Can networking really lead to a better tomorrow and a better world? Charity Wallace, Senior Advisor to Laura Bush, believes it can. She says it starts with empowering women. Charity shared with us how the Women’s Initiative Fellowship is turning this vision into reality.
4word: Can you start by telling us about the Women’s Initiative Fellowship? How did it start?
Charity: When I started as the Director of the Women’s Initiative in September 2010, President Bush told me, “Charity, Laura and I believe that women will lead the freedom and democracy movement in the Middle East – so get on that”. Through identifying gaps, reviewing effective programs, researching and much prayer, I developed the Fellowship.
The Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative Fellowship is designed to equip and empower women to become effective leaders. The Fellowship develops the leadership skills of women around the world, with an initial focus on women in the Middle East and North Africa. Fellows exchange techniques, ideas and expertise; learn effective tools that help them become better advocates for social stability; and build a strong global women’s network.
4word: What contributes to the success of The Fellowship?
Charity: Research shows that the best indicator of a woman’s success is 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 network, expanding its impact.
Recognizing the significance of the network, each Fellowship class is comprised of approximately twenty women from one country representing the six most influential sectors of society, including business, education, health, law, media and politics. This structure ensures that the impact in the respective community is substantial, concentrated and powerful.
We have hosted two classes of Egyptian women fellows. Our fellows include journalists, lawyers, teachers, political activists, and health professionals. Each fellow is paired with a prominent female American mentor, and all the fellows spend six weeks in the United States to develop leadership skills to build the civil institutions that are necessary to support democracy.
4word: How did cultural differences between Egypt and the United States affect the creation of the Women’s Initiative Fellowship?
Charity: Women are important to the development of any society – be it the US or Egypt – so we discuss issues that are relevant to women in every corner of the world. The U.S. is blessed in that women have experienced great strides in inclusion over the last several decades, and our experience can be drawn upon to help women in other countries. For instance, we discuss “influence without authority” and “building powerful networks” which is helpful for every woman. But, we are also sensitive to cultural and religious issues that may differ from the U.S. To show our respect for their culture and religion, we ensure the women have Halal meals and time for daily prayer.
One of the wonderful things that results from the Fellowship is a mutual understanding and respect. American women learn about Egyptians and the Muslim religion from these remarkable women, breaking down stereotypes or biases. Egyptian women learn about the generosity of spirit and kindness of Americans. Many of the Fellows commented on Americans’ genuine desire to help without an expectation of anything in return.
4word: What aspect of the Fellowship are you most passionate about?
Charity: I am most passionate about the personal investment that I make in the lives of the fellows. I feel privileged to show them God’s love for them and to encourage them in their pursuits. Helping the women find their God-given purpose and providing them with critical leadership skills enables them to flourish – even in the midst of enormous challenges they face in their home country. I am inspired by their courage and their lives.
4word: How can our readers support the Women’s Initiative Fellowship?
Charity: There are several ways to support the Women’s Initiative Fellowship:
First, financial support is always appreciated – small or large. The wonderful part of this program is that you see the lives you are changing due to your support. An investment in these women is an investment in all of our futures. By bringing democracy and freedom to the Middle East through women, we believe it will result in a more stable world.
Second, every fellow is paired with a mentor in her specific field for a year. If someone is interested in committing to a year-long mentoring relationship, they can submit their resume at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Third, encouragement and prayer is a very important contribution to the program. My team and the fellows often face issues of safety while in the country. I am a strong believer that prayer is powerful, and covet the prayers of people for the fellows.
How has networking impacted your career? If you would like to learn more about The Fellowship, click here.