Portuguese NGO Fund quick off the mark
On 3 April the €1.2 million NGO Fund in Portugal aimed at gender equality and active citizenship held a seminar for NGOs eager to apply for grants.
The €1.2 million Portuguese NGO Fund will support small-scale, local projects promoting gender equality and active citizenship. The Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality (CIG) in Portugal will manage the fund.
The CIG launched an open call for NGO projects on 25 February 2008 and applications can be submitted until 15 May 2008. Grants in the range of €40,000 to €250,000 will be awarded to projects spanning over one to two years.
Elza Pais, President of the CIG, said at the Lisbon seminar on 3 April that NGOs play a role as complementary building blocks in the Portuguese democracy. "The NGOs have contributed significantly in several areas of the Portuguese society, and will continue to do so in the future", Pais said in her speech. The value of strengthening the NGO sector was echoed by Norway's Ambassador to Portugal, Inga Magistad. "Civil society in Portugal contributes to the building and strengthening of democracy. With the launch of the Portuguese NGO Fund, this development will continue" Magistad said.
The €1.2 million fund, supported with an 85 percent grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, will allow CIG to work in a broader range of questions related to citizenship and gender equality. CIG contributes with the remaining 15 percent of the fund's costs. "The EEA Grants supported NGO fund matches our previous activities. We will now be able to enhance the institutional capacity of Portuguese NGOs, and, more specifically, encourage young people to play an active part in their local communities," Vitor Peña Ferreira of the CIG said. Supported projects will target some of the more deprived areas in Portugal, and empowering vulnerable social groups in the area of employment and entrepreneurship is also a focus area under the fund.
Manuela Marinho, also of the CIG, said the possibilities for NGOs to carry out projects will have a double meaning for the organisations. "Projects targeting issues such as human rights, political participation and citizenship in general are not only important to empower NGOs, to make them stronger and more connected to their communities, but also because these projects increase the understanding of such problems," Marinho said, adding: "If we do a project on gender equality or citizenship in a community and really involve the people there, they are going to discuss and develop these questions also after the project ends."
The Portuguese NGO Fund may also be a tool to promote cooperation between NGOs in Portugal and the three EEA EFTA states. A project can be submitted by a lead Portuguese NGO with counterparts from Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway as project partners.