Written by Menuka, 2011 LEADer and 2012 Fellow.
Last Saturday on 30th March, I attended a Young Women Entrepreneurs Summit as part of my fellowship with Women LEAD along with three other LEADers: Sujata, Aishwarya and Purnima. This was the very first summit where female entrepreneurs from all around Nepal came to share their ideas and learn from others’ experiences. I went there hoping to know the scale of women’s entrepreneurship in Nepal and get inspired by the speakers! There were people from all ages and different backgrounds: from women in restaurant and jewelry start-ups to MBA students to successful entrepreneurs. The key-note speaker, Allision Mooney, who is considered to be one of the best speakers in Australia, went through four personality types: playful, powerful, peaceful and precise, and how each is valuable and important to entrepreneurship. During the breaks I was able to talk with few of the women present and hear their stories. Most of them were above 30 but the way they talked and their passion for their work really impressed me.
During the “Inspiration Session”, I got a chance to hear the success story of Ms. Shyam Badan Shrestha, famous for her dolls and Ms. Hajuri Bista, who is the pickle queen. They both shared how they started their business and how their personal life was before they started their work. For them, their work means more than anything and now they are in their 40’s but then they still have that zeal to broaden their business. As a Nepalese woman, we think that our life changes after marriage, like after marriage all you need to do is take care of your family and do house hold chores. But in the work life balance session, Ms. Biina Rana and Ms. Seema Golchha stated that even though they are wives, mothers and daughters-in-law, they are also working women. They talked about how hard it was for them to convince their in laws to let them work but by crossing all the barriers they lived their dreams and now they are happily balancing their life.
When I was hearing the speeches of those women, I also felt like becoming one of them but then I thought “well… who is going to pay for my venture?” The next session on access to finance and business policy helped to solve my queries. Though I knew that there are lots of banks in Nepal, I never knew that they actually provide finance to start up new businesses and grow established businesses. And the fact that they supported and encouraged more women’s business and were ready to invest in their business boosted my confidence. The whole summit was really interactive and totally refreshing for me.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SUMMIT
● “After going to the summit I realized that in Nepal also there are women entrepreneurs. The way the guest speakers presented their work and experience was commendable- they taught me that it requires patience and hard work to reach the top and now I appreciate my talent.”- Sujata Khatiwada
● “In books there are things written about gender equality, but I’ve never felt that equality is present Nepal. I used to think that in Nepal it’s just the men who run businesses but I was wrong. In the summit, I was able to see and hear about the achievements of women entrepreneurs. Though I used to lack the confidence to start my own business, now I know if given the required resources women can start their own businesses”- Aishwarya Shrestha
Sarah Wallendjack, Women LEAD’s newest Supporter of the week is the president of the Women in Children’s Media, an organization which aims to raise awareness about the importance of social responsibility in children’s media. She works as a children’s television producer. Sarah has been working on pre-school television for the past 8 years. Her motivation to work for raising awareness for children through the media inspired us! Read more about Sarah and her accomplishments below!
What motivated you to get into your field of work?
It all started with the Muppets. I have been a fan since the early days and just wanted to be in that world. I later learned that there were people inside my TV set making that magic and that is when I set out to work in children’s media. Jim Henson has been a major inspiration to me. I also had the opportunity to be a student producer for my High School musical. It was there that I learned I had an organizational skill.
What is one accomplishment you are most proud of?
When I graduated college, I tried desperately to find a job in children’s television, but couldn’t. After a few months of job searching, I was offered a position at a new for-profit museum opening in Washington, DC – The International Spy Museum. I was very fortunate and got to see the museum rise from the ground from a bare construction site to a state of the art museum filled with lipstick pistols and rocks with hideaways in them. It was a pretty cool two years, but I always knew it wasn’t what I was meant to do, so I resigned and moved to NYC to pursue my goals. It was a bold move, but I never looked back and have been happily working in children’s television ever since.
Who is one woman that has impacted you?
I met a really wonderful Director during my first job in children’s television. She is an Emmy Award winning Director and has been working on Sesame Street since its first season. She has always offered me a grounded perspective on matters and been a real inspiration through my career. She has been a mentor and has helped guide my decisions and choices. I am very lucky to have her in my life.
What do you think are some obstacles for women’s leadership, in the United States and worldwide?
This is a hard question for me to answer because I am surrounded by a lot of powerful women. Many of the children’s networks, publishers and licensing companies have women in leadership positions. There are also a lot of female show creators that are running their own production companies. I have a lot of women to look up to and as a result, there isn’t much I feel I can’t do.
What advice do you have for the next generation of female leaders?
Be bold, go with your gut and find a mentor. Reach out to people who inspire you and connect.
Kate Otto, Women LEAD’s newest supporter of the week graduated New York University with a BA in International Relations and a MPA in International Health Policy & Management. Kate Otto works in the field of public health, at the intersection of new technologies and human behavior. She currently works with the World Bank in Ethiopia, where she monitors how mobile phone tools affect maternal health outcomes. Kate takes part in many service-driven communities, one of them being the Catherine B. Reynolds Program in Social Entrepreneurship, and the Academy of Achievement program. She is also writing a book called the Everyday Ambassador: How to Be a Global Citizen in a Digital World. You can check out her work on her website, TEDx talk, Facebook page, and her Twitter.
How did you first get involved in your field?
I was very blessed to be raised in a healthy family and a generally very healthy community. I never knew a lot about health as a social justice issue until high school. While I was in high school, I had the opportunity to volunteer at a local shelter that providing housing and support for Rhode Islanders living with HIV/AID. Just then, my journey to understanding health as a matter of social justice began! I saw pretty quickly how difficult life became living with HIV, not just the physical complications and mental health implications but also being judged by society. Through the lens of HIV/AIDS, I continued volunteering at home and then started doing so abroad – a semester in Ghana, a summer job in Tanzania, a fellowship in Indonesia – all aimed around the same themes of addressing health in both medical and social ways.
Could you talk a bit more about those three experiences? What were you doing in those countries?
I majored in International Relations in college, eager to become a ‘worldly’ person, and while originally I had planned to study French at the Sorbonne as my semester abroad, I changed my mind the day I read an advertisement for a Ghana program. I knew very little about Africa, but felt that if I wanted to be more worldly I should see much more of the world, learn from other people’s perspectives. And the semester definitely delivered — imagine learning about the trans-Atlantic slave trade from a West African professor? It was a powerful experience in re-learning world history and seeing that the way I was raised was just one of many, many perspectives. I also had the chance to volunteer throughout the semester with an HIV/AIDS clinic and with my friend Anita, who was a Ghanaian student at the same university, hosted a poster-design competition for students throughout Accra about overcoming the stigma associated w/ HIV/AIDS. I loved the experience of hearing those young students create their own messaging and campaigns – and we ended up raising about $10,000.00 for the clinic too.
While in Tanzania, I was asked to replicate a similar program (as in Ghana) in Tanzania by a gap year company called Work the World (now called GapMedic) – I had met the co-Founder while in Ghana. In Tanzania, I worked with a local NGO partner and 8 schools/youth centers to create an HIV testing campaign and testing day – a successful event but more than that, another heavy set of lessons I learned in terms of my role as a foreigner abroad, how to cultivate leadership, honing patience and cultural communication skills, and seeing how my small project fit into a much bigger picture.
In Indonesia I spent the year on a Henry Luce Foundation Scholarship with a local drug rehabilitation and HIV/AIDS center called Rumah Cemara (rumahcemara.org) and they transformed my life as well in a multitude of ways. Their model of care is ‘peer support’ – so almost all employees are living with HIV and recovering heroin addicts (for the first time in my life I was a minority for being neither) – and their results are brilliant. They deeply understand their clients not just as numbers or disease or conditions, but as emotional beings, and they’re treated like friends, like family.
In all of those experiences, what have you felt was your biggest leadership test, and how did you overcome it?
I would say that in each of those experiences, my biggest leadership test was the moment in a project when I needed to “let go” and trust my teammates and partners. As someone who tends to take on a lot of work (and enjoy that!), I am sometimes very successful because I can ‘do everything myself’; multi-task, create efficiencies, work tirelessly. However one person is one person, and I was humbled each time when I realized that I was indeed only one of a greater team, and unless my entire team felt empowered and was at their best, then even my best efforts wouldn’t create success.
Can you talk about one woman who has impacted you during your work or outside of work?
The first woman that comes to mind is my friend Glory, who was one of my high school students during the summer in Tanzania. She was very bright but also very financially poor, and about a year after I had left she called me in the US and explained to me that she was being held back from graduation because her family couldn’t afford $300 in accumulated school fees. (Her mother had died and her father had other wives, who didn’t treat Glory well since she wasn’t ‘their’ child). My family happily sponsored her to graduate high school, and then Glory and I had a heart to heart about her goals and dreams, and she explained she wanted to teach more people about her country and become a tour guide, maybe even run her own company one day. So I agreed to fundraise for her college degree, and she’s finishing up Year 1 right now! (http://www.indiegogo.com/glorycollege?a=566228) The reason she’s so impactful in my life is for a few reasons (1) she’s a loving, positive force; (2) she reminds me how much in my life I have to be grateful for – having access to loans for college, having a stable, secure family; (3) she represents to me the strength and resilience that I think lie deep down in most people, she calls upon it so often to keep pushing through to new levels of success; (4) she engages people in her life fruitfully – she joined Facebook and meets and makes new friends all over the world who learn about her efforts
How did you create the concept of “everyday ambassador”, and when did that become the blog and book?
When I was preparing to leave Indonesia after the year, I had a few different career paths set before me – directing a national health non-profit’s Boston office, staying in Indonesia and continuing in development work, teaming up with the World Bank and returning to Africa – and I had no idea on which way to go. So I started reading back through old journals and blog posts, and compiled essentially a memoir type of document, for myself and my own reflection. Months later I realized it might be interesting to others thinking about ‘how can I make the best impact in a globalized world’ and so I changed my website to be everydayambassador.org and began crafting a book proposal and refining the text. Through the comments and feedback of friends and colleagues, I realized the right ‘place’ for EA was in bringing up the issue of our generation’s time: in a world that’s limitlessly ‘connected’, are we actually getting farther away from each other. I certainly had many ‘crash course’ experiences abroad when I learned how to meaningfully work w/ others (not just demand results or expect perfection, like we can do from our devices) — and I began to hear a lot of people sharing similar stories. So I’m continuing to compile them as I prepare the book, and very excited to see where it will go!
Did you ever feel any discrimination as a woman/female leader in any of the places you worked in?
As for discrimination, unfortunately yes, though it’s subtle and silent. The times I have observed it, I have found to be true what has been revealed in sociological research to date: when men adopt ‘leadership qualities’ they are hailed as powerful, and when women do the same they are considered to be emotional, mean, and or harsh. I do my best to be cognizant of these biases without feeling constrained by them, and one thing I do that I always encourage my peers and younger women to do is to not perpetuate such stereotypes (women play a role in that too). I think gaining respect is a result of being respectful towards others first, and in cases where the party in question is simply disrespectful, then I think that is always worth calling out and addressing in a direct way.
To add to that advice, what you advise young women who want to go into the health field?
My advice to young women would be no different than my advice to young men: get to the roots. Understand in a deeply human way what causes disease, and whether you end up working at the downstream end of treatment or more upstream on prevention, make sure you have the bigger picture in mind. Accept that you’re one small part of a big system, and learn that system inside-out (whether it’s a community health level or a national Ministry). And if you’re designing any kind of ‘solution’, test-test-test. Make sure what you’re creating makes sense to intended users.
Hello leaders! Here is a Social Media roundup of all of our postings on our Twitter Page. Check it out, and make sure to follow us as well!
Meet our supporter of the week, Carolyn Janssen. Carolyn interns with Women LEAD in Nepal. She is an artist/art educator who is deeply moved by the issues of gender equality. Carolyn joined the Women LEAD team because of her passion and drive to help every young female discover their true talent and potential. With her artwork, Carolyn hopes to inspire young leaders and create change in Nepal!
Why do you want to be involved with Women LEAD? Why attracts you to working on young women’s leadership?
My interest in this work stems from witnessing the work of remarkable women. I am consistently impressed by the creativity and gutsy ambition of young women, and I value a world where their talent is celebrated. I find Women LEAD‘s cutting edge approach to supporting young leadership Nepal to be compelling, and I want to join forces!
Professionally, I am an artist and art educator who has been increasingly compelled by issues of gender equality. While working at Sattya Media Arts Collective in Kathmandu, I was introduced to Women LEAD and became intrigued by the prospect of offering street art workshops that promoted women and art activism. Thus far it’s been a blast—everyone at Women LEAD is so interesting, inspiring and lots of fun.
Describe a woman who inspires you!
Lately I’ve been excited by the work of women artists, writers and filmmakers, particularly those that feature dynamic female protagonists. Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel and film Persepolis is a wonderful example, offering an autobiographical account of an outspoken young Iranian girl coming-of-age during the Islamic Revolution. Both the graphic novel and the film are hauntingly beautiful and present a compelling narrative. Some of my other creative heroes include Ann Hamilton, Kristen Wiig, Sofia Coppola and Shana Moulton.
What’s the accomplishment you’re most proud of to date?
I am proud of the recent body of artwork developed while earning a MFA at the University of North Carolina: a collection of mural-sized digital landscapes that explore ritual, materiality and gender. I’ve enjoyed connecting with artists who are exploring similar themes, and it’s been rewarding to watch the work’s audience grow. This past year, I completed a residency at the Kala Art Institute in Berkeley, California, showed work at the Ackland Museum of Art and created a series of commissioned billboards for the North Carolina Museum of Art.
What do you hope to get out of your time with Women LEAD?
I look forward to rubbing shoulders with innovative young women, plotting to create change, making plenty of collaborative art, and rabble rousing! Being present in Nepal during such a politically formative transition has been fascinating, and I look forward to witnessing how the members of Women LEAD play a part.
Chrissy Horansky is an advocate for global education and champion for women and girls, who has been named a Global Shaper by the World Economic Forum. She is a blogger for the Huffington Post, where she writes on global social good from a Millennial perspective. Chrissy recently served as a moderator for the World Bank’s Open Forum on Gender as well as the U.S. Department of State’s Women in Public Service launch. She holds a Master’s degree in International Education Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Mount Holyoke College. She is the Founder of Ivy & Airwaves, a social enterprise specializing in advocacy communications for advancing global and social impact, based in Washington D.C.
My interest in global development grew organically out of my travels to South America, where I first witnessed at a young age both the barriers of poverty and the tenacity of the human spirit. I saw firsthand that people are what powers development. At the same time, I could feel the transformative power that education was having in my own life and took an interest in education as means of investing in people. As a graduate of a women’s college, I come from a rich legacy that questions the equality of opportunity women and girls are afforded. I believe whole-heartedly that we will not beat poverty until women and girls are empowered to become part of the solution.
What is the accomplishment you are most proud of?
I am incredibly proud to have had the chance to work on the UN’s Millennium Development Goal campaign to achieve universal education and gender equality during my time at the World Bank. This entailed a lot of work on communicating global progress — what success stories look like, where targets are lagging, how partners and recipients could be better engaged — all with the goal of increasing funding, political will, and the smart investing of resources in ways that change peoples’ lives. I was also excited to moderate sessions at the Open Forum on Gender and the launch of the U.S. Department of State’s Women in Public Service initiative. I love being a writer and an advocate. Becoming a featured contributor to the Huffington Post has given me an outlet to share my perspectives with a wider audience, which is another a life goal for me.
What skill/attitude etc. has contributed to your success?
I am a people person! Being able to naturally connect with others makes my work infinitely easier. When colleagues and counterparts seek me out, my job is done. I also can’t sit still, I am always getting up to do a lap around the office. I think it helps re-energize and focus me. A love of languages has also helped deepen my relationships with international colleagues.
Can you talk about one woman who has impacted you during your work or outside of work?
I feel like I have been surrounded by amazing women my whole life! — in particular my mom and the sisterhood that is Mount Holyoke College. At the moment, I have been shadowing the incredible Kate Roberts, who bridges global health with powerful communications campaigns that drive action to save lives. She established the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers community to pass the baton, so I try to watch and learn as much as possible! I love having female role models. I am lucky to have also had amazing male mentors, including Robin Horn and Phil Hay, who always encouraged me to stand up and speak.
You work on girls’ education: have you seen any general changes in field in the past few years? What are the biggest challenges left?
In the West, I think we are slow to realize just how different the lives of adolescent girls are in developing countries. At a shockingly young age, girls are often at risk for child marriage and pregnancy, which derails not just their schooling but future. Health and education interventions that aim to improve the lives of girls need to start young, go hand in hand, and realistically teach life skills that help avoid poverty traps. One of the biggest challenges to keeping women and girls’ interests on the global agenda is something that I think often goes unspoken — and that is having greater political representation of women in government and civil service. Greater coordination around these issues is helping but much more needs to be done.
I have to say, for me the most exciting part of having a public voice are all the messages I get from other young women who relate to my story. I love ambitious young women! What I have learned is to figure out 1) what you are really good at, and 2) what you really like doing. And don’t be scared. When someone gives you an inch, run a mile. Passion and energy will pay off.
Erik Heinonen is a Master’s Student in International Relations at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale University. From 2007 to 2009 he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Moldova, where he taught health education and life skills courses at a village school in the Calarasi district. In Moldova he also co-directed a team-building and leadership training seminars for children, teens and young adults throughout the country, and co-managed the construction of a park and sports complex in Bravicea village. Erik also spent six months with the Peace Corps in Panama, teaching English and training English teachers, and in 2011 he directed a summer TOEFL and SAT preparation course for promising students from Kenya’s Rift Valley aspiring to attend university in the US. As an undergraduate at the University of Colorado, Heinonen was a member of the school’s track and field and cross country teams, and served as co-captain of the Buffaloes’ 2006 NCAA Champion cross country team.
What got you started in your field? How did you become interested in leadership training?
My dad was a women’s track and field and cross country coach at the University of Oregon for nearly 30 years, so I grew up around sports and learning what makes a good leader in that kind of setting. I had my own coaches too, along the way playing different sports. I learned a lot about how to lead from observation and my coach at the University of Colorado, Mark Wetmore, was an incredible leader, someone you absolutely never wanted to fail because you know how hard he worked for you, and cared about you as a person and while I was in college I had the chance to be a co-captain of our team, which was a great experience in terms of trying to be a leader among my peers.
Leadership and teamwork was an ideal I was around a lot. I saw these qualities by working as a journalist during college in a newsroom setting and participating in volunteer work and the Student Athletes Advisory Council at school And then as a Peace Corps volunteer in Moldova. I was teaching life skills and health education which in some ways, is very much like being a “life coach” given the kinds of topics we covered in class (e.g. decision making, communication, values, relationships, dealing with stress and emotions).
While I was in Moldova I applied and was accepted to be part of a small team building and leadership group run by volunteers called Haiduci. I got to spend the summer and weekends during the school year traveling around the country helping organize teambuilding and leadership for various groups of children, teens and adults and it was just so fulfilling to do these trainings that for most people were so novel and interesting, but to also get feedback that it helped them think about things in a different way.
Out of all of these, what is the accomplishment you are most proud of?
From my pre-Peace Corps life, it was winning the NCAA championships in 2006. While doing cross country my running career had gone horribly for several years and I was able to salvage it during my last season, but more than that at Colorado (I had started at University of Oregon then transfered) I had a really caring, amazing, supportive team both my coach and my teammates and it was such an honor to be chosen as a co-captain and to know that I helped make it possible in the way I was able when 10 years of training boils down to one 30 minute race. But in the Peace Corps, it really wasn’t a one moment thing it was day in and day out building relationships with people learning from them about their lives and teaching what I could.
Would you say that during that period was one you had the most challenging leadership tests?
With running, it was challenging in the sense that I wasn’t the best runner on my team. There were other guys that had and have gone on to have amazing careers with Olympic aspirations, so my role wasn’t leading in the sense of being out front but more to try to lead by example and to figure out how I could make my teammates better somehow. What my value added in that situation, was a unique one. In Peace Corps, the biggest challenge in terms of leadership in my own work was trying to create and maintain interest and to get people to believe The Soviet collapse had really profound effects on countries like Moldova and one of them has been a certain degree of resignation and mistrust so when we wanted to do community projects. It was a challenge to get people on board and to believe we were going to do what we said we would. Life in the countryside can be really hard if you’re trying to make ends meet and ultimately volunteers from time to time are depending on other people to volunteer their time as participants too!
So in that environment, what do you believe was the skill/attitude etc. that has helped contributed to your success?
Just continuing to show up every day and working myself and being happy that some people did come. The biggest project we took on was to build a park in my community. It was an 11 month process and about four months of actually building it. The attitude had to be, “we’re gonna get this done one way or another even if its just me and a handful of people.” Adults were generally really busy with summer work in the fields, but the kids were excited to help so lots of days it would be me, the three men we hired to do some of the more technical work, and a bunch of primary schoolers or a handful of my 12th grade students when they could take time from preparing for their exams. Eventually once people started to see we were going to get the project finished, more and more started to come help and by the end we would have as many as 50 people helping. About two thirds of them were kids from the community. They took tasks such as painting, pulling weeds, helping feel wheelbarrows, picking up rocks it was really touching.
Let’s talk about your work specifically with TARE/GLOW. How was that experience? How was it teaching leadership to these girls?
Honestly, of any one short-term thing I was involved with, TARE and GLOW were the most amazing Just a great concept bringing motivated, outstanding girls from all over the country together for a week partly to learn things about topics that are new or that they know less about life skills things, reproductive health, nutrition, etc but also to just get to know each other. Also, to meet other girls like themselves and see that other girls deal with the same things they do and to be inspired by each other and the amazing things so many of them were doing in their communities. It was just amazing to play a small part in it. Our group was asked to come lead some teamwork activities and games, either as an ice-breaker, or as an end-of-the-week session but we were lucky enough to get to spend some extra time and see some of the other activities and the best/worst was the good-byes at the end seeing the connections the girls had made during the week and feeling they had really been empowered by the experience and might think differently about certain things: careers, relationships, reproductive health, domestic violence. It’s always a weird feeling to promote these ideals, because it feels like you’re pushing “American/Western” values. The world is coming on board or at least enough people in enough places are realizing how key it is to educate girls and women, and to have women in leadership roles and having a say in decisions that affect women’s lives! We seem to be forgetting or have not to fully embraced those things in America either based on many political discussions.
So how would you describe women’s status/rights in Moldova?
It’s certainly changing. We talked a lot about gender roles in my life skills classes for being a relatively poor country (GDP per capita around $3000).The education rate is really high in terms of literacy. Many women go to college, but there is still the sentiment that getting married and having kids is the most important thing women should do with their lives. This is not the only way a woman should think. These are not her only options.
So what are your plans in this field? What do you want to do in the future?
I’m getting my masters in international relations right now and I’m focusing on Eastern Europe and Central Asia. I am thinking quite a bit about development and global health issues. I’ve also had a great class on leadership and I feel passionate about all these things, so ideally, I will be able to bring all those things together. Somehow I still feel like I have a lot to learn about the region and people’s lived experience (as opposed to reading historical accounts and policy memos). Maybe later on I will be confident enough to explore the policy realm more. In the meantime, I’m excited to hopefully work with motivated people trying to address important needs wherever that might end up being!
Meet the newest member of the Women LEAD team: Erinn Bernstein. Erinn will be working with us as our Team LEADer in New York City.
Erinn is originally from a small town around Syracuse, New York. She had always excelled in school, and knew that she wanted to place her efforts in something that she was passionate about. However, she didn’t know what that passion was. As an undergraduate student in Buffalo, New York, Erinn majored in psychology. Erinn became very interested in mental health–particularly, women’s mental health. She continued to graduate school, where she earned my M.A. and Ed.M. in Counseling Psychology at Teachers College of Columbia University. At Teachers College, Erinn conducted research on the topic of poverty, mental health, and empowerment interventions. As a graduate student, Erinn also became interested in the feminist approach–both in regards to counseling psychology, and to leadership. Erinn worked as a Wellness Coordinator for a college, where she implemented a campus initiative called ‘Body Positive’, based on the organization ‘The Body Positive’ and its principles, that works to decrease body-shaming culture on campus. Through her experience, Erinn stated that she found not one, but several things that she is passionate about: this includes women’s mental health, youth empowerment, women’s leadership, and strengthening communities.
Why do you want to become involved with Women LEAD? Why do you care about young women’s leadership?
I want to become involved with Women LEAD because I am passionate about empowering young women and helping young women to take on leadership roles in various domains. I am passionate about making steps to change the deeply embedded system of patriarchy that exists in many cultures that is so tragic for women and our wellbeing. I believe that the high rates of mental health issues for women, as compared to men, have much to do with the sexist and patriarchal context that many women live in. I have grown up in the United States, with a culture which encourages women to believe that our values lie solely in our appearance and our service to men. In this way, I can relate to girls around the world, such as in Nepal, who may face similar obstacles. Finally, I believe that by increasing the percentage of women in leadership positions, as cliché as this may sound, the world will truly be a better place.
Why do you think you would be a good Team LEADer? How would you contribute to the program? What do you hope to gain from the program?
I have the many abilities that will help me succeed in the role of Team LEADer. Firstly, I am highly organized, and have thrived with leadership positions in the past; these skills will allow me to effectively organize a team of leaders and volunteers, and to successfully organize a culminating fundraising event for Women LEAD. I am also knowledgeable about social networking, and have excellent interpersonal skills, and thus will be able to contribute by representing Women LEAD at formal and informal networking events, as well as in social media. Through working as a Team LEADer, I hope to further develop my leadership skills, and encourage other young women to develop as leaders. Most importantly, I will be personally fulfilled by volunteering for a cause that I am passionate about, and by taking steps to encourage young women worldwide to become leaders.
Name one woman leader who you think has made a difference or impact in her community/country or globally and what she did to make a difference.
I have recently been quite impacted by Jennifer Siebel Newson, who wrote, directed, and produced the documentary Miss Representation. This document helps uncover the blatant sexism in America’s media culture, and the harmful impacts of this culture. The film relates this media culture to the lack of women in leadership roles, and calls for change in how women are portrayed in mass media. Miss Representation has been lauded for its raw power and honesty, and its message has reached millions in America. I think that this film speaks to the power of media, and how important it is to fight back. Jennifer Siebel Newson recognized that mass media messages are hurting women, and in turn used the same media to fight back. These actions, and her messages, are both inspiring.
What is your most significant accomplishment to date?
My most significant accomplishment to date is my completion of a two-year Masters program in Counseling Psychology at Teachers College. I am aware of my privilege to attend such a prestigious institution, and I made sure to make the most out of my time as a graduate student. I did this by excelling in my courses, joining clubs and taking on leadership positions, and doing research that I am truly passionate about.
Meet the Newest member of the Women LEAD team Ambar Paulino. Ambar will be working with us as our Social Media and Programs Intern in New York City!
Born to Dominican parents in New York City, Ambar is a 19-year-old female and a rising sophomore, majoring in English at Trinity College (Hartford, Connecticut). During her first year at Trinity, Ambar’s interests and passion for social justice and equality inspired her to join various clubs and organizations on campus including the Women and Gender Resource Action Center and her campus’ Student Government Association. She was recently reelected as one of the Senators for the Class of 2015, and was also elected to serve on the executive board for Trinity College’s Black Womens Organization (TCBWO) for the 2012-2013 school year.
Getting to know our new Intern
Why did you want to become involved with Women LEAD? Why do you care about young women’s leadership?
I wanted to become involved with Women LEAD for a number of reasons. For starters, I wanted to put my foot forth for women’s rights, not only nationally, but internationally as well. On a daily basis, I see slogans that belittle the female community such as, “Act like a lady, think like a boss.” I personally think that women are the bosses, we are such a powerful entity and I believe that together so much change can occur. Throughout my high school and now college career, I was given many opportunities to serve as a leader in my community, and I took each and every role that was offered to me enthusiastically. Unfortunately, there are millions of women across the globe who desire to take upon these leadership roles that I myself serve in, but they are lacking the resources to do so. Some aren’t even granted these opportunities because they are female. By working with Women LEAD, I hope to not only educate myself, but all of those who I know, so that someday every woman could have the opportunity to reach their full potential and take upon roles that are not conventional for women
Name one woman leader who you think has made a difference or impact in her community/country or globally and what she did to make a difference.
One woman leader who I believe has made a difference in the United States or even globally is Oprah Winfrey. Since her debut on national television in 1983, Winfrey has proved to me, and the rest of the world that anyone can be successful and powerful if they are dedicated and persistent in their work. She is known as one of the most influential media personalities, and is known for her endless effort to be a figure of wealth that gives back to the community. This media mogul had her own television show aired for 25 years, she produced various films and even established her own television network. In 1991, Winfrey helped to initiate the National Child Protection Act, and even invested millions of dollars of her own money to create the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. Winfrey has won numerous awards, including “The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Entertainer of the year” award (1989). In 2012, she was named one of the “150 Women Who Shake the World.” She is an inspirational figure to many women across the nation, regardless of their race because she embodies success. She is an example of a woman who was able to take upon a difficult task; Winfrey broke barriers in the television industry, and because of this she is an inspiration.
What is your most significant accomplishment to date?
My most significant accomplishment to date is my completion of a successful first year at Trinity. Before I left home for college, many people warned me about how difficult someone’s first year can be. I entered Trinity knowing that I couldn’t let those statements scare me and dictate my grades. My first semester was very successful, academically and socially. I found myself with enough time to do work and to participate in all of the organizations, and accept leadership roles that I never knew I could have. I learned a lot about myself during my first year, and I know what are my weaknesses and strengths.