NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Director of the Department of Gender and Family Affairs in the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development Dr Jacinta Higgs is urging NGOs that haven’t already done so to register with the government in compliance with the Non-Profit Organization Act, 2019.

Higgs said that doing so could enable NGOs, including faith-based organizations (FBOs) and community-based organizations (CBOs), to be better able to receive grant funding at the national, regional and international levels.

“It is very important to do so because if an NGO is not compliant, it is not able to get funding from the government of The Bahamas, nor is it able to get funding from the regional level or from the United Nations,” she said.

“The fact that we now have 580 and counting non-governmental organizations (NGO) registered as NPOs is critical because you are now talking about those organizations having access to millions of dollars in grant funding — particularly at the regional and international levels — to assist with their programmes that benefit Bahamian society, including the marginalized and most vulnerable persons.”

The government recently announced that nearly 600 NGOs throughout the country have completed registration as non-profit organizations — a feat Higgs praised as “phenomenal”.

“In the past, there was a very small number of NGOs in The Bahamas that would have been compliant and so much of the international funding was channeled basically through just those few organizations,” Higgs said.

“The trickle-down effect is a win-win for those who are doing their passion and a win-win for those who are recipients/beneficiaries of the efforts of the work of these organizations.”

She noted that Templeton Foundation was recently able to make a grant of $25,000 to a local NGO for Hurricane Dorian relief efforts as a result of that NGO being registered.

Additionally, she said the European Union has extended over £200 million to Caribbean NGOs/NPOs wishing to execute a project, programme or intervention on gender-based violence, but that organizations not registered would not be able to take advantage of the opportunity to access that funding.

“Three of the more recognized pillars of society — outside of the church — are government, business (private and public companies) and civil society, which serves as the umbrella for the NGOs/NPOs,” Higgs said.

“Civil society serves as those organizations that assist governments to further their reach; and so this is huge because now we can be even more confident knowing that there are arms, that there are tentacles, that there are fingers, that there are hundreds of Bahamians operating these NPOs, FBOs, CBOs who are helping to elevate the status, the life experiences, the essential needs of the marginalized and most vulnerable members of our society.”

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