Kavita Ramdas is an inspirational and mindful leader, an advocate for human rights, open and civil societies, and a respected advisor and commentator on issues of social entrepreneurship, global development, women's leadership, education, health, and philanthropy. Kavita has spent her professional life shaping a world where gender equality can help ensure human rights and dignity for all. Kavita is Executive Director of Ripples to Waves: a program on Social Entrepreneurship and Development at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. She conceptualized and designed the program with key faculty leaders to deepen the links and learning opportunities among grassroots activism, global philanthropy, academia and the private sector while empowering social entrepreneurs to share ideas on gender, democracy and civil society.
From 2010 through Spring 2011, Kavita was a Visiting Scholar and Fellow at Stanford University's Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law CDDRL, at The Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, and at the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, PACS. In Spring 2011, she also served as Practitioner-in-Residence at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
Kavita served as President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women, from 1996 to 2010, which grew under her leadership to become the world’s largest public foundation for women’s rights. During her tenure, the Global Fund’s assets increased to $21 million from $3 million, giving women in more than 170 countries critical access to financial capital that fueled innovation and change.
An instinctive entrepreneur, Kavita’s leadership skills were recognized early in her tenure at the Global Fund for Women when she was chosen to be a Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute. Her vision, drive, and management skills helped the Global Fund launch programs to promote girls’ education, defend women’s right to health and reproductive rights, prevent violence against women, and advance women’s economic independence and political participation. Outstanding among these were the Africa Outreach Initiative that channeled over $30 million in grants to women’s rights activists in Sub Saharan Africa, and the ground-breaking 'Now or Never Fund' which infused $10 million over 5 years to groups working to preserve women’s reproductive health and rights, combat religious extremism, and sustain communities in the midst of war and conflict.
Prior to her time at the Global Fund for Women, Kavita developed and implemented grantmaking programs to combat poverty and inequality in inner cities across the United States, as well as advance women’s reproductive health in Nigeria, India, Mexico and Brazil in her capacity as Program Officer at the Chicago based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Kavita’s extensive experience in the fields of global development, human rights, women’s leadership, and philanthropy have led to her service as an Advisor and Board Member for a wide range of organizations; the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the Women’s Funding Network, the Advisory Council of the University of Chicago’s Global Health Initiative, and the Global Development Program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She currently serves on the Advisory Council of the Asian University for Women, Room to Read, the Global Health Initiative of the University of Chicago, and PAX World Management. Kavita Chairs the newly formed Women in Public Service Initiative of the US State Department led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Ambassador at large, Melanne Verveer; Kavita is Chair of the Expert Working Group of the Council of Global Leaders for Reproductive Health, an initiative of the Aspen Institute, led by Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland.
Kavita serves on the Board of Trustees of Princeton University, Mount Holyoke College, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
An accomplished writer and public speaker, Kavita’s thought leadership is evident in writings published in a wide variety of journals, newspapers and magazines, including the Nation, Foreign Policy, and Conscience.
She has spoken at numerous venues including, the Global Philanthropy Forum, TED, and the United Nations. Her media commentary and interviews include appearances on NOW with the Bill Moyers Show, PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Democracy Now!, and CNN.
Kavita is the recipient of numerous philanthropic and leadership awards including recent recognition by Women Deliver 100: The Most Inspiring People Delivering for Girls and Women 2010, The 2010 Legal Momentum Women of Achievement Award, The 2010 Council on Foundations Robert Scrivner Award for Most Creative Grantmaker of the Year, and The Frances Hesselbein Award for Excellence in Leadership.
Kavita was born and raised in India and educated at Delhi University, Mount Holyoke College, and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. She is married to Zulfiqar Ahmad, a writer and researcher on peace and security issues in South Asia and the Middle East. Their daughter, Mira Ahmad, is a student at Palo Alto High School. Kavita enjoys hiking, cooking, writing, poetry, and is a long time practitioner of yoga.
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