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Meet Laurie Adams, President of Women for Women International

Earlier this month, we were pleased to introduce Laurie Adams as Women for Women International’s new President, leading our global efforts to help women survivors of war rebuild their lives. Previously serving as WfWI’s Vice President of Programs, Laurie brings more than 25 years of experience working in international development and human rights with organizations like Oxfam and ActionAid. 

Why did you decide to join WfWI?

Working for human rights has been a lifelong passion for me, starting when I moved from the US to Johannesburg, South Africa 26 years ago to join and learn from the activists who were working to end apartheid.

WfWI shares that passion for making a difference – people to people, women for women. With the support of thousands of people around the world, WfWI has pioneered programs that help women survivors of conflict address their needs and stand up for their rights. When I joined as Vice President of Programs, I saw firsthand the real impact of our work. As President, I am thrilled to advance this work around the world.  

What inspires you about Women for Women International’s work?

One of the first things I did when I joined WfWI was to visit our country offices in Afghanistan, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There, participants and graduates told me about the newfound confidence and connections they have gained. Caritas, a Rwandan beekeeper, told me the greatest change in her life has been gaining the power to solve problems.

The women told me how being connected to each other gives them an ongoing source of support. Together, they now earn income, they educate other women, and they are inspiring hope in their families and friends. This year, more than 15,000 women will participate in our programs worldwide, form new connections, and become powerful agents of change.   

In Kayonza, Rwanda, WfWI graduate Immaculee talks with Laurie about her experiences leading an agricultural cooperative of WfWI graduates. Photo credit: Harriet Tolputt, 2016

I am also impressed by the talent and commitment of the more than 400 staff around the world. They often face incredible challenges to keep our classrooms open and to ensure we are making a difference for women and communities. They are dedicated to helping their communities rebuild after conflict, and they know that when women are stronger, their countries will be stronger too.

What are your goals for the future for WfWI?

My main goals are to serve more women who suffer the injustices of poverty and violence, and to encourage others to join us in this movement. With rising levels of conflict around the world, our work is more important now than ever.

I’m excited to be working on a few new initiatives. We recently began working to provide support to Syrian and Yezidi women displaced in northern Iraq with local partners. I want to continue to reach new countries and regions and provide the critical resources and opportunities women need to build a new future for themselves and their families.

I also want to make sure that our work best meets the needs of the most marginalized women. We know our program has an impact on women’s earnings, food security, health, ability to make decisions in their homes and communities, and more. But we can do more. Together, we are working to create more economic opportunities for women in rural and remote areas, by connecting them with financial services like Village Savings and Loan Associations that help them earn and save. We are also expanding our work to engage men as allies and partners, which we know is a powerful way to support women’s empowerment. 

Most importantly, I think our area of greatest impact is our work to connect women, so that together they can bring changes to their own lives, their communities, and countries. It is important to me that we continue to foster these networks for women, as they have a lasting impact on their lives. 

Read more about Laurie's background here.