I discovered feminism and global injustice as a teenager
and college student at Meredith College. I earned my Master of Arts in Arab Studies from Georgetown University, with a concentration in Women and Gender Studies and graduate certificate in Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies. After spending a summer working in Jordan for the US government, I wanted a different type of experience in the Middle East. I spent six months volunteering for the Ibdaa Cultural Center, a grassroots community center in a refugee camp in Palestine, run by and for refugees.
I began working for a mainstream international development organization, ACDI/VOCA, which moved me to northern Iraq in 2008 to oversee the output of a monitoring and evaluation system (i.e., databases and reporting) for a large community development program. Back in Washington DC in 2009, I was finally able to focus on feminism and global gender equality as part of my career. I built up and then led the gender equity practice at ACDI/VOCA until 2015, and then continued to work for them as a consultant.
Meanwhile, my personal experience as a new mom in a society and culture that continues to physically, mentally, and emotionally overburden women with care-taking work led me away from mainstream employment. My desire to bring a social justice mission back to a development industry that has been watered down by hierarchical donor demands led me to independent consulting and the launching of Cynara Development Services.
Through Cynara, I have helped organizations including Oxfam America, Save the Children USA, Mercy Corps, and the DC Abortion Fund make strategic decisions for how to advance gender equity, women’s rights, economic empowerment, and accountability.
I trace my leadership skills back to my first job as as camp counselor and director at the YMCA in my hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina. While this no longer goes on my resume, the experience was transformational.
I am also community organizer and volunteer in local politics in Washington DC focusing on education equity, racial justice, housing equity, and the rights of working families.