35 years of IWDA


IWDA was established in 1985, through the initiative and insight of three outstanding Australian women: Ruth Pfanner, Wendy Poussard and Wendy Rose.
Gathered around a kitchen table in Melbourne, their aim was to develop Australia’s first development organisation focused on women, and run by women. The founders announced this plan to the world that same year, at the Third United Nations World Conference for Women in Nairobi.

Looking back, co-founder Wendy Poussard knew it was a defining moment. “Development was a hot issue for feminists then,” she said.
“Women in traditional cultures, as well as feminist scholars, were saying that women did not want to be just the ‘targets’ or ‘beneficiaries’ of aid. IWDA encouraged the development community in Australia to think about and understand the impact of gender issues in development organisations and programs, to employ more women staff, to value women’s participation and leadership.”

Black and white scanned copy of IWDA report from 1985
A scanned copy of IWDA’s first ever report from December, 1985.

Over the past three and a half decades, IWDA has formed deep relationships with more than 200 women’s rights organisations and contributed to powerful movements for change. From increasing diverse women’s access to leadership and decision-making roles, to defending women human rights in all spheres, we are incredibly proud of the progress we have achieved together.

In July we were excited to launch our new Strategic Plan 2020-2023, which sets our future direction towards gender equality for all.

“As we celebrate IWDA’s 35-year herstory, we look to the future and our role in the global feminist movement,” said Bettina Baldeschi, CEO of IWDA. “With increased backlash towards women’s rights organisations, restrictions on civil society and the existential threat of climate change and its gendered impacts – the world needs the analytical sharpness and positive power of feminist movements now more than ever.”

To all our supporters and friends who have helped make IWDA what it is today – thank you.