South Asia Women’s Fund, (SAWF)


A philanthropic institution dedicated to women’s rights in the región.



Enabling access to resources – financial, technical and human, in the region, that will accelerate the realization of women’s human rights.

Established on May 6th, 2004, SAWF is registered in Sri Lanka and works in five countries of the region; Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka.

Since its inception in 2004, SAWF has funded over 106 women-led initiatives and disbursed USD 1,261,670 in grant making, under its various themes, to women’s organizations in the region.


Thematic Portfolios

The main thematic areas supported:

  •  Strengthening Feminist Voices: To provide critical funding for institutional support, research, collaborations, travel (to conferences, meetings and workshops), on a wide cross section of topics that relate to women’s human rights. On the whole, SAWF aims to create and support spaces for discussions, exchange and learning at local, regional and national levels. This grant primarily focuses on community level initiatives.
  • Right to Safe and Secure Mobility: To support initiatives across the region that challenge the traditional rescue-rehabilitation-repatriation model of the anti-trafficking discourse through positive interventions that amplify the voices and choices of women, and addresses their right to mobility, safety and livelihood.
  • Building Young Women’s Leadership: To support interventions that are centred around young women’s voices, that acknowledge their choices, and place their leadership at the centre of the discourse.
  • Access to Justice: To enhance and strengthen women’s access to justice and countering violations of their human rights by investing in the capacity of a cadre of women lawyers to provide high quality legal representation at the primary court levels across the región.
  • Influencing Philanthropy and Resource Mobilisation: To ensure that the women’s movements in the región have sustainable access to resources to undertake their work; address their priorities through fundraising from both individual and institutional donors; as well as encouraging more resources for women’s rights work in the región.



A range of grants are made need-basis and in accordance with SAWF’s programme strategy, which focuses on building institutions, strengthening capacities, building perspectives, encuraging cross-cultural learnings and networking, to ensure realisation of women’s human rights in the región.

  • Core/Institutional grant
  • Collaborative grant
  • Start-up grants
  • Capacity Building
  • Mentorship
  • Travel
  • Project specific
  • Fellowships

Working Context in South Asia:

South Asia is a complex region, with very similar cultural realities and patriarchal traditions that dominate the social landscape. Women are often considered as second class citizens, and have very little control over their lives. Recognition and exercise of basic rights will only be realised with much needed access to resources.

In terms of ‘investing’ in issues related to women, the age-old ‘charity’ model of philanthropy, which has been largely informed by patriarchal values, has always existed. But there is very little evidence of committed support to women’s rights work. However, the recent trends of an emerging wealthy middle-class indicate a greater capacity for giving for women’s rights issues, especially with the presence of foundations like Azim Premji, Bill and Melinda Gates and several others. It is critical that this potential not only be tapped, but be informed by the claims of women to resources such that a true culture of rights can be nurtured and strengthened.

SAWF, in this sense, sees itself as an important catalyst and actor in advocating for social justice philanthropy in mobilising resources, which challenges the traditional charity/welfare driven model and instead, uses a language of rights. The other mandate of SAWF is to encourage the building and strengthening of women’s movements in the región on common issues including mobility, countering trafficking, violence against women, and political participation amongst others.

Interesting facts about SAWF: It is the only regional fund in South Asia, with a clear focus on women’s rights, which is committed to rights-based philanthropy. SAWF is also a part of the Asian Network of Women’s Funds and it is the only fund with a virtual office and the team works out of three locations: Colombo, New Delhi, Lucknow!

Updated June 2015.







Tulika Srivastava.


16/6 A, Mohideen Terrace, Ward Place, Colombo-7, Sri Lanka


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