AWDF USA℠’s board members are some of the most prominent leaders in the Pan-African women’s movement.
Dr. Abena P. A. Busia, the current Director of the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD) and in-coming Chair of the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Literatures in English, and Comparative Literature, and the Associate Director of the Center for African Studies at Rutgers University, where she has taught since 1981. She lectures and publishes widely on the African Diaspora literature and culture, and curriculum transformation for race and gender. As an institution builder, she is a Founder of the Busia Foundation and Busia Foundation International, the International Cultural Exchange Center, the founding Program Committee Chair of the African Women’s Development Fund, one of the founding board members of both The Center for Women’s Global Leadership and the Center for African Studies at her university. Dr. Busia holds a B.A. in English Language and Literature at St Anne’s College, Oxford, and a D.Phil. in Social Anthropology at St Anthony’s College.
Connie E. Evans is the president and Chief Executive Officer of the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO), the national trade association for microenterprise in the United States. Ms. Evans is a visionary leader, astute strategist, activist, and social entrepreneur who has founded three organizations. An international development consultant, with over 25 years experience, she has been recognized and utilized by such groups as the World Bank, the Clinton and Obama Administrations, a host of local government, private and independent sector organizations. With international experience spanning 43 countries, Ms. Evans draws on her expertise in developing and implementing strategies to further economic development, health and social change in communities. She has many distinguished community development, women’s leadership and social activism awards. Ms. Evans has nearly 20 years of service on philanthropic foundation boards, and serves on a number of national and international boards.
Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is social change philanthropist, social entrepreneur, journalist, fundraiser, trainer, and organizational development specialist. In 2000, Ms. Fayemi co-founded the African Women’s Development Fund, (AWDF), the first Pan-African grant-making fund. Previously, Mrs. Fayemi worked in the Department of Health and Social Services UK, and then became the Director of Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA), an international development organization for African women. While she was the Director of AMwA, she established the African Women’s Leadership Institute (AWLI), a training and networking forum for young women. Mrs. Fayemi has been an adviser and is on the boards of numerous regional and international bodies. She is a key figure in the world of philanthropy, the recipient of many distinguished awards, and one of the most influential African women on the continent. Mrs. Fayemi has a B.A. and M.A. in History from the University of Ife, Nigeria. She also received an M.A. in Gender and Society from Middlesex University, UK.
Joana Foster – Board Member, AWDF USA℠
Joana Foster, a co-founder of the African Women’s Development Foundation (AWDF), has been a social activist for over thirty years. Throughout her life she has been involved in founding organizations and supporting initiatives for social justice. Ms. Foster is a qualified lawyer in the UK and in Ghana, the country of her birth. She has practiced in both countries for many years, concentrating on Civil and Political Rights in Ghana, and Immigration and Women’s Rights in the UK. Her experience includes being a Trustee of the Child Poverty Action Group of the UK and in the 1990s entering the NGO sector full time first as the Country Director of CUSO, Ghana, a Canadian Non-Profit organization committed to social justice around the world. She was also the Regional Coordinator of Women in law and Development in Africa, a leading women’s rights network in Africa. Ms. Foster is also one of the founders of the Gender and Human Rights Documentation Centre based in Accra, Ghana.
Yma Gordon-Reid –Vice Chair and Fund Development Committee Chair, AWDF USA℠
Yma Gordon-Reid is seasoned grantmaker and philanthropic advisor. Most recently, Yma held the position of Senior Program Officer at the Newell Rubbermaid Foundation in Atlanta, Georgia, managing all of the corporate foundation’s grantmaking and global partnerships. Yma developed the Foundation’s international and domestic grantmaking systems and launched its grantmaking in the company’s newest markets of Brazil and Mexico.
Prior to this role, Yma served as Senior Vice President within Citigroup’s Global Community Development team managing its grant and corporate contribution portfolio providing grants and technical assistance to economic and community development non-profit organizations across the U.S. She has also been a Program Officer at the Ms. Foundation for Women and a microlender and small business practitioner at CAMBA, a community organization in NY. Early in her career, Yma worked with the United Nations Development Fund for Women and with the United Nations Development Programme in Barbados. Ms. Gordon-Reid holds a Master’s of International Affairs from Columbia University and a Bachelor’s in Economics from Spelman College.
Sandra Long Weaver – Board Member, AWDF USA℠
Sandra Long Weaver is President & CEO of The Dawson Media Group, a multi-media communications and consulting practice. As CEO of The Dawson Media Group, Mrs. Long Weaver enables organizations to learn about and tap into opinions and preferences of target audiences with a focus on women and on African Americans. Throughout her career with the Philadelphia Media Network (and its predecessor organizations), she held multiple leadership roles, including VP of Editorial Product Development and Managing Editor / VP of Newsroom Operations for the Philadelphia Inquirer & Philadelphia Daily News.
Mrs. Long Weaver has also served for the last decade as Chairperson & Publisher for the Acel Moore Minority Career Development Workshop. She has also provided significant leadership within her industry as a Founding Member of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ). In 2011, she organized the first “Divine Nine” breakfast for NABJ members. Mrs. Long Weaver has received many professional and industry awards, but is especially proud of having twice been a Juror for the Pulitzer Prizes in Arts & Journalism.
Mrs. Long Weaver earned her BA in Journalism from the University of Maryland also attended the Advanced Executive Program at the Northwestern Media Management Center. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc and serves on the Board of Visitors for the Phillip Merrill School of Journalism at the University of Maryland. Mrs. Long Weaver.
Theo Sowa – Ex-Officio AWDF USA℠ Board Member and AWDF CEO
Theo Sowa is Interim Chief Executive Officer of the African Women's Development Fund. As an independent advisor working on international social development issues, she has worked with UN agencies, African intergovernmental organizations and a range of African and international civil society organizations. She has produced numerous policy reports, published articles in journals and magazines, and was a reporter and presenter for the BBC, Thames TV and Channel Four. She sits on the Boards of various international grant making organizations, including Comic Relief and the Africa Advisory Board of the Stephen Lewis Foundation. Born in Ghana, she is a global citizen who has also done significant work in the United Kingdom and other countries. She has a BA in International Relations from the University of Sussex and an MA in International and Comparative Education from the University of London. She was award with the rank of Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE), a unique honor bestowed by the Queen of England.
AWDF USA WELCOMES NEW BOARD MEMBERS!
aame Afon Yelbert-Obeng - Board Member(ex officio) and
Bay Area Co-Chair
, AWDF USA℠
Maame Yelbert-Obeng is a true next generation leader in the best tradition of the African continent. She is a mother and professional who has made a career of giving—working and volunteering with organizations such as the Global Fund for Women (GFW), African Women’s Development Fund, Global Women’s Leadership Network (GWLN) , and Moremi Initiative for Women’s Leadership in Africa. Born and raised in Ghana, Maame is passionate about transformational leadership and mentorship for African women and girls. She was Program Officer for Sub-Saharan Africa at GFW, and coordinated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) training programs for women in East and West Africa. Maame is a recording artiste and speaker who uses music to promote social justice—she released her album Rise in May 2012 and is now working on a Music for Social Justice Album. She has featured at the African Feminist Forum, Museum of African Diaspora (MoAD), Green Festival, Bioneers Conference, Caribbean Heritage Organization’s Salute to Hollywood and the Arts, and the UN Commission on the Status of Women. Maame holds an M.A.in international policy studies, gender and development from the Monterey Institute of International Studies, and a B.A. in French and Spanish from Luther College, Iowa. She is also a 2009 graduate of the Women Leaders of the World program with GWLN.
Ekpedeme “Pamay” M. Bassey, is an entrepreneur, world traveler, educator, author, comedian, and philosopher. Ms. Bassey is the president of The Pamay Group, an e-learning design and strategy company, and has over 20 years of experience in designing and developing online learning courses for K-12, community organizations, corporate and virtual university audiences, computer based training, and day-in-the-life simulations. Ms. Bassey is also Chief Experience Officer of “My 52 Weeks of Worship Project, where she facilitates a series of workshops, presentations, and learning experiences in the area of cultural and inter-religious diversity, inclusion, and dialogue.
Ms. Bassey earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Symbolic Systems from Stanford University, a Master of Science degree in Computer Science from Northwestern University and is a graduate of the acclaimed Second City Conservatory program in Chicago, Illinois, which is an advanced study of improvisational comedy and theatre.
Patra Brown - Board Member (ex offico) and Midatantic Co-Chair, AWDF USA℠
AWDF Headquarters Liaisons
In addition to CEO, Theo Sowa, AWDF USA℠’s work is supported by a talented team of Africa experts on the AWDF staff in Accra, Ghana.
Abigail Burgesson – AWDF Special Programs Manager
AWDF’s Special Programs Manager, Ms. Burgesson is also AWDF’s liaison to AWDF USA℠. She has worked in the non-profit sector in Ghana since 1997. Prior to joining the African Women’s Development Fund, (AWDF), Ms. Burgesson worked with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI-Ghana), the Institute of Economic Affairs in Ghana as a Legislative and Economic Program Officer respectively and the Africa Leadership Forum as the Gender Officer.
Ms. Burgesson has extensive experience in Democratic Governance, Gender and Development issues and Resource Mobilization. She is a professional project manager and is currently the coordinator of the Certificate Course in Resource Mobilization organized by the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), Resource Alliance (RA)-UK and AWDF and Resource Alliance’s West Africa focal person. She is a trainer in Resource Mobilization and Events Management.
Ms. Burgesson is a seasoned events organizer, a professional project manager, a trainer and a motivational speaker on women’s leadership issues. She holds a degree from the University of Ghana, an MA in International Relations from Boston University, a certificate in International Negotiations from the Centre for Applied Studies in International Negotiations, Geneva, Switzerland and specialized training in Project Management, Resource Mobilization and Women’s Leadership.
Prior to becoming AWDF’s Director of Programs, Ms. Mukasa worked at Akina Mama wa Afrika as the Program Manager for Eastern Africa. She has a BA in Business and Management from the University of East London and an MSc in NGO Management from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Ms. Mukasa is a feminist activist with extensive experience of advocacy at international, regional, and national levels. She has participated in a number of key UN meetings, where she has coordinated advocacy strategies for the various women’s interest groups, including the African Women’s Caucus, and the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights, a campaign for the ratification and implementation of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.
Ms. Mukasa also lived in the UK for a number of years, where she worked in local and health authorities as a community development officer, developing services for minority ethnic communities in London and in particular refugees and asylum seekers. She is a trainer and facilitator specializing in the organizational development of NGOs, feminist theory and practice, and influencing policy. She has coordinated training for The African Women’s Leadership Institute at Akina Mama wa Afrika. She has facilitated meetings and training sessions for AWDF as well as, DANIDA (Uganda), ActionAid International, Uganda as well as a number of regional and national women’s NGOs and government institutions, on capacity building, team building and strategic planning. Ms. Mukasa is a member of the Working Group of the African Feminist Forum.
Ms. Sekyiamah previously worked as director of Southern Narrative, a UK based social enterprise, was an advertising and marketing executive for West Africa magazine and a leadership/communications trainer for the Metropolitan Police Service in London.
Ms. Sekyiamah's experience includes being on the management board of the London and South East Regional Global Dimension Consortium which has responsibility for global dimension education in the South East Region of the UK. She is the convenor of Fab Fem, a group of feminists who meet regularly in Accra and is a patron of Boafo Ye Na, a group of women gari processors in rural Ghana. In 2011, Ms. Sekyiamah was recognized by ARISE magazine as one of four Ghanaian Change Makers.
She is a trained facilitator, accomplished public speaker and a member of The Institute of Public Relations (Ghana). Ms. Sekyiamah holds a Diploma in Performance Coaching, a Certificate in Conflict Mediation and is a graduate of the University of North London with a BSc (Hons) in Communications and Cultural Studies and holds an MSc in Gender and Development from the London School of Economics.