AWDF USA Board Members
Abena Busia, 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, The State University of New Jersey at New Brunswick, where she has taught since 1981. Born in Accra, Ghana, she spent the first years of her childhood at home, as well as in Holland and Mexico, before her family finally settled in Oxford, England, where she read for a BA in English Language and Literature at St Anne's College, Oxford, in 1976, and a DPhil in Social Anthropology (Race Relations) at St Antony's College in 1984. She lectures and publishes widely on the African Diaspora literature and culture, and curriculum transformation for race and gender.
She is co-editor, with Stanlie James, of Theorizing Black Feminisms: The Visionary Pragmatism of Black Women, and of Beyond Survival: African Literature & the Search for New Life the publication from the proceedings of the 1994 African Literature Association Conference, with Kofi Anyidoho and Anne Adams. She co-directed, and co-edited with Tuzyline Jita Allan, and Florence Howe of the Feminist Press the two decades long Women Writing Africa continent-wide publishing project of cultural reconstruction whose four regional volumes were published between 2003 and 2009. She has published two volumes of poems, Testimonies of Exile published by Africa World Press, Trenton NJ, in 1990, and Traces of a Life, published by Ayebia Books, London, in 2008. Her poetry has also been published in various magazines and anthologies in West Africa, North America and Europe.
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 and is currently the Board Chair of AWDF-USA. She is also a founding board member and past President of the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD), a former President of the African Literature Association and former Board member of the African Studies Association. At her university she one of the founding board members of both The Center for Women’s Global Leadership and the Center for African Studies, on whose executive boards she continues to serve.
Theo Sowa is an independent advisor and consultant, specialising in international social development with a particular emphasis on children’s rights and protection issues. She is currently the CEO of the African Women’s Development Fund.
Born in Ghana, she has lived and worked in many countries in Africa, as well as the UK, Europe, and the USA. Her work includes advisory roles to African and other international women and children’s rights activists and leaders, plus policy development and advocacy with a variety of international agencies and organisations. She was Senior Programme Advisor on the UN Study on Children and Armed Conflict (the Machel Report) and led the five year review of the report.
Theo is a board member of various national and international civil society organisations and grant making foundations, including being a trustee of Comic Relief (a multimillion grant making foundation) and Chair of Comic Relief’s International Grants Committee; a member of the African Advisory Board of the Stephen Lewis Foundation; a Patron of Evidence for Development; a member of the UBS Optimus Foundation and a board member of the Graça Machel Trust.
She has authored many publications, including being a contributing editor to ‘The Impact of War on Children’; a contributing author and co editor of a Harvard Law School/UNICEF Innocenti publication on ‘Children and Transitional Justice’; and co author of ‘Groupwork and Intermediate Treatment’.
Theo was awarded a CBE in June 2010.
Maame Afon is many things, so she simply identifies herself as a “Whole Woman”, which means she brings all of who she is to everything she does. Born and raised in Ghana, Maame is passionate about transformative leadership, support and mentoring for women and girls in Africa and the Diaspora. She holds an M.A. in international policy studies, gender and development and a B.A. in French and Spanish. Maame describes her calling as “to support and inspire leaders, especially African women and girls to enjoy a wholesome leadership journey”, and lives by the motto “Do good, but first do no harm.” She believes that when we bring all of who we are to everything we do everyone benefits. Named a 2016 Cordes Fellow, she participated as a Delegate at Opportunity Collaboration (OC), and returned in 2017 as a Moderator for the Colloquium for Good. In early 2017, she was selected as a Hive Global Leader.
Maame uses her experience in grant-making, philanthropy, women’s rights and leadership to support socially impactful causes globally. She served as Program Officer for Africa at the Global Fund for Women, and later as Africa Program Director at Women's Earth Alliance via Earth Island Institute. Maame mentors emerging leaders, particularly Mastercard Foundation Scholars and Moremi Initiative Fellows. She serves on the board of We Care Solar, African Women’s Development Fund-USA, Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative, Women Thrive Alliance and Cocoa360, while providing strategic advice to organizations such as African Youth in Philanthropy Network, Global Women’s Leadership Network, and Girls Empowerment Sierra Leone (GESL). Maame has been featured in various magazines, articles and platforms including in For Harriet—18 Phenomenal African Feminist to Know and Celebrate; AfroElle Magazine, June 2015 edition; Middlebury Institute of International Studies, Monterey (MIIS) Alumni Communique, Fall 2018; and PrettyPeriod.
A gifted and dynamic singer, she co-founded Akwantu Media with her husband to produce and publish wholesome music that uplifts and inspires. She also uses music to promote social justice and Philanthropy. She founded MILT LLC (Management for Impact Leadership and Transformation) to connect people and organizations to the resources and opportunities they need to maximize impact and unleash potential. In 2018, Maame unveiled the Whole Woman 40/40 Project to facilitate deeper connections among women of color, where seasoned experience and wisdom will merge with new energy. Maame enjoys a fulfilling life as a wife and mother of three children. She currently serves as Director for Programs and Partnerships at Moremi Initiative.
Yma Gordon-Reid currently serves as the Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility for Broadridge Financial Solutions, a global financial services firm. In her role, she leads the company’s efforts in increasing its corporate giving and its social impact around the world. She manages the company’s charitable giving, volunteer programs and matching gifts in a global strategy that supports education for youth with a particular focus on girls education, technology and financial education programs. Yma also works with nonprofit partners to provide volunteer opportunities for Broadridge’s 6500 employees in communities where the company does business.
Yma has worked in philanthropy and grantmaking for 15 years, managing grants and programs in corporations including Citigroup and Newell Rubbermaid and with public foundations including the Women’s Fund of Long Island and the Ms. Foundation for Women. She currently serves on the board of the African Women’s Development Fund USA, an organization that galvanizes support and resources to directly benefit women’s programs in Africa. Since 2012, Yma has served as an evaluator for the JB Fernandes Award Selection Committee.
Yma is passionate about supporting social change organizations both in the U.S. and internationally and has worked at organizations in both the U.S. and in the Caribbean. She has a Bachelors degree in Economics from Spelman College and a Masters in Economic Development from Columbia University. Yma resides in Long Island, New York with her husband and son.
Moiyattu Banya is of Sierra Leonean heritage and splits her time between the diaspora and Sierra Leone. She is a Social Entrepreneur and non-profit development specialist with 10 years of experience in Gender & Youth development and Communications. Her educational background is in Public Health from Rutgers University. She holds a Masters in Social Enterprise Administration and Management with a focus in International Development from Columbia University School of Social work with a minor in Law.
Moiyattu’s experience as Executive Director of Girls Empowerment Summit Sierra Leone (GESSL) and Creative Director and Founder of Women Change Africa (WCA) has allowed her to do exactly what she loves - create communities on and offline for African women and girls. Moiyattu has a passion for Africa and the diaspora and has been blessed to work in various cities across the world including: Freetown, Accra, New York, Entebbe, and Dakar. In 2012, she cofounded the feminist social impact not-for-profit organization, GESSL, which focuses on building the capacities of girls in Sierra Leone to become leaders and change agents in their communities. That same year, she launched WCA, which curates stories of African women owned brands, not-for-profit organizations and small businesses. WCA has now grown to a firm that provides strategy development, PR and coaching services.
Her work was recently featured as a Okay100women honoree by Okay Africa Magazine, as well as on various online platforms, including Elle South Africa, Applause Africa, Radio France International. She has served as a Lecturer at Columbia University's school of social work and as a feminist educator at Temple University’s Gender and Sexuality studies program. Moiyattu consulted for companies and organizations such as the MasterCard Foundation, The University of West Indies Cave Hill Barbados, and UN-Women.
Currently, Moiyattu is an advisory board member of The African Women’s Development Fund-USA an is a published writer. She is a woman of faith, and takes pleasure in traveling and spending time with her family.