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, global development, leadership, education, health,and philanthropy. Kavita has spent her professional life shaping a world where gender equality and justice can help ensure human rights and dignity for all.
Kavita currently serves as the Executive Director of Ripples to Waves: a program on Social Entrepreneurship and Development at Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL). She conceptualized and designed the program with key faculty leaders and a council of practitioners to deepen links and learning opportunities among grassroots activism, global philanthropy, academia and the private sector while empowering social entrepreneurs to share ideas on gender, democracy and civil society.
Kavita served as President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women, from 1996 to 2010,
which grew under her leadership to become the world’s largest public foundation for women’s rights. During her tenure, the Global Fund assets increased to $21 million from $3 million,
giving women in more than 170 countries critical access to financial capital that fueled innovation and change.
Prior to the Global Fund for Women, Kavita was at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, leading programs in economic development, reproductive health, and population.
Kavita is the recipient of numerous philanthropic and leadership awards including recent recognition by Women Deliver 100: The Most Inspiring People Delivering for Girls and Women 2010, The 2010 Legal Momentum Women of Achievement Award, The 2010 Council on Foundations Robert Scrivner Award for Most Creative Grantmaker of the Year, and The Frances Hesselbein Award for Excellence in Leadership.
Kavita serves on the Board of Trustees of Princeton University, Mount Holyoke College,
the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Planned Parenthood Federation of the USA,
and the African Women’s Development Fund USA. She Chairs the newly formed
Women in Public Service Initiative of the US State Department led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Ambassador at large, Melanne Verveer, and the Expert Working Group of the Council
of Global Leaders for Reproductive Health, an initiative of the Aspen Institute, led by Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland. She recently completed her term as Member of the first-ever Advisory Panel to the Global Development Program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Kavita serves on a number of Advisory Councils, including those of the Global Health Initiative
for the University of Chicago, the Asian University for Women, Room to Read,
and the African Women Millennium Initiative on Poverty and Human Rights.
Kavita was born and raised in India, has lived in Burma and Germany, and was educated at Delhi University, Mount Holyoke College, and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. Kavita lives with her husband Zulfiqar Ahmad and their daughter Mira in Palo Alto, California.
TEDWomen 2010, TEDIndia 2009
Areas of Expertise
Global and International Studies, Social Enterpreneurship, Philanthropy, women's leadership, Social Justice/Human Rights
An idea worth spreading
Women's full and equal participation at all levels in all societies is key to transforming our world.
I'm passionate about
Human Rights. Democracy. Gender Justice. Environmental sustainability. Cultural diversity. Languages. Poetry. Travel. Reading. Literature. Music. Freedom of Religion and Freedom of thought.
Talk to me about
What you can do to be the change you wish to see in the world.
People don't know I'm good at
Music. Theater. Dance.
My TED story
I went to my first TED Conference in India, my home. It was the first one I could afford to attend in my capacity as a non-profit activist and I was asked to be a speaker. It was an intense and marvelous experience in many ways. I was traveling with a group of Global Fund for Women supporters and had my own cheering section as I made my presentation - I recommend it!