About Us

WomenStrong International finds, funds, nurtures, and shares women-driven solutions that will transform lives in urban communities. Our member organizations start by listening to women, who know best what they need in order to thrive. Then we bring our members together with other women’s organizations into a Learning Lab, to develop, test, sharpen, and share their solutions. Through our collective learning and sharing, WomenStrong is building a global community of organizations empowering urban women and girls to leave poverty behind.

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

The bustling, women-run Bantama Market in Kumasi, Ghana, where WomenStrong continued the work of The Millennium Cities Initiative.

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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  • Julia Fan, Senior Research Program Associate at WomenStrong International

    Julia Fan

    Knowledge & Program Manager

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

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  • Naomi Watson, Director of Development at 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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  • Senior Advisor for Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning

    Amy Gregowski

    Director of Research

    Amy Gregowski serves as Director of Research at WomenStrong International.

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  • denise mishiewiec, grants manager, 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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    Hannah Barrueta Sacksteder

    Program and Communications Associate

    Hannah Barrueta Sacksteder serves as the Program and Communications Associate at WomenStrong International. Her commitment to advancing women’s and girls’ social and economic rights is reflected in her work to develop and launch the WomenStrong Learning Community.

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  • Chisina Kapungu

    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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Board of Directors

  • George C. Biddle, Board of Directors at WomenStrong International

    George C. Biddle

    Chair of World Connect, supporting local leaders in the developing world; Former Executive Vice President, the International Rescue Committee

  • Dr. Yasmine Ergas, Board of Directors at WomenStrong International

    Dr. Yasmine Ergas

    Director, Specialization on Gender & Public Policy, School of International & Public Affairs; Senior Advisor, Institute for the Study of Human Rights, Columbia University

  • Dr. Beth Horowitz, Board of Directors at WomenStrong International

    Dr. Beth Horowitz, MD

    Washington DC physician, Associate Professor, George Washington Medical Center; Fellow of the American College of Physicians

  • Board Member

    Steve Kass

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

  • Micheline Klagsbrun, Board Member

    Micheline Klagsbrun

    Micheline Klagsbrun is a visual artist who focuses on transformation.

  • Cathy Lee, Board of Directors at WomenStrong International

    Cathy Lee

    Attorney & Founder/Manager of Lee International Business Development; Expert on effective climate change mitigation strategies and women’s issues

  • Dr. Geeta Mehta, Board of Directors at WomenStrong International

    Dr. Geeta Mehta

    Adjunct Professor of Architecture and Urban Design, Columbia University; Founder/President of two nonprofits to help poor communities realize their social capital

  • Dr. Mamphela Remphele, Board of Directors at WomenStrong International

    Dr. Mamphela Ramphele, MD

    Physician; Co-Founder of South Africa’s Black Consciousness Movement; lifelong community activist; Former World Bank Director; renowned author & scholar

  • Pam Schutz, Board Member

    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, Board of Directors at WomenStrong International

    Peggy Shepard

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