We are honored to welcome guest blogger Charity Wallace, Director of the Women’s Initiative at the Bush Institute, and Senior Advisor to Mrs. Laura Bush.
Women and girls are critical to peace and prosperity. Countries that promote girls’ education and women’s opportunity are proven to be more stable and prosperous. When girls are educated, they delay marriage, have fewer children, raise healthier, more educated families, and have opportunities to contribute in the workforce and earn an income. The simple ability to read can change the course of woman’s life and has a profound impact on her future and her country’s stability.
Unfortunately, there are places in the world where women and girls are persecuted and prevented from pursuing their education. Just today, the Washington Post published an op-ed written by Mrs. Laura Bush that condemns the brutal attack by the Taliban on a fourteen year old Pakistani girl whose only crime was the desire to go to school.
Mrs. Laura Bush chairs the Women’s Initiative at The George W. Bush Institute, which recognizes the dramatic effects that literacy, education, economic opportunity and the inclusion of women have on communities, and understands that progress in these areas can transform societies. Through the Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative, we address these fundamental issues and invest in women so that they can catalyze change.
The Women’s Initiative Fellowship Program, the signature program of the Women’s Initiative, is a leadership program that equips women to become effective leaders and improve society. Research shows that the best indicator of a women’s success is her network. With a strong network, a woman is better able to prosper in her field and multiply her influence. A woman taps into the resources and expertise of those within her diverse network, expanding its impact. Recognizing the significance of the network, the Women’s Initiative Fellowship classes are comprised of approximately twenty women from one country representing the six most influential sectors of society including education, health, business, politics, law and media. This structure ensures that the impact in the respective community is substantial, concentrated and powerful.
The Women’s Initiative Fellowship combines coursework, hands-on skill building, sharing of best-practice models, dedicated mentors, and the development of a strong network to ensure that fellows return home prepared to create significant and lasting change in their country. The Fellowship partners with organizations like LitWorld to enhance the fellows learning and introduce them to new programs, which could be replicated in their home country.
The inaugural class of Women’s Initiative Fellows has made great strides since the program launched in February 2012. Since the beginning of the program, several Fellows have started their own businesses, one Fellow used her expertise in fundraising to raise over $32million for her charity, the Egyptian National Cancer Institute, another Fellow uses her voice and her photography skills for a campaign to stop sexual harassment, and one Fellow started her own online media organization called Bokra news to ensure uncensored news is available to Egyptian citizens.
Though the Fellows did not know each other before the program, since returning to Egypt, many have worked together, using their unique skills and talents, to further causes that benefit women, children, and Egyptian society. The power of the network is evident in their success. The remarkable stories of the courageous Egyptian women that make up the inaugural class of Women’s Initiative Fellows can be found here.
Supporting women and girls is one of the most important efforts of our generation and the Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative will continue to stand up for girls and women around the world.