IVLP Impact Awards Perspectives: Building Bridges for Women’s Political Empowerment


Naheed Afridi is an alumna of the International Visitor Leadership Program and a 2023 recipient of the IVLP Impact Awards for her project Enhancing Women’s Access to Public Services through Developing Women Leadership. Meridian International Center, in partnership with the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, implements the IVLP Impact Awards Initiative. IVLP Impact Awardees from across the world administer community impact projects that build on their experiences and promote innovative solutions to shared challenges. The IVLP Impact Awards Initiative aims to engage alumni, strengthen global networks, and support lasting community impact.


Shaping Our Collective Future

In 2019, I became the first woman to conduct elections in Khyber. This milestone was not just a personal achievement but a testament to the potential of women in our community to break barriers and make significant strides in the political arena. My journey towards empowering women in politics began with a fundamental principle: inclusion. I made it my mission to include and encourage women in every step of the decision-making process.

Drawing from my visit to the League of Women Voters of Metro St. Louis during my International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), I recognized the pivotal role of grassroots initiatives in fostering democratic engagement. It deepened my understanding of the critical significance of women’s voices in governance, motivating me to empower and mobilize women in Khyber, to exercise their voting rights and actively engage in political discourse.

Through my IVLP Impact Award project, Enhancing Women’s Access to Public Services through Developing Women Leadership, we worked tirelessly to increase the political participation of women in Khyber and reaffirm their crucial role in shaping our collective future. Understanding the crucial significance of women’s votes, I initiated various programs aimed at amplifying women’s voices and ensuring their meaningful participation in decision-making processes. These initiatives included educational campaigns to raise awareness about the importance of women’s political participation, workshops to build women’s leadership skills, and outreach programs to encourage voter registration and turnout among women.

From Insights to Action

The capacity-building opportunities provided through the IVLP Impact Awards significantly enhanced the impact of my IVLP Impact Award project. These opportunities broadened my horizons and expanded my thinking capacity, enabling me to approach my project with a deeper understanding of the importance of women’s political participation and the strategies needed to promote it effectively.

Through workshops, discussions, and interactions with experts and fellow participants, I gained valuable insights about innovative approaches to community engagement of marginalized communities, voter education, and leadership development, which I subsequently incorporated into my project. Moreover, these opportunities instilled in me the power of making a difference through small initiatives. By witnessing the impact of grassroots efforts and local mobilization strategies in other regions, I became inspired to pursue similar approaches in my own community.

The IVLP Impact Awards also helped me initiate close collaboration with local journalists. Through extensive dialogue and collaboration, we aimed to shape media narratives that challenge stereotypes and amplify the voices of women in our community. Furthermore, I dedicated efforts to building bridges with political parties. By establishing connections and fostering dialogue, we aimed to create more opportunities for women to actively engage in the political process and assume leadership positions.

Drive Positive Change

Through the IVLP Impact Awards, knowledge and skills acquired during the IVLP are translated into tangible action within alumni’s communities. By sharing experiences and insights, alumni facilitate dialogue and collaboration between their regions and international partners. Ultimately, the IVLP Impact Awards promote cross-cultural understanding and drive positive change worldwide. Through my IVLP Impact Award project, I was able to empower and mobilize women in Khyber to exercise their voting rights, thereby contributing to broader goals of fostering international relations and knowledge exchange. My advice to IVLP alumni interested in the IVLP Impact Awards is to prioritize community-based and achievable projects as practicality and feasibility are key factors in ensuring the success and sustainability of any project.

Naheed Afridi was a participant in the IVLP Project Strengthening Local Governance in the Newly Merged Tribal District in 2021, organized by the U.S. Department of State and the American Councils for International Education. She was also a participant in the IVLP Project Strengthening Local Governance in the Newly Merged Tribal Districts in 2023, organized by the U.S. Department of State and Meridian International Center. Learn more about her IVLP Impact Award project, Enhancing Women’s Access to Public Services through Developing Women Leadership on our website.