Tribute: Joana Harriram Foster


I am heartbroken and devastated. And this does not begin to capture how I am feeling now. Yesterday, I lost a mother figure, a dear friend and a feminist big sister, Joana Foster. I barely got any sleep all night. I tossed and turned, thinking about Auntie Joana and the years we spent together. Even though I knew she did not have a lot of time left, you always say to yourself, ‘It can’t happen yet’.

When Theo Sowa called me yesterday and asked if I was at home and if there were people around me, I knew immediately that the time had indeed come. It was very hard for me to talk to Dr Hilda Tadria yesterday. The grim reaper had just taken her beloved husband away a few months ago, and now, she has lost a beloved sister and friend. We spent time on the phone trying to console each other without much success.

Joana Foster, Hilda Tadria and I co-founded the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) in 2000. Even if not much is said about Joana as a Lawyer, Social Justice Activist, Community Mobiliser, Mother and Grandmother, she will always be remembered as the co-creator of one of the most respected institutions promoting and funding women’s rights in Africa – AWDF. Joana was warm, passionate, generous and full of energy. She always had a smile, and for her, the glass was always half-full. We spent over twenty years together bonding, working, planning, travelling and strategizing.

There are several reasons why AWDF was established in Accra, Ghana and not in any of the other African countries as a regional organisation, but Joana Foster was the main reason why I made the decision to settle in Accra to run AWDF. For me it was a no-brainer, I was going ‘home’ after being away from Africa for so long, to be with ‘my mother’. There is so much more I would like to say, but I will stop here.

My prayers are with Joana’s family –her husband Michael, and her children Helen and Richard, and her grandchildren who she loved dearly. To the AWDF family, we have lost a dear mother. The African women’s movement lost a mighty Shero yesterday. Her love and passion for the feminist movement and all the lives she touched through AWDF that she created, will always be part of her great legacy. Rest in peace my beloved Auntie Joana.

Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi


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2 Responses to Tribute: Joana Harriram Foster

  1. Olajumokr November 9, 2016 at 3:10 am

    May her soul rest in perfect peace. P

  2. Richard Wilkinson September 1, 2018 at 12:55 am

    Thank you for writing this Bisi. I hadn’t seen it until today


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