Open A Door Foundation to Play Prominent Role at UN Conference

Open A Door Foundation Hosting Two Panels during United Nations Commission on the Status of Women

Open A Door Foundation (OAD), a San Francisco-based non-profit organization dedicated to building female leadership in post-conflict countries, will play a prominent role in the upcoming 58th Commission on the Status of Women NGO Forum Parallel Events on March 10 in New York CIty.

The Commission on the Status of Women is a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council and is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women. Every year, representatives of Member States, UN entities, and ECOSOC accredited non-governmental organizations from all regions of the world gather at United Nations Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and women's empowerment worldwide.

By hosting two panels during this international event, OAD will advocate for the importance of higher education and global networking in building female leadership.

The panel From Higher Education to Women's Leadership will discuss the role the U.S. higher education system can play in shifting the female global leadership paradigm in post-conflict nations. Moderated by Ruthie Taylor from the Orchid Project, speakers on this panel include Barbara Bylenga, co-founder and executive director of OAD; Leo Motiuk, co-founder of Afghan Girls Financial Assistance Fund; and Daniela Kaisth, vice president for external affairs and initiatives at the Institute of International Education (IIE). The panel will also include Simin Wahdat, an OAD alumna from Afghanistan who graduated from Bucknell College in 2011 and is now a graduate student at Eastern Mennonite University thanks to support from OAD mentors. Simin also is a legislative fellow at Congresswoman Betty McCollum's (D-Minn.)office. The speakers will share their experiences building female leadership through connecting women and girls in post-conflict countries with access to higher education opportunities. This panel will take place Monday, March 10 at 10:30am, CCUN Chapel, 777 United Nations Plaza, New York.

The panel Empowering Women as Change-Agents Through Global Networking will discuss how advances in technology are changing the face of philanthropy by making it easier for people to give their talents and expertise to nonprofit organizations, in addition to financial support. Organizations are providing pathways for one-on-one connection, business mentoring and storytelling in order to impact the global female leadership paradigm. Moderated by journalist and storyteller Ruthie Ackerman, panelists including Denise Dunning, founder and executive director of Let Girls Lead; Kate Buggeln, board chair of Bpeace; and Barbara Bylenga and Simin Wahdat, will speak on their experience in building female leadership through connecting women and girls in disadvantaged communities with access to higher education, small business training, tools for advocacy, and most importantly by connecting them with a global network of experienced professionals who share their knowledge. This panel will take place Monday, March 10 at 12:30pm in V-Hall of the Armenian Convention Center, 630 2nd Ave, New York.

OAD is honored to be a part of the San Francisco Bay Area CSW Delegation to connect with other women's organizations from around the world and advocate for women's empowerment during the CSW.

About Open A Door Foundation
Open A Door (OAD) builds female leadership in post-conflict countries (currently Rwanda and Afghanistan) by providing low-income, high-potential young women with a pathway to US college scholarships. Through a team mentoring model, each girl in the program is matched with six professional US women who help her navigate the application process and support her emotionally and financially while in school to ensure she thrives and returns home as a change-agent. Currently, OAD has 10 women from Rwanda and two from Afghanistan who have won full scholarships to top rated colleges with OAD's guidance and support: Bucknell, Haverford, Lehigh, Bennington, UC Berkeley, Michigan State, Oberlin, Whitman, Lafayette, Eastern Mennonite University, and McGill in Canada. In 5 years, OAD will have 150 scholars at top US colleges.

About Barbara Bylenga
Founder and President, OAD
Barbara is a social entrepreneur and has more than 20 years experience in the business world, 15 of which she has spent running her own market research consultancy. She has provided companies such as Levi Strauss & Co., Nike, Nordstrom, Microsoft and eBay with intelligence that informs product design, advertising and marketing strategies. Barbara is a member of the Executive Council of Bpeace (bpeace.org), through which she has led several projects in Rwanda. A graduate of Florida State and Michigan State, Barbara currently sponsors Malyse, a young woman from Rwanda who is attending Bucknell University.

About Simin Wahdat
Originally from Afghanistan, Simin came to the United States in 2007, with support from OAD, to attend Bucknell University. She graduated in 2011 with a B.A. in International Relations and Women and Gender Studies. Currently, she is completing her master's degree at Eastern Mennonite University in Peace and Conflict Transformation, and works as a legislative fellow in Congresswoman Betty McCollum's (D-Minn.) office, lobbying for Afghan's political empowerment beyond 2014. Simin has been involved with women's rights and peace education from a very young age. She has worked for Democracy International as gender advisor to increase women's political participation in Afghanistan, with the Afghan Civil Society Forum, developing and delivering women's rights training sessions in Kabul and other provinces and as a national trainer with the International Organization of Migration (IOM) to educate illiterate Afghan women refugees in Pakistan about the importance of their participation in the 2004 presidential elections.