Board of Directors
Manizha Naderi (ex officio), WAW executive director, was born in Kabul, Afghanistan and raised in New York and New Jersey. She has a BA in English Language Arts from Hunter College. While she has roots in the Afghan community in Queens, NY, she and her family now divide their time between NYC and Kabul.
Belquis Ahmadi has been an advocate for Afghan women’s rights since the early 1990s, when she helped found the Afghan Women’s Network in Kabul. She has served in many different capacities over the years, and has authored numerous articles and reports on human rights in Afghanistan. Until recently, She was a senior human rights advisor with USAID-Afghanistan Rule of Law Project. She currently heads ARoLP’s Women’s Rights under Islam Program, the aim of which is to enable Afghan women and men to understand and think critically about the customs, traditions and practices that are discriminatory toward women but are justified by using narrow and repressive interpretations of Islamic rules and norms. Belquis was political and legal advisor for Democracy International during the 2009 Presidential and Parliamentary elections in Afghanistan.
Mary Fontaine has over 30 years of experience designing, directing and implementing international development projects, including 20 years of residential experience in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Bangladesh and Iran and shorter term technical experience in East and West Africa, Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Mary began her career as a secondary school teacher in the US, where, in 1972, she designed and taught one of the first women’s studies courses in the world. Since then, a hallmark of Mary’s career has been an enduring focus on women’s rights and empowerment and an expertise in women in Islam. An award winning author, Mary has applied her cross-cutting gender expertise with international NGOs and USAID, including 4 1/2 tours with USAID/Afghanistan, where she conceptualized and was the primary author of a 10-year leadership development program for Afghan women, the largest stand-alone women’s program in USAID’s history. Mary currently serves as the Gender Practice Lead for JBS International in Bethesda, MD.
Esther Hyneman spent her professional life teaching English and American literature, Women's Studies, Gender Studies, and multicultural literatures at the Brooklyn Campus of Long Island University. For over 25 years, she was an officer in the LIU faculty union (LIUFF), one of the strongest unions in higher education in America. In that capacity, she fought for faculty rights and was a leader of several successful faculty strikes. She retired from the classroom in 2001 to devote herself to humanitarian work and human rights advocacy for women and girls. She is the principal grant writer for the organization.
Sulthana Sayed was born to parents from Kandahar, Afghanistan. Sulthana is the Staff Accountant at Tekserve in NYC. Sulthana, being an Afghan American, witnessed first-hand her parents’ struggles when they first immigrated to America. Inspired by their dedication and perseverance, she took advantage of the opportunities that living in America brought her. Sulthana received a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Eastern Connecticut State University. As a student, she began to volunteer with various community groups on and off campus. Before becoming involved with Women for Afghan Women, Sulthana was the lead advisor for a youth leadership program in her hometown of Waterbury, Connecticut. Sulthana is Founding Co-Chair of the Friends of WAW Committee. Sulthana is a passionate and motivated woman who feels personally connected to the mission of Women for Afghan Women.
Masuda Sultan has been working on the economic and political empowerment of Afghan women through a variety of roles over the last four years. She serves on the advisory board of the Business Council for Peace, an organization that helps women build sustainable businesses in post-conflict countries. She is a member of the Women Waging Peace network and co-authored the report on Afghanistan, "From Rhetoric to Reality: Afghan Women on the Agenda for Peace." Ms. Sultan produced and narrated "From Ground Zero to Ground Zero," the first documentary on Afghan civilian casualties to air on US television, later shown in Europe and Japan. She is a contributing author to Women for Afghan Women: Shattering Myths and Claiming the Future and author of My War At Home. She recently completed her Master's in Public Administration at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Masuda lives in Afghanistan and is working as an advisor to the Ministry of Finance.
Sunita Viswanath is co-founder and board member of Women for Afghan Women and editor of Women for Afghan Women: Shattering Myths and Claiming the Future, Palgrave/St. Martins Press (October 2002). Sunita worked for many years as director of grants and programs at The Sister Fund, where WAW was founded and incubated. From 2006 to 2009, Sunita was executive director of Funders Concerned About AIDS. Sunita now volunteers full-time for WAW. Sunita was a 2011 recipient of the Feminist Majority Foundation's Global Women's Rights Award for her work with WAW. In 2011, she cofounded another grassroots organization, Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband Stephan Shaw and their three sons: Gautama, Akash, and Satya.