Who We Are
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR & FOUNDER
Habon has over 25 years of experience in gender and politics. She is a respected voice on building a platform that celebrates women’s civic leadership efforts and successes. Her research on minority women and political participation, as well as the cultural and structural barriers women face in each stage of leadership careers, gives her a unique understanding of the importance of adopting woman-centered approach. Her perspective allows New American women to act from their innate strengths, and build an identity that helps them develop and practice civic leadership skills - this is the key impact that progressive networks have on getting women elected, and shaping their policies and effectiveness once in office.
Habon holds a Ph.D from the University of Sussex, UK, an M.A. from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota , and a M.A. and B.A. from the University of Padua, IT. Habon is also a 2013 Bush Foundation Fellow.
PROGRAM COORDINATOR AND SUPPORT INTERN
Sagal is a proud first generation Somali-American immigrant and who has had the honor and privilege to grow up in the Minneapolis community for most of her life.
In her professional career, she manages program initiatives that advance health equity efforts across the country, working towards building a health care system that works for everyone.
She loves learning about ways we can continuously improve a system that supports all communities of color. More particularly, she seeks to equip women with the tools they need to become contributing members of society and leaders in our communities.
Her passion for community leadership and enabling women to drive change through their lived experience is the very reason why she is so happy to be part of Ayada Leads.
EDUCATION & DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
Ebyan is the Education and Development Director of Ayada Leads. Education advocacy as part of the broader movement toward educational equity has been an underlying theme throughout her professional life. Ebyan has 16 + years of experiences in education and development. She is a mentor and fervent advocate for children and families. Ebyan is passionate about social justice and women’s issues and interested in politics. Ebyan is an active community volunteer, serving on the boards of the People’s Center Clinics and Services and LINKs Public Schools.
Ebyan earned her Master’s degree and Graduate certificate for gifted program in education from Saint Mary’s University and her Bachelor’s degree in languages from Somali National University. Outside of work, Ebyan enjoys reading, going to movies and listening to music.
TRAINING & PROGRAM SPECIALIST INTERN
Zaynab grew up in the heart of south Minneapolis, particularly in the Powderhorn neighborhood. In her professional career, she is a Human resources recruiter and facilitates training on diversity and inclusion in the workplace. She is passionate about creating more equitable workspaces specifically for women of color. She understands the lack of representation in professional spaces and helps provide seats at the table for their voices to be heard.
Zaynab is a recent graduate from the University of Minnesota earning a degree in Human Resources. She is hoping to continue her education by obtaining a master’s in public policy. She understands the importance elected officials have in changes that are made in communities. Zaynab spends her free time working as a grassroot organizer and helping with local campaigns. Her passion lies with providing resources to political candidates whose ultimate goal is to benefit the communities they will be serving.
Huda is a wife, mother, and public health visionary. Her life’s work is transforming systems so that every community has a sustainable ecosystem that provide it the opportunity for safety, health and well-being. She is the Founder and Principal at Transformational Solutions, a strategy consultant firm that supports local and national clients in the public, non-profit and philanthropic sectors achieve transformational change by providing comprehensive strategic support. She specializes in the process of community-institution co-creation to transform systems, with a focus on building co-ownership and power-sharing.
Sannah is a Minneapolis-raised community advocate. She is a licensed CPA in Minnesota and Illinois. She currently works in finance for a healthcare company. She is dedicated to female empowerment and turning up the volume on the unheard voices in her communities. She lives in Prospect Park with her husband.
Tharangi Cumaranatunge has been with ALIGHT (formerly American Refugee Committee) since 2012. Tharangi grew up in Sri Lanka and came to Minnesota for her studies as a Fulbright scholar. She first joined the private sector and later the nonprofit sector. She works to build connections to global community everywhere she goes - at Ecolab she helped found an employee resource group to connect employees on global awareness. More recently she helped with the creation of the first Rotaract Club inside a refugee camp. She also led and continues to participate in Stretch Expeditions with Prouty Project to serve and learn about diverse societies around the globe.
Bharti Wahi joined Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota as its Executive Director in 2016. Bharti brings 20 years of professional experience as an advocate in the nonprofit world and more than a dozen years in education: her strengths include strategic planning, program and project management, collaborations and community partnerships, and budget development and financial management with a focus on equity and inclusion. Prior to joining Children’s Defense Fund, she spent 3 years with Greater Twin Cities United Way overseeing several grant portfolios related to early childhood education, two generation interventions and literacy.
Previously Bharti led the Children and Family Program for the Minnesota Literacy Council for five years, overseeing their two preschool sites, building the home visiting program and revising the parent engagement curriculum. Bharti is currently a fellow with the Annie E. Case Foundation’s Children and Family Fellowship and sits on the national KIDS COUNT Steering committee for the foundation. She was appointed to the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet Advisory Council, the City of St. Paul’s 3K Steering Committee, a member of the policy committee for the Greater Metropolitan Work Force Council and is a board member for Women Organizing Women. She received her B.A. from the Saint Catherine University and her M.A. in public policy and nonprofit management from the University of Chicago. She is the mother of two and the auntie to many children and young people - her two favorite roles.
Sarah Hartman is the Chief Operating Officer at Alight, formerly American Refugee Committee. For 17 years, Sarah has pushed doors open to let a world of amazing people co-create a better kind of humanitarianism. She believes in the power of women coming together to unleash opportunities in their communities and she is most proud of co-creations like I AM A STAR.
Khadija is a successful entrepreneur in the language services, staffing and cultural competence industries, and she has become a leader in creating opportunities for immigrant communities.
Born in Somalia, Khadija immigrated with her family to the United States in 1996, via the refugee camp in Kenya. After high school and learning English in school, she began serving as an interpreter for her family members. An experience within her own family, where language became a life-threatening barrier to health, led her to pursue a career in health care.
Khadija represents Minnesota and The Itasca Project as a member of Harvard Business School’s 2017 Young American Leaders Program. The program is based at Harvard’s Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness to develop leaders who understand cross-sector collaborations for shared prosperity. She serves on the board of AEON, Affordable Housing, Minneapolis Reginal Chamber of Commerce, and the Final Four Impact Advisory Council. Khadija attended St. Paul Community College, University of Minnesota, and Harvard Business School.
She has been recognized for her professional accomplishments and community service:
International Immigrant Achievement Award from International Leadership Institute
Immigrant Achievement Award by the City of Minneapolis, Mayor R.T. Rybak and Governor Dayton
Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio for job creation in the Latino community
Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal’s 2017 Women in Business Award
UNESCO, Center for Peace Cross Cultural Ambassador 2018 Nelson Mandela Award