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Mrs. Laura Bush Addresses the Role for Women in Freedom Movements

September 14, 2012

The George W. Bush Center hosted a first-of-its-kind gathering on International Women’s Day to celebrate and honor fourteen outstanding female leaders from Egypt. Following a keynote address by Mrs. Laura Bush, the inaugural Women’s Initiative Fellows participated in a town hall discussion, where they reflected on their experience in the United States, what they’ve learned from the Fellowship thus far, and what they hope to accomplish upon return to Egypt.  The Women’s Initiative Fellowship Program, the signature program of the Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative, is designed to empower and equip women to advance freedom.

“Last spring the world watched with cautious optimism as Arab women stood side by side with men demanding equal rights and representative governments,” said former First Lady Mrs. Laura Bush.  “The scenes in Tahrir Square and Bourguiba Avenue remind us that oppression and injustice cannot crush the spirit of freedom.”

“Our hope,” she continued, “is that the fellows will return home equipped to build an Egypt that respects and defends the rights of all Egyptians.”

Today’s commemoration concluded a month-long visit to the United States, the first component of the one-year fellowship with the Bush Center. Research has shown that the most important indicator of a woman’s success is her network. The Women’s Initiative Fellows will create a robust and supportive global women’s network to lead the charge for freedom.

“I believe more in women now,” said May, one of the Fellows, when she was asked about her experience in the United States. “I wish to bring this to women in Egypt. We are powerful individually, but we are more powerful together.”

As Fellows, these fourteen women will develop leadership skills and exchange techniques, ideas and expertise with their peers and high-level mentors in the U.S.

The 2012 Fellowship Program began in February in Dallas, TX, where the Fellows spent time in the classroom at Southern Methodist University studying and discussing a curriculum designed to address women in leadership. They covered topics such as influence without authority, negotiation, advocacy, and building teams and networks. In addition to classroom work, the Fellows visited civil society organizations, Fortune 100 companies, NGOs, and other sites across the U.S. to experience practical application of what they learned in the classroom.

“The Fellowship is meant to help these women create positive influence through civil society,” said Charity Wallace, Director of the Women’s Initiative at the Bush Center. “That means inspiring these women to become effective leaders in their communities and equipping them with the skills and knowledge they need to play a significant role in their country’s future.”

From Dallas, the Fellows traveled to New York City, Washington, D.C., and California’s Silicon Valley. This “Experience America” tour introduced the Fellows to an array of successful leaders, companies, foundations, and organizations, all highlighting practical and effective solutions for women in leadership. The Fellows visited Google, Twitter and the New York Stock Exchange, among others, to deepen their understanding of a wide variety of organizational structures and challenges.

They will return to their native country equipped to take a more proactive role in helping Egypt transition to democracy, and play a meaningful part in the future of their country. For more information on the individual Fellows, please visit: http://www.bushcenter.com/wifp-meet-the-fellows