Our Story

When Cora Neumann got the opportunity to work with First Ladies in 2008, she identified a set of dedicated and passionate women who had yet to be recognized for their true leadership potential. Her eagerness to help inspired the largest gathering of African First Ladies outside the continent to have ever taken place. In 2009, she founded the African First Ladies Initiative in partnership with Gery Ryan, Anita McBride and Nicole Brzeski, and with support from RAND Corporation.

GFLA’s programs have been developed in close partnership with First Ladies from across Africa and First Ladies of the U.S. and the UK, including Laura Bush, Rosalynn Carter, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Sarah Brown, and Cherie Blair. Today, GFLA engages First Ladies, government offices, foundations, businesses, and NGOs from over 60 countries.

Who We Are

The GFLA team includes experts from the fields of development, economic empowerment, gender mainstreaming, peace-building, crisis management, social science, indigenous rights, and technology.

Founder & Chairman

For nearly 20 years, Cora has collaborated with leaders in over 40 countries on strategies to improve the lives of women and families. As the Founder of GFLA, Cora partners with First Ladies to shape programming, develop the GFLA curriculum, and secure strategic partnerships. Cora has served as a senior advisor under Secretary Clinton at the U.S. Department of State, and has worked for the RAND Corporation, the Bush Institute, Care.com, the Clinton Global Initiative, the World Health Organization, and the United Nations. She holds a doctorate in international development from Oxford University.

Read about Cora’s experiences here or contact Cora at cora@gfla.org.

Co-Founder & Executive Director

Nicole has extensive experience in the areas of Public Health, Women’s Development, and Disaster Preparedness and Response around the world. As Co-Founder of GFLA, Nicole manages the operations of the organization, works with First Ladies and their advisors to develop programming and supports partnerships . Previously, Nicole worked for the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the University of London and UCLA Center for Public Health and Disasters. Prior to her work in Public Health and Development, Nicole worked in High Tech and Market Research.

Contact Nicole at nicole@gfla.org.

Director of Programs and Operations

Caroline has seven years of experience working for the federal and local government in Sweden and the U.S. Most recently, Caroline led the work of the Los Angeles City Commission on the Status of Women where she built the city’s capacity to integrate a gender perspective into the design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of policies, programs, and services. In previous roles for the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Caroline coordinated policy processes across federal departments and negotiated Sweden’s policy positions in the European Council. As the Director of Operations and Programming, Caroline is responsible for day-to-day operations, including GFLA’s partnerships and programming activities.

Read about Caroline’s experiences here or contact Caroline at caroline@gfla.org.

Advisor and Board Member

Gery Ryan is a Senior Behavioral Scientist at the RAND Corporation and a faculty member at the Pardee RAND Graduate School where he teaches policy analysis and methods courses. Trained as a medical anthropologist, Gery has conducted research on decision-making processes, ethnographies of health care, and the integration of qualitative and quantitative methodologies. He has worked extensively in Latin America and Africa on health-related issues and helped redesign and implement a large-scale education reform in Qatar. Gery is the co-author of Analyzing Qualitative Data: Systematic Approaches, 2nd Edition. He has a PhD, Anthropology, University of Florida. Read more about Gery here.

CFO and Board Member

Lawrence is a social entrepreneur with 10 years of experience working in technology, accounting, and nonprofits. As the CFO and Board Member of GFLA, Lawrence is responsible for accounting and compliance. Lawrence is also the Founder of Rentall and advises several startups and nonprofits, including Center for Healthcare Innovation. Currently, Lawrence serves on the Boards of LifePaths Global Alliance, Global Adolescent Project, and the Pico Union Friends of the Library.

Read about Lawrence experiences here or contact Lawrence at lawrence@gfla.org.

Research Coordinator

Rachael Cassells is a photographer, filmmaker, writer, strategic advisor. As research coordinator for GFLA, Rachael identifies rising women leaders and potential partnerships. She has collaborated with communities and women leaders across Australia, Mexico, Canada and the US, with a recent focus on young Indigenous women activists seeking justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. She holds a Master’s Degree from UNSW in Arts and Photo Media, and is on the advisory committee of the Townsville Indigenous Human Rights Group.