Sherri Kraham Talabany is based in Erbil, Kurdistan, where she moved with her family in 2012. She is the President and co-founder of SEED, a charitable organization that promotes development and social and humanitarian causes in Kurdistan.
Prior to moving to Kurdistan, Sherri served as a senior United States Government official since 1998, as a senior manager, a foreign policy and economic development policy advisor, and as a program manager of governance, development, post-conflict reconstruction, and humanitarian programs. Most recently, Sherri was a senior executive with the Millennium Challenge Corporation from 2004 -2012, a United States Government agency focused on supporting economic growth in the poorest, but well-governed countries around the world. There, she helped lead policy development for the agency, as well as engaged foreign governments on how to improve their overall policy environment — to strengthen governance, democracy, promote social investments in health, education, and reform economic policies.
From 1998 – 2004, Sherri worked at the State Department in a variety of assignments. She served as an Iraq desk officer for four years, from 1998-2001, supporting efforts to strengthen the Iraqi opposition, conflict resolution between the main Kurdish parties under the auspices of the 1998 Washington agreement, and directed other programs and projects to prepare for a post-Saddam Iraq. She later resumed her work on Iraq in 2003 as part of the U.S. mission, helping to re-establish government ministries in Baghdad and support coalition development projects throughout Iraq. From 2001-2003, Sherri worked for the Under Secretary of State, reviewing and overseeing $6.5 billion of annual foreign assistance programming in every region of the world. She directed and evaluated security assistance, economic development programs, conflict and emergency response efforts, as well as humanitarian relief.
Sherri is a lawyer who earned her degree in 1999 from George Mason University, in Virginia. She has been involved in volunteer activities throughout her life, working on behalf of the poor and under-served, and previously served on the board of one of the largest U.S. non-profit NGOs working with refugees
Tanya Gilly-KhailanyVice President
Tanya Gilly-Khailany is originally from the city of Kirkuk in Iraqi Kurdistan but having lived in many countries, she considers herself to be a world citizen. Ms. Gilly-Khailany studied Political Science at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.
From 2006-2010, Ms. Gilly-Khailany served as a representative in the Iraqi Parliament, representing the people of Kirkuk, advocating for the interests of a multi-ethnic and religious society. She was a member of the Foreign Relations Committee and was known for speaking out against the injustices Iraqi Kurds faced in the past and still face today. Ms. Gilly-Khailany was one of the leading voices demanding representation for women in the political arena; her work with other leading women activists helped legislate a quota for women in the Iraqi Constitution.
Prior to her role in the Iraqi Parliament, Ms. Gilly-Khailany worked in the think-tank community in Washington, DC. As Director of Democracy Programs at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, she did advocacy work and worked closely with policy makers in Washington to help give voice to the under-represented in the Middle East and North Africa region.
From a young age, Ms. Gilly-Khailany has been an activist involved in many causes, including fighting for basic human rights, equality, and justice for the people of Kurdistan and Iraq. She has served on the board of various non-governmental organizations in Iraq and Kurdistan, and is one of the founders of the Ashti (Peace) Women’s Movement, which played an instrumental role in bringing together the opposition and government. She has presented many papers on democracy, governance, human rights and women’s rights and has organized many conferences worldwide. Ms. Gilly-Khailany is a regular television guest both in the Iraqi and international media.
Ms. Gilly-Khailany currently lives in Erbil, Iraq with her husband and her two, very active teenage boys. She is the Vice-President and Co-Founder of SEED, a registered charity based in Iraqi Kurdistan working to promote Kurdistan’s development.
Rezhna Mohammed is based in Erbil, Kurdistan Region. Ms. Mohammed is a qualified psychotherapist, with an MSc in psychology from the Adler School for Professional Psychology in Chicago, USA, in conjunction with Koya University.
Ms. Mohammed joined the SEED Foundation in July 2015 as Director of Psychological Services. Ms. Mohammed leads the delivery of social work and psychotherapy services to those in need, with a primary focus on survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.
Prior to joining the SEED Foundation, Ms. Mohammed was responsible for leading the Norwegian Refugee Council’s gender-based violence response for IDPs in Erbil from September 2014 to June 2015.
She has served as a psychotherapist at Sulaymaniyah General Hospital and at Soz Hospital, and as a social worker with the Civil Development Organization, where she worked with men, women, boys and girls from the IDP and refugee communities affected by gender-based violence. She also has extensive experience as a trainer.
Ms. Mohammed has a strong professional and research interest in the treatment of trauma among survivors of violence, and is dedicated to expanding access to psychological services for those in need across Iraq.
Ailsa McVey is based in Erbil, Kurdistan, where she has lived since 2009. She is Director of Programs with SEED Foundation, overseeing its programming in mental health and psychosocial support, livelihoods and life skills education for displaced communities, with a focus on survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.
Prior to joining SEED Foundation, Ms. McVey worked with Relief International from 2011 to 2015, where she served in a range of roles including as Program Manager and Acting Country Director. Her work focused on promoting the rights and empowerment of vulnerable Iraqis, including survivors of gender-based violence, widows, and those displaced by conflict.
Prior to her role with Relief International, Ms. McVey worked with Development Iraq, a local NGO. As Program Manager, she oversaw the organization’s rule of law programming.
Before moving to Iraq, Ms. McVey worked as a lawyer in the UK where she represented asylum seekers and other requiring international protection in the UK.
Ms. McVey has worked in human rights and development since 2005 and remains dedicated to improving the lives of the most vulnerable.