Kavita Ramdas

Kavita Ramdas is a leading advocate for gender justice and respected thought commentator on critical global and domestic challenges. She is passionate about advancing equitable development, entrepreneurship, gender and racial equity and social change philanthropy. 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 and is an accomplished public speaker. Kavita recently completed her tenure at the Ford Foundation as the Senior Advisor on Global Strategy where she worked to integrate an equity lens across all programs and develop a global philanthropy framework. Prior to this Kavita was based in New Delhi as the Ford Foundation’s Representative for India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Under her leadership the Foundation decisively addressed the crisis of sexual violence in South Asia, built partnerships with local philanthropic leaders and successfully weathered challenges facing civil society.  

Before joining the Ford Foundation, Kavita spent two years at Stanford University, as a Visiting Scholar with the Center on Philanthropy & Civil Society and the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law. As founding Executive Director of the Program on Social Entrepreneurship, she connected grassroots activists, philanthropy, academia and the private sector through a platform for social entrepreneurs to share ideas on democracy and civil society that continues to thrive at the university.

From 1996 to 2010 Kavita served as President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women. Under her leadership the Fund exponentially grew in assets becoming the world’s largest public foundation for women’s rights. The Fund supported women in more than 170 countries providing access to financial capital that fueled innovation and Kavita played key roles in philanthropic and policy circles. Her vision, drive and management skills inspired individual and institutional donors to invest in education, defend reproductive rights, end violence and ensure women’s economic independence.            

Kavita complements her global experience with many years spent combatting poverty in the United States during her tenure as a Program Officer at the Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Her work in community development and economic justice culminated in leading a delegation of community organizers to the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China. She also supported population and reproductive health and rights work in India, Brazil, Mexico and Nigeria.  

Currently Kavita serves on the boards of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Women’s Link Worldwide, the Global Agenda Council of the World Economic Forum, the Investment Committee of the C&A Foundation and as an Advisor to Room to Read, Trickle Up and the America India Foundation. She is a Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute. Prior board tenure includes the Global Development Program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the General Service Foundation, the Women’s Funding Network, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the Guttmacher Institute. 

A gifted communicator, Kavita has spoken at the Association of American Colleges and Universities, the World Economic Forum, TED and the United Nations. Media appearances include NOW with the Bill Moyers Show, the PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Democracy Now! and CNN. An accomplished writer, she has written for the Huffington Post, Nation, Foreign Policy, and Conscience.  

Her numerous leadership awards include recognition by Mills College and Mount Holyoke College with the Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters; the Women Deliver 100: The Most Inspiring People Delivering for Girls and Women 2010; The 2010 Legal Momentum Women of Achievement Award; and The 2010 Council on Foundations Robert Scrivner Award for Most Creative Grantmaker of the Year. Kavita was born in India and educated at Delhi University, Mount Holyoke College, and Princeton University.