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The Year In Review: Women’s Initiative
At the Bush Institute, we envision a world where all children have access to education, women are living healthy, vibrant lives, and the economic life of countries is spurred by the active inclusion of women. Through our work across the Women’s Initiative (including the Afghan Women’s Project, First Ladies Initiative, and the Women’s Initiative Fellowship), we aim to inspire leaders and improve the lives of women and girls at both the local and global levels.
Addressing important gender challenges across all program areas, here’s a look at seven major Women’s Initiative moments in 2015:
2015 Global Women’s Network: A Summit of Ideas, Innovation and Partnerships
The 2015 Global Women’s Network Summit spotlighted ideas, innovations, and partnerships that are disrupting the status quo and improving the lives of women and girls globally. Partnering with tech industry pioneers, such as Google. Facebook, Intel, and Cisco, the Bush Institute brought together more than 250 guests from over 20 countries (including First Ladies and leaders from the public, private, and NGO sectors) in Dallas, Texas to showcase effective interventions to address pressing gender challenges. Summit themes included technology and innovation with an emphasis on best practice solutions and partner collaboration in the areas of health, education and economic opportunity.
Launch of Custom Research
In February of this year, the Bush Institute’s First Ladies Initiative launched three new case studies, examining the work of first ladies in Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Uganda. Building on this research, the First Ladies Initiative is currently collaborating with the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) on a first of its kind study exploring the Role and Influence of First Ladies globally set for release in 2017.
First Ladies Initiative Advisor Trainings
Capacity building enables First Ladies’ staff to effectively support their principal’s agendas and platforms. Launched in 2014, the First Ladies Initiative Training program has welcomed the participation of advisors from over 12 countries across the globe. In 2015, the Bush Institute’s First Ladies continued to build out the program’s curriculum. Topics and featured content experts this year included:
- “Tools to Aid Partnership Impact” (June 2015: Johannesburg, South Africa), featuring Intel, World Vision, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and Opportunity International
- “Reaching Audiences: Best Practices for a Robust Digital Presence” (September 2015: Dallas, Texas), featuring Facebook and Google.
Partnership meetings and roundtable discussions provide an opportunity for First Ladies’ offices, relevant governmental ministers, and private partners to meet on a mutual area of interest with the goal of exploring specific program engagement. Each convening is initiated based on a First Lady’s platform focus and seeks to establish sustainable partnerships that encourage a continuum of service approach. In September 2015, the First Ladies Initiative brought together:
- The First Lady of Haiti, Her Excellency Sophia Martelly and leading practitioners and program implementers in the corporate, non-governmental organization, and non-profit organization sectors to discuss education and creating sustainable economic opportunities for women and girls in Haiti.
- The First Lady of Zambia, Her Excellency Esther Lungu; the Office of Her Excellency Jeannette Kagame; and innovative organizations and partnerships, including Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, to explore mutual areas of interest and potential program engagement in regards to improving maternal health in sub-Saharan Africa.
Women’s Initiative Fellowship: Graduation and New Class
In March 2015, the third class of Women’s Initiative Fellows – 17 Tunisian women – graduated from the program and the 2015 Women’s Initiative Fellowship class began with 14 Tunisian women. The 2015 class is comprised of lawyers, educators, a computer engineer, a current member of parliament, and a trainer seeking to counter radicalism. The Fellows and their American mentors reconvened in Prague, Czech Republic for a four day training around networking and leadership. The trainings were hosted at the CEELI Institute which works to develop an international, professional community of reformers committed to the rule of law.
Afghan Women’s Project
Mrs. Rula Ghani, First Lady of Afghanistan, visited Mrs. Bush at the Bush Center in February for a day focused on the progress and future of women in Afghanistan. After a private meeting, the women attended a meeting of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council and Mrs. Bush was also awarded the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from the American University of Afghanistan by their first female valedictorian, Onaba. The Women’s Initiative was pleased to welcome Onaba back to Dallas in September to moderate a conversation between Mrs. Bush and Mrs. Obama during the Global Women’s Network.
We Are Afghan Women
In her remarks at the Global Women’s Network, Mrs. Bush announced the Bush Institute’s latest book, We Are Afghan Women: Voice of Hope, which will be published in March 2016. The book spotlights the stories of 29 inspiring and heroic Afghan women in their own voices and records their extraordinary struggles, resolve, and will to triumph in present-day Afghanistan. With an Introduction by Mrs. Bush, We Are Afghan Women provides a portrait of Afghanistan through a host of accomplished Afghan women who have become educators, business owners, politicians, and philanthropists.
Betsy Martin is the Deputy Director of the Women’s Initiative
Natalie Gonnella-Platts is the Manager of the First Ladies Initiative
What’s Happening in Afghanistan?
While there have been tremendous gains in Afghanistan, lack of security threatens these gains daily.
Q&A with Dr. Nilofar Ibrahimi, Member of Parliament, Afghanistan
Dr. Nilofar Ibrahimi is a member of the national assembly of Afghanistan. She represents Badakhshan province in the Wolesi Jirga (house of representatives). Her story is one of survival, pursuit of dreams, and dedication to women’s well-being and health. Here, Dr. Ibrahimi shares her thoughts on the current state of Afghan women’s empowerment, the challenges women face in achieving equal rights, and the impact women have on the country’s long-term peace, security, and prosperity.
In Case You Missed It: The Breadwinner, an animated film about the strength and resilience of Afghan women and girls, premieres in the U.S.
The Breadwinner, a new animated film from executive producer Angelina Jolie, tells the story of Parvana, an 11-year-old girl growing up under the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. When her father is wrongfully arrested, Parvana disguises herself as a boy in order to support her family. With dauntless perseverance, Parvana draws strength from the stories her father told her, and ultimately risks her life to discover if he is still alive. The Breadwinner is an inspiring reminder of the power of stories, and their potential to unite and heal us all. It also provides an important spotlight on the struggle endured by Afghan families during the Taliban regime and the resilience of women and girls and their influence in building a brighter future for Afghanistan. Last year, the Bush Institute released We Are Afghan Women: Voices of Hope, which spotlights more of these courageous stories of Afghan women. Learn more about the book and our work by visiting:&nb
A Conversation: The Power and Influence of a First Spouse
At the 2017 Annual Concordia Summit Mrs. Laura Bush had a conversation with the First Lady of Namibia Monica Geingos and First Lady of Panama Lorena Castillo García de Varela about the role of first spouses, the value of women’s leadership, and how first spouses can be prominent voices for change around the world.