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Weaving a Path to Peace


The marginalization and challenges faced by refugee women and women in conflict zones ranging from Afghanistan to Ukraine are far greater and systemically entrenched. The effects of war and conflict continue for years after the fighting ends, as many women are left widowed, and many children are orphaned, and communities are facing the challenging realities of reconstructions.


There is a glimmer of hope: recent studies have shown the transformative power of artisanship: handicrafts provide a space of multicultural recognition, represent memorialization for second and third generation migrants, hold potential for trauma expression, and a vessel to communicate a unified message that we are all part of one human family – all this while creating a platform for women to sustain themselves economically.

Ukrainian Bandura Player Larisa Pastuchiv shares a composition by her father entitled "Longing"


WFI Board Chair Ambassador Sharon Wilkinson introduces the mission of Women Forward International and the Sciences Po academic team in Paris, France. Watch here:

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Helen Zughaib, Syrian Migration 22

This event demonstrates how Women Forward International (WFI), a nonprofit that partners graduate students with organizations to make their research of service to humanity applicable today, is making the economic empowerment of refugee

and artisan women possible.


WFI's series of fall events brought together our global ambassador supporters from a dozen embassies in Washington, fashion influencers and philanthropists, and Ukrainian and Afghan women designers and artisans. The artistic and music-filled program uplifted our understanding of the contributions of women artisans to the world, and proved a landmark showcase for sustainable fashion projects that empower women refugees in conflict zones.

WFI President Dr. Kent Davis-Packard and WFI Executive Director Dr. Julia Nesheiwat MC "Weaving a Path to Peace" at the Cosmos Club International Affairs Committee luncheon. Dr. Davis-Packard wears a shawl from WFI partner, ZariZar, the 125-year-old acclaimed loom house whose master artisans weave exquisite shawls and wraps in India. Watch this dynamic duo here, with an introductory song performed by Dr. Patrick Beldio and Dr. Davis-Packard:


Ambassador Elsie Kanza of Tanzania

National Gallery Assistant Curator Ginger Hammer presents WFI's partnership with and the exquisite handwoven shawls of ZariZar, which provides fair and equal employment opportunities to highly skilled Indian women artisans. 

Event Speakers Left to Right: Mehera Blum, Creative Director of Blumera; Kent Davis-Packard, President of WFI; Representative of Kandahar Treasure; Julia Nesheiwat, Executive Director of WFI; and Helen Zughaib, award winning Lebanese-American Painter

WFI Student Installations:

Craftswomenship: Enhancing the Social and Economic Inclusion of Migrant Women 

Nest in collaboration with The Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po) 


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Alexa Chopivsky, WFI Board member, Director of the Program on the World Economy at the Aspen Institute, and Executive Director of Ukraine House in Davos presented traditional Ukrainian bandura player, Larisa Pastuchiv

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Dr. Julia Nesheiwat greets Mme Aurelie Bonal, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of France with Naseer Ahmad, Chair of the International Affairs Committee of the Cosmos Club

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WFI partner fashion designer Mehera Blum of Blumera shared her one-of-a-kind artisan-crafted sustainable masterpieces from Afghanistan, which have graced venues from the 2022 Met Gala to the most recent Oscar red carpet.

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Ukrainian Bandura Player Larisa Pastuchiv shares a composition by her father entitled "Longing"


Nina Ullom, Policy Advisor at the Embassy of the United Kingdom converses with Inga Wegner, Development Counsellor at the German Embassy 


"Good Afternoon Everyone,

I am an Afghan woman artisan. I also happen to come from a family where a widow single handedly raised her children, earning a living through selling her art. My mother raised us making traditional afghan dresses that brides wear on their wedding. Her art not only made the wedding night special for the brides, but it become a source of income for us and my mother made sure we all went to school, even if it meant we had one hot meal for lunch and for dinner and breakfast, tea and bread for years to come. 

Because of her, all of my siblings and I made it through high school and eventually to colleges and universities and have jobs, thus breaking the cycle of poverty and the cycle of imposed masculine culture and extremist ideas and ignorance in my family and our future generations to come.  My sister  and I being the first girls in our family to have gone to school became models for the rest of the girls in our family because we come from a very conservative and isolated province of Afghanistan. Now we have female doctors, artists, writers, nurses and teachers in our family..."

Painting by WFI Arts Counsel Member Zuhal Feraidon

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Featured Artists:

Mehera Blum

Mehera Blum, Founder & Creative Director of Blumera, through her creations, will take the audience on a journey of exploration through a myriad of cultures from our upcoming project Designs for a New Humanity, Empowering Women Artisans in Myanmar and Afghanistan

Ms. Blum creates high-vibratory, uplifting collections utilizing unexpected natural, sustainable materials such as recycled brass, up-cycled wood, and semi-precious stones, through designs inspired by the natural landscapes, the artisanal and architectural culture and the spiritual essence of the regions.

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Helen Zughaib headshot

Patrick Beldio, Ph.D., is a teacher, scholar, and artist whose college courses have ranged from theology to art and religion to studio art. His current book project is on the Mother (working title) "Mirra Afassa: Mother and Child of the Divine of

Tomorrow." Dr. Beldio's new sculpture, "The Descent," representing the transformative power of love on humanity, had its inaugural exhibition at "Weaving a Path to Peace" at the Cosmos Club.

Helen Zughaib, Painter & Multi-Media Artist, will share a small selection of her works to promote the creation of empathy and a shared space for introspection and dialogue. Her goal is “To give voice to the voiceless, to heal, and to reflect in our shared humanity.”

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