Zainab Salbi is the founder and CEO of Women for Women International, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing women survivors of war, civil strife and other conflicts with the tools and resources to move from crisis and poverty into self-sufficient and active citizens who promote peace and stability.
An Iraqi native who arrived in the U.S. at age 19, Ms. Salbi’s experience with the Iran-Iraq War and later the Gulf War sensitized her to the plight of women survivors of war and led her to found Women for Women International at age 23. Under her leadership, Women for Women International now assists women in 8 countries including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Rwanda, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Women for Women International programs have helped 24,000 women and more than 103,000 of their family members, and distributed nearly $14 million in direct aid and microcredit loans.
Ms. Salbi's dedication to the plight of women survivors of war has been featured in numerous national and international media outlets including four appearances on the Oprah Winfrey Show, the Lester Holt Live Show and a documentary on MSNBC, NPR’s All Things Considered, Newshour with Jim Leher, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. Her life and work have been highlighted in such books as, Margaret Wolff's, "In Sweet Company: Conversations with Extraordinary Women About Living an Extraordinary Life," Pythia Peay's "Soul Sisters: The Five Sacred Qualities of a Woman's Soul" and Nance Ackerman’s "Womankind." In 1995, President Clinton honored Ms. Salbi at a White House ceremony for her humanitarian work in Bosnia and Herzegovina; Ms. Salbi has received many nominations for her work worldwide.
Ms. Salbi writes and lectures extensively on the themes of violence against women in wartime and women’s status in post-conflict societies. In the past decade, Ms. Salbi has lectured at the Holocaust Museum, Stanford University, Georgetown University, Queen Sofia Center for Violence, The Global Peace Initiative of Women Religious and Spiritual Leaders, University of Dhaka and PASSIA, among many other national and international venues. Most recently, Ms. Salbi testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the situation for women in post-war Iraq.
Selected published works by Ms. Salbi include: “Mass Rape: Natural, Cultural, or Social?”, Journal of Sacred Feminine Wisdom; 1996 “The Role of Microcredit in Poverty Alleviation in a Post Conflict/Transitional Society: Bosnian Villages as a Case Study,” Making the Transition Work for Women, World Bank Conference, June 1999; and an upcoming chapter in Women Philanthropy and Social Change: Visions for a Just Society edited by Elayne Clift.
Ms. Salbi earned a Masters Degree in Economics and Development Studies from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2001 and a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and Women’s Studies from George Mason University in 1996.