Sunita Viswanath is co-founder and board member of Women for Afghan Women, a decade-old women's rights organization that provides front line programs and services to women in crisis in 8 Afghan provinces. Based in New York and Kabul, Women for Afghan Women was founded in April, 2001, six months before 9/11, and since then has advocated for the rights of Afghan women and built programming to secure, protect and advance women's human rights across Afghanistan.
In the summer of 2011. WAW opened 3 new Family Guidance Centers and Women's Shelters in Badakhshan, Faryab, and Sari-Pul; 2 halfway houses in Mazar and Kabul, for women transitioning from prison or shelter; and 2 new Children's Support Centers, in Mazar and Kunduz, where children whose mothers are in prison can live and attend school.
This expansion, achieved while the Taliban gain strength and security decreases, is more proof of the point WAW has been making for years: the majority of people in Afghanistan yearn for progress. WAW's experience contradicts the general assumption that Afghan communities oppose progress on women's rights and other modern developments. Not a single community has ever opposed WAW's presence or resisted their centers and shelters. Women for Afghan Women's message has always been one of hope, and its work is proof that progress is not merely possible, but is being achieved.
Sunita Viswanath is also editor of Women for Afghan Women: Shattering Myths and Claiming the Future, Palgrave/St. Martins Press (October 2002). This groundbreaking collection traces the history of women's rights and roles in Afghanistan over the past 30 years; it examines the current human rights crisis, and suggests realistic solutions for post-war Afghanistan. "This stimulating collection gives a voice to women whose voices have been shrouded in silence. To read the words of many of these remarkable women is to understand the truth behind-and beyond-the burqa," comments Shashi Tharoor, author and Head of the Department of Public Information, United Nations.
A board member of Women in Media and News and former board member of SAKHI for South Asian Women and the Center for Anti-Violence Education, Sunita also served on the founding board of the Third Wave Foundation. In 2011, she was a recipient of the Feminist Majority Foundation's Global Women's Rights Award.
For many years, Sunita served as director of grants and programs at The Sister Fund, where Women for Afghan Women was founded and incubated. From 2006 to 2009, Sunita was executive director of Funders Concerned About AIDS. She now volunteers full-time for Women for Afghan Women. For her unstinting work in championing the rights of Afghan women in the battle for domestic gender equality, Sunita Viswanath is the 2011 recipient of TheWIFTS Foundation Dove Peace award.
She has a B.A in Mathematics from Douglass College, Rutgers University and a M.A. in Sociology from SNDT Women's University, Mumbai, India. Currently, Sunita lives in Brooklyn , NY with her husband Stephan and their three sons Gautama, Akash, and Satya.