8 March, 2024

ADRA is honoring International Women’s Day (March 8) and National Women’s History Month by spotlighting the amazing stories of the mission’s female leaders. The United Nations designated the 2024 Women’s theme as the year to “inspire inclusion and invest in women’s progress.”

For over 40 years, ADRA women have made significant contributions to worldwide communities by encouraging inclusion and empowerment through initiatives focusing on education, healthcare, and economic development. ADRA has played an important role in providing opportunities and fostering participation for women in underserved communities.

“We are proud to celebrate the remarkable achievements of our women leaders,” says ADRA International Vice President for Sustainable Development, Sonya Funna Evelyn. “Their stories remind us of the incredible potential and power that women hold. By promoting inclusion and providing equal opportunities, we can create a more just and prosperous world for everyone.”

The women featured in this release illustrate the strong network of female humanitarians whose contributions advance ADRA’s global mission to accelerate progress.

Maja Ahac, Head of Advocacy for ADRA Europe

Maja Ahac dedicates her life to advocating for those who are stripped of their voice. The refugee, the child, the woman. She is driven in her work with a passion for encouraging women of all ages to persevere in their dreams.

While Ahac spends her days fearlessly championing women, her role as a mother is what inspires her work.

“I’m an ADRA worker, but I’m also a mother,” she says. “I’m a mother of one girl and two boys. It’s important to me that all my children have equal opportunities. And this is what I want for all other children and all other women. We cannot be defined by gender and be told ‘this is what you can do’ or ‘this is what you cannot do.’”

Ahac has encountered hundreds of women from all around the world throughout her work with ADRA. She vividly remembers her experience with a mother named Elisabeth during a new school ceremony in Burundi in East Africa. While the rest of the village celebrated their school, Elisabeth stood watchful to the side, nursing her baby.

Ahac sidled Elisabeth and asked what she thought of the new school. Instead, Elisabeth looked at Ahac and said, “It is so good that you visited us. A woman. You showed our girls that women can also manage projects. Lead organisations. Be managers and leaders.”

Ahac, along with so many other humanitarians who serve with ADRA, inspires women every day with her work. Yet, if you ask her, she will tell you that she is even more inspired by ladies like Elisabeth who touched her life.

Sonya Funna Evelyn, ADRA International Vice President for Sustainable Development

Sonya Funna Evelyn is courageous and committed, and for 16 years she has been inspiring the women she reaches through her work with ADRA, and those who work within the ADRA network.

Born in Sierra Leone, West Africa, Sonya developed a strong desire to help others from an early age. Immigrating to the United States as a child gave her access to education, and seeing how her family back home didn’t have the same opportunities and had to deal with challenges ranging from famine to violence inspired her to pursue a career in humanitarian service and work for ADRA.

“The most important lesson I have learned in this work is that all over the world people are the same” Sonya says. “We all want the same things out of life. The only difference is in our ability to access those things.”

Sonya has witnessed considerable growth and shifts within ADRA over her tenure. Through it all, women have been at the centre.

“The women who work at ADRA are special because they have signed up to face tremendous challenges. And without them, without us, this organisation would not be what it is. And so, we can’t talk about where ADRA is going in the future if we don’t also talk about female leadership.”

Sonya is an integral part of ADRA’s leadership. She joined the organisation as a technical health advisor for health and is currently the Vice President for Sustainable Development, providing strategic leadership for future growth as ADRA implements a new global strategic framework.

As she outlines ADRA’s evolution over the past several decades, Sonya explains, “It’s not something that happens by accident. It’s because the strength of women collectively can achieve immeasurable things. And if you even look at the work that we do in the field, the data shows that if you want to effectuate change in a community, give money to the women. Because women will reinvest in their houses, they are invested in their households, they are invested in their children. And they have the strength to change entire communities.”

Leiza Augsburger, Programs Director at ADRA Switzerland. 

Leiza Augsburger studied law, but even after graduating, she realised it was not the career she wanted to pursue because her true passion was working with and near people. That’s when Augsburger first discovered ADRA, and she’s never looked back.

Augsburger has served in several roles with ADRA, including Country Director for ADRA Togo. She finds inspiration in making others, particularly women, feel noticed and recognised. Augsburger enjoys telling the story of how she met a group of ladies who had attended an ADRA literacy program in Togo.

“I met some women from one program in Togo, a literacy program, and they were so excited to show me that they were able to use their cell phones and to enter my number in their cell phones by themselves,” recalls Augsburger.

Of course, everyone in Africa has a mobile phone and knows how to use it. But these women couldn’t read and had never been able to operate their phones independently.

While to many this may seem like a trivial thing, Augsburger recognises that nothing that provides dignity for a person is trivial.

“I believe that one of ADRA’s most powerful impacts is that our work gives people the opportunity to exist,” says Augsburger. “See, sometimes beneficiaries feel like they are transparent. Nobody sees them. And then ADRA comes in, maybe with a small project that doesn’t seem too significant to us, but what we did is recognise that the people we served are human beings. And we give them the opportunity to grow.”

Judith Musvosvi, Country Director for ADRA Zimbabwe

Judith Musvosvi has been dedicated to the mission of providing humanitarian aid for over a decade, and she joined ADRA in 2013 as the Country Director for Zimbabwe. During her time at ADRA, she has managed hundreds of projects and directed numerous emergency response efforts. What inspires her the most is how ADRA’s network comes together time and time again to bring light into the darkest of situations.

When asked about her experience working with the ADRA network, Musvosvi invariably mentions her Adventist family. ADRA is proud to be a member of a global network that includes thousands of Seventh-day Adventist congregations that quickly band together during times of crisis.

“What sets ADRA apart is what we can achieve as a network and family,” says Musvosvi. “That beats anything that we would be able to accomplish as individuals.”

Musvosvi has witnessed the fortitude of ADRA’s family when dealing with challenges in her own country. Her team is frequently the first to respond and deliver aid, thanks to strong partnerships with local Adventist churches and other nonprofit organisations.

“What I would like the people to know about ADRA is that those of us who work for and with ADRA are genuine about the work we do,” says Musvosvi. “The thread that runs through us is that of being genuinely concerned about people.”

ADRA hopes that sharing the experiences of female leaders within its global network will foster acknowledgment and appreciation of women’s achievements around the world. Visit adra.org.au/gender-equality to discover more about ADRA women’s endeavors to promote community growth and advancement.