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Foreign Policy Classroom: Young Women's and Girls Empowerment

March 8, 2023

Foreign Policy Classroom: A Conversation Between the U.S. Special Envoy for Youth, Senior Official in the Office of Global Women’s Issues, and Young Women and Girls Around the World


Program Overview

The U.S. government has made a number of new and exciting commitments to youth and gender in foreign policy, including through the appointment of a new Special Envoy for Youth Issues at the State Department. This event will provide the opportunity and platform for girls from lower- and middle-income countries most affected by U.S. foreign policy, as well as girls in the U.S., to speak directly with U.S. government leaders who are committed to their empowerment, leadership, and to addressing their most pressing concerns.

Opening Remarks

Elizabeth M. Allen

Senior Official for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs

On April 4, 2022, Secretary of State Antony Blinken delegated the functions and authorities of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs to Elizabeth M. Allen. She has served as the Assistant Secretary of Global Public Affairs since September 13, 2021. With over 15 years of strategic communications and public affairs experience, Liz specializes in message strategy, project and crisis management, and leadership communications. She was previously a Partner at Finsbury Glover Hering (FGH), leading integrated communications campaigns and providing strategic counsel to a range of global philanthropic, corporate, non-profit and entertainment clients. In 2020, Liz served as Vice President Kamala Harris’s communications director on the Biden-Harris Presidential campaign. Her full bio can be found here: Biography – Elizabeth M. Allen


Anna Borasky

UNICEF USA GW Club President, Fireside Chat Co-Moderator

Anna Borasky is a third-year student at George Washington University studying international affairs, with a concentration in global health. Through her academics and internships, Anna has experience with a variety of global health and development issues. Her work is rooted in political advocacy, focusing on children’s wellbeing, gender equity, and reproductive health. Anna is currently serving as Mid-Atlantic Advocacy Lead for UNICEF USA where she is responsible for cultivating relationships with Congressional Offices to drive policy change that improves child well-being. She is also President of GW UNICEF where she oversees semesterly programming. Anna is currently interning at Mercy Corps with the U.S. Policy and Advocacy team and has previously interned with the Congressional Office of David Price, Friends of the Global Fight, and the Interfaith Council of Metropolitan Washington.



Plan International USA Youth Advocate, Fireside Chat Co-Moderator

Rohini (she/her) is a sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she studies business, economics and statistics. As an Indian immigrant, she is passionate about helping girls and women in India achieve greater gender equality while advancing women’s rights worldwide, specifically in the fields of education, health and safety. At school, Rohini is part of clubs including Consult Your Community, an organization that provides pro bono consulting services to local Chapel Hill businesses, and Impact Investing, an organization that focuses its investment practices using environmental, social and governance principles. Through these efforts, she works to bridge the gender gap in the business field. Rohini became a member of Plan International USA’s Youth Advisory Board in 2021, after attending Plan’s Youth Leadership Academy in 2019. Rohini has represented Plan on International Day of the Girl at a takeover of Viacom CBS Inc. in New York City and Alexion in Boston. Additionally, Rohini has led subcommittees for Plan’s International Day of the Girl programming, YLA workshops, and public engagement and advocacy strategy. In her free time, Rohini loves to dance, sing and play tennis.


Candice Helton

Senior Communications Advisor, Office of Global Women’s Issues

Candice Helton is the Senior Communications Advisor for Policy, Planning, and Public Diplomacy (PPD) in the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues for the U.S. Department of State. In that capacity, Candice leads strategic public diplomacy efforts that support the political, economic, and social advancement of women and girls, in all their diversity, around the world. Prior to her role in the Office of Global Women’s Issues, she served as the Public Affairs Specialist in the Bureau of Global Public Affairs and the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations. She is the Vice President for the Thursday Luncheon Group, the Department’s first and oldest Employee Organization that is dedicated to the advancement of African Americans’ involvement in the formulation of foreign policy. She holds a Masters of Arts in Strategic Communication and Public Relations from Trinity Washington University where she is also an adjunct professor. She is a proud graduate of Winston-Salem State University, an Historically Black College/University where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications. Candice is a southern belle at heart hailing from Louisiana then to the District of Columbia.

Featured Speakers

Katrina Fotovat

Senior USG Official for the Office of Global Women’s Issues

Katrina “Kat” Fotovat is currently the Senior Official to the Secretary of State in the Office of Global Women’s Issues (S/GWI), where she leads a team of gender experts promoting gender equality efforts including support of women, peace, and security, countering violent extremism, promoting women’s economic empowerment, and combatting gender-based violence. Ms. Fotovat has over 20 years of experience advocating gender and human rights globally, specifically in conflict and post-conflict settings. Her full bio can be found here: Katrina Fotovat – United States Department of State


Abby Finkenauer

Special Envoy for Global Youth Issues

U.S. Special Envoy Abby Finkenauer grew up in a working class family in rural Iowa and was a first generation college graduate. At the age of 24 she successfully ran for the Iowa House of Representatives and served her community and her state in the Iowa House from 2015-2019. At the age of 28, Abby successfully ran for the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2018 she became the youngest woman in history to flip a Congressional seat as well as one of the first of two congresswomen from the state of Iowa. In 2019, within her first two weeks as a Congresswoman she became the youngest woman in history to pass a bill through the U.S. House of Representatives. In November 2022, Abby was appointed as the U.S. Special Envoy for Global Youth Issues and is focusing her energy on lifting up the voices and stories of young people across the globe and fostering relationships for the United States that will span generations advancing and protecting democracy. Her full bio can be found here: Abby Finkenauer – United States Department of State


Mia Gilstrap

Public Affairs Specialist, Bureau of Global Public Affairs

Mia Gilstrap currently serves as a Public Affairs Specialist in the office of Public Liaison in the Global Public Affairs (GPA) Bureau. Mia has been an employee of the Department of State since completing her undergraduate degree in 2011. As a Public Affairs Specialist, Mia leads the Foreign Policy Classroom and Foreign Affairs Campus Coordinator programs. Both programs provide domestic audiences with a high-level overview of the Department’s policies and successes, focusing on college students for recruitment purposes. In her previous position, Mia has been the Lead Staff Assistant in GPA’s Front Office, supporting the Assistant Secretary and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and training new employees. She has also served as the executive assistant to Spokesperson. Mia holds two degrees, a BA in Communications and an MS in Communications. In her free time, Mia enjoys trying new recipes and contemporary dancing.


Masika Munoya, 21, Refugee in Uganda from the Democratic Republic of Congo

Masika joined Soccer Without Borders’ youth program in 2017 after her family moved to Kampala from one of the rural refugee settlements. Masika had completed primary school in her home country, but did not have an immediate pathway into the Ugandan school system. Her English was limited, and as is typical for refugees, schools wanted to place her in a lower level, such as P3, with kids much younger than her. After joining SWB, Masika quickly excelled in the classroom, and took up a major interest in soccer. As one of the top performing participants in 2017 and 2018, Masika was rewarded with an opportunity to participate in SWB’s new Women Take the Lead coach training project, where she excelled as the top young coach. Shortly after, Masika was selected by SWB staff to be the first ever SWB scholarship recipient. Due to her work at SWB, she tested into secondary school, where she has regularly been one of the top performing students in her class. During school holidays, Masika continues to coach at SWB, where she now leads the u10 SWB Crocs girls team. Masika is a dedicated, passionate and hardworking advocate in our community and an incredible role model for SWB’s refugee girls on and off the football pitch.


Gabrielle Mckenzie, 25, student, business owner, disability rights and youth activist, IFES Guyana Youth ALLIES facilitator

Gabrielle is a young paraplegic woman who chooses to invest her time in helping others. One of her guiding principles is “be who you needed,” a viewpoint that acts as a constant reminder to put her knowledge and experience to good use by simplifying and bettering the lives of others. Gabrielle was the leader of Curvy Girls Guyana, a support group with the mission to reduce the emotional impact of Scoliosis among teen girls. She was also a Kectil Colleague within the Kectil Program in 2019; a yearlong web-based program that grooms, mentors and supports young talented leaders in developing countries. With an interest in volunteerism, Gabrielle served as a member of the Youth Action Network – U.S Embassy Guyana (YAN). YAN provides opportunities for networking and training to Guyanese youth to enhance their leadership skills, professionalism, community service and development activities. Currently, Gabrielle is a cofounder of Guyana Association for Persons with Physical Disabilities, a body established to empower, advocate and educate for the lives of persons with physical impairments residing in Guyana. She is also a research assistant on a study focused on the domestic violence and livelihood of women living with disabilities in Guyana. As an IFES Youth ALLIES facilitator, Gabrielle uses the knowledge and skills she obtained from the program on leadership, problem-solving, civic education and democracy to serve in the disability community through training sessions and workshops.


Clare Akumu, 23, Uganda, Girls Opportunity Alliance and Girl Up Uganda

Clare is a passionate mentor and an adolescent girls’ programming facilitator with Girl Up Initiative Uganda. With Girl Up Initiative Uganda, she mentors young girls in and out of school to help them better understand issues of menstrual health and the changes they experience as they grow up. She is also passionate about supporting young women with disabilities, having overcome a severe disability herself. She credits her ability to complete school and overcome significant medical debt from the support of Girl Up Initiative Uganda. She recently completed her undergraduate degree in Business Administration. She plans to pursue a Masters Degree in Gender Studies to continue her passion of supporting young women.


Gabriela, 15, Ecuador, ChildFund International

Gabriela attends high school in Puerto Quito, is National Vice President of the Consultative Council of Children and Adolescents of Ecuador, and Coordinator of Strategic Alliances of the National Movement for Children, RODDNA. Representing ChildFund International, Gabriela has led activities in her community to promote the protection of Children and has participated in the promotion of rights in front of the National Assembly. She is part of several coalitions that advocate for the rights of girls and adolescents in Ecuador. With the coalition “Desde nuestras voces”, she participated in the elaboration of the First Shadow Report about the rights of girls and adolescents in the region. As part of the CORIA Network (Child and Adolescent Correspondents) of the Inter-American Children’s Institute of the OAS, she contributed to the development of articles and videos on children’s rights, especially sexual and reproductive rights. As part of the Youth Ambassadors Program, she has spoken with Assembly Members, Ministers of State and local authorities about the problems affecting children and implemented the “Safe Space” Leadership School in her community. Gabriela believes that children and adolescents have much to contribute to society and, as a young leader, recognizes that there must be a balance between protecting girls from harm such as child labor and teenage pregnancy and at the same time ensuring that young people are empowered and participate in the formulation and implementation of public policies.

Background Resources

Links to Background Resources go here