In 2016, The Women’s Foundation of Minnesota took an exciting step toward supporting gender equity internationally. Recognizing a common quest for gender equity across the world and valuing community-based solutions, the Foundation established the Madada Fund to allow individuals to contribute directly to other women’s foundations and support organizations striving to build vibrant communities around the world.

The Women’s Foundation (WFMN) established the Madada Fund to directly support the work of the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) and other women-led funds outside the United States. Named by Ruby Oluoch, a former Wenda Weeks Moore intern and a current member of the WFMN communications staff, Madada means “sisters” in Swahili. The name highlights the shared values and approaches of both organizations, and of women’s foundations globally. Seeking a name that reflected the supportive focus of the fund, Ruby saw that a Swahili word would be appropriate “as it is the most widely spoken language on the continent and a point of unity for many African peoples.”

As the first internationally oriented fund, a gift to Madada is a direct gift to grassroots organizations globally. “The best solutions are local solutions,” says Saanii Hernandez, vice president of WFMN, and so the Fund supports on-the-ground efforts and local organizations that possess the knowledge required to directly address the community’s needs. Madada expands the work of the Foundation by connecting and supporting women-centered and female-led foundations around the world, helping to build the movement for and towards equal opportunities and outcomes.

Funding Global, Community-Centered Change

The African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) is one recipient of the Madada Fund. Led by Abigail Burgesson, and Theo Sowa, named one of the world’s top 100 most influential people in global gender policy, the Fund offers resources to local, regional, and national women’s organizations working toward creating equal outcomes for African women. With funding from individuals, corporations, and foundations, the AWDF allows women access to capital otherwise inaccessible. With these funds, along with workshops and trainings, African women and their organizations work to combat stereotypes and amplify their voices, to become agents of change in their communities and countries.

Providing more than $34 million to over 1,300 women-led organizations in 43 African countries, the AWDF has undeniably impacted the lives of those living on the continent. In 2017 alone they granted $5.6 million to 104 groups, including the Surplus People’s Project (SPP) in South Africa. Established post-apartheid, the organization recently launched Women Organizing for Social Justice (WOSJ), which seeks to help women achieve increased economic opportunity and food sovereignty (the right to define and access their own food/agricultural system).

Placing women at the center of the agrarian movement, WOSJ provides them space to voice their needs, hosts training sessions, and advocates for them as emerging farmers. Participation has increased the women’s self-confidence and ability to speak for themselves. They’ve also started their own food gardens, contributing food for their families and generating an additional source of income. Women Organizing for Social Justice credits its success to its direct partnership with local communities. “Work around women was done on the grassroots level and community women’s leadership was built by women organizing themselves. The women identified in the projects themselves feel ownership over the initiatives we create,” said Herschelle Milford, the CEO of SPP.

How It Works

Madada is built with capital from numerous donors, receiving its initial contributions from Ruby Oluoch and WFMN. Funding community-led change, whether global or domestic, is one way in which we change culture and create a world in which women and girls lead safe and prosperous lives. To support the foundation’s international equity work, consider designating an upcoming donation to the Madada Fund in additional to the general operating fund. Specify an area or region to support and, through the Women’s Foundation, a community-based, women-led foundation will distribute your funds to the organization(s) doing that work.

Learn more about making a gift to the Madada Fund: contact Amanda Storm Schuster, vice president of advancement at 612.236.1830 or amanda@wfmn.org.


By Alison Spencer, Strategic Communications Intern

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