Invest in Women. Inspire Change.

This year's luncheon featured a thought-provoking conversation that explored lessons learned from the 2011 Libyan uprising and highlighted WfWI's expanded work with Yezidi and Syrian women refugees.

On May 3, 2016, nearly 300 supporters gathered at 583 Park Avenue in New York City to attend Women for Women International’s 8th Annual Luncheon. The event highlighted the ways in which women – particularly those working at the community level – are key to rebuilding their countries after conflict and war.

In a conversation moderated by CNN Correspondent Kyra Phillips, panelists Alaa Murabit, Founder of the Voice of Libyan Women, and Mandana Hendessi, WfWI Country Director for Iraq and Afghanistan, shared their perspectives and first-hand experiences addressing the needs of women affected by war and raising their voices to effect change. “Women are not victims of war. They are agents of change. That’s precisely the message that Syrian women refugees want us to know,” noted Hendessi.

CNN Correspondent Kyra Phillips, WfWI Country Director Mandana Hendessi, Founder of Voice of Libyan Women Alaa Murabit, and former WfWI CEO Jennifer L. Windsor at WfWI's 8th annual luncheon. Photo credit: Rick Gilbert/SkyhookEnt, 2016

Learn more about Women for Women International's efforts to support Syrian and Yezidi women displaced by conflict in northern Iraq.

The panelists shared the various challenges women survivors face, from sexual harassment and violence to a lack of investment in their economic and leadership potential, and how failing to address these issues leads to further instability. As Murabit explained, women’s local leadership has been key to averting many crises, as they work to care for families’ needs, keep schools running, and assist those who are struggling. However, their leadership is often unrecognized, and thus not supported.

Creating safe spaces for women and strengthening their voices allow for women-led and sustainable change. “Post-conflict provides a window of opportunity,” noted Murabit. “There is an opportunity to start changing the narrative about what women can do and how they can do it.” The panel agreed that organizations such as Women for Women International that commit to investing in women for the long-term can help women redefine their role in their communities and society.

Watch our Luncheon conversation:

Watch former WfWI CEO Jennifer L. Windsor's remarks from our Luncheon: