Mahnaz Afkhami has been a leading advocate of women's rights for more than three decades. She is founder and President of the Women's Learning Partnership (WLP), an international organization that empowers women using its culturally appropriate curricula in 20 languages to train women in over 40 countries to become leaders by seeking and taking on decision making roles in politics, business, and civil society. She serves on the boards and steering committees of several international organizations, including the Global Fund for Women; Oxfam/Novib International Advisory Round Table; Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative; Women's Rights Division of Human Rights Watch; and chairs the advisory council of the International Museum of Women. She helped create the concept and mobilize support for the establishment of the United Nations' Asian and Pacific Centre for Women and Development (APCWD) and the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW). Prior to the Islamic revolution in Iran, she taught English literature at the National University of Iran, where she founded the Association of University Women. She served as Secretary General of the Women's Organization of Iran (1970-1979) and Iran's Minister for Women's Affairs (1975-1978).
Afkhami has published extensively on women’s issues. Her books Women in Exile, Faith and Freedom: Women's Human Rights in the Muslim World, Toward a Compassionate Society, and In the Eye of the Storm: Women in Post-revolutionary Iran are used in colleges and universities in the United States and abroad. The leadership manuals she has co-authored, Leading to Choices: A Leadership Training Handbook for Women and Claiming Our Rights: A Manual for Women’s Human Rights Education in Muslim Societies, and Leading to Action: A Political Participation Handbook for Women have been translated into several languages and are used in countries across the world.
Afkhami appears frequently on national radio and television as an expert on women's rights in the Middle East and North Africa, fundamentalism, and Iranian politics. She has been featured on BBC's "Hard Talk" and CNN's "Q&A." Most recently she has been interviewed by the Associated Press, the BBC, German Radio Network, Christiane Amanpour, National Public Radio, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, among others.