South Asia Women’s Fund, (SAWF)


A philanthropic institution dedicated to women’s rights in the region


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 it started working in 2004, the South Asia Women’s Fund has made approximately 65 grants under its various programmes, to women’s organizations and women human rights defenders in the region.



The two main programmatic areas are:

Resource mobilisation: to ensure that the women’s movements in the región have sustainable Access to resources to undertake their work and address their priorities through fund raising from both prívate and institutional givers; as well as encouraging more resources for women’s rights work in the región.

Grant Making:

  • Small grants for women’s groups and women leaders to work on innovative, cutting-edge issues.
  • General and seeding grants to strengthen women’s organizations, undertaking work to ensure realization of human rights of women.
  • Grants to support work related to women’s right to safe and secure movement.
  • Grants under SAWF’s legal fellowship programme to women lawyers working in small towns in the region.

In order to carry out its programmes, SAWF works with the following programme strategies:

  1. Networking and outreach with donors, women’s rights movements and groups and other stakeholders.
  2. Technical Resource Unit: to build knowledge for donors, women’s rights groups and movements and to provide the required support to partners for enabling a greater impact
  3. Institutional building: focuses upon strengthening institutional processes and systems.

Working context in South Asia:

South Asia is a complex region, with very similar feudal cultural realities and patriarchal traditions. However, the tensions amongst governments has led to very strict movement control, disabling people from creating a vibrant regional community, which can claim rights together. As in other regions and cultures, here as well, women are often not even considered as second class citizens, and have very little control over recognition and exercise of rights, as well as claim and access to resources needed for their realization.

 Given the feudal and patriarchal nature of the societies in the region, while there is extensive charitable giving, it is mostly towards welfare and/or political purposes, with little evidence of concern for rights work, especially to support women’s access to and enjoyment of their rights. However, the recent trends of an emerging newly wealthy middle-class indicate a greater capacity for giving for rights issues, especially due to the advocacy by Azim Premji, Bill Gates and others. It is critical that this potential not only be tapped, but be informed by the claims of women to resources for a true culture of rights to be nurtured and strengthened.

 The role of SAWF, therefore, is as much about advocating for indigenous philanthropy for women’s rights, as it is about providing support to women’s groups. The other mandate of SAWF is to encourage the building and strengthening of women’s movements in the region on common issues including mobility, countering trafficking, violence against women, honour crimes, 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 part of the Asian Network of Women’s Funds and it is the only virtual office fund, with the team working out of two countries and 4 locations!




Tulika Srivastava.


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


94 -11- 2690 992