My Professional Biography

I first became aware of my gender at the age of 6 and worked to empower women around the world in one way or another. See some of my experiences below that led me to the School of Happiness.


Over twenty years of experience in international development particularly on gender equality, women’s empowerment, child and family policies, poverty eradication, water, hygiene, capacity building, sustainable human development, community development, programme evaluation, and strengthening of civil society institutions.


Columbia University, School of Social Work and Dept. of Economics – New York, USA
Ph.D. in Social Policy Analysis , Certificate in Child and Family Policy – February 2004
Dissertation: Gender Differences in Labor Market Outcomes in Post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan

Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs-  New York, USA
Master of Public Administration – May 1995
Concentrations in Gender Policy/Economic Policy Analysis

Istanbul University, Faculty of Journalism – Istanbul, Turkey
Bachelor of Arts – May 1986
Joint degree in Journalism and Public Relations


Who’s Who in the World 2009 Edition, listed as one of the world leaders in women’s empowerment

Fulbright-Hays Dissertation Abroad Research Fellowship, 2001-2002

IREX Individual Advanced Research Opportunities Fellowship, 2001-2002

Jewish Educational Foundation Award, Columbia University, 2000-2001

Willma and Albert Musher International Fellowship, Columbia University, 1999-2000

Burns Scholar Award, Columbia University, 1998-1999

Public Affairs Research Fellowship, Columbia University, 1994-1995

Summer Travel Grant, Columbia University, 1994


School of Happiness – Worldwide
Founder and Lead Trainer – 2009-present
Design and delivery of  the School of Happiness programme in Turkey, France, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan to United Nations staff and other interested groups.

Swedish International Development Agency and Ministry of Justice of Turkey – Ankara, Turkey
Gender Equality Advisor/Trainer 1/2012-5/2012
Design and delivery of gender awareness and gender policy training for the members of Swedish National Courts Association and staff of Ministry of Justice of Turkey; provision of gender expertise for cooperation between SIDA and Ministry of Justice of Turkey

European Union and Ministry of Internal Affairs of Turkey – Ankara, Turkey
Gender Expert/Project Development Advisor – 2/2012-5/2012
Preparation of a detailed Terms of Reference (TOR) for the EU supported project ‘Prevention of Domestic Violence Against Women’ for the Gendarmerie of Turkey for the recruitment of a technical assistance team with the following aims: training of at least 2000 Gendarmerie personnel on domestic violence issues, raising awareness of the people by using Gendarmerie units, increasing cooperation between Gendarmerie and related institutions to provide efficient protection services to women subject to domestic violence; examination and elaboration of the details of indicative budget in the project

UN Women CSEE – Bratislava, Slovakia
Gender Expert/Researcher – 1/2012-7/2012
Development of a study and recommendation of a methodology for UN Women’s technical assistance for capacity development of civil society organizations working to address violence against women in Southeastern Europe (Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Macedonia); taking stock of lessons learned from UN Women’s experiences in providing technical assistance for capacity development of CSOs working to address VAW in Southeast Europe; identifying and clarifying current needs, priorities and interests from civil society organizations; recommending standards for capacity development.

UN Women – New York, USA
Technical Committee Selection Member for Europe and Central Asia – 5/2012-7/2012
Acted as a jury with expertise on women’s economic and political empowerment for UN Women Fund for Gender Equality to select semi-finalists proposals submitted by civil society organizations; recommended methodology on how to improve project proposals.

United Nations Trust Fund/UN Women – Almaty, Kazakhstan
Gender Expert/Project Evaluator – 1/2012-2/2012
Assessed gender focused 60 projects submitted to the United Nations Trust Fund for the Prevention of Violence Against Women from Central Asia and Eastern Europe regions by various governmental and non-governmental organizations; selected top 10 proposals for funding and provided recommendations for successful implementation.

United Nations Democracy Endowment Fund (UNDEF) – Istanbul, Turkey
Evaluator/Gender and Civil Society Expert – 9/2011-11/2011
Conducting two post project evaluation of UNDEF’s second and third rounds of funding in Turkey on behalf of UNDEF/Transtec; the first project titled “Empowerment of Women Citizens” implemented by KA-DER women’s nongovernmental organization and the second project titled “Monitoring and Influencing Central Budget by Civic Empowerment” implemented by Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation; set and conducted interviews, compiled data and co-wrote the final evaluation report.

Anadolu University, Women’s Research and Action Center – Eskişehir, Turkey
Gender and Media Expert/Gender Trainer – 1/2011-8/2011
Conceptualizing and writing up of a gender programme on behalf of Anadolu University Women’s Research and Action Center submitted to U.S. Secretary of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues The Avon Award for the Elimination of Gender Based Violence; upon receiving the award managing of one-year programme titled “Demystifying Gender Based Violence for Future Journalists: From Self Awareness to Gender Sensitive Reporters” by training journalism faculty students from five universities in Turkey and preparing a TV programme on prevention of violence against women with student involvement.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – Ankara, Turkey
Gender Expert and Trainer for Support to Local Administration Reform – 1/2011-4/2011
Developed and delivered Gender Sensitivity and Gender Analysis module to elected and appointed municipal representatives in 22 cities of Turkey; advised pilot municipalities in identifying and implementing gender equality programmes; conducted mid-term evaluation for ongoing gender based violence projects in five municipalities and implementation of local Gender Equality Action plans.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – Tbilisi, Georgia
Evaluation Expert on Gender, Social Inclusiveness,Democratic Governance – 10/2010-12/2010
Conducting an evaluation of UNDP project on Gender and Politics and designing a new UN joint project on gender equality targeting internally displaced persons; drafting a new UNDP project on women’s economic empowerment in post-conflict regions in Georgia; designing policy options to institutionalize national gender machinery in Georgia.

UNIFEM – Dushanbe, Tajikistan
Expert on Rural Development and Gender&Water – 6/2010-present
Representing UNIFEM at the High Level International Conference on the Midterm Comprehensive Review of the Implementation of the International Decade “Water for Life, 2005-2015” and developing a concept paper for UNIFEM CIS programming on water management and involvement of women, children, and community based organizations as users and managers of water.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – Ankara, Turkey
Expert on Gender and Media – 1/2010-4/2010
Conducted needs assessment and collaborative participatory meetings for local media in five cities (İzmir, Eskişehir, Urfa, Adana, and Trabzon) under the Women and Politics project; formulated an effective Local Media capacity development plan, including the content and methodology for trainings to local media representatives; conducted gender sensitivity training in selected cities; and developed a road map for future local media and gender projects and programmes for UNDP.

UNDP – Kiev, Ukraine
Expert on Gender Training for Gender Focal Points – 7/2009-4/2010
Elaboration and conducting of a comprehensive training programme on gender knowledge, gender awareness, and gender mainstreaming techniques for women’s civil society organizations and civil servants in all regions of Ukraine; preparation of a TOT manual for gender trainers including the sectoral analysis for key Ministries.

UNIFEM – New York, USA
Technical Committee Selection Member for CEE-CIS and Turkey – 10/2009-2/2010
Acted as a jury member expert on women’s political and economic empowerment for UNIFEM Fund for Gender Equality and provided assistance in the selection of grant recipients for catalytic and implementation grants from the CIS-CEE region including Turkey.

UNDP – Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Expert on Gender Aspects of Environmental Protection – 7/2009-11/2009
Responsible for engendering an environmental programme on uranium tailings in southern Kyrgyzstan; designed and conducted a training programme on how to mainstream gender in environmental impact studies for civil society organizations, particularly for women’s NGOs and regional governments; provided basic training for women’s NGOs on research, advocacy and grant proposal development.

UNIFEM – Almaty, Kazakhstan
Communication Specialist and Facilitator for the CIS Regional UN
Gender Theme Groups Workshop – 6/2009-9/2009
Designed and facilitated CIS Regional UN Gender Theme Group Workshop on “Enhancing UN Accountability for Gender Equality Advancement” for 30 gender focal points representing different UN agencies from eight CIS countries and Afghanistan; designed a CIS wide communication strategy for UNIFEM including the key messages and slogans; drafted a concept note on UNIFEM’s comparative advantage in supporting gender equality initiatives within CIS region.

International Secretariat for Water – Canada and Turkey
Advisor to the Fifth World Water Forum/ Central Asia Programme – 10/2007-4/2009
Formulating and implementing activities of the Citizen’s House for the World Water Forum, ongoing project implementation and evaluation support to various stakeholders.

Swiss Development and Cooperation Agency – Fergana, Uzbekistan
Co-Director, Gender, Hygiene, and Youth Parliament Specialist – 1/2004-10/2007
Co-managed US$ 1.7 million rural water supply project in 30 villages in Ferghana and Andijan oblasts of Uzbekistan and in Kyrgyzstan; prepared the project proposal; designed hygiene behavior change programme and monitoring toolkits; managed a parasite testing and eradication programme for school children and proved the efficiency of hygiene education programme scientifically; wrote a gender manual for water committees; trained rural women’s NGOs to empower them to participate in the elections of village water committees; with targeted training ensured that females were elected to lead more than 50% of water committees in target villages; designed a baseline health and hygiene survey; and trained local government representatives on water governance. The project brought safe drinking water to more than 100,000 people and empowered women to take charge of the water systems.

Global Environment and Technology Foundation – Osh, Kyrgyzstan
Consultant on Social Mobilization – 5/2003
Trained Global Environment and Technology Foundation team on social mobilization for community water management; assisted a rural water supply project design in Kazakhstan.

International Secretariat for Water – Osh, Kyrgyzstan
Co-Director of Community Water Management Project – 9/1997-10/2007
Initiated “Community Water Management in the Ferghana Valley: Strengthening the Role of Women” project for 14 villages (9 villages in Kyrgyzstan and 6 villages in Uzbekistan) with a budget over US$500,000; designed overall project including fundraising, planning, budgeting, supervising, monitoring of all human, technical and material inputs; designed training manuals (community mobilization; PHAST, operation and maintenance; facilitation skills, strategic planning; organizational development); organized training of 14 village water committees and Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation (PHAST) training teams; conducted training of trainer teams at village and rayon levels for replication of the approach;  assisted design of technological options for water systems and bathhouses; responsible for procurement, contracting, construction, ongoing monitoring and evaluation; led advocacy for people-centred approaches on water, hygiene and sanitation at government and donor levels; assisted in the establishment and registration of the Central Asian Alliance for Water, a regional network NGO; designed and produced outreach materials including posters, leaflets, a book and a video.

McGill University – Montreal, Canada
Research Fellow at Center for Developing Area Studies – 9/2000-12/2001
Lectured on women, development and Central Asia; gave presentations on community water management and social change in the Ferghana Valley.

Columbia University – New York, USA
Adjunct Professor – 9/1999-1/2000
Taught “Social Welfare Policy” and “International Social Welfare” courses to the first-year master students at the School of Social Work, evaluated as the best professor on the subject by students.

Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council – Kyrgyzstan
Social Mobilization Consultant – 2/1999-3/1999
Conducted local, regional, and national consultations to prepare a drinking water and sanitation strategy for Kyrgyzstan in collaboration with the Kyrgyz government.

Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation – Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Mediator and Evaluation Consultant – 10/1997-11/1997
Mediated consultation process between the Swiss and Central Asian government representatives to determine the framework of future cooperation; gave a presentation on the results of the gender study conducted in July; drafted 1998 annual program for the Swiss Coordination Office; drafted the 1998-2001 Country Program for the Kyrgyz-Swiss cooperation; wrote an agricultural policy discussion paper.

International Development and Research Center – Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania
Gender Evaluation Consultant – 2/1998
Worked with non-governmental organizations in Egypt, Kenya, and Tanzania to incorporate gender concerns in a traditional water management action-research project, evaluated and updated project objectives.

UNESCO – Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Consultant – 8/1997
Conducted a regional workshop for women journalists from Central Asia; drafted an action plan for the “Women in Media Network of the Central Asia” based on the results of the workshop.

Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation – Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Evaluation Consultant-Gender Expert – 7/1997
Analyzed ongoing programs of the Swiss cooperation in Kyrgyzstan from a gender perspective; wrote a report on the findings of the research, future action, and gender mainstreaming techniques.

UNDP – Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Gender Consultant, Program Advisor to the Resident Representative – 10/1996-6/1997
Assisted the Resident Representative in developing new programs and projects based on the national priorities, such as poverty alleviation, gender equality, regeneration of environment, and good governance; acted as a focal point between the Government and UNDP to formulate a national Poverty Alleviation Strategy;  researched and wrote a new project on gender and entrepreneurship; designed and managed a small grant programme for women’s NGOs; organized a seminar on Family Code and a conference on after-Beijing achievements in Kyrgyzstan; advised the national team preparing the 1997 Kyrgyz National Human Development Report; initiated an inter-ministerial gender task force.

UNDP – Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Gender and Development Program Officer – 10/1995-9/1996
Initiated and advised a national Women in Development Bureau including resource mobilization, prioritizing the activities, organizing various training for women’s NGOs; wrote UNDP’s first comprehensive gender project supporting both the State Commission on Family and Women’s Affairs and women’s NGOs; designed and implemented a “training of trainers” program under the gender project; organized a campaign for the ratification of CEDAW by the Kyrgyz government; designed national weekly radio programs on women; and acted as the poverty alleviation, gender, environment, and sustainable human development focal point.

UNDP – New York, USA
1995 Global Human Development Report Research Associate – 9/1994-1/1995
Researched and documented legal discrimination experienced by women in various countries including the assessment of the impact of discrimination on policy guidelines for national governments; wrote a background paper on the effects of conflict on women.

Women Living Under Muslim Law – Istanbul, Turkey
Research Associate – 5/1994-8/1994
Conducted research on the social and economic status of Turkish women in urban areas.

Women’s Environment and Development Organization – New York, USA
Coordinator for the World Summit for Social Development – 1/1994-5/1994
Assisted staff during the Women’s Caucus meetings at the United Nations in preparation for the 1995 World Summit for Social Development; updated a database containing the Organization’s global contacts.


 “Effect of Hygiene Promotion on the Risk of Reinfection Rate of Intestinal Parasites in Children in Rural Uzbekistan”, Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, June 2007.

Director and Producer of documentary films Ponds and Pipe Dreams and Children’s Youth Parliaments.

Paradise Lost or Imagined: Gender Equality in Kyrgyzstan”.  in an edited book by M. Guillot and Z. Kudabaev in Russian and English, summer 2004.

Women, Water and Social Change: Lessons from Central Asia“. Published by the Central Asian Alliance for Water.

Quenching the Thirst: A People’s Approach to Community Water Management in the Ferghana Valley“.  Published by International Secretariat for Water, November 1999.  Co-author with Gabriel Regallet.

The Six Elements: Managing Water in Central Asia“. Waterlines, Vol. 17 n° 2; United Kingdom ,October 1998.  Co-author with Gabriel Regallet.

Various articles on women and UNDP activities in Kyrgyzstan on a UN-wide publication titled “UN Link” between 1995-1997.


Turkish (native tongue), English (fluent), Russian, French, Kyrgyz, and Uzbek (intermediate).