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Tomorrow marks the third anniversary of Egypt’s historic revolution and the ousting of Hosni Mubarak. Since those early and exhilarating days in Tahrir Square in 2011, Egypt has undergone tremendous upheaval. From the highs of voting in a new government only to become disillusioned and outraged by their strong handed rule, to the lows of the recent bombings in downtown Cairo, Egyptians have lived under the strain of the volatile attempts to build a new democracy. The last three years have not brought the future most Egyptians envisioned when they stood shoulder to shoulder in the Square. Rather, the years have been riddled with horrific attacks on women, minority populations, and those in the opposition – from both groups of anti-Muslim Brotherhood and pro-Muslim Brotherhood. Many may question if it was all worth it, and if they are better off. I know there are varying feelings about this question – but I also know that the idea of freedom and democracy still remains in the hearts of Egyptians and is the hope for their future.
Over the last two years, the Bush Institute has worked closely with more than 30 extraordinary Egyptian women as part of our Women’s Initiative Fellowship. These women have developed invaluable leadership skills that they are using to contribute to their communities and, ultimately, to the future of the country. Despite facing unbelievable challenges, these women have bravely continued their work in education, health, business, civil society, law and media. They have started programs to help women and children in the slum areas, taught men and women the art of handicrafts and employed them, launched youth development programs, educated special needs children, healed refugees and underserved Egyptians, written books for women about how to address domestic violence, encouraged women to understand their rights, trained people in political participation and human rights, and used their voice on radio and television to expose corruption.
When I become discouraged and overwhelmed by the bad news from Egypt, I remember our courageous women fellows that are committed and diligently working to build a better future for Egypt. None may be as famous as Malala or Mother Theresa, but I find this group of women as inspiring, brave, strong, and determined.
Will Egypt’s future be bright? It will if they take the hard and necessary steps to include women in every aspect of society, respect the rights of minorities, and protect its citizens under the law and constitution. It will if civil society is able to freely and effective operate. It will if the women in our fellowship, and countless others like them, are able to fully realize their potential without fear of violence, subjugation, and restriction. Egypt’s long and beautiful history can and should be restored. But, it will only happen if all its citizens, and particularly its women, are valued and respected.
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.Full Bio
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The inaugural class of WE Lead scholars graduated from the 5-month program on March 21. WE Lead seeks to empower and equip women to become more effective leaders and to advance economic opportunity in their communities and countries.
Q&A with WE Lead Scholar Nadia Behboodi
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