Exchange Matters / June 24, 2020

Global Ties Network Welcomes International Women of Courage

Compiled by Christian Caudill, Senior Associate, Communications, Global Ties U.S.

In March, the recipients of the U.S. Department of State International Women of Courage Award traveled to the U.S. on an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) implemented by Meridian International Center, a National Program Agency, and Community-Based Members (CBMs) around the Global Ties Network. Though the 2020 cohort had their trips cut short due to COVID-19, our CMBs shared meaningful highlights from their abbreviated visits.


Colorado Springs World Affairs Council

Amaya (center) with members of local faith organizations. Credit: Jamie Bequette.

Student activist Amaya Coppens captivated listeners each time she recounted her personal story and shared the current state of Nicaragua during her IVLP exchange. One attendee of the hospitality dinner defined the evening as “a surreal experience” and was “supremely impressed by her grace and strength in the face of a very uncertain future.”

The Colorado Springs World Affairs Council considers it both an honor and a privilege to host to such an inspiring, influential, and courageous woman. Her visit reminds us all that we must resolve to speak openly and without reservation about injustice.


Georgia Council for International Visitors

Lucy Kocharyan meeting with the Honorable Judge Renata Turner from Fulton County Juvenile Court and youthSparks. Credit: Sarah Weigel

Georgia Council for International Visitors had the fortunate opportunity to host Lucy Kocharyan of Armenia. Lucy spoke about her courageous work as a voice for injustices in her country and the impact that she had on her country when she shared and continues to share hundreds of letters written anonymously by women suffering from psychological, physical, and domestic violence. Lucy’s ability to talk to people of all ages about difficult topics was truly inspirational. During her time
in Atlanta, Lucy spoke with a group of middle and high school-aged refugee girls about her experiences and her work. She was also able to meet with other amazing
organizations that work to better the lives of women and children victims. Lucy’s story and courage left an impact on every meeting she had during her time in Atlanta.



Global Ties Alabama 

Amina with a statue of Rosa Parks. Credit: Jacqui Shipe

Global Ties Alabama was fortunate to host Amina Khoulani. She spoke to faculty and law students from Samford University’s Cumberland Law School at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and joined Executive Director Jacqueline Shipe for a presentation on “Women Warriors’’ in celebration of Women’s History Month in a meeting sponsored by the University of Alabama. She shared her personal journey to organize Syrian families who witnessed the disappearance and demise of their family members, including her two brothers, under the Bashir Al-Assad regime. Her visit culminated in an emotional tour of the Rosa Parks Museum, where Amina acknowledged the influence of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. on her own journey to become a woman of courage and leader in Syria.


Global Ties Detroit

Claire (center) with her home hospitality dinner hosts. Credit: Melissa Wandrei

Global Ties Detroit proudly welcomed Claire Ouedraogo of Burkina Faso in March, where she met with local organizations including the Detroit Free Press; Dearborn Police Department; and ACCESS Community Health and Research Center to discuss women’s economic empowerment, health, and strategies for response to domestic violence. Claire has dedicated her life to eliminating female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) and promoting female empowerment through family planning education, vocational training, and micro-credit for women in the rural and underserved Center North region of Burkina Faso. Her presence in Detroit was an inspiration and we were honored to host her.



Global Minnesota

Susanna (second from right) with HACER staff. Credit: Laurel Stoneking

It was Global Minnesota’s honor to host Susanna Liew, a stalwart defender of human rights from Malaysia. In a meeting with the Hispanic Advocacy and Community Empowerment through Research (HACER), Susanna learned how to better connect and chart the impact of a program for single mothers and, at Advocates for Human Rights, learned how the organization has expanded the reach of their programs using volunteer attorneys. Susanna connected with community members to share the heartbreaking story of the forced disappearance of her husband, and was interviewed by the two largest newspaper outlets in Minnesota, the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press. In addition to her professional appointments, Susanna attended an event in honor of International Women’s Day, and was hosted in a Minnesotan’s home for dinner. With each interaction, Susanna won the hearts of her audience and conveyed a powerful, yet soft-spoken message of advocacy and hope.


International Visitors Center of Jackson (IVCJ)

Jalilah Hader Credit: U.S. Department of State

IVCJ was elated to welcome Jalilah Haider to the great state of Mississippi. During her stay, she met with several local leaders working to advance the quality of life for women. Her meetings broached an array of topics from the rights of immigrants, to assisting women who suffer from domestic violence, to seeking equal pay for women in the state. One highlight of her visit was a panel discussion with Civil Rights activist Flonzie Brown-Wright and the chair of the Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable, Cassandra Welchin. It was an amazing experience to see such powerful and passionate women collaborating on issues to foster positive change in their respective communities.


San Diego Diplomacy Council

Yasmin (left) and Genevieve Jones-Wright discuss peacebuilding and human rights during a meeting in San Diego, CA. Credit: Jessica Frank

It was an incredible honor to host Yemeni human rights advocate Yasmin Al-Qadhi in San Diego. Yasmin shared details and insight about the dire humanitarian situation in Yemen, where civil war has been raging since 2015, and its global implications and impacts. We were humbled and grateful to learn from her, and despite the circumstances of the rapidly unfolding pandemic, she was able to have powerful conversations with community members doing amazing work in peacebuilding and human rights, including Project Concern International, Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, Genevieve Jones-Wright at Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans, and journalist Brooke Binkowski – all true champions of citizen diplomacy!”


Tulsa Global Alliance

Dr. Rita Nyampinga Credit: U.S. Department of State

Tulsa Global Alliance was honored to host Dr. Rita Nyampinga from Zimbabwe, a steadfast human rights defender and activist working to protect the rights of prisoners, especially women in detention. During her visit to Tulsa, Dr. Nyampinga met with representatives of several organizations that work with incarcerated women, including Resonance Center for Women, Stand in the Gap Ministries, ReMerge Oklahoma, Still She Rises, and Family and Childrens’ Services. She also spoke to students at Oral Roberts University; toured the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft, OK; and enjoyed home hospitality dinner with Glenn and Edith Wilson. After her return to Zimbabwe, she had this to say: “My visit to Tulsa was an eye-opener into transforming the lives of inmates. I met very amazing and committed men and women who are working towards changing the lives of the vulnerable members of the community.”



Shahla (second from left) at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois. Credit: Nina Wilson

WorldChicago was thrilled to host a human rights lawyer Shahla Humbatova of Azerbaijan, in March 2020. Her Chicago program included meetings with NGOs, government bodies, and legal advocacy groups that work to defend Chicago’s most marginalized populations. Shahla is such a bright spirit, and we – and the Chicago community – were so inspired to hear her story. Shahla is the true embodiment of courage – although she would call it “responsibility” – in that she refuses to let anything, even disbarment, deter her from fighting for human rights in Azerbaijan.



World Partnerships

Ximena (third from left) discusses women’s leadership in law enforcement with St. Petersburg Police Department officers. Credit: Mary Ellen Upton

World Partnerships welcomed Bolivian journalist Ximena Galarza for a roundtable discussion on women’s leadership in law enforcement and issues ranging from drug and human trafficking to public affairs with five senior law enforcement officers at the St. Petersburg Police Department. At the end of the meeting, Chief Anthony Holloway presented Ximena with a Proclamation from the City of St. Petersburg. Other program highlights included a lunch discussion with Tampa Bay women leaders; an interview with the Tampa Bay Times; and home hospitality with World Partnerships Trustee, BJ Sheffield.