Ginna Brelsford, Executive Director
Ginna Brelsford is the Executive Director of Sahar. Ms. Brelsford brings over 20 years of experience in government, business and the non-profit world of international development. Ginna’s commitment to gender equality and access to education began with a focus on literacy in Brazil and spanned two decades of work in Russia, Latin America and Asia.
A former executive director at Pura Vida Coffee Company, Ginna is known for her ability to blend social entrepreneurial innovation with poverty eradication. She has served at the gubernatorial level as well as worked with the Russia America Foundation on a number of USAID projects promoting civil society and economic development.
A strong advocate for women’s empowerment, she authored a book on women leaders in Alaska and toured with Bono to eradicate HIV/AIDS for the One Campaign at World Vision. An explorer of frontiers, Ginna was among the first woman to ski across the Bering Strait from Russia to Alaska.
Ms. Brelsford’s diverse experiences have led her to the conclusion that education and literacy acquisition are key to poverty eradication. A lack of education is the root of many issues in the developing world, and she feels privileged to direct an organization that helps solve them by giving more girls the opportunity to learn.
Sophie Allen, Operations & Campaign Manager
Sophie Allen is the Operations and Campaign Manager for Sahar. She graduated from Portland State University with a bachelor’s in International Development and a minor in French Language and Literature. In her studies Sophie focused on women’s rights globally and had the opportunity to intern in Cape Town, South Africa at a domestic violence organization. Through her studies and personal experience, Sophie became passionate about feminism globally and her local community. She is particularly committed to the importance of education for girls and women and the opportunities education brings to women and their communities.
In her spare time, Sophie loves to travel the world and the country, exploring new cultures and landscapes, especially through the natural world and new foods. When she isn’t traveling through new lands, her preferred pastimes are reading books, listening to music, and taking hikes and walks around the beautiful Pacific Northwest.
Shogofa Amini, Senior Fellow Advisor
A native of Mazar-e-sharif, Afghanistan, Shogofa traveled to Seattle from
Massachusetts to begin her fellowship with Sahar in July of 2018. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Regis College in Weston, Mass., graduating with honors in 2016. During her time at Regis, Shogofa was a member the Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society in Social Sciences, was accorded the Mary C. Bryan Award for an essay on women’s rights in Afghanistan, and was named a “Pillars of the Community” honoree.
Shogofa’s childhood education was interrupted in 1996 due to the ascendancy of the Taliban, but she has since dedicated her life to learning and service, with a focus on the rights of girls and women in Afghanistan. She began contributing poetry to the Afghan Women’s Writing Project in 2009 and attended the School of Leadership Afghanistan (SOLA) in 2010 before making her way to the U.S. to
further her education. In addition to her studies, Shogofa served as an intern for the Feminist Majority Foundation, contributing to a project aimed at providing more educational programs for women in Afghanistan. She also worked in the office of U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, researching immigration issues.
Shogofa believes that being a woman in Afghanistan is not about being oppressed, weak and afraid, but rather involves learning what is necessary to become strong. Her desire is to promote the education of women, support their rights, and advocate for gender equality. Shogofa is confident that her passions will be supportive of Sahar’s mission to create real, positive change for the girls and women of Afghanistan.
Sapida Barmaki, Fellow
Sapida Barmaki graduated from Montclair State University in May 2019 with a double major in Political Science and Law and Jurisprudence and a minor in Public Administration. She was awarded the Dean’s List and has done two independent research projects under her department faculty supervision.
Sapida visited her family every summer during her bachelor’s degree. In the summers of 2016 and 2018, she worked with Sahar in the Mazar-e-Sharif Office. She has worked on the Early Marriage Prevention Program, Teacher Training Center, and Digital Literacy Classes. She is originally from Mazar-e-Sharif and is much aware of the issues women and children face in the city and rural areas.
Sapida likes photography, hiking, whitewater rafting, dancing, and reading in her free time. She also likes to volunteer in her community for social causes and in development projects. During high school, she volunteered in the Rishad Education Center to teach minority children to get back to school, a six months project in Mazar. She is an advocate of women and children’s rights and devotes her time to it.
Airokhsh Qaisary, Senior Fellow Advisor
Airokhsh Faiz Qaisary is Sahar’s first Fellow, working in our Seattle office from June 2015 to June 2016 and will continue to serve in an advisory capacity as she attends graduate school in Boston. Qaisary graduated in 2015 from Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. She attended Juniata through The Initiative to Educate Afghan Women, a prestigious program that partners with leading U.S. colleges and universities to educate and provide leadership training and guidance for the next generation of women leaders in Afghanistan.
Qaisary first became involved with Sahar as an intern for the organization during the summers of 2013 and 2014 in Mazar-i-Sharif, the town in northern Afghanistan where she attended high school. Throughout her internships Qaisary visited the numerous schools Sahar has built in Balkh Province, interviewed students, took photographs, made a short film, and lent her insight to Sahar’s movements on the ground in Afghanistan.