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2023 Annual Luncheon

May 9, 2023 • 12:00pm EDT


On Tuesday, May 9, 2023, Women for Women International hosted our 2023 Annual Luncheon in New York City!

2020 saw women (and the world) tasked with supporting their families while adapting to a global pandemic. 2021 saw women in Afghanistan denied their basic rights under the de facto government, which continues to worsen every day; 2022 saw the beginning of Russian invasion of Ukraine, which forced women into a life of survival and increasing violence. 

Yet, we’ve seen the strength and resilience of women as they united to rebuild their lives despite the insurmountable challenges they face. At our 2023 Annual Luncheon, we celebrated these women while reflecting on modern challenges women’s rights.

Hosted by women’ rights advocate, government leader and vocal champion for sustainability and social justice Penny Abeywardena, attendees heard from esteemed global leaders about increasing conflict around the world and the worsening climate for women’s rights.  


2023 luncheon photos
Our 2023 panelists, including moderator Penny Abeywardena, Deputy Senior Official Varina Winder, human rights activist and tech founder Sara Wahedi and WfWI Co-founder and Co-Chair Amjad Atallah. Photo Credit: Hechlers Photographers



2023 Luncheon photo
Co-founders Zainab Salbi and Amjad Atallah with esteemed guests. Photo Credit: Hechlers Photographers


2023 Lunchen photo
Women for Women International colleagues along with CEO Laurie Adams. Photo Credit: Hechlers Photographers


This year, we also celebrated our 30th anniversary as we reflected on the lessons we’ve gained since 1993, as well as the importance of investing in the power of women leads to create a better world for all of us.  


Guest Panelists and Speakers

Varina Winder 

Varina Winder

Deputy Senior Official and Senior Advisor in the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues (S/GWI) at the Department of State

Varina Winder leads the S/GWI office’s policy development, interagency coordination, and strategic operations. Ms. Winder has extensive experience in gender-based violence, women’s and girls’ health, and multilateral affairs. She has previously worked with Family Planning 2020, the office of the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources, the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, and on the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration’s Gender and Youth team.


Sara Wahedi

Sara Wahedi

CEO and Founder of Ehtesab, Afghanistan’s first civic technology startup

Sara is the CEO and Founder of Ehtesab, Afghanistan’s first civic technology startup that provides near real-time security and city service alerts to Afghans since June 2020 and monitors reports in all 34 provinces. Ms. Wahedi was named as one of TIME Magazine’s ‘Next Generation Leaders’, and MIT Technology Review’s ‘Innovators under 35’ as well as BBC’s ‘Top 100 Women’ for her work in democratizing access to information for Afghans. She previously worked at the Office of the President of Afghanistan and is currently completing her studies at Columbia University.


Laurie Adams 

Laurie Adams

Chief Executive Officer, Women for Women International  

Laurie Adams serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Women for Women International, with more than 30 years of experience in international development and human rights advocacy across Asia, the Americas, and Africa. A life-long women’s rights advocate, Ms. Adams has devoted her life to eradicating all forms of injustice – poverty, gender-based violence, inequality and racism, and other forms of human rights abuses.  


Amjad Atallah 


Co-founder and Co-Chair of the Global Board of Directors, Women for Women International  

Amjad Atallah is the co-founder of Women for Women International along with Zainab Salbi. Mr. Atallah is currently the managing director of Doha Debates. Previously, he has worked on human rights causes as a legal advisor and policy expert, focusing on Bosnia and Herzegovina, Palestine, Israel, and Darfur with an emphasis on violence against women in wartime.  


Adi Oasis 


Singer, songwriter, producer 

French-Caribbean singer, bassist and producer Adi Oasis fuses soul, funk and R&B to form her own distinctive, retro-futurist sound. Adi Oasis has toured globally, appearing with Anderson .Paak, Gregory Porter, JUNGLE, Keyshia Cole, Lee Fields, Big Freeda and more, and has performed at Central Park Summerstage, Afropunk, Funk on the Rocks and London Jazz Fest. Her new album, Lotus Glow, is out now.  


Penny Abeywardena 

Penny Abeywarde

Women's Rights Advocate, Vocal Champion for Sustainability and Social Justice, Forbes contributing columnist 

Penny is an advocate of women’s rights, and a vocal champion for sustainability and social justice. Her contributions have been recognized and celebrated by the United Nations, the World Economic Forum and the French American Foundation, among others. Ms. Abeywardena was recently appointed to the rank of Knight in France’s National Order of Merit by President Macron for her global leadership on diplomacy, human rights and sustainability. Ms. Abeywardena is a Forbes contributing columnist and the former New York City Commissioner for International Affairs.


Organizing Committee 


Faria Abedin 

Kelly Annarella

Dale Berger 

Deesha Dyer 

Linda Kaye 

Barbara Perlmutter 

Cameron Rogers 

Jan Rock Zubrow 


Watch the 2023 Luncheon:


For more information, please contact us at 202.521.9522 or email luncheon@womenforwomen.org