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An Olympic Moment for Middle Eastern Women

August 9, 2012 3 minute Read by Charity Wallace

Yesterday, an alumnus from my alma mater, Pepperdine University, crossed the finish line in London and walked onto the pages of history books. Not because she won a gold medal, or because she broke a world record. In fact, she finished last in her heat. No, her accomplishment was far greater. Sarah Attar became the first female track Olympian from Saudi Arabia, a country that had previously not allowed women to participate in the Olympics.

The London games have marked an important moment for women in the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia and Qatar sending women to participate for the first time. In fact, the 2012 Olympics will go down in history as the first time every country sent a woman to the games. While much media speculation has centered on what their participation really means for women’s progress in the Middle East, the reality is that this is an important milestone for women and girls in a region where their role has for too long been ignored. In the past several years as democracy has begun to take hold all across the Middle East and North Africa, the role of women in building stronger, more stable and inclusive societies has steadily increased. And while their gains can never be taken for granted, at the George W. Bush Institute, we are celebrating their involvement. The Women’s Initiative, chaired by Mrs. Laura W. Bush, is focused on empowering women to change their native countries. Our signature program, the Women’s Initiative Fellowship Program, is currently providing 14 Egyptian women with skills-based training, mentorship and resources to help them be positive and effectual catalysts for change in their country. We believe active participation by all citizens – men and women – is key to building lasting, peaceful and prosperous societies. Whether it’s Tweeting live from Tahrir Square, or running track in London, Middle Eastern women are actively changing hearts, and perceptions – and hopefully continuing to change their societies along the way. We’ll continue to root them on, and support them at every step. This post was written by Charity Wallace, Director of the Women’s Initiative  at the George W. Bush Institute.

 


Author

Charity Wallace
Charity Wallace

Charity N. Wallace serves as the Senior Advisor to the Women's Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute and is in an executive graduate program in pursuit of a Global Master of Arts degree in international relations from The Fletcher School at Tufts University. Most recently, Ms. Wallace served as the Vice President of the Global Women’s Initiatives and Senior Advisor to Mrs. Laura Bush. In this role, Ms. Wallace was responsible for setting the vision and managing the policy engagement for the women’s initiatives, including Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon global health initiative, empowering women in the Middle East and working with First Ladies from around the world. The Women's Initiative aims to improve access to education, health care, and economic opportunity for women and children in Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.

From February 2009 through September 2010, Wallace served as the Chief of Staff to Mrs. Laura Bush.  Wallace oversaw Mrs. Bush’s initiatives - from her wide ranging policy agenda to her the publishing and promotion of Mrs. Bush’s bestselling book, Spoken from the Heart. Wallace served in the Bush Administration from January 2001 to January 2009.  During her tenure in the administration, she served as Deputy Chief of Protocol of the United States (2007-2009), Director of Advance for First Lady Laura Bush (2004-2007), and worked in public liaison positions in Presidential Advance, the U.S. Department of Education, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and USA Freedom Corps. During her tenure in the Bush Administration and in her current role, Wallace has traveled to 70 countries.

Ms. Wallace serves on the Board of Advisors for the School of Public Policy at Pepperdine University, the Advisory Board of ARZU Studio Hope, the Advisory Board of 4word Women and the Advisory Board of All In Together, an bi-partisan organization that promotes women’s engagement in political and civic life.  Ms. Wallace is an ex-officio member on the Human Freedom Advisory Council for the Bush Institute.  Ms. Wallace wrote the foreword for the book Work, Love, Pray, which was released in 2011. A native of California, Ms. Wallace graduated magna cum laude from Pepperdine University with a Bachelor of Arts in political science, with a focus in international relations. 

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