Nadima Sahar | Roger Williams 2006 | University of Massachusetts Amherst 2008

Afghanistan Technical and Vocational Education and Training Board

Founder of Soft Power Solutions of Kabul


Nadima Sahar is one of the first students to graduate from The Initiative’s program. Nadima earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Philosophy as well as a Bachelor of Science in Business from Roger Williams University in 2006. Nadima continued her education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, earning a Masters of Arts in Public Policy and Administration in 2008. Upon returning to Afghanistan after graduate school, Nadima founded a small research, monitoring and evaluation firm called Soft Power Solutions in Kabul, where she has counted among her clients the US Army and the US Department of State. More recently, she led a series of public opinion research projects relating to the presidential elections in Afghanistan. Nadima is a partner at the Galleria, one of the largest arts and crafts centers in Afghanistan. Through the Galleria, she works with over 100 artists and 11 women arts and crafts organizations to reintroduce art to daily life in Afghanistan by experimenting with innovative design techniques and bringing diverse professionals together to create new markets. Nadima also volunteers her time to an organization, which delivers capacity building projects for Afghan women in shelter homes in Afghanistan. In 2018, Nadima was chosen to lead Afghanistan's Technical and Vocational Education and Training Board, a newly independent organization formerly of the Ministry of Education.


Our graduates are making The Initiative’s vision of a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan a reality.  Here we celebrate of the impact of young women whose extraordinary achievements toward gender equality, peace and prosperity seemed impossible only a decade ago. 


Sonia Eqbal | Juniata 2007

CEO PAHNA Media Group and Co-Founder Afghanistan 1400

Sonia Eqbal is a founding partner and CEO of PAHNA Media Group, a communications consultancy. In addition to her professional endeavors, Sonia is the co-founder and Chair of Afghanistan 1400, a social-political youth movement founded on the principles of accountability and hope. Previously, she served as a Senior Project Manager at Harakat Afghanistan Investment Climate Facility; as a Consultant at The World Bank; as a Consultant on Transitional Justice at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission; as a Program Assistant at United States Institute of Peace; and as a Program Assistant at UNICEF Afghanistan.


Adela Raz | Simmons 2008 | Tufts Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy 2010

Deputy Foreign Minister of Economic Affairs of Afghanistan


Adela Raz held several professional positions in Kabul, Afghanistan during her undergraduate summer vacations as part of The Initiative’s Summer Internship in Afghanistan program. She began as a home school supervisor at ACHIANA Center, human rights and political affairs assistant at the United Nations Assistance Mission, project analyst for CARE International, rule of law assistant at The US Embassy Kabul and a development consultant to the Aga Khan Foundation. After completing her graduate degree, Adela worked traveling between Washington, DC and Kabul, Afghanistan as project co-coordinator in financial services for ACDI/VOCA providing technical support to Afghan Rural Finance Company. In March 2013, Adela was appointed First Deputy Spokesperson and Director of Communications for His Excellency President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan. She continued in that role at the Presidential Palace for President Karzai’s successor, His Excellency President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan until her appointment in 2016 as Afghanistan’s Deputy Foreign Minister of Economic Affairs.


Palwacha Mirbacha | Simmons 2008

World Bank Group


After completing The Initiative’s program, Palwasha Mirbacha earned a Masters in Science in Human Development from the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics, jointly operated by two prestigious Spanish public universities, Universitat Pompeu Fabra and Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona. Palwasha has worked in the area of development for over a decade and for the past six years she has occupied the position of Education Specialist with the World Bank Group. In this capacity, she is managing a multi-million dollar portfolio in tertiary education, engaging with key sectorial ministries like the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Higher Education and Ministry of Labor of Afghanistan. She writes extensively and leads scientific research in the field of development to facilitate and influence good policy practices for improving service delivery and building the nation's human capital capacity paving the path for young Afghans as more capable citizens. In her personal capacity, she is coaching a group of professional young Afghans from different walks of life as volunteers working for the education of vulnerable children in orphanages, shelters and remote villages of the country by developing children’s literature and innovative educational materials and approaches to mitigate challenges commonly prevailing in the learning processes of children. Together they aim to make it fun for children to learn and grow. Whilst mobilizing Afghan youth to take their part as informed citizens in the lives of those less fortunate, she aims to close the staggering gap in human development in her society and the country as a whole. In the future she is determined to expand her work and also engage in area of special education as a philanthropist.


Sadiqa Basiri Saleem | Mount Holyoke 2009

Founder of Family Welfare Center for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

Founder of Oruj Learning Centers


Sadiqa Basiri Saleem established the Family Welfare Center for the Elimination of Violence against Women, a domestic violence prevention project that serves 14,000 Afghan women, trains government staff and encourages spiritual leaders to discuss women’s issues constructively. The Center has grown from its original student body of thirty-six girls to more than 3,400 girls in six schools, 200 women in four literary centers, and 120 students in college. Sadiqa also founded Afghan Women’s Leadership, as well as the first Afghan community college for women, and managed professional development centers for the Academy for Educational Development’s Higher Education Project in Afghanistan. Sadiqa received the People’s Voice Award from the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation and was the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ Patricia Blunt Koldyke Fellow in 2010. For more about Sadiqa's accomplishments, click here.


Nadia Sakhi | Roger Williams 2010

USAID Afghanistan


Nadia Sakhi was an outstanding scholar and student leader who returned to Afghanistan each summer through The Initiative’s Summer Internship in Afghanistan program to support women’s rights advocacy and vocational training at the Women Activities and Social Services Association in her hometown of Herat. After graduating with honors in 2010, Nadia returned to Afghanistan again to lead large scale projects at USAID Afghanistan and Development Alternative supporting women’s health and hygiene, encouraging youth participation in local government, and helping women understand and exercise their voting rights in five provinces across Western Afghanistan. Nadia is continuing her studies in International Public Policy at George Mason University in the hope of taking her work with Afghan women and girls to the next level. During her time here, she is giving back to The Initiative as a mentor in The Initiative’s annual Leadership Academy program in Washington, DC!


Helay Rahimi | University of Montana 2010 | University of Nevada Lee Business School

KPMG Management Consulting


Helay Rahimi returned to Afghanistan each summer as part of The Initiative’s Summer Internship in Afghanistan program where she worked for USAID, the Aga Khan Foundation, the Afghan Red Crescent Society and the United Nations providing innovative IT solutions to improve systems structure and efficiency. Currently, Helay works as an IT consultant in Silicon Valley serving Fortune 100 clients specializing in driving data-driven insights into business decisions and aligning IT with business goals helping to create opportunities that facilitate change and improve profitability. Helay served on the Women in Technology International (WITI) Sacramento Leadership Council as Social Media Director as well as its corporate leadership program where she actively supports and establishes strategic alliances with other well-known organizations that support and promote women in the technology industry.


Wazhma Furmuli | Randolph 2011

PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP

Wazhma Furmuli is a certified public accountant (United States) and certified accounting technician (United Kingdom) in the New York office of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP where she performs audits of multinational insurance companies focusing on consolidation process and SEC reporting. Prior to joining PwC, Ms. Furmuli worked in a variety of finance related capacities through The Initiative’s Summer Internship in Afghanistan program at Afghan Telecom Corporation, The American University of Afghanistan, and Afghan Women’s Network as well as at Randolph College and Genworth Financial. Wazhma has been active as a fundraiser and job fair promoter and is fluent in Dari, Pashtu, Urdu, and Hindi. While a student at Randolph College, she was a member of the Dean’s List and recipient of numerous awards including membership in Omicron Delta Epsilon, the International Economics Honor Society and best position paper and honorable mention at the National Model United Nations Conference.


Wadia Samadi |University of Richmond 2011

Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Afghan Business News Online


Before launching Afghanistan’s first online business news portal in 2012, Wadia Samadi worked as Communications Assistant at Afghanistan Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative where she created web content based on the work of civil society, government and private sector representatives. As part of The Initiative’s Summer Internship in Afghanistan program during her undergraduate years, Wadia worked as a researcher for the Centre for Conflict and Peace Studies and at the Human Rights Commission of Afghanistan. Wadia represented The Initiative at the US-Afghan Women’s Council’s Rising Afghan Women’s Leaders Initiative conference in Doha Qatar.


Najia Nasim | Bucknell 2013

Afghanistan Country Manager, Women for Afghan Women


Najia Nasim has served as Women for Afghan Women’s Country Director since January 2014 after graduating summa cum laude in Economics and Accounting from Bucknell University. During her summers at Bucknell, Nadia participated in The Initiative’s Summer Internship in Afghanistan program working in the Capacity Development and Program Design and Management departments of the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission of Afghanistan. At Bucknell, Nadia received The President’s Award for Distinguished Academic Achievement each year, the Best Teaching Assistant of 2012, Deans List every semester, the Bucknell Prize for Women, the Oliver J. Decker Prize and the H. Boardman Hopper Prize. Before joining The Initiative, Najia spent 13 years in Peshawar, Pakistan where she co-founded an English and computer learning center for Afghan women and girls. In 2014, Nadia was recognized as one of Amnesty International’s 10 bravest women in the world for her work at Women for Afghan Women. Under her leadership, that organization was shortlisted for the 2015 Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize.


Marzia Nawrozi | Meredith 2013

Feminist Majority Foundation


Marzia Nawrozi has worked on behalf of women’s and girls’s education since she was a girl herself. As a high school student, she received a Youth Exchange and Study program scholarship to study in the US for one year. When she returned to Afghanistan, she worked on the Protection of Children at Risk project of the Italian humanitarian aid organization, INTERSOS, advising and mediating between runaway girls and their families to allow their return home. Marzia also organized vocational training for women at INTERSOS’ juvenile rehabilitation center and led staff trainings on women and children’s rights. Through The Initiative’s Summer Internship in Afghanistan program, Marzia worked as a summer research intern at Afghanistan’s Education Development Center in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif evaluating the USAID radio and television program, Building Support Systems for Teachers. Marzia’s junior year research project, “Violence Against Immigrant and Refugee Women,” was featured at the 57th Session of the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women. After completing The Initiative’s program, Marzia has worked as Political and Programs Fellow at Women’s Campaign Fund and Afghan Women’s and Girl’s Rights Advocate at the Feminist Majority Foundation. Marzia is an active contributing writer for the Afghan Women’s Writing Project, Ms. Magazine, Feminist Majority Blogs and the Free Women Writers, which reaches and engages more than 62,000 young Afghans on peace and gender equity. As a girl living under the Taliban regime sixteen years ago, Marzia’s biggest dream was to attend school. This year, Marzia is finishing her master’s degree at George Mason University and believes that it is the responsibility of women like her, who have had the privilege of higher education, to help women and girls in Afghanistan to do the same.


Anita Haidary |Mount Holyoke 2014

Co-Founder of Young Women for Change


Anita Haidary returned to the US this year as a Fulbright Scholar in Public Policy at Portland State University. Upon her return to Afghanistan after graduation in 2014, Anita worked as a communications consultant for Sayara Strategies in Kabul and at the Presidential Palace as Youth and Media Advisor to Her Excellency First Lady Rula Ghani of Afghanistan. She drafted the first National School Feeding policy for the World Food Programme last year and worked for Equal Access Afghanistan as Communication Manager for Education. Anita is cofounder of Young Women for Change, a grassroots movement consisting of Afghan volunteers committed to empowering Afghan women through social and economic participation, politics and advocacy. She has also worked as a producer for TOLO TV, Afghan Human Rights Research and Advocacy Consortium and Equality for Peace and Democracy. She is a member of the Afghan Women's Advocacy Coalition. In October 2013, Anita was featured at the Bush Center Blog's Leading Change Series and in November 2013, Anita was a featured speaker at the Advancing Afghan Women: Promoting Peace and Progress in Afghanistan Conference at Georgetown University where she shared the stage with US-Afghan Women's Council honorary co-chairs First Lady Laura Bush, Secretaries Hillary Clinton and John Kerry and Her Excellency First Lady Rula Ghani of Afghanistan. Anita's film, This is My City Too, one of seven entries from Mount Holyoke College, recently won best film at the Five College Film Festival of the Five College Consortium. Anita was invited to speak at a private luncheon during the Clinton Global Initiative University at Arizona State University in March 2014. 


Wasima Shinwari |Russell Sage 2016

Co-Founder Afghanistan Speech Project


Before coming to the United States through The Initiative, Wasima assisted young children in Afghanistan coping with kidney problems, shrapnel to their bodies and limbs, missing legs, arms, eyes, and injuries from acid attacks. This experience led her to a role as an Interpreter/chaperone for Solace for the Children, an American non-profit organization based in Charlotte, NC that provides medical treatment to children affected by war. At Solace, Wasima accompanied 21 Afghan children between the ages of 7 to twelve to the United States for medical treatment. For each child she attended all appointments and operations to provide interpreter services from initial consult through discharge. During her junior year at Russell Sage, Ms.Shinwari co-founded the Speech Therapy Project in Afghanistan, brokering education between doctors at Indira Gandhi Hospital in Afghanistan and therapists at Calvin College, well known for its Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology programs. Wasima's pilot project diagnosed twenty Afghan children with speech disorders and provided them with much needed therapy. As a result, all twenty children were re-admitted to public school, an opportunity they would have been denied previously. Presently, Wasima is a research assistant in the microbiology and immunology department at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, where she researches new therapies for tuberculosis.