Emerging Young Leader Award

Donya Nasser


From November 2013 through January 15th, 2014, we asked: Are you a young woman who dreams of leading in politics? Or do you know one? After receiving almost 300 nominations of young women with demonstrated leadership ability and a passion to change the world, we’ve carefully chosen the 10 most outstanding nominees to be our semifinalists. Now it’s their turn. These 10 young women have a chance to get everyone voting so that they can become one of the 5 finalists. Our 5 finalists will be great role models for their peers, tireless advocates for the causes they care about, and leaders in all areas of their lives. Running Start will feature the finalists at our 8th Annual Women to Watch Awards in Washington, DC on April 2, 2014. The Finalists will share the stage with four high-powered women leaders who Running Start will also honor. The winner will be announced at the Awards ceremony.


Donya Nasser headshot Name: Donya Nasser
Age: 21
From: Orlando, Florida
Claim to fame: Watch. Her. Lead. (The project I developed to encourage young women of color to run for office.)

Why is Donya an Emerging Young Leader?

About Donya: Donya Nasser is a junior Honors student at St. John’s University studying Political Science and Women’s and Gender Studies. She is the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Youth Representative to the United Nations, Young Feminist Task Force Chair for the National Organization for Women, New York, and Vice President of the College Democrats of New York. Donya is passionate about “Watch.Her.Lead,” her project designed to encourage young women of color/minority women to run for office through empowering presentations and workshops. She hopes to one day cultivate her commitment to change and run for office, so she can better serve women and underrepresented communities.

Why Donya is an Emerging Young Leader:  My mother, Homa, has suffered hardships her entire life because of the gender she was born into. Although she faced struggles I will never know, I have used her personal story to inspire my own and the work that I wish to achieve. She has always told me, “Yadet nareh ke to bayat as hamaye dige dah-barobar sakhtar kar koni,” or, “Never forget that you have to work ten times harder than everyone else.” Unfortunately she knew that because I am a woman, I do not have equal opportunities. Moreover, as a woman of color and a first generation American and student, I am struck with even more obstacles to overcome. My life experiences and the difficulties I’ve had to face have instilled in me the motivation to help women and underserved communities through taking initiative and serving as a leader in my community. During the 2012 campaign season, I made it a priority to register voters in my Iranian-American community and strengthen their civic engagement, and was recognized by the Bipartisan Policy Center as their “Snaps for Service” contest winner. In the past year I have worked with NOW-NYS to revive the feminist movement among college students, and was a recipient of the Rosalba Polanco Leadership Award for those efforts. Furthermore, since I became aware of the significant gap between white women and women of color in elected office, I have encouraged young minority women to think about running for office through “Watch.Her.Lead.,” earning praise from the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) and the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) for this work.

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