In the year 2000, three women, Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi, Joana Foster and Hilda Tadria created a philanthropic organisation focused on making measurable change in African women’s lives.


Inspired by the aspirations of the African women’s movement, the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) was created as an independent resource for gender equality and development across the continent.

Today, AWDF’s grantmaking practices are built to support the initiatives of African women who may not have access to mainstream funding due to capacity, language, location, and marginalisation. In fact, the AWDF has served as a key donor to 60 percent of grantees who experienced serious challenges to sustainable funding.

Since 2001 AWDF has worked to build relationships with, and mobilise resources for over 1,300 women’s organisations in 45 countries Africa and the Middle East.

the founders


Hilda Tadria is one of AWDF’s founding members. She is an experienced researcher and consultant with a background in institutional management and social development research.

While lecturing as an Associate Professor at Makerere University, she founded Action for Development, an NGO working to empower women and influence legislation and policy for gender equality in Uganda. She also founded the Mentoring and Empowerment Programme for young Women (MEMPROW), a programme for developing young women’s leadership and promoting their rights within learning institutions in Uganda.

Joana Foster

Joana Foster is one of the founding members of AWDF who supported social justice initiatives for over thirty years. She was a lawyer specializing in Women’s Civil and Political Rights and Immigration.

Joana was a Trustee of the Child Poverty Action Group, and the Country Director of CUSO Ghana, a Canadian non-profit organisation. She was also the regional coordinator of Women In Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF), a pan-African network dedicated to linking law and development to support women’s human rights. Joana was one of the founders of the Gender and Human Rights Documentation Centre.

Sadly, Joana passed away in November 2016.

Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Feminist activist, with experience as a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur, Policy Advocate, Politician, Social Change Philanthropy Practitioner, Communications Specialist and Social Sector expert. She is Principal Partner, Amandla Consulting, specializing in leadership development for women, and she runs an online community for women called Abovewhispers.com. She is a UN Women Nigeria Advisor. She served as the Director of Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA), an international development organisation for African women based in London, UK, from 1991-2001. During her time at AMwA, she started the African Women’s Leadership Institute which has supported over 6,000 women leaders in Africa over the past twenty years. She is one of the three Co-Founders of the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) and served as the first Executive Director from 2001-2010.
Her leadership established AWDF as a leading institution in the area of social change philanthropy in Africa, and as one of the most effective feminist philanthropic institutions globally. She is also one of the founders of the African Feminist Forum and served on the AFF Working Group from 2006-2016.She is the recipient of the 2011 David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award, one of the most prestigious awards in the field of philanthropy, given by the Synergos Institute, New York. In June 2011, the New African Magazine named Bisi as one of the 100 Most Influential People of Africa.