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president’s advisory council

Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati  

She is a renowned spiritual leader and motivational speaker, based in Rishikesh, India. Originally from Los Angeles, California, and a graduate of Stanford University, Sadhvi ji has lived on the banks of the sacred Ganga river, in the lap of the Himalayas for 25 years engaged in spiritual service, wisdom teaching, sacred action, and deep spiritual practice. 

At Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh, where she lives most of the year, she gives daily spiritual discourses (Satsang), teaches meditation, provides spiritual counseling and mentoring, and oversees myriad charitable and humanitarian projects and activities. Sadhvi ji Serves As: Secretary-General Of The Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, An International Interfaith Organization Dedicated To Clean Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH). President Of Divine Shakti Foundation.

 A Foundation Which Runs Free Schools, Vocational Training Programs And Empowerment Programs. Director Of The World-Famous International Yoga Festival At Parmarth Which Has Been Covered In Time Magazine, CNN, New York Times And Other

Dr. Haifa Al Kaylani  

She is the President and Founder of Arab International Women’s Forum (AIWF), she is a Fellow of the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative (2017) and served as a Commissioner on the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work (2017-2019). The Arab International Women’s Forum (AIWF) is recognised in Arab and international government, private sector and NGO circles as a high-impact change agent focussed on women’s leadership and youth empowerment, working for progress, inclusion, peace and prosperity in the Arab region and internationally.

Haifa is a development economist, an alumna of the American University of Beirut and read for a Diploma in Economic Development at Oxford University, a Fellow of the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative 2017, and a Commissioner of the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work (2017-2019). She brings a wide range of skills and experience to her personal mission of encouraging greater cultural understanding and sustainable economic growth and reform, supporting a strong role for women and young leaders at the heart of that process.

Anca Dragu  

She is Romanian economist and politician, she was the Minister of Public Finance (November 2015 – January 2017) and was the President of the Senate of Romania from December 2020 until November 2021. She is the first woman in the history of the Senate to hold this position. Dragu graduated from the Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies in 1996. 

From 1999 to 2000 she studied at Georgetown University and George Washington University. She obtained an MA degree in public administration from the National University of Political Studies and Public Administration in 2007 and a PhD in economics from the Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies in 2010.

Nana Ama Poku   

She is an astute Commercial and Development Banker with extensive insight in Corporate, SME and Retail Banking, Risk Management, Banking Operations, Financing support for Non Bank Financial Institutions, Government guaranteed project financing, Import and Export Trade financing, and Asset and Liability management. She has extensive experience in value chain financing support for strategic subsectors towards export promotion and import substitution and in corporate strategy execution at the Executive Management level in Banking.

She’s a Member, Chartered Institute of Marketing Ghana. (MCIMG).  She holds a BA (Sociology/History) from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology – Ghana, an MA (Marketing Communications) from the University of Westminster Business School – UK, and an Executive MBA (Entrepreneurial Management) from the University of Ghana Business School. She was conferred with the Global Leadership Excellence award by the Centre for Economic and Development (CELD) Dubai – U.A.E; December 2019 and inducted into the Global Women Leaders Hall of Fame by the Centre for Economic and Leadership Development (CELD) Dubai – U.A.E; December 2019.

  

Donna Downs Kawasaki 

She is the VP of Global Marketing and Operations at multiple companies. Her experience includes working with Fortune 1000 industry-leading customers in the areas of strategy, cross-functional business development, business operations, partner development, solutions development, and marketing. At Cisco Systems, where Donna held senior management positions, she managed Cisco’s largest marketing organization for Asia Pacific and Japan and was the only women on the executive team. At Hewlett-Packard, Donna was a top 100 worldwide sales manager and winner of the top team award. She has been on the board of multiple companies and non-profits and currently focuses her community contribution on finding a cure for hearing loss and increasing the number of women on Fortune 1000 boards. Integrated with her consultancy, IT, and healthcare experience, Donna has energy sector experience, having worked with various power and alternative energy customers.

Donna is a graduate of the Asia Pacific Masters in Business Administration Program from National University of Singapore, and Bachelor of Commerce (Honors) from the University of Manitoba, Canada.

 

 

Katja Iversen

She is an executive adviser, author, board member and global advocate on purpose driven leadership, sustainability, networking, diversity, equality and the health and the rights of girls and women. She has more than 25 years’ experience working in and with corporates, NGOs, and United Nations agencies, and has a vast and high level network across these sectors.

She is the former President/CEO of Women Deliver, trainer of Fortune 500 Executives in diversity and cross cultural management, and has also been a senior professional with various UN agencies in the field of Strategic Communication and Public Advocacy. Katja, who is Danish, today sits on UNILEVER’s Sustainability Advisory Council, is an executive advisor to Women Political Leaders, an advisor to the World Economic Forum, King’s College Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, and to Global Goals World Cup, is one of the original 100Women@Davos, as well on the Board of 4LifeSolutions and appointed a UN Food Champion and Copenhagen Goodwill Ambassador. She is a member of VL2. Previously, she has been a member of President Macron’s and Prime Minister Trudeau’s G7 Gender Equality Councils, a long-term advisor to Bill Clinton in the Clinton Global Initiative, on MIT Solve Challenge Women and Tech Leadership Group, and a board member at Women@theTable, PMNCH, Women Deliver etc. As the leader of Women Deliver she oversaw the development  and execution of the world’s largest conference on gender equality.

 

Marijela Margeta Hasimbegovic

She is An accomplished leader in cultural management, performing arts & politics, she is first woman Director of National Theatre of Sarajevo in 100 years of its existence. With an architecture degree and extensive set designing experience, she’s credited for bringing the audiences back to the theatre. With an indomitable will matched by a graceful essence, she says in an interview, “I consciously ‘entered the fire,’ I knew what to expect, but I also knew that nothing could defeat hard work, love and sacrifice.’ Since 1993, she began working in Theatre and film for sets and costume design. Artistic works during Siege of Sarajevo were a tool to survive, showing human power with hope and enthusiasm, using words, images, symbols, culture, theatre. Actively leading in the cultural spaces, she has been involved for over two decade in the organization of various important cultural events in the region, including the Sarajevo International Winter Festival and festival Mess. Between 2000 and 2021, she serves as the Technical Director of the National Theatre of Sarajevo. 

 

 

 

 

Aijan Chynybaeva 

She was graduated from American University in Central Asia in 1999 with a Bachelor in Business Administration. She has serving on the board of AUCA since 2012. A businesswoman with great entrepreneurial zeal, she is the owner of the Talisman resort and other businesses. She has over 15 years of business experience, and has worked for several international firms over her career. A natural leader, Aijan is passionate about community leadership. From 2016 to 2020, she was Honorary Consul of the Kingdom of Norway in the Kyrgyz Republic. 

From 2017 to 2020, she was President of the Consuls Club of the Kyrgyz Republic. In 2018, she was Ambassador of Woman Expo Kazakhstan. In 2020/21, she was Vice Mayor of Bishkek for Social Development. She was President of the Rotary Club Bishkek in2015-2016. From 2016 to 2019, she was President of the Public Association of Women of Kyrgyzstan “Kurak”. She is Member of the Council of the Association of Social Entrepreneurship, mentor at the ASP school. 

She is the initiator of the movement “Taza Issyk-Kul”. (Clean Lake), the Founder of the Eco-Demi Public Fund.

 

Mrinalini Venkatachalam

She is Regional Director for Southeast Asia and Oceania, Mrinalini (Minnie) provides support to WEConnect International by enhancing brand visibility and conducting outreach to women entrepreneurs and corporate buyers in Southeast Asia, East Asia and Oceania. 

Her region is probably the fastest growing for small and medium enterprises, including those that are women owned. There is a large diversity in types of products, particularly in the sectors of finished consumer goods, commodities and professional services. 

This has the potential to create mass appeal, especially amongst large established FMCGs and retail chains. Consistency in quality also allows these businesses to remain sustainable, thus providing employment and allowing communities to thrive. With experience spanning over a decade, Minnie has worked to bridge the gap between unmet social needs and service providers, giving large corporations, government agencies, community organizations and social enterprises the platform to create measurable social impact. 

She speaks regularly at schools, community events, corporate gatherings and conferences about the role that gender equality plays in achieving a more sustainable world for everyone. Minnie has been awarded the Singapore Women’s Weekly’s Great Women of Our Time Award in the Public Service and Education category and has been nominated as one of Cleo Singapore’s 2016 top ten Changemakers.

 

Mantasha Ahmed

She is the founder president of Association of Fashion Designers of Bangladesh (AFDB), and founder of ‘Deshi Bhalobashi’, an E-commerce Platform for SMEs in the handloom and crafts sector. Having completed her BSc in Software Engineering in 2001 from Independent University Bangladesh IUB, Dhaka, Mantasha set up a computer training school. 

After completing her MA in International Relations and Contemporary Political Theory from The University of Westminster, London, UK, she joined the House of Lords, London, Through her vision, hard work, dedication, and strategic planning, Mantasha turned the small sized business into one of the leading brand names in Bangladesh. 

Awards and Accolades: 2013: IWEC International Women Entrepreneurial Challenges Award 2013, Lima, Peru 2016: Pages Award by Chanel I, Dhaka, Bangladesh, the President of Bangladesh-India Business Council (BIBC) of Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (WICCI). Ahmed is also a board member of the SME Foundation Bangladesh. 

Under her leadership, BIBC has organized many successful events including Asian Women Entrepreneurs’ Summit 2021, Mentorship program with ULAB etc. Through her vision, hard work and dedication Ahmed has established herself as an eminent SME expert in the country with a heavy focus on women empowerment, training and social welfare.

 

Marianela Mirpuri

She is a successful entrepreneur mainly in the field of aviation, Marianela Mirpuri decided to dedicate her time to philanthropy, in the spirit of giving back to society what society gave to her. 

In 2018 she takes forward her project Hera The Light of Women. It started in early 2000 as an informal movement for the empowerment of women and the Future of Humanity, and focus in the target of building a City with women leading the Mission – Hera City. 

Her work as the Founder and President of Hera the light of women, is recognized worldwide, and Hera counts with a powerful team of Ambassadors and Advisors in all Continents, working for the education of women and for a better Future for Humanity. 

She is also an Advisor to the Mirpuri Foundation, her family foundation and leads the “Game Changer” project The Good Bottle, with the aim to replace the plastic around the world for a biodegradable/compostable solution. Marianela is invited regularly as speaker in international conferences globally. 

 

 

Tanja Wehsely

She is the CEO of Volkshilfe based in Vienna. Volkshilfe is a big Aid/Social/Care Organisation mostly publicly funded and operating in various fields, from home care/nursing, housing first/homeless shelters, preventing evictions, refugee shelters and counseling, foster care, day care for kids, counseling for sexworkers, programmes for labour market reintegration, general social work counseling, volunteer services and mentoring porgrammes. Volkshilfe employs 1.500 people, works with 400 volunteers and counts about 3000 members of our association.

Before Tanja´s appointment as managing director, she was a member of the Viennese state parliament and chairwoman of the economic and finance committee of the city of Vienna. As a studied social worker, she taught social work at the FH Campus Wien. She is a board member in numerous social enterprises, such as the Association of Viennese Youth Centers, the Umbrella Association of Vienna Social Institutions, the SWÖ – Social Economy Austria, as well as the umbrella association Arbeit plus. Tanja Wehsely is a member of the supervisory board of WU’s NPO Institute and is a juror for the annual World Summit Awards (WSA) and Social Impact Awards (SIA).

 

 

 

Helene Marie Gosselin 

She is unique career has led her to almost every country on earth, in management and leadership positions. Her networks span the globe and have facilitated remarkable achievements, which have been recognized by stakeholders and leaders in the public, private and non-profit sectors as well as the media. Her inspirational leadership and powers of persuasion have attracted tens of millions of dollars in funding and significant media profile to the projects she has led over the last three decades: thinking “outside the box”, mobilizing new partners, re-energizing existing ones and attracting new audiences.

Over the past decade, she has devoted herself mainly to the development of women’s empowerment & leadership. A member of the International Women’s Forum in Canada, she is the founder of the Austrian branch of the organization. In this capacity, she is mentoring several young professional women involved in public service, governance

and the private sector. Likewise, she is supporting startups in female leadership.

 

 

 

 

 

Verlaine-Diane Soobroydoo 

She is an international strategist and public policy, diplomacy professional. Ms. Soobroydoo previously served at the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) Executive Office on Global and Africa Strategic Priorities and Lead Public Engagement Adviser of the Generation Equality Forum. 

She most recently served as Director for Leadership Engagement and Partnerships at WPL. She devotes her efforts to building cross-sectorial partnerships and multi-stakeholders’ strategic engagements. Her efforts are rooted in policy, human rights, women and youth empowerment, inclusion, diversity, equality, and social justice. 

Ms. Soobroydoo has deep experience in the field of movement and community building for gender equality and women’s empowerment, including service as founding Coordinator of the African Women Leaders Network (AWLN), the joint African Union-UN Women initiative established to scale up women’s leadership in Africa and beyond. She brings solid and diversified international affairs expertise in governance, as well as in women, peace and security issues. Ms. Soobroydoo served on the Advisory Panel of Women in Power of the 73rd President of the UN General Assembly, Ms. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés. 

Verlaine was recognized in 2018 in the Top 100 list of Most Influential People of African Descent (MIPAD) in the Politics and Governance Category, and in 2019 in the Top 100 Influencers on Gender Equality and Diversity by Onalytica. She is the recipient of the Nalafem Feminist Collective Award (2022) for building Intergenerational leadership platforms at the UN, AU and throughout Africa.  Verlaine is the author of UNBOUND: Twitter thoughts for the heart and Mind with foreword by Oscar Winning Sound Designer Resul Pookutty.