A black and white photo of Nita Barrow sitting in a chair and wearing a patterned dress.
Nita Barrow, co-founder of the Global Fund for Women.
Gary Mclean/Fairfax Media via Getty Images


A global fund for women’s grassroots movements

In 1987, four bold women—Anne Firth Murray, Frances Kissling, Laura Lederer and Nita Barrow—who believed in the power of women to change their lives—and the world around them—created the Global Fund for Women. Since 1988, Ford has proudly funded their efforts to support and amplify feminist movements and grassroots organizers challenging the status quo. To date, the fund has supported 5,000 women-led groups across 175 countries, helping win rights for millions of women and girls.


The Center for Reproductive Rights is founded

In 1992, Ford helped establish what is known today as the Center for Reproductive Rights and, with our continued support, it became a formative player that has strengthened laws and policies to protect women’s rights in more than 50 countries. Reproductive health remains a core part of gender justice work up until today, and we have supported organizations, from the World Health Organization and the International Women’s Health Coalition to the African Women’s Development Fund and Central American Women’s Fund.

Lourdes Rivera speaks at a podium with people holding signs that read "Abortion is Health Care"
Lourdes Rivera of the Center for Reproductive Rights addresses pro-choice demonstrators.
Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images


Reproductive health sparks a debate in Egypt

In 1994, at the UN International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, women and their sexual and reproductive rights were at the core of the conversation on population growth, thanks to the vigorous work of our grantees and women’s movements globally. With our support, our grantees took to the floor to advocate that people—rather than governments—should decide when to bring children into the world. 


Reproductive justice is born in Chicago

In 1994, a group of black women—who called themselves Women of African Descent for Reproductive Justice—wanted to make sure that women of color, other marginalized groups, and trans people were represented in the reproductive rights movement. Combining social justice with human rights, they launched a movement by publishing a historic full-page statement with 800 signatures in the Washington Post. Since then, Ford has made an effort to support reproductive justice organizations focused on underrepresented populations and regions in the US and globally such as SisterSongWomen with a VisionForward Together, the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, and National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.

A newspaper page featuring an open letter, Black Women on Health Care Reform, with eight columns of signee names.

A Black person wears a hat with "Violence Must Stop" handwritten on it.Christopher Herwig/UN Photo


Ford makes its first investments to combat violence against women and girls

From 1994 on, we have funded a multitude of organizations, working on violence against women and girls with a focus on the most vulnerable groups, from women of color to low-income women. In those early years, we established Vietnam’s first shelter for survivors and China’s first helpline for survivors, built crisis centers in the Philippines and counseling and training projects for survivors in Kenya, and we supported the development of regional alliances against femicide across Central America.

Understanding feminism around the world

Leading up to the UN Conference on Women in China, Ford teamed up with feminist scholar and professor Amrita Basu to publish The Challenges of Local Feminisms, a book that delved into women’s movements around the world and the distinctive influences and challenges they faced in different countries in order to identify and begin to work toward context-specific solutions.

Hilary Clinton speaks on stage at a podium under a sign that reads "United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, 4-15 September 1995".
Hilary Clinton addresses the conference, making her now famous “Women’s rights are human rights” speech.
UN Photo/Milton Grant


Women of the world unite in China

Nearly 40,000 women from across the globe gathered for the UN’s 1995 World Conference on Women in Beijing. As a partner to the UN, Ford committed approximately $5 million to support the conference’s infrastructure, ensure key players across Africa, Asia, and Latin America participated, and foster conversations and convenings with civil society, government agencies, and UN organizations to help make the event a highly collaborative, multilateral effort. Following the conference, the foundation partnered with the UN Development Fund for Women (now part of UN Women) and a number of our grantees to develop Toward Beijing+10, a project to implement the 1995 Platform for Action.