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.
Patra Brown, Project Management Professional (PMP), is a seasoned Human Resources Leader, with comprehensive experiences with four multinational, Fortune 500 companies: Becton Dickinson, Toyota Motor Co, Honda Motor Co & Marathon Oil. With a proven ability in translating ambiguous business needs into strategies, her areas of experience include process engineering, global ERP design, merger integration, mid-to-long term business planning and training.
Energized by people who strive to change their environment for the better, Patra is completing her third term as an elected official in her community. Additionally, she serves on the boards of AWDF USA and a state-wide scholarship program.
Maame Afon identifies herself as a “Whole Woman”, occupying various spaces as an activist, international development practitioner, mentor and recording artist who uses music to promote social change. Her latest music project Ekome (one), celebrates a message of collaboration and unity. She serves on the Board of African Women’s Development Fund, USA (AWDF-USA) which provides a vehicle for effective American philanthropy to Africa, to build the capacity of African women and girls for social change and sustainable development. Additionally, she is a Board member (Secretary) with We Care Solar, an award-winning organization using solar technology and sustainable energy to improve maternal and child health. Maame’s passion for transformative mentorship and leadership development, especially for African women and girls aligns with her work as Programs Director at Moremi Initiative for Women’s Leadership in Africa, where she works to equip, engage and inspire a new generation of African women leaders. As a wife and mother, Maame enjoys partnering with her husband to raise their twin daughters and son. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in French and Spanish from Luther College, Iowa and a Master’s degree in International Policy, Human Rights, Gender and Development from Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California (MIIS). Maame serves as a mentor and advisor on the Technical Committee for the African Youth in Philanthropy program under the Africa Grantmakers Network.
Barbara Y. Phillips, social justice feminist, specialized in voting rights litigation from 1978 – 1994 in Mississippi, the South, and California and continues engagement in that field as an independent scholar. She is co-founder of Bending the Arc: The Robert Howard Social Justice Symposium honoring her late husband. She is currently a board member of Crossroads Fund (Chicago foundation); the Women’s Learning Partnership for Rights, Development and Peace (working with 20 independent partner organizations in the Global South, particularly in Muslim-majority societies); the Programme on Women’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (advancing rights protected by the UN Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the Global South) and past-chair of the board of the African Women’s Development Fund USA. She was formerly the Program Officer of the Ford Foundation with responsibility to craft and manage the portfolio of grants and other activities related to advancing women's rights and gender equity in the United States and globally within the Human Rights unit of the Peace and Social Justice Program. Prior to joining the Foundation, she was an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Mississippi School of Law, partner in the San Francisco law firm Rosen & Phillips, staff attorney with the national Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in its Mississippi and Washington offices specializing in voting rights, and Special Assistant Attorney General in the Office of the Minnesota Attorney General. Upon appointment by the federal district court of Northern California in 1987, Ms. Phillips monitored for seven years the compliance of the San Francisco Fire Department with court orders and a broad consent decree resolving claims of race and sex discrimination in hiring, promotions, and conditions of employment. Prior to attending law school, she was a staff member in the Mississippi offices of the Black Economic Research Center and the Emergency Land Fund.
She was a founding member of the Jackson, Mississippi Women's Coalition, 1971; vice-president, Mississippi Civil Liberties Union, 1972-1973; founding boardmember of the Southern Coalition for Educational Equity, 1978-1994; president, Association of Northern California Black Women Lawyers, 1986 & 1987; boardmember, Bar Association of San Francisco, 1988-90;
Educational background: B.A. ,Macalester College; J.D., Northwestern University School of Law; J.S.M., Stanford Law School where she also taught. Her publications includeReflections: Philanthropy and Social Justice Feminism, 1 The Freedom Center Journal 47 (Fall 2014); Dignity and Human Rights: The Missing Dialogue (2011, Programme on Women’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, New Delhi); Thoughts on Dignity, Discussion Paper (Programme on Women’s Economic, Social And Cultural Rights, No.1, May 2007, New Delhi); The Road Traveled, The Road Ahead: Ford Foundation Support for Women’s Rights in Women, Philanthropy and Social Change: Journey To a Just Society, ed. Elayne Clift (UPNE Press 2005); and numerous articles in academic journals about democracy and political participation.
Connie E. Evans is the president and Chief Executive Officer of the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO), the national trade association for microbusiness representing over 400 practitioners and advocates in the US. Evans is a visionary leader, astute strategist, activist, and social entrepreneur who has founded three organizations. In 1986 she was the founding president of the award-winning Women’s Self-Employment Project, the first and largest urban microbusiness development organization in the U.S and the first adaptation of the Grameen Bank model to a U.S. urban setting. Evans also pioneered one of the first matched-savings program -- Individual Development Accounts -- in the country. In 2000 she founded WSEP Ventures, a social enterprise-hybrid organization developed to serve as a catalyst for social change, economic development and community empowerment. In 2007, Evans founded CSolutions Consulting, an advisory boutique specializing in solutions that address social change. An international development consultant, with over 25 years experience, she has been recognized and utilized by such groups as the World Bank, the Clinton Administration, a host of local government, private and independent sector organizations. With international experience spanning 43 countries, Evans draws on her expertise in developing and implementing strategies to further economic development, health and social change in communities.
Evans started her career in community mental health as a master-level psychologist. Her commitment to improving the health and life options for disadvantaged women and their families moved her to “harness the marketplace” for solutions. As the Assistant Director of a Hull House Association affiliate in Chicago, Evans became the Project Director for the first resident managed public housing site in the city. She helped low-income women to organize, develop leadership skills, and learn business to take control over a multi-million dollar enterprise.
Evans has lectured in universities throughout the United States and is a frequent panelist and key note speaker at conferences around the globe. She has many distinguished awards. A sampling includes being named the Inaugural Twink Frey Social Activist in 2006; the 1996 Chicagoan of the Year by Chicago Magazine; the first Teknion Humanitarian Award in 1999; Gloria Steinem Woman of Vision Award; 1998 Community Leader of the Year presented by the African American MBA Association at the University of Chicago; and the Chicago Community Service Fellowship Award by the Chicago Community Trust.
Evans’ broad experiences across the worlds of business and finance compliments her skills in development finance. She served two elected terms on the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago…the first African American woman to hold such a position and was appointed to the CDFI Advisory Board, a fund in the Department of the Treasury, by President Clinton. Evans was appointed by President Obama to be a member of the U.S. Delegation to the United Nations 54th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. She also served as a member of the U. S. Delegation to Preparatory Meetings for the Summit of the Americas, the U. S. Delegation to Preparatory Meetings for the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, and again for Beijing Plus Five having been appointed to each by President Clinton.
A strong advocate of good governance in nonprofits, Evans has nearly 20 years of service on philanthropic foundation boards, and serves on a number of national and international boards.
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.