Mission & History

Our Mission

We advance the rights of women and girls worldwide by increasing the resources for and investing in women-led organizations and women’s collective leadership for change.

Our Vision

We envision a just, equitable and sustainable world in which women and girls have resources, voice, choice and opportunities to realize their human rights.

Cambodian family in a Muslim village

Photo by S. Smith Patrick

History of the Global Fund

The Global Fund for Women was founded in Palo Alto California by three bold women: Anne Firth Murray, Founding President, Frances Kissling, and Laura Lederer. The three were convinced that women’s human rights and dignity were essential to the advancement of global agendas for social, economic, and political change. Frustrated by traditional philanthropy’s lack of interest in funding women’s groups and human rights, they forged a new path, founding an organization that would fund women-led organizations directly.

Murray, Lederer, Kissling celebrate the launch of the Global Fund for Women

Founding member Anne Firth Murray served as the Global Fund for Women Founding President—from 1986 to 1996. In addition to being one of the first donors (along with the 3 other co-founders) Anne established the Global Fund as a leader in funding for and global expertise in women’s rights. The first grants in 1988 totaled $30,000; by 1996 grantmaking had grown to $1.2 million.

Kavita Ramdas became CEO in 1996, serving until 2010. Under Kavita’s leadership the Global Fund experienced unprecedented growth. Grantmaking surpassed $8 million. Kavita led the ‘Invest in Women’ campaign that resulted in $10 million to initiate the Global Fund for Women’s endowment fund, and established the $10 million ground-breaking ‘Now or Never Fund’ in response to the crisis created by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the detrimental effects of rising extremisms and economic globalization. In addition, the Global Fund expanded its work in Sub-Saharan Africa and established its Middle East and North Africa portfolio.

Musimbi Kanyoro joined the organization in 2011 – a pivotal time when we embarked on a new strategic direction to support women’s leadership and women-led solutions. In 2012 Global Fund surpassed the $100 million mark in grantmaking. In 2013, our 25th anniversary year, Global Fund refocused its programmatic emphasis by adding a stronger component of learning, monitoring and evaluation.

In March 2014, Global Fund for Women and the International Museum of Women – IMOW – merged to create a bold force for women’s human rights. The merger brings together IMOW’s skills in awareness raising, online advocacy and digital story-telling with Global Fund on-the-ground relationships and grant-making activities with women leaders and women’s rights organizations around the world.

IMOW was founded in 1997 – led by Founding President Elizabeth Colton – and evolved into an innovative online museum inspiring creativity, awareness and action on vital global issues for women. IMOW’s online exhibitions including Muslima: Muslim Women’s Art & Voices and MAMA: Motherhood Around the Globe inspire, engage and activate global audiences on global issues of women’s human rights. Elizabeth now joins the lineage of founders of the merged organization.

Learn more about IMOW’s history »

Though the Global Fund has changed with the times, the philosophy of our founding members has remained: that women are the best agents of change in their communities and giving them the resources to do their work can change the world.

See a timeline of our first 20 years (PDF) »

Search our grantmaking history »


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