It is December and the hills surrounding the San Francisco Bay Area are tinged with snow. Inside the classroom, women from sub-Saharan Africa and India are wrapped in shawls and sweaters. The atmosphere, in contrast, is warm and electric. These women are designing new futures for thousands of people all over the world.
These 19 women from Ghana, India, Kenya, S. Africa, Turkey, Uganda, and the United States are here to achieve a quantum leap in their leadership. These women are dedicated to developing their capacity to transform the future of their organizations, communities and the world. They are attending a week-long leadership intensive called Women Leaders for the World (WLW) – one of the offerings of the Global Women’s Leadership Network (GWLN).
On the last day of the 2009 program, these 19 courageous women stood in front of 200+ people at a gala dinner and spoke their visions for their organizations. Here are a few examples.
Economic development and philanthropy:
- Increase the prosperity level in Turkey through the development of women entrepreneurs with a “Women-Up” web portal
- Create a world where everyone is socially responsible and Turkish corporate employees lead the way
- Transform women farmers in Uganda from living at the subsistence level to commercial agricultural production
- Eradicate world poverty by creating a new paradigm of giving
- Have a world where girls and women lead technological innovations, starting in Zambia
- Stimulate a world in which all life is valued through the visual arts
- Share the arts to enhance understanding and deepen appreciation for each other
- Create a “Zero Garbage” world
Women’s and Children:
- Make this a world free of domestic violence
- Connect children across the whole world to realize their dreams
- Work with girls and young women in Kenya to discover and develop their ability to make a living
- Provide a community in Uganda where women have financial access to quality health care
- Provide shelter, training and education to Kenyan widows and girls to transform their future
- Forge a global community where women and children, regardless of their past, can live peaceful, productive lives! Start with women in California’s prisons
- Create a safer life with zero tolerance to violence for women and children
- Create a world in which all children can read
- Create a world where women, girls and children who have experienced abuse are transformed to become dignified leaders!
- Empower and equip all women and girls to be whole women and whole leaders to fulfill their visions for a whole world
These leaders, and all those who graduated before them, are altering the current national and global status quo to improve economies, relieve suffering, and solve the world’s most challenging problems. Solving difficult problems starts with leadership. Investment in leadership education is a highly leveraged way to stimulate global problem solving. Through its programs, GWLN is building a cadre of women leaders who are standing for equality, moving people from poverty to self sufficiency and providing people, particularly girl children, with much needed healthcare and education.
Established in 2004, GWLN is executing two fundamental strategies. First, it is stimulating new levels of women’s leadership through training, particularly for women in the developing world. Second, it is creating a strong network of support that allows unimaginable results to occur through collaboration.
GWLN’s Vision: Whole Woman, Whole Leader, Whole World
GWLN’s Mission: To ignite a new future for humanity by liberating women leaders to bring us all to a world built upon human rights and gender equality, sustainable development, and peace. GWLN supports the achievement of the United Nations Millennium Goals and designs programs and events with those goals in mind.
Whole Woman: To release the essence of women’s leadership and deeply connect women with each other in order to live authentically and to fulfill their life’s purpose.
Whole Leader: To create a powerful network of women leaders and organizations in order to accelerate global innovation.
Whole World: To create partnerships with organizations committed to global citizenship in order to generate world transformation.
Women Leaders for the World is global in scope, bringing together women from multiple sectors – government, community benefit organizations, business, academia and widespread geographies. It is unique in its promise to equip participants with the development and ongoing support they need to implement a visionary project. Participants are carefully selected for their potential to impact their communities -which in some cases are “regions”-such as Southeast Asia or Sub-Saharan Africa–from a pool of international nominees.
The curriculum is focused on sparking innovation, creativity, and breakthrough thinking. It expands women leader’s capacity and capability for creating networks, coalitions, and alliances. It raises their awareness of how their local issues are truly global in nature. It includes not only the classroom work, but also exposure to thought leaders in the Silicon Valley. The training days are followed by three months of telephone coaching in small groups.
The five sessions of Women Leaders for the World has helped to accelerate the results of 100 graduates from 29 countries. In 2009, a research project was completed to document the impact of WLW. Alumnae reported that they have an “exponential” increase in confidence and courage, clearer visions, more influential communication skills, an expanded and supportive network, a global perspective, and renewed energy to deal effectively with the challenges they face. They find new levels of ability to build teams and in their capacity to deal with challenges, opportunities and adversity. They reported many instances of being perceived as leaders by their communities and governments.
The Global Fellows Program uses the network of organizations whose leaders have attended WLW to offer summer NGO assignments to Santa Clara University undergraduates. These five – seven week, globally-oriented work experiences, directly immerse young leaders in global social justice issues. The students have taught classes to HIV/AIDS orphans, helped craft programs to fight female infanticide, built websites to promote much needed resources, and launched micro-credit financial institutions. Through these activities, the young leaders are building their skills, enhancing their experience, and generating deep levels of understanding.
The Global Innovation Dialogues are facilitated conversations for large groups of people and are held quarterly around a theme. Among speakers have been Nancy Hafkin on Cyberella, Marian Stetson-Rodriguez on Building Trust in Global Teams, Nilofer Merchant on The New How, and Anne Firth Murray on Outrage to Courage. The participants include Santa Clara University alumni, faculty, staff, and students as well as a broad spectrum of Silicon Valley community members.
The At the Well monthly event features a personal story of transformation followed by conversations of discovery that focus on a range of key leadership issues. The dialogues in small groups spark innovative thinking for emerging leadership and encourage building connections. Women who have recently shared their personal story of transformation are: Sema Basol on Learning How to Dream and Discovering Your True Passion; Mary Burns on Making a Difference in Malawi; and, Joan Banich on Design, Not Fear: Living this Luminous Life.
To accelerate our results worldwide GWLN is planning to take its programs into developing countries. It is conducting primary research into the requirements for women’s leadership training in cities and villages around the globe. It is formulating plans to open regional centers through partners in India, sub-Saharan Africa, and Turkey over the next five years.
GWLN is financed through program revenues, grants, and individual donations. Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business provides it with facilities, web support, and other essential services. GWLN is grateful to the many people who provide countless hours of volunteer time to make our programs happen.
Here are ways for people to get involved:
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