Jena Karim serves as The Asia Foundation’s deputy country representative in Afghanistan. Jena served in this position previously from 2015 to 2016, during which she represented the Foundation with senior officials in Afghanistan, the United States, and other strategic states on political events, security, and policy options to enable peace in Afghanistan. She also guided the Foundation’s teams in Afghanistan on strategy and programming, including regional cooperation, governance and law, and women’s empowerment initiatives.
A democracy and governance specialist, Jena has 18 years of experience, working in and on Afghanistan for over 10 years. Most recently, she served as Asia advisor for the National Democratic Institute in Washington, D.C. In this role, she led a team on the development and implementation of a diverse portfolio of elections, pluralism, civic engagement, and capacity development programs in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. She also provided political, electoral, and constitutional/legal analysis.
From 2016 to 2019, she was an independent consultant working on political economy and electoral analysis; programmatic strategy and design; civil society toolkit development and review; political party development and evidence-based civil society advocacy training. Her clients included Counterpart International, the National Endowment for Democracy, Aga Khan Development Network, World Learning, Democracy International, International Research and Exchanges Board, among other organizations. In addition to Afghanistan, Jena has worked in and on a variety of conflict and transitional contexts, including Bangladesh, Pakistan, Myanmar, Tajikistan, and Sudan.
Education: Jena holds a master’s degree in Constitutional Law from York University in Canada, a master’s degree in Islamic Studies from McGill University in Canada, and a bachelor’s degree in Comparative and American Politics from Oberlin College in the United States. She speaks Urdu and Persian to an intermediate level. Jena published a book on Islam and political culture in Pakistan and has presented on civil society, legal, and governance reform in academic and policy settings, including the International Political Science Association, and guest lectures at Oberlin College, University of Maryland, College Park, and University of Maryland, Baltimore.