Event: ‘Voices of Hope: Empowering Women and Girls in Afghanistan’


1TIME: 16:00 – 17:00, Thursday 19th May 2016

VENUE: Committee Room 20, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA

Host: Nus Ghani MP

SPEAKERS: Razia Jan, Founder of Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation, Shoshana Stewart, CEO of Turquoise Mountain Foundation, Natalie Gonnella-Platts, Manager for the First Ladies Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute, Betsy Martin, Deputy Director of the Women’s Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute

To attend please RSVP to: rsvp@henryjacksonsociety.org


Afghanistan has been described as “the worst nation in the world to be a woman.” More than fifty percent of girls who are forced into marriage are sixteen or younger. Too many women live in fear and in many areas, education and employment of women are still condemned. Amongst this set of circumstances, there are a courageous set of women charting a new path for themselves, their families, their communities, and their nation. Since 2001, enrolment of Afghan girls in primary schools has increased from 5,000 to 2.5 million. In government, women hold 69 seats in parliament. There are four female government ministers and two female provincial governors. Thousands of women have started their own businesses.  As access to education, skills training, and opportunities increases, women are taking their places as leaders in the economy and in politics. Even with this progress, still the question remains – what is life really like for Afghan women in the 21st century?

The Henry Jackson Society is pleased to invite you to an event with Razia Jan, Founder of Raiza’s Ray of Hope Foundation, Shoshana Stewart, CEO of Turquoise Mountain Foundation, Natalie Gonnella-Platts, Manager for the First Ladies Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute, and Betsy Martin, Deputy Director of the Women’s Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute. The panel of speakers will be discussing the new book by the George W. Bush Institute, We Are Afghan Women: Voices of Hope, which illustrates the progress which has been made and how these women have persevered through harsh circumstances and contributed positive change to their nation.

To attend, please RSVP to rsvp@henryjacksonsociety.org – RSVPs must include your full name and any affiliations including for any guests you wish to bring. We will send a confirmation that will be required to attend the event.

Razia Jan is the founder of Raiza’s Ray of Hope Foundation which provides exemplary, free education to more than 480 girls in grades K-12 at the Zabuli Education Centre in Deh’Subz, Afghanistan. Founded on the belief that education is key to positive, peaceful change for current and future generations, they provide young Afghans with the opportunity to learn and grow in a safe, nurturing environment, so that they may work toward brighter futures — in their own villages and beyond. Razia has received many awards for her humanitarian work, including being named a CNN Top 10 Hero in 2012. Today, in order to continue her humanitarian work, school administration, and fundraising efforts, as well as spending time with family, Razia travels frequently between Afghanistan and the United States

Shoshana Stewart is the CEO of Turquoise Mountain Foundation, an organization which she joined at its inception in 2006, and has been running since 2009.  Turquoise Mountain Foundation is a non-governmental organisation which works to rebuild historic cities and traditional crafts, to create jobs, skills and a renewed sense of pride.  It was created in 2006 by Prince Charles and the Afghan President to do this in Afghanistan, but has recently expanded to take on a project in Myanmar, a partnership with Saudi women in crafts, and an exhibition at the Freer & Sackler Galleries of the Smithsonian in Washington, which is open throughout 2016. Prior to Turquoise Mountain Foundation, Shoshana worked as a teacher and administrator in low-income urban communities with Teach for America and Uncommon Schools in New York City, Boston and Honduras.

Natalie Gonnella-Platts serves as the Manager for the First Ladies Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute. Natalie is responsible for the strategy and program management of the Initiative, which aims to enable and support First Ladies from around the world in effectively using their platforms to empower women and children in their countries.  Natalie studied Communications and International Studies (Peace and Conflict) at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Fredonia. She earned an MA in War, Violence and Security studies from the University of Sussex in Brighton, United Kingdom.  Prior to joining the Bush Institute, she held roles in New York City at American International Group (AIG), and in London at Conservative Home USA, the Legatum Institute, and BBC Worldwide.  She is also a co-founder of Each Inc., a non-profit that seeks to provide innovative technology tools to organizations that care for and protect orphans and vulnerable children globally.

Betsy Martin serves as Deputy Director of the Women’s Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute.  In this role, she is responsible for setting and implementing the vision of the Women’s Initiative. By empowering rising women leaders in the Middle East and North Africa and highlighting stories of hope in Afghanistan, the Women’s Initiative programming seeks to empower women worldwide to lead in their communities and countries. Prior to joining the Bush Center, Martin served as a Senior Event Coordinator for the Washington Speakers Bureau where she managed speaking engagements for Mrs. Laura Bush, Jenna Bush Hager, and Barbara Bush


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