About WomenStrong

WomenStrong International is a global community of organizations working with women and girls to end extreme urban poverty. We start and end by listening to urban women and girls, who know best what they need, in order to thrive. WomenStrong finds, funds, nurtures, and shares women-driven solutions that can transform lives.

Mission and Vision

Our Mission

Empowering women and girls to lead the way toward a poverty-free world.

Our Vision

We envision a world in which all women and girls are free to prosper and to live their lives in dignity and peace.

Our History

WomenStrong International grew out of the Millennium Cities Initiative, a project of Columbia University’s Earth Institute designed to help 11 sub-Saharan cities achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Over a dozen years, we saw the women in impoverished Millennium City communities rely on their own creativity, perseverance, and grit to provide for their families; these women became our go-to source of knowledge of what works, to earn a decent living and build a just and more prosperous world.

WomenStrong expanded the geographic and sociocultural focus of this urban development agenda to include member organizations in India, Kenya, Ghana, Haiti, and the United States, where girls and women in impoverished settings have acquired and utilized effective tools and resources to improve their lives. Now, WomenStrong has broadened our compass again, as we invite many more organizations to share and learn what they know, what they do, and what they have learned, as part of our WomenStrong Learning Lab.

Our Staff

  • Dr. Susan M. Blaustein, Founder and Executive Director of WomenStrong International

    Dr. Susan M. Blaustein

    Founder and Executive Director

    As Co-Founder of Columbia University’s Millennium Cities Initiative, Susan leverages a decade’s work in severely challenged urban settings, where women and girls unfailingly emerge as leaders in transforming their communities.

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  • Hannah Barrueta Sacksteder, Senior Program Associate of WomenStrong International

    Hannah Barrueta Sacksteder

    Senior Program Associate

    Hannah’s commitment to advancing women’s and girls’ social and economic rights is reflected in her work to develop and launch the WomenStrong Learning Lab.

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  • Ketayoun Darvich-Kodjouri, Senior Advisor for Communications and External Relations of WomenStrong International

    Ketayoun Darvich-Kodjouri

    Senior Advisor for Communications and External Relations

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  • Julia Fan, Knowledge and Program Manager of WomenStrong International

    Julia Fan

    Knowledge and Program Manager

    Julia is documenting and sharing broadly some of the most valuable work undertaken by our members to enable girls and women in impoverished urban settings to thrive.

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  • Amy Gregowski, Director of Research  of WomenStrong International

    Amy Gregowski

    Director of Research

    Amy has more than 15 years’ experience designing, managing and evaluating health and development programs.

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  • Dr. Chisina Kapungu, Director of Learning and Organizational Strengthening of WomenStrong International

    Dr. Chisina Kapungu

    Director of Learning and Organizational Strengthening

    Dr. Chisina Kapungu is the Director of Learning and Organizational Strengthening at WomenStrong International. In this role, she provides technical oversight on the development and implementation of Learning Labs focused on girls’ education and empowerment, women’s health, prevention of violence against women and girls, and economic opportunity.

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  • Michelle Lambert, Communications Manager of WomenStrong International

    Michelle Lambert

    Communications Manager

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  • Denise Mishiwiec, Grants Manager of WomenStrong International

    Denise Mishiwiec

    Grants Manager

    Denise is leading the development and implementation of WomenStrong’s grant systems and policies. Denise supports WomenStrong’s partners to test, pilot, and share best practices for helping urban women and girls move out of extreme poverty.

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  • Mara Steinhaus, Senior Research & Learning Specialist  of WomenStrong International

    Mara Steinhaus

    Senior Research & Learning Specialist

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  • Naomi Walston, Director of Strategy and Development of WomenStrong International

    Naomi Walston

    Director of Strategy and Development

    Naomi uses her extensive experience in the field as a program manager, technical advisor, and researcher to serve as WomenStrong’s Director of Development.

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  • Bianca Zhang, Operations Manager of WomenStrong International

    Bianca Zhang

    Operations Manager

    Bianca Zhang serves as the Operations Manager at WomenStrong International, where she oversees the organization’s finances, IT system, human resources, and operations.

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Board of Directors

  • George C. Biddle, WomenStrong International Board Member of WomenStrong International

    George C. Biddle

    George Biddle is the chairman of World Connect, a grassroots organization that supports local leaders in the developing world to undertake innovative, sustainable and scalable community development projects.

  • Prof. Yasmine Ergas, WomenStrong International Board Member of WomenStrong International

    Prof. Yasmine Ergas

    Prof. Yasmine Ergas is Director of the Specialization on Gender and Public Policy and Lecturer in the Discipline of International and Public Affairs at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, and Senior Advisor to Columbia’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights.

  • Dr. Beth Horowitz, MD, WomenStrong International Board Member of WomenStrong International

    Dr. Beth Horowitz, MD

    Dr. Beth Horowitz MD is a highly regarded physician in full-time private practice in downtown Washington, DC.

  • Steve Kass, WomenStrong International Board Member of WomenStrong International

    Steve Kass

    Senior Environmental Counsel at Carter Ledyard and Milburn LLP, Adjunct Professor at Brooklyn Law School and at NYU’s Center on Global Affairs

  • Micheline Klagsbrun, Board Member of WomenStrong International

    Micheline Klagsbrun

    Micheline Klagsbrun is a visual artist who focuses on transformation.

  • Cathy Lee, WomenStrong International Board Member of WomenStrong International

    Cathy Lee

    Ms. Catherine A. Lee, founder and manager of Lee International Business Development since 1997, focuses her current practice on climate change policy, projects and programs domestically and internationally.

  • Prof. Geeta Mehta, WomenStrong International Board Member of WomenStrong International

    Prof. Geeta Mehta

    Prof. Geeta Mehta is an adjunct professor of architecture and urban design at Columbia University in New York, where she teaches seminars and design studios that have worked in India, China, Austria, France, Ukraine, Colombia, Brazil, Jamaica, Ghana and Kenya.

  • Dr. Mamphela Ramphele, MD, WomenStrong International Board Member of WomenStrong International

    Dr. Mamphela Ramphele, MD

    Dr. Mamphela Aletta Ramphele MD, born in the Northern Transvaal region of South Africa, is a medical doctor and lifelong community activist, as a student, anti-apartheid leader, community health practitioner and a reformist political leader.

  • Pam Schutz, Board Member of WomenStrong International

    Pam Schutz

    Pam Schutz, a seasoned financial services executive, is the retired CEO of Retirement and Protection for Genworth, a spin-off of GE.

  • Peggy Shepard, WomenStrong International Board Member of WomenStrong International

    Peggy Shepard

    Community activist, environmental health researcher and advocate; Co-Founder and Executive Director of WE ACT For Environmental Justice (WE ACT)