Jamie Greenwalt, our new U.S. Board member, talks about working as an international development expert and why she believes empowering young women is critical to creating a more just, equal world.
This post was written by Aparna Singh, Women LEAD’s Programs and Communications Associate.
Early this year, we were thrilled to have Jamie Greenawalt join our U.S. board. Jaime brings her expertise and skills in international development to Women LEAD’s board.
Jamie currently consults for the World Bank in Washington D.C. focusing on agriculture, food and nutrition security issues in the South Asia region. She has been working with a group of social enterprises in the region that aim to empower women economically, which is what she is most passionate about and why she was thrilled to be a part of the very important Women LEAD mission. She recently visited Women LEAD in Nepal and was thrilled to meet our young women LEADers! We got a chance to speak to her and know more about her experiences.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I have been working in the international development sector for about 12 years and right now, I am working for the World Bank and that is what has brought me to Nepal for some project work. I work with women entrepreneurs, primarily with women farmers and agriculture in the South Asian region. It is a natural fit for me to be a part of Women LEAD.
How do you feel is the situation of girls and young women around the world?
My primary experience with young women has been through Women LEAD. There is a lot of hope and work to be done in terms of empowerment, giving women opportunities to work outside the home, to be self sufficient, to be empowered to make a life decision based on what they want and not what their family wants of them. I think that it is happening but there is opportunities for improvement everywhere.
What inspired you to be a part of Women LEAD?
The fact that I work in the South Asian region now has been a great opportunity for me to learn about the region, its culture and fall in love with Nepal. My interest has always been to work with and support women and girls and one can do that it many ways. You can do that through advocacy, policy, directly through training and capacity building or through economic empowerment. When women are empowered, that is what gets me the most excited. So when I heard about the opportunity to be a part of Women LEAD, it was an obvious choice.
Why do you think girls and women are important for the development agenda?
Women are part of the economy and the invisible work that women do are not always counted towards the Gross Domestic Product of a country. Women are often marginalized by default and we, as women, have to fight that. We have to give an opportunity to our governments, organizations and the economists of our country to count our work. Child care, labor, cooking at home or even selling goods outside of the home needs to be counted. So, I think that in terms of the importance of women and girls for development, it is critical that women not just acquire skills, but that they also advocate about the things that they are contributing towards.
What are some of the challenges faced by women globally?
Unfortunately, Gender Based Violence and Domestic Violence are very common and it is a challenge for women in South Asia. Other than that, there are some cultural challenges like when joining a family after their marriage. Another challenge is believing in yourself as a woman and having the courage to have a voice. I think a lot of times, women are not as lucky because they do not have a support system to rely on. It is such a unique opportunity for all the girls who are involved with Women LEAD because that is your home, your support system. It is like you have this sliver of sunshine, hope and joy that you can be a consistent part of.
Do you know a woman who has been an inspiration in your life?
My mother really inspires me. She was a single mother for a number of years before she remarried. She has always been very selfless and giving and has always reminded me that I can do anything that I want to do. She has always encouraged me to be strong and to never give up. Even as a 34 old woman today, she still does that. She is my biggest cheerleader. I think that being empathetic and to be able to show support and love for another person is not necessarily innate in people but more of a learned skill. I think I learned to be empathetic to others from my mom and it affects my life- both personally and professionally. She is a great role model for me.
What advice would you give to aspiring future women leaders?
Anytime you find someone you admire, never be afraid to up to them and talk to them. Tell them that they have inspired you and thank them for doing so and ask them if they would be willing to help you. If they say no, ask them if they would be know someone who would be willing to help you because we as people, have to give back to other people. It is our duty to give and help other people. So as long as you are willing to help one another and to ask for that help, then the returns and yield you get from that is much greater than what we can imagine.