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Sara Safari, Ph.D. is a 2021 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Dr. Sara Safari at her Dissertation Defense.

From L-R: Dr. Lize (A.E.) Booysen, Committee Chair, Dr. Jon Wergin, Committee Member, Dr. Jeffrey Kottler, Committee Member

Dissertation Committee

  • Lize (A.E.) Booysen, DBL, Committee Chair
  • Jon Wergin, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Jeffrey Kottler, Ph.D., Committee Member


Nepal, leadership, women empowerment, young women, leadership workshops, participatory action research, PAR, virtual participatory action research, V-PAR

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Publication Date



Adolescent girls in developing countries, especially those from impoverished backgrounds, face many challenges, such as cultural preference for sons, child marriage, and gender-based violence and harassment, which limit their access, opportunities, and leadership skills. The purpose of this study was to create a virtual empowerment and leadership program for young women based on extant literature, as well as best practices empowerment programs from South East Asia and empirical data. The main goal of the study using Virtual Participatory Action Research (V-PAR) was to organically create a leadership development program where the participants are the developers of the program. The goal of this approach is not only to create a sense of ownership among the participants, but also to empower them with culturally compatible knowledge and skill-sets. The workshop’s objective was designed and conducted by, and for, female college students to empower themselves to take on leadership roles in their personal and professional lives. What separated this research from similar leadership workshops and women’s empowerment programs was using the emergent methodology V-PAR, which became essential due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Limited research has been conducted on marginalized communities virtually by collaboration with local facilitators from the same culture. Furthermore, using V-PAR methodology supported the creation of a virtual environment for young women who live in underprivileged areas in Nepal and who lack accessibility and facilities needed to gain knowledge and competencies. The workshop generated a dynamic, iterative, and interactive setting that fostered continuous learning, support, feedback, and mentoring between the participants, and served as an ongoing incubator for development of leadership skills. This dissertation is available in open access at AURA, and OhioLINK ETD Center,


Sara Safari

ORCID Scholar ID #: #0000-0003-4403-9508

Sara Safari is originally from Iran. She now lives in Irvine, California. She is an author, speaker, mountain climber, college professor, Electrical Engineer and advocate for women empowerment. She has received the award for The Global Citizen from United Nations Association in 2015. She is a board member and director of development in Empower Nepali Girls foundation. She also has received the award for Outstanding Practice with Broad Impact in the area of women and leadership from International Leadership Association in 2017.

Sara is climbing the Seven Summits, the seven highest peaks in each continent, to raise funds for seven organizations who are empowering women. She published her books “Follow my Footsteps”, “Above the Mountain Shadow” and “Making a Difference” to share her story with the world to inspire people to climb their own Everests. She is also working on a featured film and a documentary with a team of producers who have extensive experience working on complex social justice issues.

Sara’s “Climb your Everest” TEDx talk: