WAW’s Board of Directors
Women for Afghan Women’s all-volunteer Board of Directors consists of dynamic and diverse individuals with diverse skills and talents. Visionaries in their own right, WAW’s Board is actively involved in governance, planning, outreach, and fundraising for the organization.
- Number of Board Members: 8
- Frequency of Meetings: 10+ annually
- Average Meeting Attendance: 6
- Realigning organizational programming in Afghanistan and the U.S. to meet new needs after the Taliban take over of Afghanistan in 2021.
- Executing a strategic and programmatic plan for the organization for 2024-2026.
- Fundraising for WAW’s programming and growing impact.
- Strengthening WAW’s institutional structure and diversifying WAW’s funding base to secure the organization’s sustainability as it continues to realign programming and expand into new services.
WAW’s Board focuses on governance and fiduciary responsibilities, including fundraising for WAW’s programs and operations. All Board Members generously contribute to the organization financially and through in-kind professional services. For instance, one Board Member, who is a lawyer, offers pro bono legal advice. Another Board Member who is a special events producer provides her company’s services gratis to produce WAW galas or other major events.
WAW’s Board has an audit committee led by the Treasurer, which reviews the organization’s annual independent audit and federal 990 tax return and state filings. The Board regularly reviews financial statements, and updates its by-laws, conflict of interest, non-discrimination, and whistleblower policies to ensure that they are up-to-date and actively employed.
It is clearly committed and actively engaged with the event committee, and establishes other committees, such as strategic planning or executive search, on an as-needed basis. It provides valuable advice and contacts for program partners and for fundraising efforts to the Executive Director, senior management, and the development team.
The Board also sees its role in selecting and assessing the performance of the organization’s Executive Director as a primary governance responsibility and works closely with the Executive Director. Finally, the Board and senior staff collaboratively lead the development of a strategic plan every three to five years, as well as regular assessments of progress on the plan’s implementation.
Women For Afghan Women Board Of Directors
Yelda Ali is a Brooklyn-based community organizer, storyteller, and author, dedicated to women's safety and mental health advocacy. In her commitment to these causes, she has produced over 300 experiences internationally. In recent years, Yelda has become a voice of representation for the Afghan diaspora, sharing stories of her culture and upbringing.
Meg Barnette is the President and CEO of Nonprofit New York, an organization working to help nonprofits thrive and mobilize a relentless, collective force for good. Before joining Nonprofit New York in May, 2020, Meg served in several leadership roles at Planned Parenthood of New York City (PPNYC), for over nine years, including Vice President of Strategic Initiatives, General Counsel, and Chief Strategy Officer. Meg has spent over 25 years working in nonprofit management, public policy advocacy, and community development, including stints as the Chief Operating Officer at the Brennan Center for Justice, a founding staff member of the Community Development Venture Capital Alliance, and a Skadden Fellow at the Lawyers Alliance for New York. Meg joined the Board of Women for Afghan Women (WAW) in 2013, after working with participants in WAW’s Girls Leadership Program and being deeply moved by the smart, strategic vision and courage of the staff and leadership of the organization. Meg received her J.D. from NYU School of Law, where she was a Root-Tilden Scholar, and a B.A. from the University of Chicago.
As a diplomatic spouse in US Embassy postings in Afghanistan, Israel, Hong Kong, Sweden, the United Nations New York, and NATO Brussels, Leslie Genier Cunningham has been an advocate for women’s and children’s issues for many years. She worked at the US Embassy in Kabul for two years in Public Affairs where she managed a multitude of programs to advance women’s capacity for leadership, economic development, and education. During that time in Afghanistan, Leslie became acquainted with the work of Women for Afghan Women, where she visited their shelters for abused women, as well as children’s and family facilities. After seeing first-hand how these centers and programs changed the lives of women and children by offering them a safe place to live, health assistance, education, and legal aid, Leslie became an enthusiastic supporter of the valuable work of Women for Afghan Women. Inspired by the strength and resiliency of Afghan women, she continues to be committed to help with their ongoing challenges. Leslie is also a member of the US-Afghan Women’s Council. 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 in Washington.
The Director of Outreach for Multi-Faith Neighbor’s Network where she works to build mutual trust and respect among faith leaders through civic engagement, authentic relationships, and honest dialogue. Hurunnessa Fariad also is intentional I making sure women’s voices are heard and amplified. Hurunnessa serves as the Secretary of the Board of Directors at Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, Member of the Board of Directors of Lutheran Social Services National Capital Area, Member of the Fairfax County Faith and Equity Committee, and involved with many other faith-based organizations. She is the founder & Music Director of America's first Mosque Youth Choir, The ADAMS BEAT Choir. Hurunnessa is the founder and co-host of the Sister Act Podcast along with co-hosts Dr. Sabrina Dent and Rabbi Susan Shankman. Conversations centered around shame, stigma, rights and social justice issues and how our faiths address these topics. She is a former child refugee from Afghanistan and currently resides in Sterling, Virginia with her 4 daughters.
Nawa Arsala Lodin is a corporate attorney with Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett LLP and an activist who has served the Afghan-American community for more than 16 years. She previously worked for the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, DC, as well as several years for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions section. During her tenure as President of the George Washington University’s Afghan Student Association, Nawa organized several successful fundraising events for Afghanistan, including a walk-a-thon with Women for Afghan Women (WAW), a baby formula drive with the US-Afghan Women’s Council and a fundraising launch for the Smithsonian’s Turquoise Mountain exhibit. Nawa is passionate about empowering Afghan women and is proud to join WAW's Board of Directors.
Teresa (Terry) A. Merkle is the owner of Paradigm Shift Worldwide, Inc. and Production & Special Events Services, Inc., event marketing and production companies in Los Angeles, California. Her client base ranges from Fortune 500 companies, to major Hollywood studios, internet companies and charities/non-profit organizations. Prior to this work, Terry began her career in theatre as the venue manager for The Nederlander Organiation’s Greek Theatre and Pantages Theatre. Returning to her roots, she recently co-founded Theatre for Humans, an arts and entertainment production company whose mission is “to give voice to stories that must be told.” It was through Theatre for Humans that Terry was first introduced to the remarkable work being done by Women for Afghan Women and has traveled to Afghanistan twice to witness their programs firsthand. She has written, directed and produced films focusing on women and girl’s human rights including “Afghanistan, Moving Forward” for the WAW 2015 Gala and website. She is honored to be part of the Women for Afghan Women family.
A retired career diplomat from the U.S. Department of State, Annie Pforzheimer is a Senior Non-Resident Associate at CSIS, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a public commentator on foreign policy. She was the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Afghanistan and Deputy Chief of Mission in Kabul, one of the largest U.S. embassies in the world. Her thirty-year diplomatic career focused on security, rule of law, and human rights policy, and included working in the National Security Council on Central American migration. She was the Director of the $700 million security assistance program in Mexico and the lead human rights officer in Turkey and South Africa. Annie received the State Department’s 2001 recognition for human rights reporting, as well as numerous Honor Awards. She is a graduate of Harvard University and the National Defense University, and speaks Spanish.