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Thanksgiving in Cairo

February 1, 2013 7 minute Read by Charity Wallace

This guest blog was written by WIFP mentor Lindi Harvey.

The Thanksgiving holiday is a sacred American tradition to celebrate the gift of family and friends. This year on Thanksgiving I enjoyed lamb and hummus in Cairo, Egypt instead of turkey and pumpkin pie in Washington, DC where I live. The opportunity to join in a dinner feast with Egyptian women who were selected as the Bush Center's Women's Initiative Fellows was, in every way, the best occasion to celebrate the gift of new family and friends that I gained this year. While I am hopeful there will be many more American Thanksgiving feasts I will enjoy in years to come I know that this particular year's celebration will always be a once-in-a-lifetime experience! It's been a privilege serving as a mentor for the Women's Initiative Fellowship Program (WIFP) throughout the year and in September I was thrilled to travel to Egypt along with the other American women mentors to spend several days with the Program's Fellows and join in the training sessions that were conducted. However, we had to shorten our expected stay because of the changing political conditions taking place in this country. Two months later, I returned to Cairo with Kym Sosolik, another mentor, and we continued the training sessions with the Egyptian Fellows on networking, business development and coalition building. Specifically, we shared our best practices and lessons learned in how to strategically select, connect and establish a relationship with others who may be of assistance in meeting the identified business development and community involvement goals for each Fellow. As part of our training sessions, Kym and I served as the Bush Center hosts for an evening Networking Reception designed to provide the Fellows with an opportunity to network and to practice new skills. The purpose of the Networking Reception was two-fold: (1) for the Fellows to identify other women in their community to invite as prospective members of the new Women's Initiative Leadership Network (more on that in a moment); and (2) for the Fellows to introduce themselves to new contacts invited to attend the Reception who may represent new business connections or perhaps new client assignments. This would not be an easy task for the Fellows because networking as we know it in the United States is not a common practice in Egypt. Kym and I were aware that most networking opportunities in this region are as a result of an introduction by a mutual acquaintance, one-on-one rather than in a group setting, and especially when it came to networking with men. In advance of the Reception, Kym and I set out to meet several of the invited guests of the Bush Center who are doing business in Egypt. For example, we met with Madeleine Harrison who serves as the Vice President of Corporate Communications for the International Business Associates Group (IBA). Many significant businesses are part of the IBA, which also publishes several magazines including Egypt Today and Business Today. At the Networking Reception Madeleine Harrison emphasized how important the work of the WIFP and the Fellows really is: "There is so much hope for the future of this great nation, but it will take time and most importantly, education to re-direct this remarkable nation toward a prosperous future. Despite all the recent challenges this country has faced, Egyptians have persevered and are continuing to move forward with dignity and pride. That is what, I believe, truly distinguishes the Egyptian people. They are craving to create a modern history that is just as impressive as their ancestors, and with support and guidance, such as the Women's Initiative Fellows Program and Leadership Network, from the international world, they will succeed. The greatest asset of this great nation is its people and it is admirable that the George W. Bush Institute is focusing on Egyptian women, the fundamental foundation of every family. By providing these women with such strong mentors and opportunities for exposure and education, it not only provides these women with a unique opportunity, but their families as well." Through skill-building and role-playing exercises, group and peer-to-peer discussions, along with individual mentoring we found each of the Fellows eagerly met the challenge of interfacing with others at this Reception. Research shows that the best indicator of a woman's success is in 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 networking, expanding its impact. One of the key components of the WIFP is for the Fellows to share their new skills and provide leadership in cascading their knowledge with other women that will offer more and more women opportunities to build and expand their networks and their businesses. Another key component of WIFP is in establishing the Women's Initiative Leadership Network (WILN), which offers an online portal for women to participate in discussions, training sessions, blogs, locate resource links, etc. The WILN will be managed by the Bush Center's Women's Initiative Office with a goal of increasing it's members with the help of each future Fellowship Program participants. The Fellows are eager to learn, utilize their new skills, build and grow their businesses. It is a personally remarkable and rewarding experience to witness this first hand. I have such deep and heartfelt appreciation and admiration of the Egyptian Fellows for their courage and commitment to reaching their potential. These Fellows will, in turn, become mentors to other women and grow the Women's Initiative Leadership Network to bring others together for support, education and empowerment. These are the role models for all of us to learn from.

This post was written by Lindi Harvey, a mentor with the Women’s Initiative Fellowship Program.


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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