Our Story

IWDA was founded in 1985 to progress the rights of women and address their absence as beneficiaries of, and decision makers in, development. Our purpose was to prioritise partnership and respect for women’s capacity, agency and human rights in all areas of development –priorities which remain at the core of our work today. Over our 30-year history, IWDA has worked with 194 program partners across 36 countries and territories.

Here are some highlights from our 30 years of experience advancing women’s rights.

Established 1985

Jackson Report

Australian Parliament publishes the Jackson Report, a review of Australia’s aid program recommending the equal participation of women as well as projects specifically aimed at addressing women’s needs.


First IWDA meeting

Ruth Pfanner, Wendy Poussard and Wendy Rose hold the first meeting of IWDA, at Ruth's house. “I was sick of committees and of talking,” said Wendy Poussard. “I wanted action.”


IWDA launch

Launch of IWDA is officially announced at the NGO Women’s Forum of the United Nations Third World Conference on Women in Nairobi.


IWDA office opened

First IWDA office opened in Melbourne with the support of a network of volunteers.


IWDA's first program

IWDA launches its first program, providing health care training to women in the Philippines.


First IWDA news distributed

IWDA publishes its first newsletter.

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First paid staff member

IWDA receives its first institutional grant, enabling the hire of the first paid IWDA staff member.


Official recognition

IWDA becomes a full member of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid (now the Australian Council for International Development), the peak body for international aid organisations in Australia.


Program support increases

Support to projects grows to $200,000 expanding our work to support the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement’s Women Against Rape Campaign.


First exchange program

Women from Thailand, Laos, Papua New Guinea and Australia take part in the first IWDA-led international exchange program. IWDA has supported many women to take part in exchanges over the years to share knowledge, experiences and strategy.


Rapid growth

IWDA has 31 programs across Africa, Central and South America, Asia, Australia and the Pacific.


Empower monthly giving launched

IWDA launches the Empower monthly giving program. Empower provides important financial stability to IWDA.

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First gender training program

IWDA conducts a gender training course for consultants implementing Australian aid projects overseas. Over the years IWDA has conducted several trainings, and we are recognised as the leading gender and development expert in Australia.


Bejing Conference preparations begin

IWDA attends the NGO Regional Preparatory Forum in Manila as part of preparations for the 1995 United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. IWDA collaborates with the Australian Government to develop an Australian women's information kit on the conference.


Two major campaigns launch

IWDA is heavily involved in The Campaign to End Female Genital Mutilation and the Campaign to End Trafficking of Women and Girls from Myanmar.


Beijing preparations continue in New York

IWDA attends the Commission on the Status of Women in New York, where preparations for the Fourth World Conference on Women continue. IWDA supports women from Tibet to gain representation despite exile.


IWDA Cambodia launched

The launch of IWDA Cambodia, an independent locally-run organisation focusing on women's rights.


Fourth UN World Conference on Women in Beijing begins

A remarkable 17,000 participants and 30,000 activists travelled to Beijing for the Fourth World Conference on Women. Five IWDA staff attend. IWDA supports the efforts of women from Tibet to join the conference and the associated NGO forum. In the end, only nine of the 76 Tibetan women in exile who registered for the forum were able to attend. In response, the nine women who did attend, including two IWDA representatives, held the first ever Tibetan protest on Chinese soil. IWDA also supported the attendance of six women in exile or from a refugee or indigenous background to attend the associated NGO forum.


Conclusion of Beijing Conference

The outcome of the Beijing Conference was the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. For the past 20 years, the Beijing Platform has been a powerful road map for women’s rights activists and policy-makers around the globe.


First "16 Days" in Australia

IWDA launches the first Australian campaign in the global 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence movement.


Growth in the new millennium

IWDA funds our 300th overseas project and now has 3000 supporters.


First IWDA website launched

IWDA launches its first website.


Launch of Banteay Srei

IWDA Cambodia becomes Banteay Srei, a registered local NGO in Cambodia. Since then, IWDA and Banteay Srei have shared 15 years of partnership supporting the rights of women in Cambodia.


New strategic direction

A new strategic direction focusses on gender and development in the Asia Pacific Region.


United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York

IWDA is invited to be an NGO representative on the official delegation to the 2005 United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York.


IWDA hosts Asia Pacific breakthrough

The Women, Faith and Development Summit to End Global Poverty results in $1.2 billion in new funding commitments to women and girls.


First Pacific Regional Women’s Leadership Program

The Funding Leadership and Opportunities for Women (FLOW) regional program has connected partners in Fiji, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. The program has been influential in legal and policy reform, addressing violence against women and supporting women’s leadership across all levels of society.


A successful year of growth

IWDA achieves our biggest ever fundraising target and increase funding to program partners, with grant income up by 59% and donations up by 47%.


Triple Jeopardy research launches

This year IWDA and research partners focussed on converting the insights from this ground-breaking research into policy and practice. We supported our Cambodian partner Banteay Srei to integrate disability as a cross-cutting issue across their programs. All staff and community volunteers (over 200 people) were trained in gender and disability mainstreaming, and community volunteers used the training to review Village Development Plans to ensure the needs of women with disabilities were included.


IWDA leads global launch of new gender sensitive tool to measure poverty

IWDA and our research partners spent four years developing a better way to measure poverty, supported by the Australian Research Council. We used input from poor women and men to develop a new gender-sensitive tool for measuring poverty: the Individual Deprivation Measure.

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End The Right To Rape campaign

IWDA collected over 25,000 signatures for our petition to End The Right To Rape, which was handed it over to the Australian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Gillian Bird, in New York.


IWDA celebrates 30 years

30 years, 194 partners, 36 countries. The next 30 years depend on all of us.

Read our commemorative annual report