican Republic, January 2011