Mrs. Laura Bush, is an Honorary Co-Chair of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council. Mrs. Bush is a former First Lady of the United States and an advocate for literacy, education, and women’s rights. After leaving the White House, President and Mrs. Bush founded the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas. The Center is home to the Bush Presidential Museum and Library and the George W. Bush Institute, a public policy center established to advance human freedom, economic growth, education reform, and global health. Today Mrs. Bush pursues her work on global healthcare innovations, and empowering women in emerging democracies through the George W. Bush Institute. She serves as the Chair for the Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative, guiding the Institute’s programs to advance economic opportunity, good health and human freedom for women and girls. Women’s Initiative programs are training women leaders in Egypt, raising awareness of Afghan women’s progress and plight, and convening African first ladies, government officials and public-private partnerships to invest in women’s health to strengthen Africa. Laura Bush is a leading voice for spreading freedom and promoting human rights across the globe. For more than a decade, she has led efforts through the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council to protect the hard-earned rights of women in that country. As First Lady, she made three trips to Afghanistan and in 2001 she delivered the President’s weekly radio address – a first for a First Lady – to direct international attention to the Taliban’s oppression of women. In 2016, Mrs. Bush penned the foreword for the Bush Institute’s book We Are Afghan Women: Voices of Hope. The book highlights the stories of extraordinarily resilient women and their struggles, successes, and resolve in present-day Afghanistan.
Mrs. Hillary Rodham Clinton is an Honorary Co-Chair of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council. Clinton has spent four decades in public service as an advocate, attorney, First Lady, U.S. Senator, U.S. Secretary of State, and presidential candidate. As First Lady of the United States, from 1993 to 2001, Mrs. Clinton championed health care for all Americans and led successful bipartisan efforts to improve the adoption and foster care systems, reduce teen pregnancy, and create the Children's Health Insurance Program. She traveled to more than 80 countries standing up for human rights, democracy, and civil society. Her speech in Beijing in 1995 – where she declared that "human rights are women's rights, and women's rights are human rights" – inspired women worldwide and helped galvanize a global movement for women’s rights and opportunities. In 2000, Clinton made history as the first First Lady elected to the United States Senate, and the first woman elected to statewide office in New York. In 2007, she began her historic campaign for president, winning 18 million votes and becoming the first woman to ever win a presidential primary or caucus state. In the 2008 general election, Clinton campaigned for Barack Obama and Joe Biden, and in December, she was nominated by President-elect Obama to be Secretary of State. In her four years as America's chief diplomat and the President's principal foreign policy adviser, Clinton played a central role in restoring America’s standing in the world and strengthening its global leadership, visiting 112 countries over 4 years, restoring America’s standing in the world. In 2016, Clinton made history again by becoming the first woman nominated for president by a major U.S. political party. As the Democratic candidate for president, she campaigned on a vision of America that is “stronger together” and an agenda to make our economy work for everyone, not just those at the top. She won the national popular vote, earning the support of nearly 66 million Americans. Hillary Rodham Clinton is the author of five best-selling books, including her groundbreaking book on children, It Takes A Village (1996); Dear Socks, Dear Buddy (1998); An Invitation to the White House (2000); her memoir, Living History (2003), and Hard Choices (2014). She and President Clinton reside in New York, have one daughter, Chelsea, and are the proud grandparents of Charlotte and Aidan.
Mrs. Rula Ghani, is an Honorary Co-Chair of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council and the First Lady of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. At his inauguration on September 29, 2014, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani introduced his wife of 40 years, Rula “BibiGul” Ghani, to the Afghan nation, and predicted that she would soon be involved in attending to the needs of the most vulnerable among the population. That was over three years ago and since then the First Lady has indeed opened the doors of her office and has received delegation after delegation from the farthest corners of the country. BibiGul sees her role as a listener, as a facilitator, and as an advocate. In the field of women in security for instance, she has been a persistent advocate for the development of the existing Afghan police Family Response Units (FRUs) as a tool to help resolve family situations before they turn into dramatic conflicts. In the field of health, together with her team of advisors she was able to bring about the establishment of the Afghan Cancer Foundation in July 2016, and the opening in May 2016 of a treatment center for 1500 male addicts, the Hope Center (Markaz Omid). Her concern about the situation of women serving sentences in Afghan prisons led to the formation of an ongoing presidential commission mandated to examine each case separately; the result was the freeing of some 200 women and the reduction of sentence of a few hundred more. BibiGul has also lent her support to Afghan women’s efforts in the economic field, including assisting a group of young women entrepreneurs establish a Chamber of Commerce for Afghan Women. Since May 2016 she has also brought together prominent Afghan women from across the country in an annual Symposium to discuss their role and contribution to the rebuilding of Afghanistan and as Messengers of Peace. Prior to becoming the First Lady of Afghanistan, BibiGul had spent several years helping Aschiana, an Afghan grassroots organization focusing on the needs of children working on the streets. The First Lady was born in Lebanon. She met her husband, President Ashraf Ghani at the American University of Beirut. She holds a Diploma de l’Institut d’Etudes Politiques of Paris (1969) and two Masters, one in Political Science and the other in Journalism from the American University of Beirut (1974) and the Columbia University of New York (1983) respectively. The First Lady was selected by TIME magazine as one of the most influential people of 2015.
COUNCIL CO-CHAIRS AND VICE CHAIR
Hasina Safi, Minister of Women's Affairs for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a professional leader, well known civil society and women’s rights activist. She is an expert with considerable and proven experience of over 20 years in development practices focused on organizational development, development of policies and programs, women’s economic empowerment, capacity building, advocacy for women’s rights, civil society, peace building and human rights with national and international organizations. Ms. Safi has been one of the strategic advocates for women’s rights, representing Afghan women and civil society in several national, regional and international events, conferences and symposiums on Afghan women such as peace consultation Jirga, traditional jirga, London conference, Oslo Symposium, Kabul conference and Senior Official Meetings, and the Kabul symposium, among others. She serves as a Board member in several different organizations. She is a great supporter of education; she believes quality education is the key solution towards the sustainability of a nation with commitments to transfer skills, experience and expertise gained through practice. Her journey towards success never lacked challenges – not something to doubt about an Afghan woman’s life. She also believes in a balanced professional and personal life.
Dr. John J. DeGioia is a Co-Chair of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council and President, Georgetown University. For close to four decades, John J. DeGioia has helped to define and strengthen Georgetown University as a premier institution for education and research. A Georgetown alumnus, Dr. DeGioia served as a senior administrator and as a faculty member in the Department of Philosophy before becoming Georgetown’s 48th president in 2001. As President, Dr. DeGioia is dedicated to deepening Georgetown’s tradition of academic excellence, its commitment to its Catholic and Jesuit identity, its engagement with the Washington, D.C. community, and its global mission. Under his leadership, Georgetown has become a leader in shaping the future landscape of higher education and has recently completed a $1.5 billion fund-raising campaign dedicated to enhancing the lifelong value of a Georgetown education. Dr. DeGioia is a leading voice in addressing broader issues in education. He currently serves as Immediate Past Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Council on Education, as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Forum for the Future of Higher Education, and serves on the Board of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the National Association of Independent Schools. He also serves as Chair of the Division I Committee on Academics for the NCAA, and as a commissioner on the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics..
Dr. Phyllis R. Magrab is Vice Chair of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council at Georgetown University. She is Professor of Pediatrics, a well-known pediatric psychologist, and director of the Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development, a component of the Department of Pediatrics which brings together policy, research, and clinical practice for the betterment of children and their families, especially those with special needs. Dr. Magrab is also a consultant to UNESCO and holds a UNESCO Chair, and leads an international health and literacy effort. There is an Endowed Chair in her name at Georgetown University, the Phyllis R. Magrab Chair, which is dedicated to the continuation of her work on behalf of vulnerable children.
Sara Greengrass is a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State. She began her term as the Executive Director of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council in September, 2020. Ms. Greengrass has worked on issues of gender and women’s rights in diverse capacities throughout her career. She previously served as political and economic counselor in Chennai, India, where her duties included working with local counterparts to improve economic opportunities for women, furthering U.S. economic and scientific opportunities, and evaluating and advising on India’s policies as they affected U.S. interests. Ms. Greengrass also promoted women’s participation and leadership extensively while in Liberia as the political officer responsible for human rights, refugee issues, and trafficking prevention. As a program officer with the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration she worked to advance the educational and economic futures of Palestinian refugees. Her other posts abroad include La Paz, Bolivia as an economic and commercial officer; and Jerusalem where she served as a consular officer. Prior to joining the State Department, Ms. Greengrass worked as a public defender in New York City in criminal and family courts. She also served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Namibia, Africa, focused on community development, educational training, and HIV prevention. Ms. Greengrass earned her J.D. from Cornell School of Law and received her undergraduate B.A. from Brandeis University. She and her spouse have two children and a Bolivian rescue dog.
Belquis Ahmadi has over 20 years of experience working in Afghanistan on issues related to gender, human rights, civil society development, rule of law, governance, and democracy. Ms. Ahmadi’s experience includes senior management positions on large USAID programs, including evaluation, analysis and design of gender and human rights programming. Ms. Ahmadi has worked closely with civil society, and she was a founding member of the Afghan Women’s Network. Her extensive writing has focused on democracy, justice, women’s rights, and IDP and returnee issues in Afghanistan. Ms. Ahmadi earned her LLM in International Human Rights Law from Georgetown University Law Center and her LLB from Kabul University’s Law Faculty. She currently works for USIP as a Senior Program Officer overseeing the Institute’s Afghanistan programs.
Mozhgan Wafiq Alokozai is the founder and CEO of Eagle Online Academy. She is also the founder of My Impressive LLC based in Virginia, and Impressive Consulting, based in Kabul, Afghanistan. She started her first business in 2004, a cafe shop in Kabul Women’s Garden, and in 2007 she established the first women's business shopping center with 33 shops in Kabul. In 2008, Mozhgan established Impressive Consulting, with her husband. Since 2016, Mozhgan has run a digital marketing company, My Impressive LLC, based in Virginia.
She has been involved with Peace Through Business® since 2008 and served as a network president, instructor and mentor for last 12 years, and served in a Master Mentor and Business instructor role with Goldman Sachs' 10,000 women program with the American University of Afghanistan. She has mentored more than 50 women-owned businesses and trained 3,000 women in nine provinces of Afghanistan during the past 11 years. Mozhgan was awarded Best Female Leader by the Afghan Ministry of Women's Affairs in 2009. In 2011, she received Best Female Entrepreneur award through the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency (AISA) and the Peace Through Business® program. In 2012, she was recognized as a best instructor of the year through American University of Afghanistan's Goldman Sachs 10000 Women program. In 2013, she received the best Afghan female leader award from AISA, Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) and Export Promotion Agency of Afghanistan (EPAA). In 2015, she received best entrepreneurship Bibi Khadija first Women’s Award and she has received the National Association of Professional women 2018 award in Virginia. She has served on the Afghan Women Chamber of Commerce and Industries as a advisory board member since 2017 and she has served on the Institute of Economic Empowerment of Women as an International Advisory board member since 2019.
Dr. Azizullah Amir is a seasoned cardiologist, philanthropist and educator. He is the Founder of Moraa Educational Complex (MEC) for women in Afghanistan, Founder & director of the Afghan hospital, Associate Professor At Kabul Medical University and serves on the board of directors at the Private Hospitals Association (APHA) and Association of Private Universities. Dr. Amir is a true asset to the education of Afghan women and development in the medical profession and industry within Afghanistan. He continues to receive recognition from the local and international communities for his innovative projects and forward-thinking programs related to the education of Afghanistan’s youth and betterment of standards and practices used in medical and healthcare as a whole. His education includes: Medical Degree from Kabul Medical University; Masters in Preventive Cardiology from Imperial College London in 2009; Masters in Invasive Cardiology, Avicenna Tajik State Medical University, Tajikistan; Doctorate in Leadership in Education from the University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles, CA in 2017; Certificate from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health on Global Tobacco Control Leadership in 2010; and varied levels of professional trainings from USAID, JHPIEGO, International Medical Corps (IMC), Skill Road Development, and other International Organizations.
Rina Amiri, a native of Afghanistan, is currently an independent analyst. Ms. Amiri brings over 15 years of experience advising and working with governments, the United Nations and nonprofit organizations in various conflict settings in Europe, West and the Horn of Africa, the Middle East and Central and South Asia. From 2013 to 2015, Ms. Amiri served as a Senior Expert in the United Standby Team of Mediation Experts. Previously, Ms. Amiri served as a senior advisor to the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Before that, she served as the Director of the Soros Foundation's Afghanistan and Regional Policy Initiative. From 2002 to 2006, Ms. Amiri was a political advisor at the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), working on electoral, constitutional and social inclusion matters. At Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School, Ms. Amiri advised and provided expertise to women leaders and grassroots peace builders from over twenty countries. She is one of the founding members of Inclusive Security, a coalition of more than 2000 women peace builders that advocates for the full participation of women, in political and peace processes. She has provided political analysis on CNN, CSPAN, MSNBC and has been published in the New York Times, Boston Globes, Al-Jazeera America and the Los Angeles Times. Ms. Amiri has been recognized as 21 Leaders of the 21st Century by Women’s eNews and 125 Women of Impact by Newsweek. She is a steering committee member of the Alliance in Support of the Afghan People, an advisor to Afghan Women Connect, Women for Afghan Women, Research Institute for Women, Peace and Security and a Life Member of the Council of Foreign Relations.
Mariam Atash is an attorney, social entrepreneur, and journalist. She is President of AMDi International consulting and Vice President of PlanetPix Media & Entertainment Group that focuses on programming to connect the U.S. and Middle East. Mariam is also an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of La Verne School of Law in Los Angeles and co-founder of Artizan Sarai, a brand that connects artisans from the East with markets in the West. Previously she was Senior Advisor to the Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce , Commercial & Trade Counsel at the Embassy of Afghanistan, and attorney at Dechert LLP. Mariam is a member of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council and Vice President of Nooristan Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works on rural education in Afghanistan. She is a member of American Women for International Understanding and serves on the Advisory Boards of Innocents at Risk, the Levantine Cultural Center and the Afghan-American Bar Association.
Ambassador Barbara Barrett is Owner of Triple Creek Guest Ranch, A Montana Hideaway, and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Aerospace Corporation. She serves on the governing boards of Caltech, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, RAND and the Smithsonian. As a member of the U.S. Afghan-Women’s Council (USAWC), she founded Project Artemis in partnership with Thunderbird School of Global Management, to train and mentor Afghan women entrepreneurs. She was interim President at Thunderbird, U.S. Ambassador to Finland, a Fellow teaching Leadership at Harvard, CEO of the American Management Association, partner in a large Phoenix law firm and, before she was 30, a corporate officer of two Fortune 500 companies. She served on the boards of Raytheon, Sally Ride Science, Exponent, Hershey Trust, Mayo Clinic and Space Foundation. She was a civilian advisor to the Secretary of Defense for 21 years, Chairman of the Secretary of Commerce’s Export Conference and Chairman of the President’s Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. An instrument-rated pilot, Barrett is also certified for space flight.
Fatema Laya Bayat is the President and Executive Director of the Bayat Foundation. As the Chief Executive of Afghanistan’s largest, non-profit charitable organization, Mrs. Bayat is a
powerful, positive and persistent champion for empowering the women of Afghanistan through
entrepreneurship, education, health care and rule of law. Born in Afghanistan, Mrs. Bayat moved to the USA in her youth, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature and Education and a
Master’s Degree in Special Education. After a focus on educating youth in the classroom, Mrs. Bayat—a recipient of the Mother Theresa Award For Social Justice in 2017—now devotes her intellect, experience, and vision to nourishing the lives of at-risk Afghan widows, women, youth, and families with better education, healthcare and opportunities so that—together—all Afghans may flourish.
Hon. Ehsan Bayat is the founder and Chairman of Telephone Systems International, Inc. in New Jersey and three organizations helping to rebuild Afghanistan; Afghan Wireless Communication Company, Ariana Radio and Television Network and the Bayat Foundation. Ehsan Bayat has received numerous awards recognizing his ongoing dedication to business and humanitarian efforts including the Mahatma Gandhi Humanitarian Award (2010), the Afghan American Chamber of Commerce Businessman of The Year Award (2007), Zeba Magazine’s Best Humanitarian Award (2007) and the Afghanistan Human Rights Association Human Rights National Award (2006). Mr. Bayat left Afghanistan during the Russian invasion and was one of the first to return to help rebuild his homeland after the Taliban regime was deposed and U.S. sanctions were lifted. Mr. Bayat earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Engineering Technology from the New Jersey Institute of Technology in 1986.
Laura Berry is the Chief Strategy Officer for a governmental agency. A former practicing attorney, USAWC member Laura Berry has deep experience in strategic planning and communication, social ventures, and rule of law initiatives. Her forte is creating organizational structures and environments that are inclusive and enable maximum impact. She formed the first-ever benefit corporation, has been named a “B Corp Champion” by B Labs, and has successfully advised hundreds of businesses and organizations on increasing the social impact of their operations. Ms. Berry’s current USAWC project, in conjunction with USAWC member Christopher Johnson, is an initiative to establish vertically-integrated artisanal design/manufacturing/distribution firms that are employee-owned and governed as they grow to scale. This will encompass a broad array of products and, importantly, embed employee ownership as a key component. The initiative provides a means and driver of economic empowerment, inclusivity, and self-determination for Afghan women.
Rev. Kathleene Card is presently the pastor at Peterborough United Methodist Church, in Peterborough, New Hampshire. She is a retired Elder in full connection in the Virginia Conference of the UMC. In 2016, Rev. Card was the volunteer Director of Institutional Development at Franklin Pierce University. For two years, she served as an Interim Associate Pastor at A & M UMC in College Station, Texas. Prior to moving to College Station, Rev. Card served as Associate Pastor for eleven years at Trinity UMC and then as Senior Pastor for two years as at Chesterbrook UMC in McLean, Virginia. She is a graduate of Wesley Theological Seminary (M.Div.), George Mason University (M.A.), and the University of Massachusetts in Boston (B.A.). Currently she is a member of Board of Trustees at the Cathedral of the Pines, in Rindge, New Hampshire. She is an active member of the Jaffrey-Rindge Rotary in New Hampshire. She has served on various boards including Wesley Theological Seminary, The Massachusetts Port Authority and Babson College. Rev. Card is experienced as a teacher and an administrator. She traveled to Afghanistan with the US-Afghan Women’s Council in 2005. She served in the U.S. Federal Government in the Senior Executive Service as the Director of the Office of External Affairs at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from 1988-1993, and as a Project Director at The Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution from 1986-1988, under Chief Justice Warren Burger. She and Dr. Dianne Martin co-authored a devotional book, Pray. Act. Pray Again. Kathleene Bryan Card lives in Jaffrey, New Hampshire with her husband, Andrew Hill Card, Jr. They have three grown children and six grandchildren.
The George W. Bush Institute is an action-oriented policy organization that develops leaders, advances policy, and takes action to solve today’s most pressing challenges. The Institute’s work focuses on education reform, military service, economic growth, human freedom and democracy, global health, and women’s empowerment. The Institute aims to continue the work of Mrs. Bush in advancing the rights of women in Afghanistan by contributing to the awareness-raising, advocacy, and programmatic efforts of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council, of which Mrs. Bush is Honorary Co-Chair. In addition, through the WE Lead program, the Institute equips women from the Middle East, North Africa, and Afghanistan with the skills to become more effective leaders and advance economic opportunity in their countries. Holly Kuzmich serves as Executive Director of the Institute, overseeing strategy and management. Holly has over 20 years of public policy experience, serving in senior positions in the government, private, and non-profit sectors. She is a veteran of the White House, the U.S. Department of Education, and Capitol Hill, where she developed her expertise in education policy. She served in President Bush’s Administration for seven years, first on the staff of the White House Domestic Policy Council and then as Deputy Chief of Staff and Assistant Secretary for Legislation and Congressional Affairs at the U.S. Department of Education. Prior to that, she worked for two United States Senators on domestic policy issues. She has also consulted on education and workforce issues with major foundations, companies, non-profits, and policymakers. Holly is a Pahara-Aspen Institute Fellow and a member of the Texas Lyceum. A native of South Bend, Indiana, she received her Bachelor's degree from Northwestern University.
Mrs. Doris Buffett is Founder of the Sunshine Lady Foundation, which has given more than $100 million in grants to organizations and programs that provide opportunities for education, well being, and new life choices for disadvantaged people, to include the working poor, battered women, and families in crisis.
Irina Bokova has been the Director-General of UNESCO for two terms, from 2009 to 2017. She is the first woman and the first Eastern European to lead the Organization. Before being elected as Director General of UNESCO, from 2005 to 2009 Irina Bokova was Ambassador of Bulgaria to France, Monaco and UNESCO and Personal Representative of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria to the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie.
As Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova was actively engaged in the UN efforts to adopt Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, particularly Goal 4 on Inclusive and equitable quality education and life-long learning for all, gender equality, the protection of the world’s cultural heritage. She actively promotes culture as a driver for sustainable development, along with science and innovation. She was particularly active in defence of cultural heritage in conflict in Mali, Syria and Iraq and in denouncing extremists’ destruction, illicit trafficking and looting of heritage as a tool of war. As a result, the International Criminal Court made his first case against destruction of heritage in Mali and the UN Security Council adopted several landmark resolutions, such as Resolution 2199 of 2015 on the link between the illicit trafficking of antiquities and the financing of extremism, as well as the historic Resolution 2347 on maintaining peace and security and the protection of heritage in March 2017.
Irina Bokova has received state distinctions from more than 40 countries across the world and is Doctor honoris causa of leading universities across the world. In 2020, she was elected as an International Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in the category of Educational, Cultural and Nonprofit Leadership. In addition to her mother tongue, she speaks English, French, Spanish and Russian.
Ms. Jan Underwood Bradley is the Co-Founder, Secretary, and Treasurer of The Lamia Afghan Foundation. The foundation builds schools for girls in Afghanistan. It establishes literacy and sewing training programs for women. It also gathers, moves, and distributes humanitarian aid to families in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP)/Refugee Camps, orphanages, schools, hospitals, and rural villages across the country. She was a major “networker” responsible for getting over 3 ½ million pounds of humanitarian aid donated for shipment to Afghanistan. She was responsible for establishing ALTSO (A Leg To Stand On) in Afghanistan. ALTSO provides medical care for children with disabilities and provides and fits custom-made prosthetics for children. She was the “full-time volunteer” Executive Director of the Marshall Plan Charities and was personally responsible for “building a village” in western Afghanistan. Ms. Bradley has been working as a full-time volunteer on Air Force family support programs, “wounded warrior” programs, and humanitarian aid programs for eleven years. She was awarded the Air Force Exceptional Service Award in June 2008, by the Secretary of the Air Force. She is a member of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council.
Lieutenant General John A. Bradley, U.S. Air Force (Retired) is the President and CEO of The Lamia Afghan Foundation. The foundation builds schools for girls in Afghanistan. It establishes literacy and sewing training programs for women. It also gathers, moves, and distributes humanitarian aid to families in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP)/Refugee Camps, orphanages, schools, hospitals, and rural villages across the country. General Bradley retired from the United States Air Force in August 2008, with 41 years of service. He was the Chief of Air Force Reserve, Headquarters, United States Air Force, Washington, District of Columbia, and the Commander of the Air Force Reserve Command, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, the largest Major Command in the U.S. Air Force, responsible for over 76,000 Airmen, around the world. Prior to this he was the Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for Reserve Matters, the Pentagon, Washington, District of Columbia. He is a Vietnam veteran, with 337 combat missions as a fighter pilot and has over 7,000 flying hours in the A-37, A-10, F-4, and F-16 fighter aircraft. He is a member of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council.
Leslie Genier Cunningham is a board member of the Aschiana Foundation and Women for Afghan Women. As a diplomatic spouse for many years, she has been an advocate for women’s and children’s issues in many countries. In her last posting at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, she managed programs to advance Afghan women’s capacity for leadership and economic empowerment. Inspired by the strength and resiliency of Afghan women, she continues to be committed to help with their ongoing challenges. Her previous work experience was in advertising, retail management, and teaching. She has a B.A. from Syracuse University and an M.B.A. from American University.
Ambassador Paula J. Dobriansky is a foreign policy expert and former diplomat specializing in national security affairs. She is a Senior Fellow in the Future of Diplomacy Project at Harvard University’s JFK Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and Vice Chair of the National Executive Committee, U.S. Water Partnership. From 2010 - 2012, Ambassador Dobriansky was Senior Vice President and Global Head of Government and Regulatory Affairs at Thomson Reuters. During this time, she was also appointed the Distinguished National Security Chair at the U.S. Naval Academy. From 2001 to 2009, Ambassador Dobriansky served as Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs. Among her primary accomplishments, she established and led the U.S.-India, U.S.-China, and U.S.- Brazil Global Issues Fora -- which advanced crucial work and international cooperation on environment, energy, narcotics/law enforcement, health, development, and humanitarian issues. Additionally, she was head of delegation and lead negotiator on U.S. climate change policy. In February 2007, as the President's Special Envoy to Northern Ireland, Ambassador Dobriansky received the Secretary of State’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Medal, for her contribution to the historic devolution of power in Belfast. During her more than 25 years in national security affairs, Ambassador Dobriansky has held many Senate-confirmed and senior level positions in the U.S. Government including Associate Director for Policy and Programs at the United States Information Agency, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, Deputy Head of the U.S. Delegation to the 1990 Copenhagen Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), and Director of European and Soviet Affairs at the National Security Council, the White House. From 1997- 2001, Ambassador Dobriansky served as Senior Vice President and Director of the Washington Office of the Council on Foreign Relations and was the first George F. Kennan Senior Fellow for Russian and Eurasian Studies. During this time, she also served on the Presidentially-appointed U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. Ambassador Dobriansky received a B.S.F.S. summa cum laude in International Politics from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and a M.A. and Ph.D. in Soviet political/military affairs from Harvard University.
Connie K. Duckworth Social entrepreneur Connie K. Duckworth founded ARZU, meaning “hope” in Dari, in 2004 to empower destitute women weavers in rural Afghanistan and served pro bono as Chairman and CEO until its merger with UK-based Turquoise Mountain in 2019. From a starting point of 30 weavers, ARZU transformed into a learning laboratory for holistic grassroots economic development—employing some 500 Afghans and supporting an eco-system of education, maternal health and community programs.
Ms. Duckworth retired in 2001 from Goldman Sachs after a 20-year career. In 1990, she was named the first woman sales and trading partner in the firm’s history and held leadership roles in the Los Angeles, Chicago and New York offices.
She is a Trustee of Equity Residential (EQR) in Chicago, a Director of Steelcase Inc. (SCS) in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and a Director of MP Materials (MP) in Las Vegas, Nevada. Previously, she served on the boards of directors of Northwestern Mutual, Russell Investment Group, Nuveen Investments, Smurfit Stone Container Corporation, and DNP Select Income Fund. In her philanthropic work, she is a Trustee of the University of Pennsylvania, a member of the Board of Advisors of The Wharton School, a member of the International Advisory Board of the University of Texas at Austin, and a board member of NorthShore University Health System,in Evanston, Illinois, where she was the first woman Chairman of the Board. She is a founding member of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council in Washington, DC and serves on the Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative Policy Advisory Council in Dallas.
The recipient of numerous awards for leadership, social impact and innovation, Ms. Duckworth holds an M.B.A. from the Wharton School and a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. She is married to husband Tom and the mother of four millennials.
Caroline Hudson Firestone is the Founder of the New Hudson Foundation, which supports a wide range of projects in Afghanistan, including education and health care. She has published three books on Afghanistan and is a member of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council. She was the first woman trustee of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, served on the board of the Peace Corps, chaired the New York Boy's Club annual ball, served on the board of the YMCA camping service of New York City, and a member of Kairos Outside, a prison ministry project which supports women who have either been in prison or who have children or grandchildren in prison. She is a member of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council.
Stephenie Foster is a recognized voice in women’s leadership and empowerment. She is currently a Partner at Smash Strategies, a firm dedicated to advising businesses, foundations and non-profit organizations on how to achieve better results by focusing on women’s leadership and gender equality. Before co-founding Smash Strategies, Stephenie served at the U.S. Department of State from 2012-2017. There, she was a Senior Advisor and Counselor to the Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, and managed a wide range of key policies and programs, including the women, peace, and security initiative, women’s political participation, and women’s economic empowerment. As a senior official, Stephenie represented the U.S. in multilateral and bilateral forums. Stephenie also served at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, where she focused on women and civil society and traveled extensively to work with individuals and organizations advancing the role of women in Afghan society.
Stephenie has broad and deep experience in government, policy, and the law. She served as Chief of Staff to U.S. Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT); was General Counsel of the U.S. General Services Administration; founded her own consulting firm; and served in senior management positions in the non-profit sector. She began her career as an attorney, and was a litigation partner in San Francisco, California. Stephenie is a sought-after public speaker; has published multiple articles on women’s global engagement in politics, the economy, and society; and has been a Professorial Lecturer and Executive in Residence at the Women & Politics Institute at American University in Washington, DC. She currently serves on several boards: Friends of the American University of Afghanistan, where she is Vice Chair; Foreign Policy for America; and the Mead Center for American Theatre (Arena Stage).
Dana H. Freyer is Special Counsel to the President of the International Rescue Committee, an international relief organization providing vital emergency and longer term assistance to refugees and internally displaced persons throughout the world, including to women, girls and families in Afghanistan. She is also a director of Relief International, an international NGO that since 2001 has delivered a wide spectrum of emergency assistance and long-term development programs to Afghan women, girls and families. She was a co-founder and Chair of the Board of Directors of Global Partnership for Afghanistan (GPFA), a US nonprofit and Afghan NGO. From 2002 until GPFA ceased operations in 2015, she also played a leading operational role in GPFA. GPFA assisted rural Afghan women and men alleviate poverty, build sustainable livelihoods and restore their environment by supporting the development of profitable, sustainable orchard, woodlot, vineyard, nurseries and related enterprises. GPFA partnered with individuals, governments and institutions to provide the technical inputs, capital, supplies, and infrastructural and community support required to rebuild Afghanistan’s agrarian economy and create a better future for Afghan farm families. Dana was recognized by former President Bill Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative in 2006, 2008 and 2009 for GPFA’s groundbreaking work in lifting Afghan farm families out of poverty. She was awarded a 2010 Purpose Prize and the Jean Mayer Award from Tufts University for her role in restoring Afghan farmers’ livelihoods. Both awards recognize innovators who are solving the world's most pressing problems. Dana also received the Harriet Buescher Lawrence Prize from Connecticut College, which recognizes outstanding contributions to society by an alumna. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Ms. Freyer retired from the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP where she was a Partner and head of the Arbitration and Alternative Dispute Resolution and Corporate Compliance Program practice groups and practiced from 1977 to 2009. She is a fellow of the College of Commercial Arbitrators and an Advisor to the American Law Institute’s Restatement of the U.S. Law of International Commercial Arbitration project. She has repeatedly been selected for inclusion by Chambers Global: The World’s Leading Lawyers for Business (International Arbitration); Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business;, The Best Lawyers in America, International Who’s Who of Commercial Lawyers and Business Lawyers, Euromoney and others as one of the world's leading lawyers in commercial arbitration and dispute resolution. She was named by the National Law Journal as one of the 50 top women U.S. litigators and by Global Arbitration Review as one of "The All-Female Top 30" arbitrators worldwide.
Kate Friedrich is the Vice President of Global Government Affairs for Thomson Reuters. From November 2003 to March 2010, Ms. Friedrich served as Special Advisor to the Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. During this time, she also was an executive branch staff member to the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, and held the position of Executive Director of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council. Prior service includes Program Analyst for Asia in the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration at the State Department and Special Assistant to the Deputy National Security Advisor at the National Security Council. She is a member of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council.
Dr. Peter H. Grossman is the Director of the Grossman Burn Centers located in West Hills and Bakersfield, California as well as in Kansas City, Missouri. He is a Board-certified plastic surgeon whose medical practice is divided between cosmetic and reconstructive surgery and the care of the burn-injured patient. President: Los Angeles Society of Plastic Surgeons (2013-2018). Clinical Instructor of Medicine: UCLA Department of Medicine. He is the author of numerous articles in prestigious medical journals, has lectured extensively, and was listed among America's top surgeons by the Consumer Research Council of America. He is a member of the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council.
Rebecca Gray Grossman is the Chair of the Grossman Burn Foundation, a nonprofit organization that benefits burn survivors through reconstructive surgery and rehabilitation. Rebecca has two decades of experience in the healthcare field as a researcher, journalist, and marketing executive. In 2002, Rebecca and her husband Dr. Peter Grossman became legal guardians for a young Afghan burn patient named Zubaida Hasan, whose recovery included over fifteen surgeries. Zubaida was the inspiration for the creation of The Grossman Burn Foundation. She lived with the Grossmans for over seven years and became like a daughter to them. In 2010, the foundation was also instrumental in bringing a young Afghan woman named Bibi Aisha to the U.S. for treatment. Aisha was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine after being brutally mutilated by her Taliban husband. The Foundation’s work includes burn care training and support in Afghanistan and Indonesia, publishing a global Humanitarian Assistance Manual, The Stop Violence Against Women Globally program and developing a Telemedicine Program for training physicians in developing countries. Rebecca is Associate Publisher and Editor of three lifestyle publications and a member of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council.
Ambassador Eklil Ahmad Hakimi was Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the United States, and non-resident envoy to Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, and Argentina. He is a career diplomat with expertise in policy formulation, government reform, and institutional capacity building. He served on the Afghan Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission in 2002, then in the Office of the Vice President, before his appointment in 2005 as Ambassador to China (and non-resident Ambassador to Mongolia and Vietnam). He also served as Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Japan, and was appointed as Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs in 2010. Ambassador Hakimi obtained a Master’s degree from the Kabul Polytechnic Institute in 1991, and held various positions in the private sector in the United States in engineering projects dealing with management, marketing, and strategic planning. Ambassador Hakimi is married and has three daughters. He is a member of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council.
Mrs. Sultana Hakimi is the wife of the former Afghan Ambassador to the United States. After receiving her master’s degree from the Kabul Polytechnic Institute in 1992, she moved to the United States in 1994 where she obtained an accounting diploma from Saddleback College in California, and held various positions in the private sector in banking and accounting until 2005. From 2006 to 2009, as wife of the Afghan Ambassador to China, she promoted women’s associations, served as an advocate for educational challenges facing Afghan children and women, and organized several exhibitions to promote Afghanistan’s unique culture and products. From 2009 to 2010, as wife of the Afghan Ambassador to Japan, she helped raise funds for disabled Afghan children. Mrs. Hakimi is married and has three daughters. She is a member of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council.
Rangina Hamidi is the founder and president of Kandahar Treasure, the first women’s private social enterprise in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Rangina provides life changing economic opportunity for 300 Afghan women, giving them a for profit platform for Kandahar’s unique embroidery work. As one of Kandahar’s leading voices for Afghan women, Rangina has guided the development of groundbreaking networks for women, establishing pioneering women’s gatherings, social programs and activities for all women in Kandahar. Her work in Kandahar began when Rangina returned to the country in 2003 compelled by the tragedies befalling her countrywomen. Upon her return to Kandahar she served as manager of the Women’s Income Generation Project with Afghans for Civil Society, a grassroots organization dedicated to the social development of southern Afghanistan. Rangina has been featured on news programs including NPR, BBC and Voice of America and has been quoted in international publications including the TIMES Asia magazine, The Globe and Mail, Der Speigel, Business Week, The Guardian and Telegraph.
Dr. Nadia Hashimi is a pediatrician, an internationally bestselling author, a first generation Afghan-American and a public speaker in the US and abroad. She has written three acclaimed novels for adults and two for children inspired by the history of Afghanistan and the ongoing struggles of families affected by conflict. She was an organizer and board member of an arts and culture nonprofit in New York City from 2002-2008. She serves on the boards of Aschiana Foundation and Sahar. She has been a speaker at medical conferences, writers conferences, colleges, schools, galas and at the 2018 Women's March in DC. In 2017-18, she became the first Afghan American woman to run for Congress. She graduated from Brandeis University with a BA in Biology and Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies and obtained her medical degree from SUNY Downstate. She completed her pediatric residency at NYU / Bellevue Hospitals, and then relocated to the Washington, DC area. She lives with her husband and four children in Potomac, Maryland.
Joanne King Herring is known as “The Dame, The Knight, The Ambassador.” Julia Roberts played her in “Charlie Wilson’s War,” but the real-life Texan is far more interesting than any movie could capture. The international socialite, global political activist and former Texas television anchor, Joanne King Herring is known for her improbable fight with the Mujahedeen against the former Soviet Union. But her full story – with all its God, guns and Gucci glory – is even more remarkable. Born in a man’s world at a time when women had limited choices, Joanne King Herring blazed a trail with allies as unlikely as Charlie Wilson, Pierre Cardin and President Ronald Reagan, and in so doing forged new paths for women in Pakistan, Afghanistan and America. Now she is doing it again – this time without guns. Joanne has a plan to rebuild Afghanistan one village at a time through food, water and education. Currently, her Marshall Plan Charities group is building a model village in Afghanistan to prove that an entire village of 10,000 people can be structured for the cost of keeping one soldier in the field for a year. She is determined to bring American troops home and equip Afghanistan to stand on its own. Joanne hosted the Joanne King Show on television for 15 years, was made roaming Ambassador of Pakistan and received the Quaid-e-Azam award, the highest honor given by the nation of Pakistan. She was made Dame by the Order of St. Francis and has been knighted by the King of Belgium. She is also the recipient of the Freedom Foundation at Valley Forge Award and co-chaired the Special Olympics in New York City with Henry Kissinger. She tells her fascinating continuing story in her own words with charm and delight in her extraordinary new memoir, Diplomacy and Diamonds: My Wars from the Ballroom to the Battlefield (available now). Joanne lives in Houston, as do her two sons. Diplomacy and Diamonds hit #1 in three amazon bestseller categories, and was # 4 overall. Joanne has appeared as a guest on Fox News Channel programs “Fox & Friends,” “On The Record with Greta Van Susteren,” “Hannity,” “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” and “Huckabee”. She has also appeared on Bloomberg Business News and is a reappearing guest on CNN’s “American morning with Ali Velshi.” Her book, Diplomacy and Diamonds was also featured in Forbes Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, the New York Observer, the New York Social Diary and PW Weekly. You can read more about her work in Afghanistan and her book at www.joanneherring.com.
Dr. Jill Iscol, EdD, is President of the IF Hummingbird Foundation, a family foundation established in 1989. As Activist, Educator and Author, for the past two decades Jill has supported and participated in numerous organizations enabling them to become stable, sustainable and successful, impacting lives around the globe including Prep for Prep, Stand for Children, Facing History and Ourselves, Vital Voices Global Partnership, Acumen, City Year New York, the Iscol Family Program for Leadership Development at Cornell University, and Horizons National. Jill is also an appointed member of the New York State Commission on National and Community Service and the US-Afghan Women’s Council. Jill’s current endeavor, the Hearts on Fire Visionary Program launched following the release of her nonfiction book, Hearts on Fire: Stories of Today’s Visionaries Igniting Idealism into Action, elevates and supports visionaries to foster their growth and success while bringing together a community to share solutions to complex human challenges. Jill is a member of the Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau and has appeared on MSNBC Andrea Mitchell Reports, PBS’ To The Contrary, at the Milken Institute, TedXWomen and SXSW. Jill is a born and bred New Yorker. She is married and has two adult children.
Ambassador Said T. Jawad is the Chairman of the Foundation for Afghanistan, a non-profit organization that focuses on increasing human capacity and intercultural dialogue in Afghanistan, and Chief Executive Officer of Capitalize LLC, a strategic consulting firm that specializes in the investment, security and political environments of Afghanistan and the greater Gulf region. From December 2003 to September 2010, he concurrently served as Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, and Argentina. Ambassador Jawad is a member of the International Advisory Council in the Global Political Strategies group at APCO Worldwide, an international strategic communications consultancy; is Diplomat in Residence at the School of Advanced International Studies at John Hopkins University; and was named the inaugural Fisher Family Fellow at the Future of Diplomacy Project at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He is a member of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council.
Shamim Jawad is the founder of Ayenda Foundation, dedicated to enhancing the education, health and safety of Afghan children. Beginning three years ago, the Foundation’s main project, the Ayenda Learning Center in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, has become a safe haven and beacon of hope for the children of the poor Afghan province. In June, Mrs. Jawad dedicated a state-of-the-art computer laboratory to the school, providing a host of new opportunities for the next generation of Afghans to engage in intercultural dialogue as well as prepare them for bright futures in a variety of professions. Mrs. Jawad has been a member of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council since 2005. She also serves on the Board of Trustees of the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF), the only private, non-profit institution of higher education in Afghanistan. Mrs. Jawad is the recipient of the 2004 Liberty Award from Dialogue on Diversity for her efforts to defend women’s rights and advocate social welfare for women in Afghanistan. Born in Kabul, Mrs. Jawad studied at Kabul University and Golden Gate University in San Francisco, where she received a bachelor’s degree in Human Relations. Before her husband’s appointment as Afghan Ambassador to the United States in November 2003, Mrs. Jawad worked as a financial consultant for TIAA-CREF a financial services organization.
Christopher Johnson began his branding career in Europe, Asia and the Middle East at the legendary firm Total Identity. Today, after two decades at the top of the profession, he has worked in over 60 countries to help global organizations create some of the most admired brands in the world including: JetBlue Airways, AllianceBernstein and INFINITI automobiles. After Europe, he moved to New York City to work at the original firm of Brand Union, creating the Unisys and Sanyo brands while polishing the Amex, Texaco and Fidelity brands. The industry took note and he was soon recruited by the pioneering brand strategy firm Lippincott, which had just been sold to new owners. Johnson found himself helping to lead the revitalization of one of the most respected branding firms in the world. It was here that he created the iconic INFINITI automobile brand, and revitalized Turkiye Is Bankasi while living in Istanbul. With his reputation on the rise, he then opened Christopher Johnson & Associates with the backing of MasterCard, Hertz and Random House. Growing rapidly, he continuously expanded to serve clients like JetBlue, Ford, Sesame Street and Pepsi. Havas, one of the largest communications companies in the world and headquartered in France, pursued and acquired his thriving branding firm to add brand strategy and public relations to their worldwide capabilities. To date, Johnson has contributed equally to a wide range of organizations from nonprofits to multinationals. His focus continues to be solidifying brands in any region of the world—while leading complex restructuring, marketing, PR and communications programs to grow value and recognition. He is a regular TV-Radio-Print contributor on brand strategy for numerous media outlets, including: Bloomberg TV, The Wall Street Journal, Bankrate, PBS, WPIX New York News, Yahoo Finance, and is a columnist for Branding Magazine. Johnson is an avid marathon runner and proud father, raising his family in the New York region.
Jane Horton is a Presidential Appointee currently serving as a Senior Advisor in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Personnel and Readiness Office in Washington DC. In this capacity, Ms. Horton advises on matters ranging from civilian and military personnel policy to military and community family policy as well as leading efforts to advance Gold Star family initiatives and warfighter brain health. Prior to this position, Ms. Horton served as the Congressional and Military Liaison for the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington DC. As a personal advisor, Ms. Horton provided guidance and oversight for national, regional and international partner engagements to advance equities and manage interactions with visiting delegations worldwide. Additionally, Ms. Horton has served as a policy consultant to the Travis Manion Foundation, the Advisory Board to the Independence Fund, Freedom Hunters, Remember My Service, Medals of Honor and the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation.
Ms. Horton’s diverse career includes extensive experience in political, security and legislative relations serving as a contributing writer for publications such as Task and Purpose and has been featured on ABC, The Drudge Report, Huffington Post, USA Today, The Blaze, Fox and Friends, CNN, The Dennis Miller Show, Huckabee, Hannity, the Washington Examiner, Special Report by Brett Baier, Kelly File, along with numerous other paper publications and public appearances. Furthermore, as a proud native of Cleveland, Ohio, Ms. Horton has extensive leadership in military and veteran advocacy and a passion for service, dedicating over 12,000 hours to Gold Star family and survivor populations. Some notable achievements include championing the extension of the Fry Scholarship to surviving spouses, The Sergeant First Class Sean Cooley and Specialist Christopher Horton Congressional Gold Star Family Fellowship Program Act, and several laws in multiple National Defense Authorizations Acts regarding Gold Star, surviving family, and casualty policy. She has advised senior military and congressional leaders across the globe and earned multiple awards for her community and civilian service. Ms. Horton holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Administration from Rogers State University and a certificate in International Studies from Harvest Brisbane, Australia. Ms. Jane Horton is also the Gold Star Wife of SPC Christopher Horton, an Army sniper killed in action on 9 September 2011 in Patkia, Afghanistan.
Karen Hughes is Worldwide Vice Chair of Burson Cohn & Wolfe, a global public relations firm. She is a leading communications strategist, specializing in strategic messaging, crisis communications and executive communications. Karen traveled to Afghanistan as part of the inaugural delegation of the U.S. Afghan Women’s Council and made several subsequent trips to the country. She worked with her church and local Austin community to raise funds to construct and renovate several schools in northern Afghanistan, and hosted a delegation of Afghan women in Austin. She has worked to raise media and public attention to the situation facing women in Afghanistan and raised funds for several organizations helping women and girls there. Karen has more than 40 years of public policy, communications and political experience, from helping lead winning presidential campaigns to serving at the highest levels of government. Karen served as Counselor to the President for President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2002. In this role she acted as strategic advisor to the president on policy and communications and led the White House Offices of Communications, Media Affairs, Speechwriting and Press Secretary. Karen also served as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs where she led the U.S. government’s efforts to communicate America’s values abroad. She serves on the Board of Directors for Parsley Energy and the National Football Foundation. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Women’s Initiative Policy Advisory Council at the Bush Institute in Dallas. Karen is the best-selling author of Ten Minutes from Normal, a book about working for President Bush and her decision to leave the White House to return with her family to Texas in 2002. She was selected to serve as a Resident Fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics for the Spring 2013 semester where she led a study group on communications.
Palwasha L. Kakar is the senior program officer for religion and inclusive societies at the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP). Kakar joined USIP after four years with The Asia Foundation where she was the Afghanistan director for Women’s Empowerment and Development. Prior to joining the Foundation, Kakar led the Gender Mainstreaming and Civil Society Unit in the United Nation Development Program's Afghanistan Subnational Governance Program managing a small grants program for Afghanistan's civil society initiatives. Kakar also served as program manager for The Gender Studies Institute at Kabul University. She has experience working with the World Bank Group on gender, social justice and environmental issues surrounding their various projects in the region. Kakar moved to Afghanistan 2004 to work with the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU), an independent research organization, on women's participation at the local levels in the National Solidarity Programme (NSP). Before moving to Afghanistan, she was the director of the Newton Peace Center (currently Peace Connections) a faith-based civil society organization. An Afghan-American, she has experience teaching and researching religion, gender, security and local governance. Kakar has published research regarding women’s participation in local governance, Pashtunwali-Afghan customary law, Afghan women's identity, and social spaces in Afghanistan. Her research has taken her to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Syria. She earned a Master's degree focusing on gender, politics and religion from Harvard University’s Divinity School and a Bachelor's degree in Religion and Global Studies focusing on peace and conflict from Bethel College in North Newton, KS.
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a CNN contributor, and the author of the New York Times best sellers Ashley's War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield and The Dressmaker of Khair Khana. She is also a contributor to Atlantic Media’s Defense One site. In 2004, she left the ABC News Political Unit to earn her MBA at Harvard, where she began writing about entrepreneurs in conflict and post-conflict zones, including Afghanistan and Rwanda. Following MBA study, she served as a vice president at the global investment firm PIMCO. She has written for Newsweek, the New York Times, the Financial Times, and the International Herald Tribune, as well as for the World Bank and Harvard Business School. She gave a TED Talk on Ashley’s War and its all-women special ops team in May 2015, following on her 2011 TED Talk on the importance of investing in global entrepreneurs. A Fulbright scholar and Robert Bosch fellow, Gayle speaks Spanish, German, French and is conversant in Farsi.
Anita McBride is Executive-in-Residence at the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies in the School of Public Affairs at American University in Washington, DC. McBride previously served as assistant to President George W. Bush and chief of staff to First Lady Laura Bush from 2005 to 2009, directing the staff’s work on the wide variety of the first lady's domestic and global initiatives. She had primary responsibility for Mrs. Bush's extensive work in supporting Afghan women including organizing Mrs. Bush's three visits to Afghanistan. Prior service includes Director of White House Personnel for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush; Director of the U.S. Speaker's Bureau at the United States Information Agency; Senior Advisor in the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of International Organizations; and the State Department's White House Liaison. As an outgrowth of her time with Mrs Bush, McBride co-founded the RAND African First Ladies Initiative and Fellowship program to support and expand their efforts as champions of change in their countries. McBride is member of the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council, the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board and the Advisory Council of the International Republican Institute's (IRI) Women's Democracy Network. She has participated in numerous IRI presidential and parliamentary election monitoring delegations including Afghanistan in 2009. She is a member of the Women's Initiative Policy Advisory Council at the George W. Bush Institute, and on the board of the White House Historical Association serving on the Education, and Public Affairs committees. McBride is a frequent speaker and media commentator on the operations, and history, of the White House and its occupants.
Timothy McBride is Executive Vice President for Government Affairs at United Technologies Corporation, a global commercial aerospace, defense and building industries company. He previously served as Vice Preiident for Global Government Affairs for Covidien, a international health care and medical device company recently acquired by Medtronic. Previously, he served as Senior Vice President for Government and Industry Relations at Freddie Mac, and held senior positions at Daimler Chrysler including Vice President for External Relations, The Americas, and Vice President for Corporate Strategy. McBride was also Director of Corporate Communications at Sunoco in Philadelphia, PA. From 1985-1992 Mr. McBride served in various positions at the White House, in the Reagan and George HW Bush Administrations, including Deputy to the White House Chief of Staff; Assistant to the President for Management and Administration which included responsibility for the operations of the White House Military Office; Assistant Secretary for International Trade Development at the Department of Commerce, and Special Assistant to the President and Personal Aide to President George HW Bush. McBride has been a Member of the US Afghan Women's Council since 2003 and traveled frequently to Afghanistan with the Council. He is Co-Founder of the Ayenda Foundation, a US -based non-profit devoted to improving the lives and welfare of Afghan children and currently serves as Vice President of Ayenda's Board. McBride also established other USAWC projects for women's health and midwifery training, and micro-financing initiatives. McBride is a member of the George HW Bush Presidential Library and Museum Advisory Board, the Archdiocese of Washington's Board of Education, and the Faith & Politics Institute. McBride also serves on the Board of the Economic Club of Washington, DC.
David J. McIntyre, Jr. is President and CEO of TriWest Healthcare Alliance, a privately held company based in Phoenix and part of TriWest Alliance, which serves the health care needs of 2.7 million military service members through a Department of Defense Health Services and Support contract. Mr. McIntyre served for nearly nine years in the U.S. Senate, where he was responsible for health policy issues for Senator Slade Gorton, Senator John McCain, and the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, and contributed to the work of the Senate Armed Services Committee. In 2000, he was named one of 12 "Up and Comers" by Modern Healthcare magazine, and in 2004 was selected as CEO of the Year by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and the Arizona Business Journal. He serves on the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council, USO Worldwide Board, the Board of the Fisher House Foundation, the Board of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, and the National Guard Youth Foundation Board, among other organizations.
Pat Mitchell is president and chief executive officer of The Paley Center for Media. She previously served at the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), where she was named president and chief executive officer in March 2000, the first woman and first producer and journalist to hold the position. She began her career at Look magazine and then WBNC New York. Over the next three decades, she worked for three broadcast networks and several cable channels, winning national acclaim both in front of and behind the camera as a reporter, news anchor, talk show host, White House and special correspondent, producer, and executive. In the mid-eighties, she established her own independent production company and became the first woman to nationally syndicate her own show, the Emmy-winning Woman to Woman, which she also hosted. In 1992, Ms. Mitchell became an executive in charge of original productions for Ted Turner's cable networks. Over the next eight years as executive producer, her documentaries and specials received thirty-seven Emmy Awards, five Peabody Awards, and two Academy Award nominations. Ms Mitchell herself has received numerous awards during the course of her career, including 2008 Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame Honoree, and being named to Newsweek's 2011 list of 150 Women Who Shake the World. She has been appointed a Commissioner by the Center for Strategic International Study Commission on Smart Global Health Policy, the commission is responsible for preparing a global report for President Barack Obama. Ms. Mitchell is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the International Women’s Forum; a member of the Human Rights Watch board of directors; an adviser to the Center for Public Leadership at the Kennedy School of Harvard University; a member of the Mayo Clinic's board of trustees; and on the corporate board of AOL.
Dr. Hamdullah Mohib has served as Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the United States since September 2015. He also serves as non-resident Ambassador to Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Argentina, and Columbia. As Ambassador, he has focused on highlighting the critical yet under-credited role of cultural and peace initiatives, women, and youth in re-creating Afghanistan. To this end, his priorities have included engaging with the Afghan diaspora across the United States; elevating the efforts of Afghan women toward social, political, and economic development; engaging with active US military and veterans who have served in Afghanistan; and implementing a comprehensive cultural and public diplomacy initiative within US schools, universities, and local organizations. Before being appointed Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Hamdullah Mohib served as Deputy Chief of Staff to H.E. The President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Before joining the government, Dr. Mohib worked for the American University of Afghanistan and Intel Corporation. Dr. Mohib has a PhD and Bachelor’s degree with honors from Brunel University in the United Kingdom.
Mrs. Lael Mohib is founder and director of the Enabled Children Initiative, a registered charity that supports and advocates for Afghan orphans with disabilities. She is also an advisory board member of Help for Afghan Heroes, an Afghan NGO that supports ANDSF veterans with disabilities and their families. During her husband’s tenure as Afghan Ambassador to the United States, Lael volunteered on social, cultural, educational and women’s empowerment programs at the Embassy. She previously worked for the Afghan Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development with village development councils, before joining BBC Media Action’s Afghanistan team, where she worked on educational and media development programs. She has an MA from Boston University in International Relations and Communications, and a BA in journalism. Her commentary has appeared in the New York Times and Foreign Policy. She and her husband have three children.
Mary Jo Myers is a founding member and president emeritus of Aschiana Foundation and a member of the U.S Afghan Women’s Council. A military spouse for 40 years, she visited Afghanistan and Aschiana on numerous occasions and has tried to keep her promise to a young child who pleaded, “Please don’t forget us”. She continues to serve on boards of several organizations supporting military families. She helped initiate the “Hero Miles” program with Fisher House Foundation that provides travel with donated frequent flyer miles for military families to visit their hospitalized loved ones. Myers serves on the Women’s Initiative Policy Advisory Council with the Bush Center. She is a partner in a business importing Russian handicrafts. In November, 2016, Myers assumed a new role as the wife of the president of Kansas State University.
Najia Nasim, WAW Executive Director, has over 17 years of experience in the non-profit realm, with a focus on civil rights, women’s empowerment, and international development. Najia was nominated for the “10 Bravest Women of the World” award in 2014 by Amnesty International and the 2015 Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize, and in 2018, she won the Mother Teresa Memorial Award for Social Justice on WAW’s behalf. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (summa cum laude) with double majors in Economics and Accounting from Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. Her academic training in the U.S. and years of work experience in Afghanistan has equipped Najia with robust financial management skills, technical knowledge, and the practical expertise required for strategizing, developing, supervising, and expanding programs to support WAW’s mission to save, protect, and empower Afghan women, children, and their families. Najia is fluent in English, Dari, and Pashtu.
Dr. Terry Neese is is a serial entrepreneur, founding both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Her two most successful adventures to date include Neese Personnel Services, now run by her daughter, Kim, and the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women. Under the umbrella of IEEW, Dr. Neese operates the PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS® program, which educates and empowers women entrepreneurs in developing countries to achieve their dream of financial independence, community involvement, and political activism. Since its creation in 2006, the program has trained 755 women entrepreneurs in Afghanistan and Rwanda, who have in turn employed over 16,000 of their countrymen and women. Eighty percent are still in business at the end of 12 years! One of the big successes of this program is the mentorship between American women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs around the world, which opens potential trade partnerships. A successful businesswoman, Terry made history in 1990 when she became the first woman nominated by a major political party for the seat of Lt. Governor of Oklahoma. She was named an Outstanding Business Leader by the Northwood University Board of Trustees in 2006, and received an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University in 2008. In 2013, she received the Enterprising Women Legacy Award, the National Women Business Owners Corporation Leadership Award, and the Journal Record’s “Oklahoma’s Most Admired CEO.” In 2014, Dr. Neese was the second woman to ever be honored with the Oklahoma Sister Cities Global Vision award. Other notable accolades include NAWBO’s Lifetime Achievement Award. She has been appointed to numerous councils and positions with nominations by prominent leaders, such as Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. In 2017, as a distinguished leader from the United States, Dr. Neese received the Global Goddess Artemis Award, by the Board of Directors of the Euro-American Women’s Council, its Coalition Partners and Members. In 2018, Dr. Neese was honored as one of 100 Oklahoma Women Trailblazers, by the League of Women Voters of Oklahoma, in commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of Oklahoma women winning the right to vote. She has also been voted into the top 50 Most Powerful Women in Oklahoma since its inception in 2012.
Ilaha Eli Omar fled Kabul with her family when she was just 40 days old, against the backdrop of the Soviet invasion. Today, as an experienced Afghan-American entrepreneur and founder of a successful technical staffing company, Eli champions women's rights and supports various women's causes with specific focus on creating sustainable solutions. Eli obtained her Global MBA from Thunderbird School of Global Management, where she continues to mentor Afghan women via Project Artemis to help them build, manage and expand their businesses in Afghanistan.
Eli has a passion for helping those in need on a global scale. She spearheaded five successful missions to Haiti, and escorted and hosted Afghan children amputees during their prosthesis treatments in the US. In Kenya, Eli launched a sustainable social enterprise project to train local women in entrepreneurship. She also helped fund and led a successful sewage drainage project in Nairobi’s harshest slum, affecting 6,000 lives. Currently, Eli is focused on helping NGOs transition from donor-based dependency to self-sustainable organizations. In addition, she serves on the board of Mahtabe, an NGO working on identifying root causes of poverty and presenting sustainable solutions to enable inclusion and education for the most under-served people. She is an advisory council member of Enabled Children Initiative, a NGO which supports orphaned and abandoned special-needs children. Eli also spearheads Afghanistan’s first self-sustaining community and residential center serving special-needs orphans and abandoned children, and adults living with disabilities.
Annie Pforzheimer - A recently retired career diplomat with the personal rank of Minister Counselor, Annie was until March 2019 the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Afghanistan. From 2017-2018 she was the Deputy Chief of Mission in Kabul, one of the largest embassies in the world, during a period of both intensified violence and the beginning of a historic peace process. Her career has focused on security, rule of law and human rights issues. She directed implementation of the Central America strategy at the National Security Council from 2014-2015, organizing multiple U.S. government agencies to resolve the drivers of uncontrolled migration. She also led the Office of Andean Affairs in the Western Hemisphere Affairs bureau during Colombia’s peace process and the Office for Peacekeeping, Sanctions and Counter-terrorism in the IO Bureau, managing a $2 billion budget and monthly briefings to Congressional committees. She was the Director of the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement program in Mexico City, Political Counselor in El Salvador, and the human rights officer in Turkey and South Africa. Her first assignment was in Colombia. Ms. Pforzheimer was awarded the State Department’s 2001 award for human rights reporting, and has also received numerous State Department Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards. She is a graduate of Harvard University and the National War College. She speaks Spanish and some Dari, and enjoys being the parent of a nearly-graduated son, reading, classical music and hiking.
Katherine Pickus is Divisional Vice President, Global Citizenship and Policy at Abbott, overseeing the strategic direction and implementation of the global healthcare company’s citizenship initiatives and reporting. Working together with Abbott business leaders, Katherine oversees efforts to apply Abbott expertise and resources to help people build better lives and stronger communities, while strengthening its business and reducing the company’s impact on the environment. Ms. Pickus also serves as Vice President of the Abbott Fund, the company's foundation. In this role, she is responsible for developing strategic philanthropic partnerships with not-for-profit organizations. Prior to joining Abbott in 2004, Ms. Pickus served as the Director of Corporate Communications for Fruit of the Loom, Inc, and as the Special Assistant for National Security Affairs to the Vice President of the United States, focused on advancing development and U.S. relations in sub-Saharan Africa. Katherine began her career at the U.S. Department of State, working with the private sector to advance democratic institution-building programs worldwide. In 1993, she was selected by the United Nations to serve as an election monitor for the first-ever democratic elections held in the Republic of South Africa. Ms. Pickus is a member of the Executive Council on Development at the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington, D.C. She also serves as a member of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council, which focuses on advancing the status of women in Afghanistan. Katherine speaks extensively at conferences and events focused on sustainability, global health and corporate responsibility.
Charlotte M. (Charlie) Ponticelli is an international consultant with 23 years of US Government experience, including as Deputy Under Secretary for International Labor Affairs, Senior Coordinator for International Women’s Issues, Senior Advisor for the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration; and Director of Human Rights in the State Department’s Bureau for International Organization Affairs. She was Congressional Liaison for Latin America and the Caribbean at USAID, Director of Congressional Correspondence in the Legislative Affairs Office of the White House, and Commissioner Assistant at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. In the private sector, Charlie was Program Director for Eastern Europe at the International Republican Institute, Director of Media Relations at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and Director of Lectures and Seminars at the Heritage Foundation. She is currently Program Director & Advisor for the American Committees on Foreign Relations and an adjunct professor at the Catholic University of America where she lectures on Global Community Development Policies. Charlie is a member of the US-Afghan Women's Council and serves on the board of directors of the Bayat Foundation and the Initiative to Educate Afghan Women.
Maryam Qudrat has taught in the California State University system for the past 12 years on a variety of topics including ethics, political theory and strategic communications. She has also created and taught courses on cross cutting topics related to Afghanistan for the Rand Corporation’s Pardee Graduate School in Santa Monica California and American University in Washington D.C. Maryam holds a Ph.D in Philosophy from the University of Southern California (USC). Her area of focus is on the political efficiency of fragile states such as Afghanistan. Particularly, she has developed theories on how to achieve, through overlapping consensus, security and progress in such fragile states. Maryam’s recent publication titled Confronting Jihad (Cambridge University Press spring 2013) addresses how to gain civil obedience from citizens activated by transcendent interests they are willing to die for. In her book, Torn Between Two Cultures, Maryam challenges the notion of incompatibility between the value systems of (loosely speaking) the East and West and makes the case that through a quantitative test of time theory, cultural practices can be appraised for their tolerability.
Ambassador Roya Rahmani
Ms. Roya Rahmani has served as Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the United States since December 2018. Previously, she served as Afghanistan’s first female ambassador to Indonesia and the country’s first accredited ambassador to the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). During her posting in Indonesia, the Afghan and Indonesian bilateral relationship soared to its highest since its inception in 1954. Ambassador Rahmani started her official work with the Afghan government at the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan, as a senior advisor for Planning and Policy in early 2011. Prior to this, she directed and managed various organizations and programs at national and international levels, often promoting the empowerment of women.
Ms. Rahmani holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Software Engineering from McGill University.
Suraya Rashid has been serving as the local strategic and executive adviser in Afghanistan for HEEDA.org and in collaboration with Embrace.org, Mrs. Suraya Rashid is pivotal to the success of various development projects in-country. Suraya serves as both the liaison to several respective Ministries and oversees the execution team at our various facilities. Prior to moving to the US with her husband and children, she completed Roshan Prestige Teachers College in Kabul. In the USA, she is a trained Medical Office Manager and has over a dozen years of experience in front and back office operations within mental health and clinical practices. She is mostly proud to be the mother of multiple University of California graduates from Berkeley, Davis and Merced in the fields of Medicine, Economics, Political Science and History. Suraya also travels extensively in and around Kabul to help improve the lives of her people, especially women and girls by coordinating community center activities such as literacy classes and vocational training, helping needy families, widows, needy farmers, orphans with school supplies and clothes in the rural area of Shamali/Bagram.
Alia Rasoully is the Executive Director and Founder of WISE Afghanistan (Women’s Initiative to Strengthen and Empower). She is a Biomedical Engineer with a Master’s in Business Management as well as a Master of Public Health from Columbia University. Since 2011, Alia has been involved in Afghanistan through organizations such as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), UN Women, the Afghan Ministry of Public Health, and the U.S. Department of Defense. Alia founded WISE in June 2013, after leading a medical brigade, that provided consultations and medications to patients in rural communities throughout all five regions of Afghanistan. Since then, WISE has provided over 8,000 underserved women and children with services, including access to healthcare and education. Alia has operated in some of the most remote areas of Afghanistan's provinces while simultaneously studying in the US to complete her education. Currently, WISE has an All Girls School in Kandahar Province and is working on the development of a maternal health mobile application. Through WISE, Alia envisions an Afghanistan where women are empowered with the knowledge and tools they need to achieve their full potential.
Diana Rowan Rockefeller is Founder and Chair of Afghan Women Leaders CONNECT, a Special Project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Inc. A philanthropist and activist focusing for over two decades on women’s economic, educational and social equity issues, Ms. Rowan Rockefeller served for fourteen years on the Rockefeller Family Fund in New York and has worked with the Islam-Related Funders’ Group. She is a member of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council, the Women and Foreign Policy Advisory Council at the Council on Foreign Relations, and is New York Leadership Circle Co-Chair of Women for Women International. Ms. Rowan Rockefeller has been active for two decades with the Tibetan struggle for human rights and cultural survival, and has hosted His Holiness the Dalai Lama on behalf of the International Campaign for Tibet. She has worked as a management development consultant for Fortune 500 companies and the U.S. government, as an editor for The Atlantic magazine, and as a writer for international publications.
Ambassador Cathy Russell guided the creation of the first-ever U.S. global strategy on gender-based violence at the White House, where she served as Deputy Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden. She also led the U.S. Department of State in integrating women’s issues into U.S. foreign policy, as the U.S. Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues. During her time as Ambassador, Russell was responsible for U.S. efforts to advance gender equality and the status of women and girls around the world. She worked with foreign governments, multilateral organizations, and civil society on issues from women’s economic empowerment to adolescent girls’ education to women’s roles in peace and security. Russell previously served as the senior advisor on international women’s issues on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where she drafted the International Violence Against Women Act. Russell served as Associate Deputy Attorney General, as the Staff Director of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and as Senior Counsel to Senator Patrick J. Leahy.
Ambassador Russell is currently a resident fellow at the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. She serves as the board co-chair of the Women’s Foreign Policy Group, as a board member of Women for Women International, as a member of the KIVA advisory council, a member of the Sesame Street Global Advisory Group, and as a member of the Thompson Reuters Trust Women Foundation. Russell graduated magna cum laude from Boston College and received a J.D. from George Washington University. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband, Tom Donilon, and their two children.
Dr. Nilofar Sakhi is the Director of South and Central Asia at McColm & Company. Nilofar is a scholar-practitioner who has written extensively on various aspects of human security and transnational security and has managed and implemented a wide range of development and governance programs including human security, democracy and civil society, women’s rights, higher education and private sector development. She has taught in universities such as George Washington University, George Mason University, and American University of Afghanistan. Her regional expertise is on South Asia, Iran, Tajikistan and Afghanistan with focus on regional security architecture.
Nilofar has developed peacebuilding strategies for international organizations. She has been involved in the Afghan Peace Process since 2010 and remains a regular commentator and writer on various aspects of peacemaking and peacebuilding in Afghanistan. She also has extensive years of experience in managing international organizations with international networks. Nilofar is the founder of Women Activities & Social Services Association (WASSA) - the first women-led organization in the Western region of Afghanistan.
She was a visiting fellow at Columbia University, National Endowment for Democracy, a fellow at International Center for Tolerance Education, and Asia Society. Nilofar has a PhD from George Mason University. She completed her graduate degree from John Hopkins University in International Public Policy. She also received a Master of Arts in Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding from Eastern Mennonite University as a Fulbright Scholar.
Khorshied Samad is the Senior Media Relations Officer at the RAND Corporation in Washington, D.C. She is a former television correspondent and Kabul Bureau Chief for Fox News Channel and worked for ABC News in Afghanistan and New York. Ms. Samad is the curator of a photojournalism exhibition on Afghan women leaders and role models, Voices on the Rise: Afghan Women Making the News, which she most recently organized at the Embassy of Finland in Washington, D.C. on International Women’s Day, 2018. Ms. Samad is the author of Afghan Women, Media and Democracy: Social Evolution in Post-Taliban Afghanistan (VDM Verlag, 2009) and Gender, Conflict and Peace-Building: On the Margins of Development (UNESCO, 2011). Khorshied earned a Master’s degree in Communications from the University of Ottawa (2006) and a Bachelor of Arts in World Arts and Cultures from the University of California, Los Angeles (1985).
Ambassador Omar Samad is currently CEO of Silkroad Consulting LLC, based in Virginia. He is also teaching an Honors Seminar on “Radicalism Within Islam, Drivers and Policy Option” at the University of Maryland. He is also a member of the Spectrum Group, based in Alexandrina Virginia. Amb. Samad resigned as Afghan Ambassador-designate to Belgium, the EU and NATO in April 2016. Prior, from December 2014 to January 2016, he worked as Senior Advisor for Policy and Strategy to the Chief Executive of Afghanistan in Kabul. Previously, he was Senior Central Asia Fellow at New America Foundation, and President of Silkroad Consulting (2013-2014) in Washington D.C. He was Senior Afghan Expert at the United States Institute of Peace (2012-2013), during which he conducted and published a survey of views and perceptions of Afghan political elites on the 2014 transitions in Afghanistan. Prior, he was Afghan Ambassador to France (2009-2011) and to Canada (2004-2009), after serving as the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2001-2004). He was active and advocated for freedom and democracy in Afghanistan since 1979. In 1996 he managed the Afghanistan Information Center, and was Executive Producer of Azadi Afghan Radio. Amb. Samad is widely interviewed by the international media, and is a frequent speaker and writer on Afghan and regional issues. He earned a Master’s degree in International Relations from the Fletcher School (2006), and has a B.A. in Communications from the American University in Washington, DC (1991). He is a member of the Board of the Afghan-American Research and Advocacy Center (AARAC) based in Virginia. He is also a board member of The Kitson (based in Paris), the Fletcher School’s International Advisory Group, and Washington D.C.’s French-American Chamber of Commerce.
Leslie M. Schweitzer is Chairman and President of Friends of American University of Afghanistan, a 501c3 based in Washington, D.C., and a member of the American University of Afghanistan’s (AUAF) Board of Trustees. AUAF is the first not-for-profit, co-ed, private university in the history of Afghanistan. Leslie was instrumental in receiving two grants from the Department of Defense to construct the International Center for Afghan Women’s Economic Development built on the International Campus of AUAF in Kabul, and the AUAF Business Innovation Hub. Schweitzer’s career in international business and development spans over four decades. She pioneered American business in China in the 70’s and her experience includes Russia, Central Asia, Europe, South and Central America. Schweitzer serves on the Advisory Board for International Programs at the University of Kansas, the D.C.-Virginia District Export Council, Ayenda Foundation, Amar Foundation (Iraq), the U.S. Afghan Women’s Council, USIP International Advisory Council and the Executive Committee of the Afghan American Chamber of Commerce. In May 2013, she received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree from American University of Afghanistan.
Zolaykha Sherzad was born in Kabul, Afghanistan and was forced to flee her country at the age of ten, during the Soviet invasion, seeking political asylum in Switzerland, where she grew up and graduated from the School of Architecture in Lausanne. After practicing as an architect in Switzerland, Japan, and New York, and teaching at the Pratt Institute School of Architecture, in 2000, she returned to Afghanistan for the first time since 1979 to help rebuild her war homeland. She founded “School of Hope”, an NGO to help educate Afghan children, which has since merged with “School of Leadership for Afghanistan” (SOLA) , of which Zolaykha is a board member. In 2005, Zolaykha founded Zarif Design—a Kabul-based atelier that works with Afghan female and male tailors, embroiderers, weavers and dyers to revive and maintain the traditional textile methods and techniques that were at risk of being lost due to the country’s ongoing conflict. Using her background in architecture and design, Zolaykha created a fashion line that merges tradition with contemporary style, and seeks to bridge the cultural gap between east and west.
Mina Sherzoy is an accomplished international development specialist / practitioner with 25 years of success in business and expertise in economic empowerment, capacity building, entrepreneurship, and gender equality. Since 2011, Mina has held key leadership roles in international development projects. Among her many accomplishments, currently she is a Director for the $38M USAID Promote: Women in Government (WIG) program in Afghanistan—the largest women’s empowerment project in the world. She successfully launched the first internship program for 3,000 Women in the Government project. Through her leadership, she has established a formal, competitive process to select women applying for the Afghan government internship opportunities. Previously, she held roles as Country Director for Training & Capacity Building, Technical Deputy Chief of Party, leading the high-profile Financial Access for Investing in Development of Afghanistan (FAIDA) project which enabled access to an array of programs and opportunities in the banking and finance industry for the people of Afghanistan and as Senior Gender Advisor for Chemonics International, Inc. Prior to Chemonics, Mina held consulting, advising, and program management positions with Deloitte supporting USAID-funded government, NGO, and private sector initiatives. Notably, she founded the Afghan Women Business Federation, working with USAID to launch Afghanistan’s first private-sector business federation for women.
Ambassador Steven E. Steiner is a retired Foreign Service Officer who has worked for the past eight years on advancing democracy, empowering women and combating human trafficking around the world. Following a long career with the Department of State, he now works with the U.S. Institute of Peace, where he is developing lessons learned and best practices for improving efforts by the U.S. Government and NGOs to support and empower women in Afghanistan and Iraq. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council, the Board of Directors of the Council for a Community of Democracies, and the Advisory Board of the Initiative to Educate Afghan Women.
Shoshana Stewart is CEO of Turquoise Mountain, which was founded by HRH The Prince of Wales in 2006 to revive historic areas, traditional crafts, and communities, to create jobs, skills and a renewed sense of pride. Turquoise Mountain was founded in Afghanistan and now also works in Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. Since 2006, Turquoise Mountain has regenerated 150 historic buildings (winning a UNESCO Heritage Award for its restoration and adaptive re-use of historic buildings in the Old City of Kabul), trained over 6,000 artisans and builders; brought over $6 million of craft products to market - for clients around the world including Asprey, the Connaught Hotel in London, Jo Malone, Pippa Small, the British Museum, Christopher Farr; and organized major international exhibitions, from the Venice Biennale to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC. In Kabul, Turquoise Mountain’s family health clinic has seen over 130,000 patients, and the Murad Khani Primary School provides primary education for all of the children in the neighborhood. Shoshana has worked at Turquoise Mountain since 2006, and previously worked as a teacher and administrator in low-income urban communities with Teach For America and Uncommon Schools in New York City, Boston, and Honduras.
Hodei Sultan currently serves as Senior Program Manager with USIP’s Asia Center. In this capacity, chief among other responsibilities, she coordinates and manages USIP’s gender and higher education programming in Afghanistan. Previously, she worked with USIP's Afghanistan and Pakistan Priority Grants programs on soliciting, reviewing, and developing grant proposals with Afghan and Pakistani civil society organizations. She has worked with USIP since 2009 and also teaches two undergraduate level courses at Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC) on peacebuilding & conflict resolution and peace & stability operations. Prior to joining USIP, she worked with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on counter-trafficking and migration work on Latin America and the Caribbean. Sultan holds a master’s degree in conflict analysis and resolution from the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University, where she specialized in peacebuilding and conflict resolution with a particular emphasis on grassroots gender initiatives to promote peacebuilding. She has a bachelor’s degree from George Mason University in global affairs, with a concentration in Middle East and North African studies and an associate degree from Northern Virginia Community College in liberal arts. She is fluent in Farsi.
Masuda Sultan is an Afghan-American entrepreneur, author, and women's rights activist. Born in Afghanistan, she arrived to the US at the age of 5 as a refugee and was raised in New York City. She has lived in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and the U.S. In Afghanistan she supported the U.S. government’s efforts to strengthen the Afghan National Security forces and women’s rights. Ms. Sultan is a term member at the Council on Foreign Relations, a founder of the American Chamber of Commerce in Afghanistan and a founding board member of Women for Afghan Women, the largest women's rights organization in Afghanistan. Masuda holds an MPA from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Her memoir, “My War at Home” was published by Simon and Schuster in 2006.
Christina (Tina) Tchen is a former Assistant to President Barack Obama and was Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama. During her eight years at the White House, Tchen also served as the Executive Director of the Council on Women and Girls, leading the first-ever White House Summit on Working Families, as well as the first-ever United State of Women Summit. She was the first Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement during the Obama Administration. Tchen was previously a partner in corporate litigation at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. In her capacity, Tchen represented corporate clients in commercial litigation, securities matters and internal investigations. She also represented public agencies in state and federal class actions, including the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, the Illinois Department of Public Aid, and the Chicago Housing Authority. Tchen also served as a Managing Director of the American Bar Association Section of Litigation; Chair of the Board of the Field Foundation of Illinois and of the Chicago Bar Foundation; and was a member of the Board of Directors for the Chicago Public Library, the University of Chicago Medical Center, the Chicago Foundation for Women, and the Chinese American Service League. Tchen is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Leadership Award from the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois (1999); Women of Achievement Award from the Anti-Defamation League (1996); and Chicago Lawyer Person of the Year (1994).
Ambassador Melanne Verveer is the Executive Director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security. Previously, she served as the first U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues directing the Department of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues to ensure that women's rights are fully integrated in the development of U.S. foreign policy and programs. She also previously served as Co-Chair of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council and she is currently a member. Ambassador Verveer was Chair, Co-CEO, and Co-Founder of Vital Voices Global Partnership, an international nonprofit which invests in emerging women leaders. Prior to her work with Vital Voices, Ambassador Verveer served as Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the First Lady in the Clinton Administration and was chief assistant to then-First Lady Hillary Clinton in her work to advance women’s rights and further social development, democracy and peace-building initiatives. She also led the effort to establish the President’s Interagency Council on Women. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Women’s Foreign Policy Program.
Heidi A Waldorf, MD is a nationally and internationally respected expert and sought after lecturer in the field of Dermatology and Cosmetic Medicine, including skin rejuvenation, soft tissue augmentation, cosmetic use of botulinum toxin, noninvasive fat reduction, laser and other energy based device technology and cosmeceuticals. Dr. Waldorf completed her undergraduate and medical education and training at Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania, after which she completed a fellowship in Mohs Micrographic Surgery, Laser Surgery and Cosmetic Dermatologic Surgery. Dr. Waldorf was Director of Laser and Cosmetic Dermatology at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York for over 20 years and maintains her professorship at the Icahn School of Medicine of Mount Sinai. Her private practice, Waldorf Dermatology Aesthetics, is located in Nanuet, NY, just 20 miles North of Manhattan. Dr. Waldorf has been published extensively in professional journals and books, serves as Co-Chief Editor of Modern Aesthetics and of Dermatology Focus and is on the editorial board of Aesthetic Surgery Journal. She regularly speaks at major aesthetic surgery meetings in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, as well as the United States.
Manizha Wafeq has her MBA from the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) and has been working over 15 years with various development projects for women’s empowerment and gender equality. Manizha served as Gender Advisor to the Ministry of Commerce and Industries, Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. Her achievements include activating the Gender Units within both Commerce and Economy and providing higher education opportunities for female employees of the two ministries. Ms. Wafeq has co-authored a Gender and the Legal Framework of Afghanistan training manual, as well as a training manual for Start-up Businesses. She has trained more than 500 government staff in Kabul and the Provinces on Gender Mainstreaming. Manizha has worked as Afghanistan In-Country Facilitator for The Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women’s “PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS” program and has trained more than 300 business women from Kabul and the Provinces. She is an entrepreneur, creating a clothing production company, Wonderland Women-Saleeqa, featuring both one-of-a-kind fashions and ready-to-wear. Though she has a busy schedule, Manizha’s commitment to women’s empowerment and gender equality encouraged her to serve a two year term on the Executive Board of the Afghan Women’s Network (AWN) and to help found both the PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS® Network and Leading Entrepreneurs for Afghanistan Development (LEAD) in order to advocate for women’s economic rights and roles in Afghanistan. Under her strong leadership LEAD was changed to Afghanistan Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry which is a result of successful advocacy and making policy leadership of Afghan government realize the presence of Afghan women as economic actors. She serves as President of the AWCCI now. She is the Founder of Bibi Khadija Award. An annual award that celebrates successful business women and those making major contribution to women's economic empowerment in Afghanistan and it is named after the Prophet Mohammad's wife who was the first Muslim woman trader. She is also the winner of several awards such as Enterprising women magazine from the United States, Leadership from the National Business Association of the US and Young activist award from the Afghan Women's Network and the Lower House of the Parliament.
Westin leads the organization’s efforts to serve vulnerable children through mass media and targeted initiatives in the United States and around the world. She serves as Sesame Workshop’s chief mission ambassador, raising awareness, developing strategic partnerships, and cultivating philanthropic support to further the Workshop’s mission to help children everywhere grow smarter, stronger, and kinder.
Previously Westin served as Sesame Workshop’s President of Social Impact and Philanthropy. In that role, she spearheaded a partnership to create the largest early childhood intervention in the history of humanitarian response, bringing critical early education to refugee children in the Syrian response region. Working with the International Rescue Committee, she led Sesame Workshop’s efforts to compete for and win a historic $100 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation to fund this work. With an additional $100 million grant from the LEGO Foundation, this initiative has expanded to Bangladesh. She also oversees Sesame Street in Communities, Sesame’s comprehensive initiative designed to give children the tools they need to overcome traumatic experiences.
Westin was named a “Leading Global Thinker” by Foreign Policy Magazine and one of Fast Company’s “100 Most Creative People in Business” and was recognized with the Smithsonian’s “American Ingenuity Award”. A staunch advocate for addressing children’s needs, she regularly appears on major media outlets on the value of investing in early childhood development, especially for the most vulnerable children. Westin has held leadership positions in media, nonprofit, and public service. She was Assistant to the President for Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs for President George H.W. Bush, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and held senior positions at the ABC Television Network and U.S. News & World Report.
Westin serves on the board of directors of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, Communities in Schools and Vital Voices Global Partnership. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the U.S. Afghan Women’s Council, and the Early Childhood Peace Consortium Advisory Board and serves on the Executive Leadership Council of the Early Childhood Development Action Network (ECDAN).
Westin is a graduate of the University of Virginia and holds an Honorary Doctorate from Concordia College in New York.
Marna Whittington served as Chief Executive Officer of Allianz Global Investors Capital LLC from 2001 to January 2012. Dr. Whittington served as Chief Operating Officer of Allianz Global Investors from January 2002 to March 2011. She served as Chief Executive Officer of Allianz Global Investors U.S. LLC. Dr. Whittington served as the Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer of Morgan Stanley Asset Management. She started in the investment management industry in 1992, joining Philadelphia based Miller, Anderson & Sherrerd. She served as Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Nicholas-Applegate Capital Management LLC (NACM) and directed the sale of MAS to Morgan Stanley Asset Management, where she served as Chief Operating Officer and successfully. She oversaw firm infrastructure and global distribution, including institutional and sub-advisory businesses at Morgan Stanley Asset Management. Dr. Whittington served as an Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of The University of Pennsylvania from 1984 to 1992. She served as Budget Director and Secretary of Finance for the state of Delaware. She has been a Director of Allianz Life Insurance Company Of North America since March 2012. She has been a Director of Macy's, Inc. since June 1993. She has been a Director of Rohm and Haas Company since 1989. She has been an Outside Director at Oaktree Capital Group, LLC since June 2012. She serves as an Outside Director of Oaktree Capital Management, L.P. Dr. Whittington serves as a Director of Allianz Global Investors AG. She has been a Director at Phillips 66 since April 2012. She serves as a Director of The Philadelphia Contributionship. She serves as a Trustee of Salk Institute for Biological Studies. She serves as a Director of Allianz Global Investors Fund Management LLC and Strategic Partnerships LLC. She served as a Director of Federated Department Stores Inc. since 1993. She earned a Masters and Ph.D. in Quantitative Methods from The University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Whittington also holds a B.A. in Mathematics from The University of Delaware.
Christian Wistehuff brings over twenty years of corporate development, management and consulting experience in a diverse range of for-profit and non-profit concerns to his role as Executive Director at The Initiative To Educate Afghan Women. Trained as a lawyer, Christian began his career as an analyst of gaming legislation and hotel projects in the corporate development department of ITT Sheraton Corporation in Boston, Massachusetts. Within five years he was leading hotel, gaming and entertainment development projects in South America and Europe at ITT Sheraton’s parent, ITT Corporation in New York. In New York, Christian served on the team that successfully defended ITT Corporation against Blackstone (Hilton) Group’s hostile takeover bid and subsequently merged ITT Corporation with Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. Christian spent the next five years identifying and executing strategic initiatives for the President of Church Pension Group, a private investment group with over $6.2 billion in assets under management, including execution of a strategic and operational review of its publishing affiliate, which transformed that concern from a denominational house to a viable religious trade publishing operation. Christian shifted focus over the next five years to the unique regulatory and operational compliance issues emerging among established players in the for-profit education industry, turning those potential risks into competitive advantages for his clients. Christian brings to The Initiative To Educate Afghan Women a highly evolved set of skills accumulated over the course of his diverse career, a deep and abiding gratitude to the teachers in his life as well as a profound belief in the fundamental importance of education and gender equity to long term peace and prosperity in Afghanistan.
Dr. Sakena Yacoobi is the CEO of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), which she founded in 1995 in response to the lack of education and healthcare that the Afghan people were facing after years of war and strife. Since its founding, AIL has directly and indirectly impacted the lives of more than 12 million Afghans. She is Vice President of Creating Hope International (CHI) and has established four private schools, one private hospital and a radio station in Afghanistan. She is the recipient of five honorary doctorates from institutions including Princeton University. Dr. Yacoobi was honored as the 2013 recipient of the Opus Prize, is a Skoll Social Entrepreneur, Schwab Social Entrepreneur and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She currently serves on the board of the New Global Citizens, the advisory council for the Center for Social Impact Learning at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, and is a former board member for the Global Fund for Women. She is an advisor for the Fetzer Institute, a Kravis Prize Awardee, a Gruber Prize Awardee and is a member of the US - Afghan Women’s Council. Before founding AIL, Dr. Yacoobi was a professor at D’Etre University in Detroit, MI and was Coordinator of the Women’s Programs for the International Rescue Committee in the Afghan refugee camps in Peshawar, Pakistan.
Megan Wong has worked to advance gender equality and the rights of women and girls in diverse capacities throughout her career. She is currently a Special Advisor on Women’s Rights in the Middle East and has been a career Foreign Affairs Officer with the U.S. Department of State for more than a decade. Megan has represented the United States at the United Nations, led efforts to sanction foreign governments for the use of child soldiers, and promoted the protection of refugee women and children globally. Megan served at the U.S. Embassy in Armenia and has also lived in Italy and Syria. In prior lives, Megan worked as a journalist and before that as a Legislative Aide to members of the California State Legislature. She holds a BA in history from the University of California at Davis and a Master’s degree in International Relations from Yale University. Megan is the former Executive Director of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council.
TriVision is an award-winning, Afghan-American marketing and media communications company that develops innovative strategies to achieve powerful and creative integrated marketing solutions for its clients. With more than 20 years of experience in digital, print and broadcast media, TriVision has managed cross-platform advertising and integrated marketing programs for a diverse group of clients – ranging from small private sector companies to large multi-national organizations, nonprofits, educational institutions and government agencies. Some notable projects TriVision has worked on include the Women’s Rights Campaign for the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan to create awareness around basic human rights with a focus on marginalized populations, specifically the women and youth of Afghanistan. From protecting and promoting the rights of women serving in the Afghan National Police to running a nationwide strategic messaging campaign to promote women’s rights and contribution towards Afghan society, TriVision is putting its business philosophy to life that “an idea communicated effectively can change the world”. Currently, TriVision is running a number of capacity building programs focused on providing media communication skills to Afghan women politicians and activists. TriVision continues to work endlessly utilizing media as a tool to educate and create positive perception changes in our society.