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SWMENA Regional Advisors

SWMENA Regional Advisors

Throughout the duration of the SWMENA project, IFES has worked with five dedicated women who have advised and assisted in the program's success. These advocates have worked in their own countries to change the status of women and influence policy change by researching, lobbying, advocating, and working with local organizations. Here are their stories.

Wameedh Shakir - Yemen

Having 14 years of field and policy gender experience in 12 governorates in Yemen especially in the areas of violence against women and legal protection, Wameedh has worked on a variety of women's issues including gender and economic empowerment,  community development and equal participation, and NGO/CBO institutional and capacity building and humanitarian work. She has worked on gender and women's rights at Oxfam since 2003 and before that, with the Women's Economic Empowerment Association funded by the Netherlands Embassy.

Her work with the SWMENA project has included working in collaboration with another Yemeni advisor to write the Yemen country report, and facilitating participation of key women’s leaders for SWMENA workshops. Wameedh continues to be SWMENA's on-the-ground advisor providing current news and updates, as well as keeping in touch with past SWMENA participants.

Throughout her career Wameedh has conducted and participated in several research projects, studies, and papers on areas such as: women's rights to legal protection, women and children's rights to protection against violence, and women's rights to citizenship and political participation.

Currently, Wameedh is an MS student of International Development from Gender Perspective, Sanaa University.


Sawsan Al-Refa'ie - Yemen

A freelance consultant, Ms. Al Refa'ie is currently affiliated with the Youth Leadership Development Foundation, an NGO working on youth empowerment. Within her capacity, she has developed gender, health, and human rights policies, as well as development plans and programs for government and international/national NGOs. She has vast experience managing and evaluating development projects and is also an expert using the participatory approach in designing capacity building materials and tailoring programs for youth economic and civil empowerment.

Ms. Al Refa'ie holds a Masters in Science in Health Policy Planning and Financing from the London School of Economics and a diploma in Human Rights. She is a certified trainer on human rights and gender.

Working with SWMENA in collaboration with Wameedh Shakir to write the Yemen country report, Ms. Al Refa'ie has overcome the difficult political environment in Yemen and has been working with IFES since 2010.

She lives in Sana'a with her mother and son.


Nayla Madi - Lebanon

Nayla Madi joined the SWMENA project as a national advisor for  Lebanon in 2010. She has assisted with the implementation of a number of SWMENA workshop and worked with the SWMENA team to spread the knowledge and use of SWMENA data throughout the country. Of the SWMENA program, Nalya says "I hope the SWMENA program will have an impact and will contribute and strengthen the capacity of the NGOs in order to enhance the status of Lebanese women."

Nayla has been an active member of the National Committee for the Follow-up on Women's Issues and was the Project Manager (2008-2010) for the “Lebanese Women Rights and Nationality Law” at the United Nations Development Program in Lebanon, and was also responsible for the "Gender Center for awareness, Education and Training" project. Prior to that, she was Project Manager and Educational expert at the Lebanese Ministry of Social Affairs/ National Committee for Literacy and Adult's Education (2004-2008).

She has actively participated in a number of the CEDAW conventions on behalf of Lebanese women, including in New York  in 2005, and Geneva in 2007.  Currently, Nayla is the Head of the International Events’ at the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Beirut and Mount Lebanon- CCIABML.

Nayla graduated from Paris V, La Sorbonne with a MA degree in Science de l'Education in 2000.  She is married with two sons.


Marguerite el-Helou - Lebanon

Since graduating with a PhD degree in Political Science from Syracuse University, in New York, Marguerite has been a tenured full-time professor at the Lebanese  University, Faculty of Law, Political and Administrative Sciences and a part time lecturer at American University - Beirut, Notre Dame University - Louaize, and Haigazian University.

In addition to her university duties, she is also senior research analyst for Statistics Lebanon, and has worked as a consultant for the International Republican Institute (IRI), UNDP, and other international and local institutions. She is the author of two books, Israeli- Turkish relations and Islam in Turkey: Past, Present and Future, and co-author of over 16 books on the democratization processes in Lebanon and the Middle East.

Marguerite has worked in partnership with IFES since 2005 and has been involved with the SWMENA project as the Lebanon Country Advisor since 2008. Of working with IFES, Marguerite says "My two experiences of working with IFES teams have left me very impressed with the high level of professionalism, openness and acceptance of other people's input in order to perfect the work done. The SWMENA team in particular was highly devoted and keen on serving the goals that the project was intended to serve."

Married with two daughters, a son, and a grandson, Marguerite lives with her family in the city of Zalka, in the northern suburbs of Beirut.


Fatima Outaleb - Morocco

A founding member and executive board member of IFES SWMENA's in-country partner, the Union of Women's Action (UAF), Ms. Outaleb is the director for the UAF shelter of women victims of violence. She is also a member of the human rights follow-up group MOROCDH that works to monitor the implementation of CEDAW provisions, and is currently the SIPU local partner in Morocco for the implementation of a training program on Gender Equality.

She has been working with IFES since 2009 and has been an invaluable contact within the country for implementing workshops, establishing contacts and relations with local NGOs, and overseeing IFES' work in Morocco.