US Program Leadership

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 graduate of Brown University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Ms. Brelsford is a recent graduate of the Harvard Global Mental Health and Refugee Trauma Program.

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.

Ginna Brelsford (L) with Sahar Fellow, Airokhsh Qaisary

Isabelle Shively, Operations & Campaign Manager

Isabelle is Sahar’s Operations and Campaign Manager. She has a B.A. in International Studies from Loyola University Chicago and an M.S. in International Public Service from DePaul University where she focused her studies on post-conflict development and sustainable program management. 

Before joining Sahar, Isabelle worked for the Jesuit Refugee Service, a humanitarian NGO accompanying refugees and other forcibly displaced people. During her time with JRS, she traveled to Malta, Jordan, Lebanon, South Sudan, and Ethiopia. Isabelle is passionate about the resiliency of women and their power as agents of change in their households, communities, and the world at large. She believes that education is key to confronting gender inequity and other social disparities in the U.S. and around the globe. 

In addition to work, Isabelle enjoys cooking and baking, taking long walks with her partner, and hanging out with their two cats. Isabelle is originally from the Seattle-area but calls Chicago home. She has also lived in Italy, Vietnam, and India. 

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 is currently enrolled in the University of Washington Global Health Masters Program.

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 is a graduate of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. 

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.