The Open Society Foundations has announced the appointment of Kavita N. Ramdas as director of the Women’s Rights Program, effective September 25.
Ramdas is a globally recognized advocate for gender equity and justice, speaking often on the role civil society and philanthropy play in raising the visibility and voice of women and girls. Ramdas begins her new role with a deep, global knowledge of women’s rights philanthropy, having served as president and CEO of one of the world’s leading foundations for gender equality, Global Fund for Women, from 1996 to 2010. Kavita currently serves as the strategy advisor at MADRE, a global women’s rights organization that works to support women on the frontlines of war and disaster. She founded and leads KNR Sisters, a consulting venture for social justice movements and philanthropy.
“The work of our Women’s Rights Program is more important than ever, especially in the face of an unprecedented wave of antiwomen, antichoice attacks by nationalist and populist governments,” said Patrick Gaspard, president of the Open Society Foundations. “We are thrilled to have a visionary leader like Kavita N. Ramdas join our team during this catalytic moment, when women are advancing alternatives toward more open societies. I am confident she will bring an inexhaustible energy and conviction to a program that has already had success expanding health, economic inclusion, and building transformative movements around the world.”
Ramdas previously served as a strategic advisor to Ford Foundation President Darren Walker; directed Ford’s India office; oversaw Ford’s Sri Lanka and Nepal offices; and had a tenure at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, working on antipoverty programs. Ramdas also brings to Open Society Foundations an extensive expertise in working with boards, including at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Women’s Link Worldwide.
“I am excited to join with the new leadership at the Open Society Foundations and the board and staff of the Women’s Rights Program to take this work to the next level,” said Ramdas. “Open and democratic societies are simply unachievable when half the population is structurally excluded from full and equal participation in most nations across the world. I see the current global crisis of increased intolerance, illiberalism, and authoritarianism as deeply linked to patriarchy and misogyny; and I believe that fighting for a more democratic future will inherently require us to fight for a more feminist future.”
Ramdas obtained a master’s degree in public affairs, with a focus on international development, from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. She also has a BA in politics and international relations from Mount Holyoke College. While at Stanford University, she started the Program on Social Entrepreneurship at the Center for Democracy, Development and Rule of Law in the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Affairs.
With her appointment as director, former Haitian prime minister and Women’s Rights Program board member Michèle Pierre-Louis takes over as board chair. Pierre-Louis also worked with the Open Society Foundations to establish the Fondation Connaissance et Liberte, which she directed for 13 years.
The Women’s Rights Program advances open and free societies by investing in women’s movements and organizations to ensure that girls, women, and gender nonconforming people have power, voice, and influence in all societies. The program works across the Open Society Foundations to support women’s leadership in fueling and sustaining a wide range of social movements—from labor rights, environmental justice, and land rights to peace-building, sexual and reproductive rights, and public health.