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, development, 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. She is currently a Visiting Scholar and Fellow at Stanford University, The Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, with the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) and Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (PACS). In 2011, Kavita will be a Visiting Scholar abd Practitioner at Princeton University's Wodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
From 1996 to 2010, Kavita served as President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women, which grew to become the world's largest public foundation for women's rights under her leadership. During her tenure, the Global Fund assets grew to $21million from $3 million, giving women in more than 170 countries critical access to financial capital that fueled innovation and change. Kavita serves as Senior Advisor for the Global Fund for Women.
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. Among these were a pioneering 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 a 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, and the Global Development Program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She currently serves on the Advisory Council of the Asian University for Women Support Foundation, the Global Health Initiative of the University of Chicago, PAX World Management, and the Council of Advisors on Gender Equity of the Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University.
Kavita Chairs the Expert Working Group of the Council of Global Leaders for Reproductive Health, an initiative led by Mary Robinson, former President for Ireland. She serves on the Board of Trustees of Princeton University, Mount Holyoke College, 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, newspaper, and magazines, including the Nation, Foreign Policy, and Conscience. She has spoken at many 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 in 2010, the Council on Foundation's Robert Scrivner Award for Most Creative Grantmaker of the Year, and the Frances Hesselbein Award for Excellence in Leadership. She is a 2011 Awardee of the Legal Momentum Award.
Kavita was born and raised in India and is married to Zulfiqar Ahmad, an independent researcher on South Asia security issues. Their daughter, Mira Ahmad, is a junior at Palo Alto High School. Kavita enjoys hiking, cooking, writing, poetry, and is a long time practitioner of yoga.