About Us


We fight for a world where men and women have equal rights and opportunities.

We believe in taking calculated risks through our philanthropy and investing for the long term. We test new models for development, learn and adapt, with an eye to sustainability.

We work closely with local experts to run our own programmes, always checking that we are adding value to the sector. Our support is multi-year, highly-engaged and tailored. This means we take the time to understand the needs on the ground and find ways to uncover and develop catalytic solutions.

All overhead costs are covered by the President and his companies so that 100% of external funding leveraged is spent directly on Womanity’s programmes.


Our work falls under two pillars of activity:





Message from the President

Ten years ago, I wanted to find ways of bringing hope for a better future to children and adults in developing countries. After careful research I decided to launch an organization dedicated to empowering disadvantaged women and girls and so a new enterprising foundation; The Womanity Foundation (formerly the Smiling Children Foundation) was born.

Yann Borgstedt, Founder of Womanity, the Foundation that supports women empowerment

Womanity believes that by directly supporting women and girls, we are reducing inequalities and fostering progress for everyone. Our vision and approach are built on the experience we have gained over the years. They are also reinforced by numerous studies that show investing in education for girls, as well as vocational training and employment for women, produces a positive ripple effect for entire communities and ultimately entire countries.  For example, when 10% or more of a country’s girls go to school, its GDP increases an average of 3% (Council on Foreign Relations).

Being an entrepreneur myself, I strongly believe in the power of talented individuals and innovative organizations to create deep change in their own societies through ground-breaking initiatives.  I have also seen over the past years that the best way to make a large-scale impact on improving our world is by fostering partnerships and collaboration with and between these entrepreneurial individuals and organizations.

In our choice of projects and programs, we focus on: innovation, the potential for growth and replication, systemic change and sustainability. Through our close collaboration with local partners, we have consolidated projects in Afghanistan, Israel, Morocco and the West Bank. We have also launched exciting new ventures Radio Nisaa FM, the first commercial women’s radio in the Middle East, WomenChangeMakers, a program in Brazil and India supporting the growth of social enterprises that improve the lives of girls and women. Our newest program is the world’s first major award in preventing violcence against women; the Womanity Award.

Ultimately, our motivation is to help girls and women to realize their full potential in life and, in the process, to gain more hope for a brighter future.

The support and expertise of our partners and donors, with whom I wish to gratefully share our success, makes it all possible. You continue to inspire us as we strive to fulfil our mission.

I hope you enjoy exploring our new Womanity website and thank you for your interest in Womanity and its life-changing work.

Yann Borgstedt

In February 2016, Yann addressed over 1,000 guests at the Womanity Gala in Geneva. Read his speech here.

View this film and find out why Yann Borgstedt set up Womanity to address the needs of women and girls around the world, and the impact that the foundation is having.

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The Womanity Foundation was established in 2005 by Yann Borgstedt, a successful businessman and entrepreneur who believes the best way to build sustainable growth is through collaboration with the social sector and the business world.



Originally called the Smiling Children Foundation, Womanity began working in Morocco supporting girl domestic laborers to return to their families and attend school. The Foundation also supported rural communities to professionalize their olive oil production and increase their exports.

In 2007 Womanity expanded into Afghanistan to work with one of the biggest girls’ school in Kabul, the Al-Fatah School for Girls. Through its work training teachers, rebuilding infrastructure, and providing equipment to improve the quality of the learning, Al Fatah became a model school in the country.


2008 saw fast growth for Womanity with the launch of five new projects aimed at encouraging people in underprivileged areas, or from minority groups, to access education, training, and employment. The work in Morocco, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories, focused on girls’ education and self-development, job-creation for single mothers, and support for rural communities.

Focus on entrepreneurs

During 2009 and 2010 Womanity’s key focus developed further with the launch of the WomenChangeMakers Fellowship and Radio Nisaa FM. These built on the strategic decision to invest in social entrepreneurs who have the capacity to change societal norms for women and girls, through high impact programmes.

In 2012 the new name was officially adopted with The Womanity Foundation expressing a determination towards the empowerment of women for the greater good of all humanity.

Launch of the Womanity Award and B100Ragl

In 2013 the Arabic radio fiction series B100 Ragl (Worth 100 Men) was produced for broadcast in 2014 by 10 radio station in 9 countries across the MENA region. In 2014 the pioneering Womanity Award for the Prevention of Violence Against Women was launched, the world’s first award for innovation in the field of preventing gender-based violence.

Strategic Review and the two pillars: Disruptive Media Solutions and Institutional Development

In May 2017 Rafia Qureshi joined as Womanity’s new Executive Director. This appointment signified a focus on developing Womanity’s internal capacity and the launch of a strategic review to understand what the organisation had been doing well and where it needed to improve.

The review resulted in the aligning of Womanity’s programmatic work under two pillars: Disruptive Media Solutions, and Institutional Development. The former dedicated to using the power of media to challenge gender inequality and the latter on building the capacity of organisations to successfully scale their operations and impact.

Womanity today

To date the Womanity Foundation has supported 15 social entrepreneurs, over 23,000 school girls (and boys) in Afghanistan, brought messages of women’s empowerment to hundreds of thousands of radio listeners and provided an ecosystem of business support for its WomenChangeMakers Fellows.

Today, The Foundation works in Afghanistan, Brazil, India, Palestine, Mexico, South Africa and across the Middle East and North Africa region. It is based in Geneva, Switzerland with an office in the United Kingdom and a presence in the USA under the auspices of the King Baudouin Foundation.

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The Team

The Womanity Foundation benefits from highly experienced, creative and knowledgeable people on its board and in its staff body.

Our global team based across the world work closely with the secretariat office based in Geneva, Switzerland.

Meet the team

Goodwill Ambassador: Rosanna Arquette

A talented actor committed to Womanity’s cause, using her network to advocate for women’s rights and promote our work across the media.

“During my travels around the world, I often had the opportunity to meet girls and women living in deprived conditions. Each time, I was deeply impressed by their generosity, dedication, and determination, even in the face of the greatest of difficulties. These meetings convinced me that the poorest women can be powerful agents of change, if we believe in them and encourage them in their efforts.”

Yann and Rosanna Arquette at Womanit Gala 2012 by tillateTaniaP_0001

Rosanna Arquette is Womanity’s first goodwill ambassador, appointed in 2010. She is devoted to peace, justice, and the advancement of women around the world. She works with Womanity to spur action at all levels of society in pursuit of our goals.

In February 2012, at Womanity’s fundraising gala, Rosanna delivered a speech to the hundreds of exclusive guests. Later that year she travelled to Israel and the Palestinian Territories to see first hand, the impact of Womanity’s projects.

Rosanna was born in New York City. Growing up in a family of actors, she began her career at a young age, acting in film and television, and quickly becoming a highly acclaimed actress. She also has vast experience directing and producing films and documentaries.


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We believe in collaboration.  The generous donation of funds, time or professional support from individuals and organisations help accelerate progress for women and girls.

View our partners