US-Pakistan Women's Council
Ambassador Jalil Jilani and his wife Shaista Jilani, Ambassador Sherry Rehman, Shaista Mahmood, Anita McBride, and Saadia Zahidi serve as honorary advisors to the Council. We are also advised by a group of Pakistani and American leaders. See below for the complete list of advisors.
Ambassador Jalil Abbas Jilani assumed his responsibilities as Ambassador of Pakistan to the United States on January 2, 2014.
Prior to his appointment as Ambassador, he served as Foreign Secretary of Pakistan from March 2012 to December 2013.
He is a career diplomat and has also served as Ambassador of Pakistan to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union (2009-2012) and as Pakistan's High Commissioner to Canberra, Australia (2007-2009). His other overseas assignments included; Jeddah (1983-1985), London (1985-1988) and Washington (1995-1999).
Ambassador Jilani holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Law and M.Sc. in Defense and Strategic Studies. In his professional life, he has specialized in South Asian affairs and served at the Foreign Office as a Section Officer then as a Director (1992-1995), Deputy High Commissioner/Acting High Commissioner to New Delhi (1999-2003) and Director General South Asia and SAARC (2003-2007). In 2005 he also served as the Government’s Spokesman on Foreign Affairs.
From 1989 to 1992, Ambassador Jilani served as Deputy Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Secretariat.
He is married to Shaista Jilani and has three sons. In his spare time, he plays golf and is an ardent reader.
Sherry Rehman has served as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States (Nov 2011-June 2013); Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Pakistan (2008-09) and ranking member of the National Security Committee in the Parliament. Ambassador Rehman also held three additional portfolios of Health, Women Development and Culture as Federal Minister, in 2008. Her interests in the Parliament include foreign and security policy, human rights legislation, and media.
Sherry Rehman is the founding Chair of the Jinnah Institute, a non-partisan public policy think tank committed to the strengthening of democracy, governance and an independent national security project in Pakistan. She is also an award-winning journalist with 20 years of experience in both the broadcast and the print media. Former editor of the “Herald” newsmagazine based in Pakistan, she studied art history and politics at the Smith College, USA, and the University of Sussex, UK.
Sherry Rehman is also the architect of the first parliamentary charter and bill for women empowerment, mover of the Hudood Ordinances Repeal Bill, mover of the Anti-Honour Killings Bill, as well as the Freedom of Information Act 2004. Her bills include the removal of colonial press laws in Pakistan, as well as legislation on Domestic Violence and Affirmative Action for women.
Anita B. McBride is Executive-in-Residence at the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies in the School of Public Affairs at American University in Washington, DC. She directs programming and national conferences on the legacies of America’s first ladies and their historical influence on politics, policy and global diplomacy.
McBride previously served as assistant to President George W. Bush and chief of staff to First Lady Laura Bush from 2005 to 2009, directing the staff’s work on the wide variety of domestic and global initiatives in which Mrs. Bush was involved. She had primary responsibility for the First Lady’s efforts to support US foreign policy objectives in human rights, women’s empowerment, global health and human freedom.
McBride's White House service spans two decades and three presidential administrations, including as Director of White House Personnel under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush; and as Director of the U.S. Speaker's Bureau at the United States Information Agency. She is co-director of the RAND African First Ladies Initiative and Fellowship program and a senior advisor to the George W. Bush Institute as a strategic consultant to global non-profit organizations. She is a member of several organizations, including the US Afghan Women's Council, the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board and the White House Historical Association.
Born in Pakistan, Shaista Mahmood moved to the United States in 1976. She graduated from Punjab University in Pakistan. She is the wife of Rafat Mahmood, the proud mother of four children, and grandmother to three grandkids. Shaista Mahmood has always been active in helping people and more specifically children in need. She and her husband try to help in any way they can and they believe that the way to make a difference in today’s world is by taking an active role in bringing people together and working on the issues collaboratively.
Shaista is involved in promoting women empowerment, vocational training program, and micro financing for women in Pakistan. Shaista and Ray are on the advisory of the United States Institute of Peace. Long known for their generosity Shaista and Ray Mahmood have raised money for a long time to help build schools and help children in Pakistan and other countries. Shaista Mahmood is on the board of the Children’s Hospital, the Development in literacy in Pakistan, a school for girls, the Ayshiana Foundation (Street Children in Afghanistan) and ICRD (International Center For Religion and Diplomacy).
Saadia Zahidi is the Senior Director and Head of Constituents at the World Economic Forum, a position which involves setting global agendas and managing international relationships. Prior to this position, she was the head of the Women Leaders & Gender Parity Program, where she co-authored the 'Global Gender Report' series and implemented programs to promote equality between the sexes.
Saadia earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Smith College and her Master's in Philosophy and International Economics from The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies.
The following advisors provide guidance and feedback on the Women Council's initiatives and activities.
Aakif Ahmad is Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Convergence Center for Policy Resolution, a U.S-based firm facilitating consensus-based solutions to issues of national and international policy, where distrust and the failure to communicate among key stakeholders impedes progress toward solutions. His key roles include organizational strategy, fund development, operations and external communications. He also leads the U.S.-Pakistan Leaders Forum, a major initiative to promote greater societal linkages between the U.S. and Pakistan through civil society and private sector partnership development. Mr. Ahmad has been invited to speak on panels sponsored by Brookings, the US Center for Citizen Diplomacy, the Association for Conflict Resolution, the Center for Alternative Dispute Resolution, the Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs, the Hugh O’Brien Youth Foundation and the American Jewish Committee.
From 1996 to 2008, Mr. Ahmad worked at the Corporate Executive Board, a VA-based consulting and executive education firm with 2,000+ employees providing peer-driven best practices solutions to the world’s largest corporations. As Managing Director, he led sales & marketing organizations across Europe and North America that generated more than $100 million in revenue across his tenure. He served as a member of the Management Committee for Global Sales and Marketing and was elected to the firm’s Policy Committee in 2002 as one of the top 50 leaders in the corporation. Mr. Ahmad earned a B.A. from Yale University in Ethics, Politics and Economics, and M.B.A from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Farida Rokadia started her career in 1996 as a teacher of history at the Karachi American School. It was at the Karachi American School that she became involved in teaching World History and AP European History and coordinated and led the Strategic Planning for the school, which took the place of their accreditation from the Middle Schools of America. While there, she initiated the Model United Nations Program, which has been successfully maintained since its inception.
After 9/11, Farida re-entered student life and earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Connecticut. Continuing her love of learning and international interaction, she completed a master’s degree in Conflict Resolution with an emphasis in Religious Peacebuilding at American University. Her thesis looked at Madressas as a parallel education system or schools of radicalism. Farida is the author of “Madressas as terror schools: The myth and the reality.” Most recently, she completed compiling a book on Pakistani female role models along with their success stories, entitled “Pakistani Women: Journeys of Success“. Farida aspires to continue her career in education and gender issues. She is a member of the Interfaith Council at the University of Connecticut.
Nilofer Saeed is one of the most prominent female entrepreneurs in Pakistan. In 1993, Mrs. Saeed launched Copper Kettle Cafe, the first restaurant of its kind to offer a wide variety in western, continental and Pakistani cuisine. Mrs. Saeed launched a series of bakeries by the brand name Hobnob Bakery. Today thirteen bakeries are operational in Karachi, and plans for further expansion are currently underway. Mrs. Saaed also launched N'eco's Natural Store & Café, the first outlet in Pakistan to offer a wide range of organic, natural, herbal and social enterprise goods. Most recently, Mrs. Saeed re-invented Copper Kettle Cafe as Hobnob Cafe, with marked improvements in cuisine and ambiance.
In 2010, Mrs. Saeed was given The Momentum Award on behalf of The LadiesFund in recognition of her seminal contribution to the cafe culture in Pakistan. In 2012, Mrs. Saeed was invited by the Prime Minister of Turkey to attend the Arabia500 Summit in Istanbul, where her company was recognized amongst the 100 Fastest Growing Companies. Aside from her professional commitments, Mrs. Saeed is also the first female member on the board of directors of The Citizens Foundation (TCF), the leading non-profit organization working in the field of education in Pakistan. She was awarded this position in recognition of her immense fund-raising efforts through Supporters of TCF (STCF) alliance.
Riffat Chughtai has been a member of the Pittsburgh Community since 1981. She has served her community in many capacities by not only serving the Muslim Community in different capacities but also served the general community of Pittsburgh thus becoming a bridge between the two. She is the executive director of Pittsburgh Muslim Family Support Services, a non-profit organization which fulfills the mental health needs of the Muslim community while educating the non-Muslim professionals on the cultural and religious norms and sensitivities of American Muslims. She recently started a think-tank called Jinnah Initiative for Diplomacy for improving Pakistan American relations, pushing legislators and the State Department to use the Pakistani American diaspora to better understand the dynamics between both the countries and providing solutions to overcome those barriers.
Riffat was the first education secretary of MCCGP (Muslim Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh). She is a Board member and co-chair of the Advisory Council for health initiatives for diversities with Allegheny County’s Department of Health and Human Services, member of many interfaith dialogue groups and is a visiting speaker at Carlow University, University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and English Literature from Pakistan and a Masters in Psychology from Duquesne University, Pittsburgh. She has certification in Crisis Intervention and hypnosis and has recently completed a certificate Executive MBA Program.
Sabeen is a 'Corporate Escape Artist'. In 2007, Sabeen Haque turned in her power stilettos and walked away from a high-profile, six-figure career in pursuit of a real life, true meaning, and creativity. What followed was a whirlwind romance between creativity and entrepreneurship.
Sabeen ended up at the doors of Ladies Who Launch, as a multi-franchisee and Market Director, and worked hand-in-hand with one of the fastest growing segments of entrepreneurs: women. At the core of Ladies Who Launch were "Incubator Workshops,” which connect like-minded women through local and online communities, providing them access to resources needed to start or run their businesses. As a facilitator, Sabeen helped hundreds of women entrepreneurs clarify, expand, and move forward with their business ideas.
Playing with words, ideas, and possibilities took on a life of its own and Sabeen's role quickly evolved to work with both large and small businesses. As a Venture Catalyst (creative spark-plug) she provided an outlet where businesses could bring their batteries and plug-in. All the while Sabeen's own batteries were recharged and as life presented her with the opportunity to be mentored by Martha Beck, a New York Times Bestselling Author and Oprah's life coach. Through her work she received further training from world class teachers such as Dr. Wayne Dyer, Sonia Choquette, Julia Cameron, Marianne Williamson, and Deepak Chopra.
As the dots continued to connect, it was in 2010 when the picture became clear. From TED to President Obama's Entrepreneurship Summit, from Opportunity Collaboration to Women in the World Summit, Sabeen's world was about to change. Exposed to awe-inspiring moments and remarkable icons doing transformational work, Sabeen realized that her work was in Pakistan.
Sabeen currently lives in Karachi. She is the Director of Ashoka Changemakers and serves in an advisory capacity for Naya Jeevan, PPAF, Seed Ventures, Global Shapers, i-Genius, and the US-Pakistan Women’s Council.
Sadaffe Abid is the founding team member of Kashf Foundation, one of largest microfinance institutions (MFI) in Pakistan. She helped Kashf grow from a pilot project in two rooms to becoming the first financially sustainable MFI in the country with 150 branches and 300,000 clients. Sadaffe is an experienced practitioner of microfinance, leadership development and capacity building, and led the organization as the COO and later as the CEO. While Sadaffe was COO, Kashf received the AGFUND International Prize, Grameen Trust Microfinance Excellence Award and was ranked 34th in the Forbes World’s Top 50 MFI’s during her tenure as CEO.
Sadaffe is also the co-founder and CEO of Buksh Foundation, a start-up social venture focused on enhancing financial access to under-served segments of youth and micro entrepreneurs with innovative financial products and financial education.
Sadaffe has been a mentor to MIT Legatum Fellows and an advisor to Acumen Fund’s Pakistan office. She has a Bachelor degree from Mount Holyoke College and was a Mason Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School. Her work at Kashf has been profiled in Nicholas Kristoff’s book, Half the Sky and Isobel's Coleman's book, Paradise Beneath Her Feet: How Women are Transforming the Middle East.
Saulat Salahuddin is a business executive who has been a dynamic force in the promotional industry and has played a leading role in establishing it as a recognized industry. She built a promotional products company that is widely considered to be the industry leader and is the partner of choice for premium brands in Pakistan.
She has grown her company, Pronto Promo (Private) Limited, from a home based business to a case study SME (small and medium enterprise) cited as a role model for Pakistan’s promotional products industry. She has built an impressive client portfolio comprising more than 24 fortune 500 companies. These clients include Coca Cola, Nestle, Unilever, McDonald’s and Pakistan Tobacco Company (PTC). Her focus on consistently contributing to clients’ objectives has led to high client retention and tremendous goodwill.
Saulat business ethos is solidly grounded in integrity and professionalism. Her company was among the first few to register for sales tax when the regime was introduced. Her actions have always been based on respect for human dignity, be it towards her team, her clients, or her vendors, especially the vendors because a wide majority of them belong to the under-privileged sections of society. She is passionate about excellence and has always striven to achieve it in all her professional and personal endeavors.
Saulat has always been a proponent of conducting business with a social conscience. She has ensured that the workers in her enterprise are treated with dignity, according to the law, and are provided with facilities to improve their lives. She is most proud of the educational assistance available to all employees for themselves and their offspring. It was this background that enabled Pronto to earn a “green” status in first attempt in social compliance audit. Pronto is now in the unique position of being the only socially compliant supplier of two multinationals in promotional products Industry.
Syeda Henna Babar Ali has been writing poetry in English and Urdu since she was 9 years old. She is the recipient of the Bolan Best Poet Award and Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah Medal for her contribution to English Literature. Syeda Henna has authored four books of poetry; Wet Sun, Midnight Dialogue, Dream and Reality, and The Luminous Path, and her recent works include To Discover the Unknown and Roshan Kinara. Roshan Kinara is Syeda Henna’s first CD of spiritual Urdu poetry, and her poems have been published both locally and internationally in the past in magazines and journals like Asiaweek, the Journal of Commonwealth Literature, the Pakistan Times, and Dawn, to name a few.
Syeda Henna is also a recipient of the Houghton Mufflin Best Poetry Award, the Best English Poet Award, and the Fatima Jinnah Gold Medal in recognition of her contribution to poetry. She is currently the president of Pen Pakistan Center, which encourages young writers by awarding them on publishing their first books, and she works at Packages Limited while writing poetry and living with her family in Lahore.
Yasmin Hyder, Chief Executive, New World Concepts has over 25 years of work experience mainly in the fields of marketing, communications, project management, human resource development, trade promotion as well as capacity building for women organizations. She has worked with both local and international as well for-profit and not-for-profit organizations in Pakistan and abroad. An alumnus of Cardiff Business School and Institute of Business Administration, Ms. Hyder heads a corporate marketing and business development firm based in Karachi. Services offered by New World Concepts include Marketing strategy; Management consultancy; Designing, Branding and Creative services; Corporate Event Management; Media and Public Relations; Editorial and Publishing services; Audio Visual productions; Wed designing and Social Media Marketing.
Certified as a USAID Master Trainer, Ms. Hyder has assisted the IFC (World Bank Group) in organizing capacity building workshops and gender sensitization sessions for women professionals, academics, lawyers and women networks. Her organization collaborates with Pakistan’s private sector to organize an annual International Women Leaders Summit, the largest businesswomen conference, providing Pakistani women professionals and entrepreneurs access to global learnings and local success stories.
Ms. Hyder was selected to represent Pakistan as part of the UN Global Women Entrepreneurs Trade Mission to Canada, by the UNCTAD International Trade Centre Geneva in 2007. Her organization assists the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan in marketing and promoting Expo Pakistan, the country’s largest premeir annual exposition and the country’s participation in international events. She collaborates with bilateral trade organizations and diplomatic missions building cross border understanding through promoting trade relations and cultural exchanges.