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April 30, 2020

Waging Peace in Afghanistan

Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service

Something is happening that has never happened before...


Lasting and sustainable peace in Afghanistan can only be achieved through a fully inclusive process that features women and women’s issues as central to both the negotiations and the implementation of a post-conflict settlement. To explore options and develop new proposals to achieve this critical objective, Georgetown University’s Master of Science of Foreign Service (MSFS) program collaborated with Women Forward International (WFI) on an exciting new program entitled Waging Peace in Afghanistan.  

An MSFS graduate seminar of 16 students spent a semester focused on the future of Afghanistan and the vital role that women’s leadership must play in building the foundations of peace. As part of their research, the students held virtual sessions to interview officials on the margins of the Afghan Peace Talks and negotiations currently underway there and met with various Afghan women leaders and change-makers.

The students wrote these reports for two client organizations led by Afghan women and focused on the protection and empowerment of Afghan women. These NGOs, Women for Afghan Women (WAW) and Women’s Activities and Social Services Association (WASSA), helped guide the student's research toward practical steps that can be implemented in the near term. Representatives from WAW and WASSA who are currently working in provincial regions of Afghanistan traveled to Doha  and participated in interviews and other project-related activities.  



Deliverables and Impact

Women Forward International hosted a virtual workshop with Georgetown University and the United Nations (UNITAR) where the students presented the results of their research along with their proposals for the future. The presentation was attended by special guest speakers including international dignitaries whose work is relevant to the Afghan peace process and the student report will be published by UNITAR.


Many of my students said they ‘never knew what a difference it makes to study an international security issue through a gender lens.’ Already Women Forward International’s support for this project has been life-changing for our students.

Ambassador Nancy McEldowney

Director of Georgetown University’s Master of Science of Foreign Service Program


Key Recommendations

The Georgetown University School of Foreign Service teams focus on engagement, economic empowerment, education, and advocacy through actionable recommendations to the Women’s Activities and Social Services Association (WASSA) and Women for Afghan Women (WAW). These recommendations include the use of new radio programming to generate conversation about women’s rights in Afghanistan and encourage male allyship; the creation of women-led self-help groups to promote financial management and vocational skills; in-person capacity-building trainings for women serving in Provincial Peace Committees (PPCs); local councils advocating for higher gender quota minimums during and after the peace talks; and the protection of women’s shelters during and after negotiations with the Taliban. Both client organizations will be taking these recommendations forward, and WASSA has noted it will include them in its strategic plan. 


Women Forward International has offered us a unique and engaging opportunity to both study an issue of critical global importance, and to take an active part in ensuring that the physical security and rights of women in Afghanistan are protected in a future intra-Afghan peace agreement.


Marta Sydoryak

Georgetown University, Walsh School of Foreign Service Master of Science in Foreign Service Candidate General Secretary at the Georgetown Collaborative Diplomacy Initiative


Project Blogs - Real Security in Afghanistan

The Reports

Building Peace for All: Women's Advocacy

for a Future Afghanistan

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Project Blogs - Light of Afghanistan

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Distinguished Speakers for our Virtual Event:

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H.E. Sheikha Alya Ahmed bin Saif Al-Thani, Permanent Representative of the State of Qatar to the United Nations in New York


Ambassador Al-Thani was appointed as Permanent Representative of the State of Qatar to the United Nations in New York on October 24, 2013. Prior to this, Ambassador Al-Thani was her country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva since December 2011, before which she served as Ambassador to the Cabinet of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs from August 2011 to October 2011.

She was Deputy Permanent Representative at Qatar’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York from May 2010 to July 2011, having previously been Minister Plenipotentiary from June 2009 to April 2010 and Counsellor from April 2007 to May 2009.


From September 2006 to March 2007, Ambassador Al-Thani was the Director of the Division of the Rights of the Child in the General Secretariat of Qatar’s Supreme Council for Family Affairs, having served as Acting Director between June 2004 and August 2006.  From October 2003 to May 2004, she was a Senior Specialist in the General Secretariat of the Supreme Council’s Department of International Relations.

Ms. Al-Thani holds a Master of Arts in international studies and diplomacy from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, and a Bachelor of Science in economics from Qatar University.


Megan Corrado,  Director of Advocacy, Women for Afghan Women (WAW)

Megan Corrado joined WAW in 2017 and leads the organization’s advocacy efforts in New York and Washington, DC to influence policy related to women, peace, and security and to promote and expand women’s rights around the world. She serves as WAW’s organizational representative on the US Civil Society Working Group on Women, Peace, and Security and the US-Afghan Women’s Council. She has experience as an attorney and policy practitioner in international law, human rights, gender mainstreaming, peacebuilding, transitional governance, and post-conflict legal reform. Megan has been published extensively in publications such as The Hill, Washington Examiner, and Impakter, and also presents and facilitates workshops at meetings and conferences. Megan previously served as an attorney with Cohen, Milstein, Sellers, and Toll; counsel and program director with the Public International Law and Policy Group; an environmental attorney with Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility; and an intake counselor with Women Empowered Against Violence (WEAVE). In addition, she worked in the Office of the Secretary, US Department of Defense; the US House of Representatives; and the British House of Commons. Megan earned her Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, from American University Washington College of Law; Bachelor of Arts, summa cum laude, in Political Science and English from the University of Rhode Island; and studied public policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science and international law at the Asser Institute in The Hague.


Zuhal Feraidon, Artist

Zuhal Feraidon was born in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan. After the invasion of Afghanistan by the Taliban Zuhal and her family were forced out of their homeland. They escaped to the neighboring country of Turkmenistan. Zuhal’s academic upbringing in Turkmenistan included Persian, Turkish, and Russian schools. She immigrated to the United States in 2005 as a refugee and became a U.S. citizen in 2011. She completed a BA at the University of Virginia.


In 2015 she traveled back to Afghanistan, as part of an independent study, with research focused on female identity in one of the most difficult environments that women have to endure. In 2016 Zuhal was the recipient of the Aunspaugh Post-Baccalaureate Fellowship in Studio Art through the McIntire Department of Art. She received her MFA in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2019. Zuhal currently teaches as a professor at The Massachusetts College of Art and Design as well as the Rhode Island School of Design.


Her selected exhibitions in the United States include Monya Rowe Gallery and Field Projects Gallery in New York City, The Glendale Central Library, The Red Eye Gallery, Sol Koffler Gallery, The Rhode Island Convention Center, The Welcome Gallery, The Ruffin Gallery, and IX Art Park. She has shown at Balkh University in Afghanistan. Her work has been featured in publications including The University of Edinburgh's "The Dangerous Women Project" through The Institute of Advanced Studies in the Humanities in Scotland, U.K.


Palwasha L. Kakar, Senior Program Officer, Religion and Inclusive Societies at the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP)


Ms. 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 has published research regarding women’s participation in local governance, Pashtunwali-Afghan customary law, Afghan women's identity, and social spaces in Afghanistan. 


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.

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Nancy McEldowney, Distinguished Professor of the Practice and Director, Master of Science in Foreign Service


Nancy McEldowney was appointed to her new position as Director of MSFS in July of 2017. Previous to MSFS, she served as Director of the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) and Ambassador to the Republic of Bulgaria.


As Director of FSI, Ambassador McEldowney led the foreign affairs training facility for the U.S. government, which offers 800 courses and enrolls approximately 170,000 annually. She was responsible for FSI’s 1,400 staff, worldwide field operations, and $130M operating budget. Ambassador McEldowney also served as Interim President and Senior Vice President of the National Defense University, the U.S. Department of Defense’s national security university.


Ambassador McEldowney has been a leading policy advisor on Europe. She served President Clinton as Director of European Affairs on the White House National Security Council Staff. She also served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, where she led the U.S. government engagement with NATO, the European Union, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).


Ambasador McEldowney’s distinguished career as a foreign service officer included positions as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Bulgaria and as Chargé d’Affaires and Deputy Chief of Mission in Turkey and Azerbaijan.

She has been granted the State Department’s Superior Honor Award on five occasions. She is also the recipient of the Sinclair Linguistic Award and of the Chairman of the Joint Chief’s Joint Distinguished Civilian Service Award.

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Najia Nasim, Executive Director, Women for Afghan Women (WAW) 

Ms. Nasim has 17 years of experience in the non-profit realm, with a focus on civil rights, women’s empowerment, and international development, including five years managing WAW’s day-to-day operations in Afghanistan, for which she received numerous accolades. In her former capacity as WAW’s Afghanistan Country Director, Najia built strong relations with government officials, international donors, the public sector, civil society, and influential local elders and religious leaders. She successfully led a massive program and staff expansion, as well as honed the vision, strategic direction, programmatic development, financial management, and infrastructure growth of WAW in Afghanistan. During her tenure, WAW increased its presence from 10 to 14 provinces, while simultaneously implementing organization-wide evaluation, reporting, operational policies, and work flow systems that have greatly improved WAW’s functional efficiencies and program execution. Najia established WAW’s Security Department, which has become instrumental in successfully protecting WAW’s facilities, clients, and staff. Moreover, she has adeptly navigated the significant social, political, and security challenges with which the organization grapples daily.


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. In addition, she has received official appreciation letters from both Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs for WAW’s outstanding performance under her leadership. 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.

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H.E. Roya Rahmani, Afghan Ambassador to the United States


Roya Rahmani became the first woman ambassador of Afghanistan to the United States on Jan.11, 2019. Prior to this, she served as Afghanistan’s first woman ambassador to Indonesia and the country’s first accredited ambassador to the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). During her tenure in Indonesia, she was also accredited as Afghanistan’s non-resident ambassador to Singapore.
Ambassador Rahmani joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) as a senior advisor to the deputy foreign minister in 2011. From 2012 to 2016, she served as the first director-general for regional cooperation at MoFA.


From 2009 to 2011, Ambassador Rahmani managed a program implemented in 11 countries that promoted women’s empowerment. She also worked as a part-time subject matter expert with the NATO Joint Forces Training Center for two years and as a consultant for various agencies, including the New York Department of Education; the United Nations Secretariat in New York; the Department of Trade and International Affairs of Canada; Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan; Women Living under Muslim Laws; and other NGOs.


In addition, from 2004 to 2007, Ambassador Rahmani worked as the country director of the International Center for Human Rights and Democratic Development in Kabul. In 2007, she was awarded the Best Human Rights Activist Award by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission for her work on a marriage document that secured equitable rights for the family and contributed to data collection at a national level.


Ambassador Rahmani holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in software engineering from McGill University. She has won several awards and fellowships and is a Fulbright Scholar. She has been featured by numerous international media and was named the “People’s Ambassador” in 2017 by the Tattler Indonesia.

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Said Wase Sayedi, Executive Director, WASSA 

Said Abdul Wase Sayedi is a civil society activist and a women’s right defender. He holds a bachelorss degree in Literature and Humanities from Afghanistan Government University as well as having diploma on Leadership and Management from Morning Star Institute of leadership and development. He holds the position of Executive Director at Women Activities & Social Services Association (WASSA). Mr. Sayedi has more than 13 years of professional working experience, specifically in the field of human rights, conflict resolution and peacebuilding, women rights and supporting the role civil society in Afghanistan. Women Activities & Social Services Association (WASSA) the organization he joined in 2008, is known as an advocate organization to give voice for women who were victims of violence, bringing justice and equal participation to the community through advocacy approaches and capacity building.  He grew up in a such atmosphere where rights of human/women must be taken and he is strongly having that potential and leadership skills to inspire others including relevant stakeholders.

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Masuda Sultan, Entrepreneur & Women's Rights Activist


Ms. Sultan was born in Kandahar, Afghanistan, raised in New York City, and returned to Afghanistan in 2001 just before the fall of the Taliban. Ms. Sultan is a founding and current board member of Women for Afghan Women (WAW) the largest women’s organization in Afghanistan and the largest human rights organization for Afghans globally. Founded in 2001, WAW began in New York City and runs programs assisting women, children and families across Afghanistan with 800 staff in 32 facilities. In 2008 Ms. Sultan was appointed as advisor to the Ministry of Finance in Afghanistan tasked privatization and monitoring progress on grant and loan agreements with the IMF, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank. Ms. Sultan is a founder of All in Peace, a coalition of groups including the families of victims of 9/11, American veterans, Afghan women, and Afghan youth seeking to find a peaceful end to the war in Afghanistan. Ms. Sultan currently serves on the Council of Foreign Relations Women and Foreign Policy Advisory Committee and the US-Afghan Women’s Council. She is also a founder of American Chamber of Commerce in Afghanistan and the American Muslim Women Political Action Committee in the US. Ms. Sultan currently serves as advisor to the Afghan Business Council of Dubai and holds an MPA from Harvard University. Her memoir, “My War at Home” was published by Simon and Schuster in 2006.

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