Staff Spotlight: Fanta Toure-Puri

Our Geneva Global team members have different backgrounds, life experiences, interests, and expertise – but we share a dedication to collaboration, innovation, equity, and integrity – all in the name of delivering excellent client service and furthering our goal to change the way we think about philanthropy. To top it off, our team is made up of genuinely nice humans who are a joy to work with – both in the office and over Zoom. We’re excited to share the first installment of our new staff spotlight feature: Fanta Toure-Puri, Director of the Girls First Fund.


How did your career journey lead you to Geneva Global?

Geneva Global brought my career full circle. My first job in international development was working for a grassroots organization in Somalia. I saw the need to increase resources for and amplify the voices of community-based organizations (CBOs) and from there I joined the philanthropic sector, working for a grassroots grantmaker. I then joined the World Bank, providing grants and technical assistance to help governments develop their social protection policies, invest in safety nets, and work in human development and community development. The Girls First Fund (GFF) brought me back closer to the grassroots whose voices I believe are critical for systemic social change to occur on any issue as pervasive and deeply entrenched in patriarchy as child marriage.

How has your role at Geneva Global evolved?

I am the inaugural director of the GFF, hosted at Geneva Global, and have been in that role for a bit over a year. Initially I focused on learning the portfolio and visiting the grantees, partners, and countries where we work. I then progressed to setting a strategic vision for the fund based on those learnings, leaning on the outstanding GFF program team at Geneva Global. I’m slowly transitioning my focus towards creating strategic partnerships to leverage the strength of key actors in the ecosystem in order to efficiently scale up beyond our six focus countries and provide grantees with the support they need.

What fulfills you most about your role?

Stepping up to the challenge of supporting frontline activists and young girls who are dedicating their lives to creating a world that is better than the one women experience. I enjoy getting resources to grantee partners to help them move forward their agendas and objectives. And I like the challenge of doing so efficiently, while being held accountable to both the communities and the funders.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in international development?

Pack up your bags, pick a country that you are interested in, and go. Be mindful of power dynamics, figure out where you can add value, build your knowledge and technical skills, and support local efforts and priorities. I would caution against having a savior’s complex. For those who don’t have the luxury to “pack up and go,” I suggest that they look at ways to get involved in domestic social justice work, support immigrant populations, and historically marginalized and neglected groups. The opportunities are endless.

How has the landscape changed over the last few years?

The ongoing discussion on racism has forced honest conversations about the international development/humanitarian industry. There is nothing new in the criticisms that are being voiced. What is groundbreaking is the “awakening” of those who are critical forces in shifting resources and power. I can only hope that these honest introspections will lead to real structural and systemic changes, despite the powerful capitalistic forces that are at play.

What are you reading right now?

The Selected Works of Audre Lorde. Her piece on “transforming silence into language and action” has changed my life. I also just read Pete’s A Pizza to my little ones for bedtime. I highly recommend it for a good family laugh.

Where do you get your news?

I have been trying to take breaks from the news when possible but I do listen to National Public Radio (NPR) and Radio France International for global news.

How has your work-from-home journey been? Any tips or tricks?

Lovely for the most part. I’ve been able to spend more time with my little monsters. Lately I have on occasion had socially-distanced in-person work sessions with my colleagues, which I have found very useful for planning and highly recommend, so long as they can be carried out safely.

For more information about Fanta, and to meet the rest of our team, please click here.