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In our Nation's capital, the journey continues for our Women's Initiative Fellows

March 21, 2014 5 minute Read by Charity Wallace

The 2014 Fellowship class departed Dallas earlier this week bound for Washington, D.C. – where we were greeted by snow! For most of the Fellows, this was the first time they had seen snow and they were filled with delight to experience the beautiful snow fall.  On our first full day in D.C., federal offices were closed due to the weather, so our planned visits were rescheduled. We made the most of a “snow day” by taking a tour of the monuments by bus. The Fellows took photos at the monuments of our nation's most notable and inspiring leaders -- reading the moving words of Lincoln's second inaugural and considered how their responsibility and involvement in the historic change happening in Tunisia.

Tuesday started with a visit to Voice of America (VOA) and Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). Letitia King, the director of Public Affairs for BBG, moderated a panel discussion with two female Middle Eastern journalists, AyeshaTanzeem and Lamia Bourogaa. The group discussed the role of media in society and the role of women in journalism, and focused on the characteristics of a free press and the importance of sharing all sides of an issue. “As society develops, people’s tolerance for differing viewpoints develops,” Ayesha explained. The Fellowship continued a discussion on the freedom of press later in the day with a stop at America Abroad Media (AAM). AAM staff explained how they use a townhall method to connect citizens to exchange ideas on society and governance through audience discussions. AAM has an office in Tunis and has convened numerous townhall meetings throughout the last three years during this time in Tunisia. One of the Fellows has partnered with AAM on their programming, and others talked about waiting the townhalls on television.  The visit served as an example of how the media can help play a role in fostering civil society.

The Fellows attended a lunch panel discussion with members from organizations that support the development of democracy: International Republican Institute (IRI), National Democratic Institute (NDI), Freedom House, and the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE). They participated in a dynamic exchange about each group’s work in Tunisia, particularly in helping empower women through political and economic participation. The panelists agreed that Tunisia remains the brightest spot in the Middle East, pointing to substantial gains and the growing hope for a stable democracy moving forward.

Tuesday concluded with a terrific opportunity for the Fellows to network with some incredible American women leaders. At Meridian International, each of the Fellows participated in “speed convening” where they rapidly exchanged ideas and information with a table of powerful women before moving on to the next. They were able to put last week’s lessons on building powerful networks and critical conversations to use in just a matter of a few minutes. Following the valuable event, the women attended a reception with many influential leaders in the nation’s capital and met their ambassador to the United States.  The Tunisian ambassador recently arrived for his post in the U.S. and provided encouraging words of support and hope to the Fellows.

On Wednesday, the Fellows started with a visit to the State Department to learn more about the work of the Office of Global Women’s Affairs. They learned of important resources available to them through the State Department and exchanged ideas with several State Department leaders who had served in Tunisia.  Afterwards, we toured two of the most iconic institutions in America -- the White House and the United States Capitol. The Fellows enjoyed seeing the beautiful ceremonial rooms in the East Wing of the White House and hearing about the history of the President’s home. At the Capitol, our group toured the Old Supreme Court Chamber, saw the awe-inspiring Rotunda, and took in the incredible views of the city from the Speaker’s Balcony. Finally, we toured the Sewall-Belmont House, a museum honoring the U.S. women's suffrage and equal-rights movements. The Fellows were inspired by the stories of American suffragettes who fought for equal rights, pushed for the opportunity for women to vote, and created their own ripple effect.

Leaving DC, we all reflected on the role of leaders in the founding of a nation and how these courageous Tunisian women will play a significant role on the advancement of their great nation.


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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