Social change & economic opportunity: Empowering women leaders in the Middle East & North Africa and Eastern Europe

On February 22-26, 2016, women leaders from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Eastern Europe convened in London, UK for the twelfth Global Ambassadors Program. The mentoring program included eleven mentees from countries including Azerbaijan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Georgia, Israel, Lebanon, Morocco, Serbia, Syria and Turkey, for a week of one-on-one mentoring sessions and strategic planning workshops. Paired with senior women executives from the public and private sectors, the women discussed strategies to develop their organizations while navigating challenges characteristic of countries in transition, including humanitarian crises, fractured economies and unstable governments.

Taking place just two weeks before International Women’s Day 2016, the program highlighted the critical role women play as drivers of innovation and socio-economic growth. In particular, the women mentees in attendance contribute to humanitarian and social change through their businesses, social enterprises and NGOs.

The 2016 Global Ambassadors Program in London also featured a public forum entitled “Women, Progress and the Global Economy”, which convened experts and thought leaders to discuss contemporary issues concerning women’s economic and social empowerment, with special emphasis on women in the Middle East/North Africa and Eastern Europe.

For a recap of the conversation, search #GlobalAmbassadors and #WomenLead, read the Global Ambassadors’ and mentees’ bios below and view photos from the trip.

London Global Ambassadors

Ahu Serter
Founder, Arya Women’s Investment Platform
President, Farplas Group

Istanbul, Turkey

Ahu Serter is the founder of Arya Women’s Investment Platform, an organization which presents successful investors with opportunities to strategically invest in ambitious female entrepreneurs. Since its inception in 2015, the platform has invested more than $500,000 in women-led businesses.

Additionally, Ahu is the president of Farplas Group, a Fortune 500 company and an automotive, tourism and appliance ventures conglomerate. Throughout her career, Ahu has founded or invested in successful companies, including the art hotel brand, Casa dell’Arte; a producer of luxury car interiors for Tesla and Aston Martin, Mata Automotive; and Hecha Cast Iron Cookware for modern gourmet meal preparation.

Ahu holds a B.A. in management from Bilkent University in Ankara and an M.B.A. in investment management from Pace University in New York City.

Lamice Joujou
CEO, My Doll & Me
Beirut, Lebanon

Lamice is the CEO of My Doll & Me, a doll concept store for girls and doll collectors, established in October 2013. Lamice oversees the company’s operations and facilitates its growth opportunities. She is also the CEO of three sister companies: Dent De Lait, Mazitou and FRIZZY.

Lamice is a Vital Voices Global Partnership VV GROW Fellowship alumna. She also participated in the 2015 Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women-U.S. Department of State Entrepreneurship Program for Women. Lamice was a mentor at the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and serves as the chapter chair of the Women in Toys Association in Lebanon. In 2014, Lamice received the Stevie Award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Lamice has a Masters degree in psychology from the University of St. Joseph. She is fluent in Arabic, English and French, and knows Italian and American Sign Language (ASL). She is an ASL presenter for Sign2me.

Alyazia Ali Al Kuwaiti
Director, Midstream and Upstream Investment, International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC)
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Alyazia Ali Al Kuwaiti is a senior executive at the International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) who started her career at Abu Dhabi Gas Industries (GASCO) in 2003 after obtaining her Master’s in International Business from the University of Wollongong in Dubai. In 2007, she joined the IPIC team as a highly acclaimed addition to the organization.

Alyazia has participated in numerous conferences and workshops all over the globe, such as the INSEAD Women’s Leadership Conference in 2014, which have helped her gain extensive knowledge related to women leaders of today.

Alyazia was awarded the 2013 Emirates Women’s Award (EWA) in the career achievement category by Dubai Quality Group for her role in enhancing UAE’s policy of women’s empowerment and developing its national economy.

Irma Daushvili
General Director and Founder, DIO Ltd.
Tbilisi, Georgia

Irma Daushvili founded DIO Ltd. in 1996, a company that produces high quality exterior and interior products, including window blinds, awnings and garage doors. DIO is one of the leading industrial companies in the nation, with representatives in five regions of Georgia and 118 employees. As a leader, Irma promotes women’s equality and professional development in the company and tries to create conditions for female employees to be able to fully reach and realize their potential.

Irma has attended a number of conferences and trainings, including the Women’s Entrepreneurship Development Business Start Up, organized by the United Nations and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. She is also a board member of the Georgian Employers' Association and a chief of the Georgian Women’s Business Association. In her role within these organizations, she actively organizes many women’s business meetings and helps association members start businesses in Georgia.

Irma’s recognitions and awards include the Honorable Person of 2005 by Raeo newspaper in Georgia, the 2012 Certificate of Achievement from the Open World Program, the Successful Business Family, and the 2014 Woman Entrepreneur Award by the Georgian Employers’ Association and International Labor Organization.

Amel Bouchamaoui Hammami
Tunis, Tunisia

Amel is the chair of the Tunisia Partners for a New Beginning – North Africa Partnership for Economic Opportunity (PNB-NAPEO) Advisory Board in Tunisia and has been a member of the PNB-NAPEO International Advisory Board since 2011. She is a member of the International Policy Committee of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and has been a board member of the International Council of Women’s Business Leadership (ICWBL) since 2014.

Amel is the chairperson of HBG Holding and the chairperson of City Cars company, a distributor of KIA vehicles in Tunisia. She is also the honorary consul of New Zealand in Tunisia.

Previously, Amel served as the president of the Tunisian American Chamber of Commerce and was elected chair of the MENA AmCham Council in 2011. She is also a founding member of the AmCham North and West Africa Council (ANWAC). Amel also served as the first vice president of the Chambre Nationale des Femmes Chefs d'Entreprises (CNFCE), the women’s entrepreneurship association of Tunisia. She initiated the Smart Center at Tunis Business School, a center that provides students with business development opportunities and resources.


Tinatin Rukhadze
General Director, Analysis & Consulting Team (ACT)
Tbilisi, Georgia

Tinatin is the general director of Analysis & Consulting Team (ACT), a leading public opinion research and strategic consulting company based in Georgia. She co-founded and served as the CEO of the company in 2002. Under her management, ACT became Georgia’s largest research and consulting company and has successfully expanded its services to the rest of the Caucasus region. Today, the company operates in more than 10 countries from its offices in Georgia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.

In addition to managing her business, Tinatin has been involved in educational work since 2007. She holds lectures in various institutions, including the International School of Business, Free University and the Caucasus School of Business. She is also a professional coach and the co-founder of “Growin,” the first coaching company in Georgia. In 2014, Tinatin decided to become actively engaged in public life and co-founded the business association Women for Tomorrow where she serves as the chairwoman.

Iman Wadi
General Manager, International Elevators Group “Schindler”
Ramallah, Palestine

Iman Wadi is a partner and co-founder of the International Elevators Group, which is the sole agent of the “Schindler” elevator company in Palestine. It provides high quality and environmentally conscious elevators and escalators to both public and private sector buildings.

Iman is among very few Palestinian women mechanical engineers. Recognized at national and regional levels, she is an active member of the Business Women’s Forum and is an elected member of the Ramallah Chamber of Commerce, where she focuses on gender-based issues. Additionally, Iman is a member of the Business Administration and Economics and Mechanical Engineering faculty advisory boards at Birzeit University.

Iman has attended numerous conferences and summits including The Women Business Leaders Summit, the Eighth World Chamber Congress, and the Trade Mission delegation to the Netherlands. She has volunteered with Save the Children through the Economic Opportunities for Jordanian Youth Program (INJAZ), sharing her insights on career paths with local youth.


Tatyana Mikayilova
Managing Partner, RED Communications
Baku, Azerbaijan

Tatyana Mikayilova founded RED Communications in 2009, and it has become the leading strategic public relations and digital communications agency in Azerbaijan. Recently RED Communications signed a strategic agreement for an exclusive affiliation with the Ketchum Company. This provides access to international expertise for local clients, as well as world class educational opportunities for RED employees.

Tatyana is the Chairwoman of 100 Business Women of Azerbaijan, a network which unites female business owners and women at the top executive level at local and international organizations in Azerbaijan. Tatyana is actively involved in women’s empowerment programs. She has also participated in numerous international business trips and conferences to learn from similar organizations abroad and to apply that knowledge locally.

Tatyana is a frequent speaker at local and international events on women’s development and strategic reputation.

Jennifer Boussuge
Head of Global Transaction Services, EMEA, Bank of America Merrill Lynch
London, United Kingdom

Jennifer Boussuge is responsible for developing and executing the integrated strategy for the full end-to-end regional transaction services business for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). Boussuge has worked for Bank of America Merrill Lynch for 21 years. Previously, she was head of Global Sales for GTS where she was responsible for setting the company’s global treasury and custody sales strategy, driving revenue and mobilizing teams across all regions to win mandates. Prior roles include head of International Subsidiary Banking Sales, GTS, EMEA; GTS Industry Head; senior treasury sales officer for International Government Clients and client manager for International Corporates. Before joining Bank of America Merrill Lynch, she worked at Riggs National Bank and Citibank in Washington, D.C. Boussuge graduated from Mary Washington College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and French. She conducted her graduate studies in French at the Sorbonne University in Paris, and business administration studies at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Jessica A. Oppenheim
Head of Marketing, Communications and Events for Global Banking and Markets, Bank of America
New York, New York

Jessica is the Head of Marketing, Communications and Events for Global Banking and Markets (GBAM). Jessica is responsible for managing all media relations, internal communications, marketing, advertising and events for the company’s global institutional business. Jessica also serves as a member of Bank of America’s Global Diversity and Inclusion Council, and is the executive sponsor of the Global Marketing and Corporate Affairs Diversity and Inclusion Council. Previously, Jessica was head of Communications for GBAM from 2010-2012 and prior to that was head of media relations for GBAM and the Global Wealth and Investment Management (GWIM) business from 2009-2010. Jessica is based in New York City and lives in New Jersey where she is a member of the Board of Summit Public Art.

Biljana Dakić Đorđević
Executive Director, Trag Foundation
Belgrade, Serbia

Biljana leads Trag Foundation, an indigenous non-profit foundation supporting local communities and grassroots activism in Serbia. Trag Foundation encourages citizen engagement and promotes local philanthropy in support of building an equitable and open Serbian society.

Biljana has 16 years of professional experience in the non-profit sector, with extensive knowledge of fundraising and partnership development, strategic planning, program management, and cross-sector cooperation. She managed a regional grant-making program with the Balkan Trust for Democracy (BTD), a project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, (2012-2014). Prior to BTD, she supported capacity building of political and public leaders in Serbia and the Balkans as the development director of the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence. She has also co-designed and organized trainings for women politicians in the Parliament and local government.

Biljana is a board member of the UN Global Compact in Serbia and participates in the Women’s Platform for Development of Serbia 2014-2020 initiative. In 2006, Biljana was a Freedom House Visiting Fellow, focusing on civil society advocacy for women’s rights.

Kim Kingsley
Washington, D.C., United States

Kim Kingsley is the chief operating officer for POLITICO, a nonpartisan, Washington-based political media company. Kingsley, one of the first senior managers hired by the company in 2006, oversees all of POLITICO’s strategic and business operations.


Under Kingsley’s leadership, POLITICO has been recognized by Fast Company Magazine and many others as among the most innovative companies in the industry. In April 2014, ELLE Magazine named Kingsley to its annual list of Washington's Ten Most Powerful Women, and in January 2015, she was named one of ELLE Magazine’s Agenda Advisors working to mentor women.

Prior to joining Jim VandeHei and John F. Harris to co-found POLITICO, Kingsley served as an editor for the top-rated all-news radio station in Washington, D.C., WTOP, and later as a deputy director of media and special projects at The Washington Post Co.

Kingsley graduated from The Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism. She was recognized in 2015 as a recipient of the Alumni Achievement Award and currently serves on the Penn State College of Communications Advancement Council.


Khadija Idrissi Janati
Founder & CEO, KMK Groupe
Politician and Civil Society Activist
Casablanca, Morocco

Khadija is the founder and CEO of KMK Groupe, which specializes in communications, public relations, media and digital marketing. KMK was listed as one of the 500 fastest growing Arabian companies by Allgrowth Network in 2012.


In addition to running her business, Khadija is politically active. She is a board member for the National Rally of Independents, a Moroccan political party, and was a candidate in the local elections last September. She is also a member of the Crans Montana Forum of New Leaders for Tomorrow.

Khadija has been involved in several Moroccan and international organizations, working for women’s economic empowerment. She is a Vital Voices Global Partnership VV GROW Fellowship alumna and a VVLead fellow. She also participated in the Women of the Mediterranean (WOMED) Program, launched by the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po).

In September 2014, Khadija was recognized by President Obama for her outstanding contribution to civil society work in Morocco.

Laura Cox Kaplan
Principal-in-Charge of U.S. Public Policy, PwC
Washington, D.C., United States

An expert in communications, corporate governance, stakeholder engagement and public policy strategy, Laura has spent more than 11 years managing PwC’s public policy engagement strategy, and almost a decade on the executive management team of PwC. Laura also serves on PwC’s Global Public Policy and Regulatory Board, is the chair of the American Institute of CPA’s Federal Legislative Task Force, and is a member of the Center for Audit Quality’s (CAQ) Executive Management committee.

Prior to joining PwC, Laura served in senior positions at the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where she focused on the legislative and regulatory response to corporate governance and accounting failures in the late 1990s.

Laura writes and speaks on a range of topics including career and talent development, the importance of diversified teams, women’s leadership and corporate governance. She serves on several non-profit boards focused on getting more women to pursue elected office.

In 2015, Laura was named one of Washingtonian Magazine’s 100 Most Powerful Women in Washington. Laura received a Master’s degree from American University, a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and in 2014 completed an executive leadership program at Harvard Business School.

Meryam El Ouafi
Founder and General Manager, Chemsayour Ltd.
Agadir, Morocco

Meryam is the founder and general manager of Chemsayour, a Moroccan tourist complex which offers dinner, shows, events and catering, and employs more than 60 people. Meryam serves as the president of Entrelles Entrepreneurs, an NGO that aims to empower and train women entrepreneurs, and encourage the integration of women in the development of the local economy. She is also the president of the Tourism, Exhibitions and Event Committee at the Chamber of Commerce of the Souss Massa region, where she is responsible for developing the tourism sector in the region and promoting the local economy, business exchange and investment.

Meryam is a Vital Voices Global Partnership VV GROW Fellowship alumna. She participated in the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) in 2015, sponsored by the U.S. State Department. She received the 2015 World of Difference Awards from the International Alliance for Women (TIAW). She also received a Certificate of Honor from the Governor of Agadir and the Regional Council of Tourism for her activism and significant contributions to her community.

Reiko Hayashi
Member of the Board, Managing Director, Merrill Lynch Japan Securities Co., Ltd.
Tokyo, Japan

Reiko Hayashi is a Member of the Board, a role she took over in January 2016, and a Managing Director and Head of Global Capital Markets in Japan, a role she took over in 2014. She is also a member of the CSR Japan Committee, having been instrumental in implementing several programs, including Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Annual Women’s Career Forum. Prior to her current position, she was appointed as Head of Japan Debt Capital Markets in 2011 and Head of Japan Public Sector Origination in 2006. Previously she oversaw Corporate and Public Finance within Debt Capital Markets. Prior to joining Merrill Lynch Japan in 2000, Reiko spent 11 years at BNP Paribas Tokyo in the capital markets business and two years at Citibank NA Tokyo in the swaps team. Reiko has a BA in International Relations from The University of Tokyo and an MA in Educational Sociology from The Graduate School of The University of Tokyo.

Aline Kamakian
CEO and Co-Founder, FIG Holding
Owner and General Manager, IIC SARL

Beirut, Lebanon

Aline founded her own brokerage firm, Insurance & Investment Consultants SARL (IIC) in 1998, which focuses on corporate insurance. IIC has grown into one of the biggest brokerage firms in Lebanon.

Aline also co-owns FIG Holding, which in 2003 established Mayrig, the first Armenian restaurant in Lebanon. Mayrig, won the 2011 Social Economic Award, and recently opened franchises in Dubai and in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In 2013, FIG also opened Batchig, a Levantine bistro, which is now looking to open a branch in Kuwait. Aline is the author of Armenian Cuisine, a 130-recipe cookbook.

Aline was named the 2015 Woman Entrepreneur of the Year by BLC Bank. She was also named honorary board member of the Armenian Food and Wine Association for her outstanding work in the preservation of the Armenian culinary heritage.

Aline is an active board member of the Lebanese Franchise Association and the Lebanese League for Women in Business.

Michelle “Shelley” Wright Brindle
Executive Vice President (Outgoing), Domestic Network Distribution, Home Box Office (HBO)
New York, New York, United States

Shelley Brindle has been responsible for the revenue, marketing and distribution strategy of HBO’s $4.4B U.S. subscription business. She has overseen the transformation of HBO's distribution and digital strategies; negotiated industry-defining, multi-billion dollar deals; and brought new products to market, including the launch of HBO’s new streaming service, HBO Now.

Shelley began her HBO career as an account executive in 1989, and has held an array of roles in marketing, sales, product management, strategy and business development at the network. She will be leaving HBO in March of 2016 to pursue more entrepreneurial and philanthropic work.

Shelley serves as a Global Ambassador for Vital Voices, is a member of the Committee of 200 (C200), W.O.M.E.N. in America, and a regular participant at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit. She serves as a Board member of Philo, a startup that delivers streaming video service to college campuses, and serves on various committees for the University of Virginia. She is also a volunteer and committee member for Home For Good Dog Rescue.


Shani Aloni
Executive Director, Haifa Rape Crisis Center (HRCC)
Haifa, Israel

Shani Aloni is the executive director of Haifa Rape Crisis Center (HRCC), an Israel-based, non-profit organization dedicated to combating sexual violence in northern Israel. The organization's goals are to provide survivors and their families with both emotional and practical support and to fight against all forms of sexual abuse against children, youth, women and men.

After completing her legal and social work education, Shani worked in the Legal Department of the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) at the Committee of Law and Constitution. She later became the public policy analyst for the Israeli Medical Association, representing the interests of doctors in Israel to the parliament, government and other relevant authorities.

Shani is a board member at the Association of Rape Crisis Centers and Civil Leadership — a third sector umbrella organization in Israel. Both organizations are engaged in public policy change and lobbing on the national level.

Shani holds degrees in law (LLB) and social work (BSW) from Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and an MBA in social leadership from Ben-Gurion University. She is a member of the Israeli Bar Association.

Velma Šarić
Founder and Executive Director, Post-Conflict Research Center (PCRC)
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Velma is the founder and executive director of the Post-Conflict Research Center (PCRC) — an innovative peacebuilding organization, based in Sarajevo, which aims to cultivate an environment for sustainable peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the greater Balkans region. Velma has extensive academic and professional experience in the fields of sociology, genocide studies and international law and war crimes.

As a graduate of the BBC reporting school, Velma has dedicated her 14-year career to investigative reporting in the Western Balkans. Velma has also worked as a journalist for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR). As a researcher and producer she has worked on numerous publications and films about the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, including Uspomene 677, In the Land of Blood and Honey by Angelina Jolie, and I Came to Testify and War Redefined from the PBS series Women, War & Peace. Velma is also the founder of Balkan Diskurs, a non-profit, multimedia platform dedicated to challenging stereotypes and providing viewpoints on society, culture and politics in the Western Balkans.

In 2014, Velma and the Post-Conflict Research Center were awarded the Intercultural Innovation Award by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC).

Galina Melnikova
Owner & Managing Partner, HR Partners, Ltd. and MakeItWork.Ru
Moscow, Russia

Galina Melnikova is a life and business coach, leadership mentor and career advisor. She is the owner and the managing partner of HR Partners, Ltd. and MakeItWork.Ru, and is an independent director on the Boards of Directors of several state-owned enterprises.

Galina has served on the Board of Directors of the Russian Chapter of the International Women's Forum (IWF) for more than 15 years, contributing her expertise, interpersonal skills and energy to building women leaders and strengthening community development.

Galina’s background includes general management, business development, project supervision, employee relations, interaction management, situational leadership and transformational change. Her expertise covers HR functions, start-ups, compliance, benchmarking, strategy implementation, executive search and selection, motivation and career management.

Earlier in her career, Galina was CEO of ABB Electroengineering, and later, she held positions at Ernst & Young and Citibank. She’s been a member of the AmCham in Russia and served as chairperson of the Board of Directors of Operation Smile in Russia.

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