The AWWP Board

Shevy Smith

Shevy is a producer/composer based in Topanga, California. She is currently working on projects for Kendall Custer, Arrowhead the Band, and various TV/Film and promotional productions. She is the creator and owner of the Forte Poesy Music program, which places an emphasis on songwriting as the catalyst for learning an instrument. She has toured extensively in the United States and abroad and was part of the Sgt. Maj. of the Army/United Service Organizations Inc. Christmas Tours to Iraq and Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007. As composer and producer for ABC’s Carly campaign, Shevy was a ProMax Gold winner and was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2014.

Sami Mahdi

Sami is Afghanistan’s leading media executive and winner of the prestigious Knight International Journalism award in 2013 for “revolutionizing his country’s media landscape.” As Director of News and Current Affairs for 1TV, he developed the groundbreaking program Niqab (“The Mask”), which featured Afghan women hiding their identities behind a mask as they discussed gender-based violence with a live audience. In addition to his own contributions to print and television media as a highly respected journalist and his leadership role at 1TV, Mr. Mahdi has held the following management positions: Vice President of PAYK Investigative Journalism Center (current); Manager of Current Affairs for Tolo TV; and Chief Executive Officer of Khurshid TV and Radio. He was also a 2013 recipient of the highly prestigious Rumi Award for his contribution to the media in Afghanistan. A graduate of the Law & Political Science Faculty of Kabul University, he is currently working toward his Master’s Degree in International Relations from the United States.

Meg Cameron

Meg is an English teacher in Arlington, Virginia. She was drawn to AWWP through including the work of AWWP writers in her lessons in order to create an authentic learning environment. One of the tenets of her teaching is being able to cultivate sensitivity toward other cultures through exposing students to opportunities where they can do their part to change the world. Besides her work with AWWP, she is president of DC Connect, a charity in the Washington, DC area that hosts social get-togethers as a way to support small non-profit organizations. Originally from Rhode Island, Meg received her Bachelor’s degree from Sweet Briar College and her Master’s in Education from Virginia Tech.

Holly Hutchison

Holly is managing partner for the Reproductive Health Center in Tucson, Arizona. Holly runs the center’s IVF program. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in biology and then completed her Master’s degree in the University’s Department of Genetics. Holly worked as a clinical cytogeneticist at University Medical Center and was involved in genetic research until she saw her first human egg. From that point on, she became focused on work in the reproductive endocrinology and infertility field. She spent the next few years as a research specialist assisting the chief embryologist at UMC. Ultimately she came up with the idea of the Reproductive Health Center and helped form it.

Katherine Brown

Katherine currently serves as the Executive Director of the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy at the State Department. She previously served in the U.S. government as an assistant to the National Security Advisor at the White House; as a communications advisor at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul; and as a Professional Staff Member at the Committee on Foreign Affairs at the U.S. House of Representatives. Katherine also worked throughout South Asia as a Communications Manager for The Asia Foundation and as one of the original editorial staff members for Bloomberg View, the opinion platform for Bloomberg News. She has taught international political theory and communications at American University and at Columbia University, where she received her Ph.D. in Communications in 2013. She is a Truman National Security Project Fellow and a Term Member at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Barbara Burtin

Treasurer and Chair of the Fundraising Committee
Barbara is an investment analyst at Capital World Investors. She brings to AWWP a variety of international nonprofit and business experiences including entrepreneurship, management consulting, and business development. Barbara is French and speaks four languages.

Fiyola Hoosen-Steele

Fiyola is an International Relations Strategist specializing in international human rights and international human rights law with a strong focus on the United Nations (UN) system and processes. She has over 17 years’ experience in international relations and foreign policy, having served as a South African diplomat to the UN in both New York and Geneva, and thereafter as Head of UN Office and UN Representative for the nongovernmental organization, Plan International. She is an Adjunct Professor at the NYU Centre for Global Affairs, at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, and at Hunter College in the Human Rights Program. She holds a Bachelor of Law degree and a Bachelor of Arts Honors degree in International Relations from the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, and a Master of Arts degree in International Relations from the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom.

Alaha Ahrar

Alaha is currently one of the Directors of International World Poetry, Canada, on the Board of Directors for the Afghan Women’s Writing Project (AWWP), and a writer for Peace X Peace Organization, Washington, DC. Alaha graduated from University of Mary Washington with a triple major in Human Rights, Political Science, and International Affairs; she also completed a certificate program in Middle Eastern Studies. She is multilingual and has excellent computer skills. She has had numerous certificates, such as Certificate of Appreciation in 2013 from Diplomatic Language Services (DLS), Arlington, Virginia; Certificate of Recognition in 2012 from the Embassy of Afghanistan, Washington; and Certificate of Excellence and Dedication in 2012 by The Initiative to Educate Afghan Women, USA. She is a poet and writer and was awarded the Best Poet of the Year 2011 for Afghanistan and the United States in Canada. She was also appointed as the Ambassador of Youth and Peace for Afghanistan in 2011. She is interested in human rights, politics, international relations development, poetry, and public speaking.

Sarah-Jean Cunningham

Sarah-Jean is a strategic communications and research expert with almost a decade of experience in the Middle East and Asia. She has advised a diverse range of governments and international organizations and currently spearheads Lapis operations in seven frontier markets. Sarah-Jean manages global teams that create multimedia campaigns on a range of strategic social and development issues including, elections, health, countering violent extremism, civic education, economic development, youth engagement and women’s empowerment. Her client base includes UN agencies, foreign aid and development agencies, ministers, and embassies. In the five years prior to joining Lapis, Sarah-Jean worked with the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations in management, research and communications roles. She holds a Masters in Engineering from the University of Cambridge with a scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She is proficient in Arabic and Farsi. In addition she sits on the board of a number of not-for-profits, promoting education for women and freedom of speech.

Masha Hamilton

Founder and Advisor
Masha is the author of five acclaimed novels, most recently What Changes Everything. In October 2013, she finished sixteen months working in Afghanistan as Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy at the US Embassy. She is currently Vice President of Communications for Concern Worldwide. Masha is founder of both the Afghan Women’s Writing Project and the Camel Book Drive, and is the winner of the 2010 Women’s National Book Association award. She began her career as a full-time journalist, working in Maine, Indiana, and New York City before being sent by the Associated Press to the Middle East, where she was news editor for five years, including the period of the first intefadeh, and then moving to Moscow, where she worked for five years during the collapse of Communism, reporting for the Los Angeles Times and NBC-Mutual Radio and writing a monthly column, Postcards from Moscow. She also reported from Kenya in 2006, and from Afghanistan in 2004 and 2008.