Hope Chigudu 

Global Fund for Women (Zimbabwe)

Hope is co-founder of the Zimbabwe Women’s Resource Centre and Network, one of the biggest NGOs in the country, based in Harare. The organization was started at a time when there were plenty of resources written on women, but these were not centralized in one place and hence were difficult to find. The organization was also formed at a time when women did not have spaces where they could go, sit, unwind and simply be. Gender/women’s studies were also not then common; the Centre became a school for learning about gender analysis and feminism.

For ten years Hope was Chair of the board of the Zimbabwe Women’s Resource Centre. Around the same time that the Centre was formed, the Global Fund for Women was also being birthed by Anne Murray. She visited Zimbabwe to talk about the importance of this new women’s fund, the result being that Hope joined the board and eventually took on the position of Chair of the Fund.

Hope also sat on the board of the Urgent Action Fund (UAF), founded in 1997, following the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. The co-founders had identified a severe gap between activists’ needs in the face of crises or unexpected opportunities and the resources available to them, especially in areas experiencing armed conflict or escalating violence. Most donors required several months to process a grant request, but many interventions had only a small window of opportunity in which they could be effective.

By 2001, a significant portion of UAF’s Rapid Response Grants were going to women’s rights groups in conflict-affected areas of Africa. UAF consulted with activists throughout Africa, and the board decided to establish a local presence in Nairobi to provide more strategic and informed support to women activists throughout the continent. Eventually UAF-Africa became semi-autonomous and Hope was its first Chair.

The Global Fund for Women encouraged and supported the formation of regional funds and that is how the African Women’s Development Fund was born. The Fund used the Zimbabwe Women’s Resource Centre as a fiscal sponsor and, later on, when it was well established, Hope was asked to be its technical organizational development advisor. This is a role that she still plays.

A sociologist by training, Hope Chigudu holds an MA in Development Studies with a focus on women’s studies. After a start in the corporate world, feminism opened Hope’s eyes and she joined the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in Zimbabwe “a changed woman.” Hope has acted as an organizational advisor to Nirnaya in India and Tewa in Nepal. She has also worked with the African Women’s Funding Network, mostly in nurturing the network’s growth. Hope is a JASS founder and former board member, and has gone on to play a huge role – on the ground and on the page – in shaping the power of JASS’ program in Malawi. Hope also sits on the board of the Global Fund for Community Foundations. Follow her on Twitter @HopeChigudu