Exchange Matters / March 21, 2023

Women’s Empowerment and its Impact

This March, the Global Ties Network reflected on the impact of people-to-people exchanges like the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) and the strong women leaders they’ve had the opportunity to host. In the snapshots below, GlobalJax discusses an IVLP project on ending gender based violence and their local community resources working to create inclusive and safe environments for women; World Affairs Council of Kentucky & Southern Indiana shares a project for women in politics; World Affairs Council of New Hampshire reflects on the importance of women’s empowerment and collaborating to educate and exchange ideas with other female role models; and WorldBoston discusses the advancement of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). 


IVLP: Ending Gender Based Violence
NPA:  FHI360
By Kristina Escudero, Program Officer 

GlobalJax had the privilege to share our community with a delegation of 15 international visitors specializing in the topic of Ending Gender Based Violence. The delegates arrived during the Thanksgiving holiday, from November 23-29, 2022, and were able to travel to St. Augustine, Florida for historic and cultural activities in the oldest city in the United States, where they learned from the best professional resources in North Florida on the subject of domestic violence and women’s empowerment, and spent time with a local family for a traditional Thanksgiving meal. 

We were thrilled to be able to send them to a variety of women’s centers in our region, including the Women’s Center of Jacksonville and Quigley House. Highlights of the program included an empowering meeting at the University of North Florida (UNF) Women’s Center, where the delegation learned from Women’s Center Specialist, Gabriella Marquez, about how staff members work to create an inclusive and supportive environment for young women on campus. The UNF Women’s Center’s mission is to advocate for the political, social, and economic gains of all people by addressing gender-based inequalities, and educate others about how gender inequalities are connected to other areas of disenfranchisement and oppression. 

Another great highlight of the program was engaging with one of the top detectives in the field of domestic violence in the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Special Assault Unit, Detective Sherry Milowicki. The delegation listened as she recounted her lengthy career in the unit, her strategies working to investigate cases of domestic abuse, violence, and sex crimes, and her efforts to bring justice to many victims of these crimes. 

Participants gather on Jacksonville Beach for Luminaria, a holiday lantern celebration. Photo provided by GlobalJax.


Additionally, our Executive Director, Andrea Myers, generously opened up her home for Thanksgiving dinner so the delegates could experience a traditional U.S. holiday meal. She cooked turkey, decorated her home, and shared about her life and 15-year career at GlobalJax with the delegation. She did all this, despite having suffered the loss her mother, only a few days prior. After the gathering, Kerly, one of the visitors, Leon had this to say about Andrea’s hospitality, “What really touched my heart was Thanksgiving. Our host, Andrea, had recently lost her mother, but she found something within her to welcome us. My mother also passed away recently, and it made me stronger to see how strong Andrea was.”  

This quote is a testament to the power of home hospitality during an IVLP, and why exchange matters. Exchanges allow not only international visitors to complete their professional objectives, but everyone involved to create connections and feel strength, peace, and togetherness as humans, especially during hard stages of life. Exchanges help build support systems among likeminded individuals, and this delegation radiated support and empowerment for one another. 

World Affairs Council of Kentucky & Southern Indiana

IVLP: Lean (In)dia: Empowering the Next Generation of Western and Central India’s Women Legislators
NPA: Meridian International Center
By Madison Brooks, Exchange Program Manager 

In November of 2022, the World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana hosted three women legislators from India through an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) project titled, “Lean (In)dia: Empowering the Next Generation of Western and Central India’s Women Legislators.” The project included several inspiring meetings with local experts, including the Louisville Chapter of the League of Women Voters (LWV) and Former Kentucky State Representative Attica Scott.  

In the meeting with the LWV, the visitors were able to further examine the history of women in politics in Kentucky and discuss how the LWV supports women who are running for office. They also heard how the organization provides unbiased, nonpartisan resources about politics and voting to the public. Both the representatives from the LWV and the visitors were able to ask questions and share their experiences.  

The visitors also met with former KY State Representative Attica Scott. In 2016, she defeated a 34-year incumbent to become the first black woman in nearly 20 years to serve in the state legislature. Representative Scott is a certified anti-racism trainer through Crossroads Ministry and the Commission on Religion in Appalachia. She has provided leadership to a number of nonprofits, including Building Hope Kentucky, Restorative Justice Louisville, National Organizers Alliance, Hispanic/Latino Coalition of Louisville, and New Directions Housing Corporation. In the meeting, former Representative Scott and the visitors were able to discuss ways to further the role of women in politics in both the United States and India.  

This program was valuable because it gave both the visitors from India and the U.S. resources with whom they met the chance to share their thoughts, experiences, and ideas. The goal was to have fruitful discussions about how to best help women currently holding a political office, those seeking to hold political office, and those who simply want to be able to vote and participate as a civilian. Much of this program was about empowering women in politics, form relationships and exchange new ideas. This is why exchange matters. 

Delegates gather for Lean (In)dia: Empowering the Next Generation of Western and Central India’s Women Legislators. Photo provided by World Affairs Council of Kentucky & Southern Indiana.

Once the delegates returned home from their stay in Jacksonville, we soon learned that one of our visitors was being recognized for her work by receiving a U.S. Department of State Global Human Rights Defender Award. Detective Sherry Milowicki of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Special Assault Unit, wrote in to send congratulations to Rosa Melania Reyes Velasquez. She had this to say of the accomplishment, “I am so happy to hear Ms. Rosa Melania Reyes Velasquez is being honored for her achievements in the field of Global Human Rights. As always, it is a pleasure sharing information and policies with various persons all over the world, so that we all learn better ways to help those in need.” 

We are so proud of her achievement on this award, and the achievements of all of the other wonderful delegates we met during their stay in Jacksonville on this Ending Gender Based Violence IVLP. 

World Affairs Council of New Hampshire

IVLP: Empowering Women in Politics
NPAs: IIE and MCID Washington
By Anise Jasman-Sayers, International Visitor Program Director 

Last year, the World Affairs Council of New Hampshire was pleased to welcome two groups focused on empowering women: “Empowering Women in Political Leadership” from Japan, organized with IIE and “Empowering Women in Politics” from Pakistan, organized with MCID Washington. These two IVLP delegations had the opportunity to participate in professional meetings such as a leadership workshop led by a subject matter expert, a roundtable discussion with female state legislators representing both the Senate and the House, and meet with the first female Mayor from Manchester, New Hampshire’s largest City. 

All of these meetings highlighted various fields where women excel in our state; However, in each meeting, the visitors also learned about the struggles that women in NH have previously and currently still face simply because of their gender. The women in these delegations learned that although the United States and their countries may be very different, we still share many similarities, especially our struggles for gender equality. 

The first Empowering Women IVLP group that we hosted included five incredible women from Japan. We were fortunate to have among the group a pioneer, Ayako Fuchigami ,the first openly transgender parliamentarian in Japan. As I got to know her, I couldn’t help but think of her journey to where she is today: her courage, fight, heroes, goals, and if she has thought about the door, she has opened for all those who come after her. I was honored to have met someone with such strength. 

Ayako Fuchigami (right) with one of the delegates and a local resource. Photo provided by World Affairs Council of New Hampshire.

Our December Empowering Women IVLP delegation was from Pakistan, and included a group of five remarkable women representing both the federal and state government. It was inspiring to learn about the hard work, dedication, and drive that they needed to get to where they are today.  

During their time in NH, both delegations attended home hospitality dinners. Our Pakistan group was hosted by some of our board members for a welcoming party. The Pakistani women were all dressed in cultural attire including headwear, and they all shared wonderful stories about life in Pakistan while we enjoyed some traditional desserts they brought to share. At one point they jumped in to help our U.S. host prepare dinner, as it is custom for individuals that are younger to prepare and cook meals as a sign of respect for individuals that are considered elders. Many of the hosts were older than the international visitors, so they wanted to be sure to lend a hand in the kitchen. This tradition is not the same for how many communities operate here in the United States, so it was an interesting element to learn. When the evening was over, everyone left with a newfound sense of understanding and respect for each other, and many new friendships were able to take form. 

One bonus of my job is traveling along with the groups. This not only helps visitors by providing valuable information as they acclimate to our state, but it also provides a chance to personally get to know them. One favorite memory from our Pakistan group was an extended lunch break we took at the mall. After eating, I went for a walk with two of our visitors, and little did I know a surprise was around the corner: Santa Claus. Both visitors laughed like schoolgirls and took pictures. To see the joy in their faces was invaluable, and it was a perfect way to end their stay in New Hampshire during the holiday season. 

As a woman in the United States, I take many things for granted, such as the right to vote, drive, express my personal opinions, and the ability to become a CEO or the Vice President of the United States While our personal life paths are all difficult in various ways, the IVLP exchange truly puts into perspective the struggles that others face throughout the world. We may not always be able to relate, but we can understand each other better through IVLP. By creating these two ways exchanges, we can collaborate together and help make the world become a better place.  


IVLP: Hidden No More: Empowering Women Leaders in STEM
NPAs: FHI 360
By Sarah Sibley, Vice President for Citizen Diplomacy 

In November 2022, WorldBoston hosted the special IVLP initiative “Hidden No More: Empowering Women Leaders in STEM” (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). in partnership with FHI 360. Women leaders from 21 countries visited Boston from November 2-6 to explore themes such as research institutions and laboratories, science communication, and supporting women in STEM. With Boston being the largest city in New England and a global scientific hub, it offered a unique opportunity for the participants to engage with cutting-edge research institutions and STEM-based private industry while interacting with the women who work in them. 

Hidden No More: Empowering Women in STEM participants take a group photo during the welcome reception. Photo provided by WorldBoston.

The group had the opportunity to visit the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for a couple different meetings discussing innovation in energy and technology. Additionally, the group met with Microsoft Research New England Research & Development Center (NERD Center) to unpack interdisciplinary research, along with the GBH NOVA team, a show produced by Boston’s public education station, for a comprehensive look at equitable dissemination of work and discoveries made in the STEM fields to wider audiences. Meetings organized by WorldBoston highlighted the importance of exchanges across physical borders, disciplines, and gender.  

One of the highlights of the visit was a public networking event dedicated to empowering underrepresented voices in the biotechnology industry hosted by WorldBoston and LabCentral Ignite. In the heart of world renown Kendall Square, five panelists shared their experiences as women leaders in STEM innovation, including three of the IVLP participants. Celebrating the contributions of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is one of the first steps in advancing women’s employment opportunities in these fields. Given the tangible energy and audible buzz in the room, the IVLP participants embodied this mentality and showed that diverse perspectives can, and will, solve bigger problems.