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Inspiration and Empowerment from AAFSW 10th Annual Women’s History Month Panel Discussion

Without water there is no life; without women there is no humanity.


On March 13, AAFSW held its tenth annual Women’s History Month event, celebrating and promoting women’s history and empowerment. in the Burns Auditorium of the State Department’s George Marshall Center. This year’s panel discussion, organized by Sheila Switzer, featured four amazing guests and awesome speakers who have contributed to advancing women’s causes in important ways: Her Excellency Rev. Dr. Ocansey, Princess of the Ocansey Royal Family of Ada, Ghana; Her Excellency Dina Kawar, Ambassador of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to the United States; Shahin Mafi, founder and CEO of Home Health Connection, Inc.; and Lisa Schlager, Vice President of FORCE.
The goal of this presentation was to inspire women to empower themselves. Each one of these amazing ladies was a dynamic and very powerful speaker who presented significant ideas, guidance and information on gender equality, political and social context, development and economics.

Her Excellency Dr. Princess A.K. Ocansey is a multiple award-winning international investments consultant, US-trained professional engineer and businesswoman, a Canadian and Philippine-trained Labour Migration Expert, Theologian, Philanthropist, Author and Rural and Diaspora Development expert.

She believes Africa’s real capital needing urgent development is her human capital and to accelerate this development, she advocates for the empowerment and decent opportunities for her women. She was recently named the GODSU Women’s Empowerment and Employment Champion 2017 in the USA. The World Bank made a documentary on her life in their docu-drama series: “Voices of a New Ghana”. She is indeed the voice of a new Ghana, fast emerging on a new track to success through inclusion.

Dr. Ocansey is a devoted mother to her daughter, Fumi Serwa and her adopted son John Sena, and several other adopted sons and daughters. She strives to live her life by the quotation, 1 Cor 16 v 14: “Do everything in love” – with excellence and determined success- for an intergenerational impactful legacy.
Ambassador Dina Kawar was appointed as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to the United States of America in June 2016. Equality is advanced when a woman is honored with a high position, and in this case it came in the form of a phone call from His Excellency King Abdullah II of Jordan, offering her the position of Ambassador of Jordan to the United States.

Ambassador Kawar was awarded the Medal of Independence of the first degree by His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan and holds a number of decorations including the “Commandeur De La Legion d’ Honneur” from France, the “Medalha de D. Afonso Henriques” from Portugal and the “Insignes de Dame de Grand-Croix de l’Ordre de Saint Grégoire le Grand” from the Holy See.

The third panelist, Shahin Mafi, is the founder and CEO of Home Health Connection, Inc. (HHC), a provider of home healthcare services. The company has grown consistently since its creation in 1992 as a provider of adult and pediatric care. Currently, HHC serves a vast array of clientele with nursing services and physical, speech, and occupational therapy from its offices in Bethesda and Baltimore, Maryland and Reston, Virginia.

Ms. Mafi was born and raised in Tehran, Iran. After receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in accounting from the Advanced Institute of Accounting in Iran and her MBA from Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, she returned to Iran and became involved in women’s rights issues. According to Ms. Mafi, Iranian women currently hold 60 percent of that nation’s wealth, and there are fewer marriages and fewer children, as women pursue their desire to keep their autonomy.

In 1990, Ms. Mafi moved to the United States to join her family. In addition to her many business ventures and nonprofit work, Ms. Mafi has a strong interest in human rights issues around the world. Drawing from her work experience in human rights and a desire to provide resources on a more impactful level, Shahin established the Azar Foundation for Children of the World in 2003 in order to promote the health and security of mother and child.
The fourth speaker, Lisa Schlager, is Vice President, Community Affairs & Public Policy at FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered. FORCE is dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.

Ms. Schlager’s mission has been to educate others about the risks of hereditary cancer. Her recent successes include passage of National Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Week and National Previvor Day 2010. Cancer previvors are individuals who are survivors of a predisposition to cancer but who haven’t had the disease. This group includes people who carry a hereditary mutation, a family history of cancer, or some other predisposing factor.
In addition to providing support to individuals with such a predisposition. FORCE also supports additional research and legislation that that will help such individuals. Ms. Schlager offered well-researched material about her topic, which for many may have been new information. Attendees who may be affected by a diagnosis or genetic predisposition are invited to visit FORCE’s website and take advantage of all it provides.

The George Marshall Auditorium was nearly half full with Honorable Ambassadors of various countries, other VIP guests, AAFSW members, friends of our amazing organization and other attendees interested to experience and hear the four resilient speakers. However, only a handful of men were in attendance, and I also want to add that one of the speakers emphasized that AAFSW should encourage more men to attend these events. For example, high school students could benefit from attending, exposing these young individuals from an early age to women’s achievements and well-earned powers.

Some words I heard from these speakers and will not forget: “Completion, not competition; a woman needs to have a mind frame to complete without the competition.” “He for she and she for me.” “Reach one, teach one.” “Through work, a woman’s life is a full basket.” And my favorite: “Let’s have all hands on deck till gender equality and equity are achieved in this century.”

One man who attended the program, Dr. Keith Wright, shared his reactions with me: “The contribution of women in advancing causes serves as an incisive voice of society, expressing the nourishment, hunger, torment, and compassion of human life. This panel discussion on ‘The Vital, Expanding Role of Women in International Policy Making’ uncovered the intersection of the individual and the collective human experience to create, map, and actualize the validation of female identity and the impact on our current civilization.

The presentation symbolically represented and described the human condition by focusing on events associated with the role of women in leadership through historical, political, social, economic, and health significance.
Regardless of any given organization’s structure, success requires the ability to leverage relationships. As indicated in the presentation, through the strategic dissolution of male and female combative stratification, we can formulate, nurture, and maintain effective relationships.”

This thought-provoking presentation illustrated the need for more opportunities to learn about women in their communities globally. Each of the presenters introduced the role they play in an effort to bring about change in the condition of the lives of women in their communities throughout the world. Influenced by their own status in society as well as traditions and history, they manage to transcend gender limitations imposed by a male dominated society. The strongest message for me is how improvement in the human condition requires the equally joint involvement of people who care enough to correct issues that retard progress throughout the world. Progress is possible in small steps by individuals dealing with specific local handicaps in each society at the root of inequality both socially and economically.

Many of the attendees remarked that this program was the best of the past ten years of women panelists. The speakers all had a different subject, theme, presentation, and personal touch and captivated all the audience, and everyone expressed gratitude and appreciation. Guests kept on saying how glad they were that they took the time to attend, and others were glad they did not miss such an astounding program with four amazing women speakers.
The general consensus is that after this powerful presentation, a significant number of attendees are embarking on a personal mission to empower themselves.

Troella Tyznik


Some of the Most Powerful Women of Today
Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany
Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Melinda Gates, Co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook
Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors
Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube
Abigail Johnson, President-CEO of Fidelity Investments

15 of the Most Powerful Women in History
Zenobia, Queen of the Palmyrene Empire of Syria
Cleopatra, the last Pharaoh of Ptolemaic Egypt
Lakshmibai, the Rani of Jhansi Queen of India
Joan of Arc, French Heroine and a Saint to Roman Catholics
Borte Ujin, wife of Genghis Khan and Empress of the Mongolian Empire
Indira Gandhi, first and only female Prime Minister of India
Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Theodora, Highly Influential Empress of the Byzantine Empire and a Saint of the Eastern Orthodox Church
Queen Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom
Empress Dowager Cixi, Chinese Emperor’s Mother who ruled for 47 years
Maria Theresa of Austria, Hapsburg Empress
Hatshepsut, Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh
Catherine the Great, Catherine II of Russia
Empress Wu Zetian, Chinese Emperor
Elizabeth I, Most Powerful English Monarch