Meet the 2018 Kansas Participants!

We are so thrilled to welcome this year’s class of Kansas participants to the Kansas Women’s Leadership Institute! This stellar group will work right alongside our international participants this summer for a transformative six weeks. Learn more about each of them below.



Kali Chatmon

Sophomore
Pittsburg State University
Majoring in Political Science with a minor in Women and Gender Studies
Bonner Springs, KS


Hello! My name is Kali Chatmon. I am a sophomore at Pittsburg State University. My major is Political Science with a minor in Women and Gender Studies. Here at Pitt I am the President of Black Student Association and a Resident Assistant in the campus dorms. I am originally from Kansas City, KS but I have spent a majority of my life here in Bonner Springs, KS! Coming from and attending College in a small town has sparked a passion for Diversity inside of me. More specifically, I have a passion for diversity in leadership. I hope to see political offices of all kinds become more diverse and I plan to be at the forefronts of this change! Here at KWLI, I hope to gain insight and knowledge that I can use to strengthen my leadership skills, while passing down to others what I have learned.

Kelli Forrest

Junior
Washburn University
Majoring in Respiratory Therapy and Health Administration with a minor in Communication
Manhattan, KS

I am Kelli Forrest I am a committed respiratory therapist majoring at Washburn University. I will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in health administration, an associate degree in respiratory therapy, and minor in communication. I am originally from Manhattan, Ks but that does not restrict me from my enjoyment of traveling and meeting new people. A little bit about me is I am pretty much an open book, and I am very approachable. My passion involves tons of different things such as art, music, communication in health care, volunteering, and women’s rights. I believe in participating in the KWLI will help me improve my leadership skills and expand my knowledge on women’s issues in other economies. Also, words can’t explain how excited I am about this experience of a life time, and I can’t wait to meet my fellow KWLI sisters.

Caroline Hwang

Freshman
University of Kansas
Majoring in Community Health, Exercise Science, or Interdisciplinary Computing with a minor in Leadership Studies
Manhattan, KS

Hello! My name is Caroline Hwang and I am from Manhattan, Kansas. I lived in Taiwan for 8 years during my elementary school and middle school years, where my experiences contributed to my perspectives and values now. I am a freshman at the University of Kansas, and I am currently still deciding on a major between Community Health, Exercise Science, and Interdisciplinary Computing. I also plan to minor in Leadership and am on the pre-med track. I am most passionate about helping people feel better both physically and mentally, which is why I would like to become a family doctor- so I can turn my passions into actions and help all ages of individuals. I am also very interested in coding, which is the reason I am fascinated by the power of technology and like to imagine how it will transform our future. Furthermore, I love traveling, making new friends, learning new skills, and strive to make positive changes in the world. From participating in the KWLI program, I hope to learn how to be a wonderful leader who is powerful but can also lead people to follow with their hearts. I believe leadership is very important because a good leader can bring positive changes to the world while also influencing many others to use their strengths to create more positive movements. 🙂

Emily Kondziola

Junior
Bethel College
Majoring in Communication Arts and Peace and Conflict Studies
Newton, KS

Hello! My name is Emily Kondziola, and I am a junior at Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas. North Newton is also my hometown! I am double majoring in Communication Arts and Peace and Conflict Studies.

My entire life I have cared deeply about gender equality and problems faced by women. When I came to Bethel, I realized I also care about peace and nonviolent ideology. My hope is that by participating in the KWLI, I will learn to reconcile these two things through thoughtful and inclusive leadership that strives to make tangible change, while at the same time, meeting some really awesome women from around the world that share a similar passion. I believe women are the best actors to create an environment where other women excel – and I hope being in the KWLI will help me capture the essence of that environment.

In the long term, I hope to be a lawyer, or work for the UN.

Isabel Rosales

Freshman
Colby Community College
Pre-Med major
Colby, KS


Hi, I am Isabel Rosales and I was born and raised in Colby, KS. I attend Colby Community College where I will be a sophomore in the fall. I am currently a Pre-Med major. I am most passionate about my family and friends. I was raised in a very close family. The reason I would like to become a doctor is that my dad has inspired me. His health is not that great, so with his support I knew that was the calling for me. Being the student government president at C.C.C., the thing I hope to get out of participating in KWLI is the courage and confidence to lead C.C.C. as well as reflect on my community. Living in Colby, KS, being from a small town, the impact that youth brings to the town is huge. I volunteer at many activities around our town and participate in blood drives and Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, by experiencing this program, it will help me gain knowledge in how to make a positive impact on our community and school. KWLI will help me find my true self and be able to make my mark on Colby and rural Kansas.

Melissa Tovar

Junior
Washburn University
Majoring in Criminal Justice with a minor in Legal Studies
Wichita, KS

My name is Melissa Tovar and I was born and raised in Wichita Kansas. I am a first-generation college student and I am a proud daughter of an immigrant. I am currently a junior at Washburn University and I am majoring in Criminal Justice with a minor in legal studies. In the future, I want to go to law school and become an immigration lawyer, and work at a non-profit clinic to help low-income immigrants. At Washburn University, I hold many leadership positions and I am extremely involved on my campus. Currently I am the president of HALO (Hispanic American Leadership Organization), Founder of Washburn’s first-generation organization, a LINC Bonner scholar, a senator at Washburn Student Government Association, as well as serving on our Diversity council. I also work as a student recruitment, student programmer for Washburn University Diversity and Inclusion Office.

I am extremely passionate about helping at risk children by helping them find a better path and attend college. I come from a single mother of six and I was an at risk kid, and I want to be the role model to those kids showing them that if I can do it, so can they. As a kid, I entered college readiness programs that gave me the opportunity to not only attend college but also receive a full scholarship.

I believe that attending the KWLI, I will not only develop my leadership skills but it will allow me to take what I learned back to my university. I want to develop and become a better leader and advocate for people who look like me. Through KWLI, I want to expand my knowledge, develop my skills, network and educate others. I am so excited to see where this amazing program is going to take me!

Learn more about the 2015 Kansas Participants

Cameron headshotCameron McLaughlin

Kansas State University
Sophomore
Public Relations and Journalism
Colby, Kansas

My name is Cameron McLaughlin and I am a sophomore at Kansas State University studying public relations, with an outside concentration in marketing. A small town gal at heart, I spent my childhood and adolescences in Colby, Kansas. In high school I was able to be involved in many different clubs and organizations that have helped transform me into the person I am today. In college I continue to grow by being involved with various organizations. Currently I am the Director of Standards and Ethics for my sorority, Alpha Delta Pi. I also work for the non-profit agency TakeFlight, which is a student organization that offers public relations assistance to clients. Additionally I am a staff writer for the Kansas State student newspaper, The Collegian. At a very young age I found that communicating with others is my passion. May it be through written or verbal words, I am a lover of the art of communicating and building relationships. I hope to some day be working for an organization that challenges me to give back on a larger scale, while advocating for something I find of great purpose. As of now I am still figuring out what that great purpose may be, but I’m positive that as I grow more as a student and as a person I will find the end to that search. I am excited to see how the KWLI family can help me to grow and also to see what I can give back to them. I hope to connect with the other members on this awesome journey and I am confident that this is experience will leave me fulfilled. Thank you again, KWLI!

Casie headshotCasie Spangler

Washburn University
Sophomore
History
Tecumseh, Kansas

Hello! My name is Casie Spangler and I am from Tecumseh, Kansas. I am currently a sophomore at Washburn University. In the fall of 2015 I will transfer to the University of Kansas where I plan to double major in Environmental Studies and Economics. With these majors I hope to eventually attend law school in order to study environmental law. I always knew that I was passionate about law and having the chance to help others, but I often questioned how I would be useful to others. I recently discovered my passion for the environment and I realized that a great way to help people was to make sure that we live in a healthy environment with sustainable and clean energy. Since I have left high school, I realized that I have little confidence in my leadership abilities. I hope that the Kansas Women’s Leadership Institute will help me establish confidence in myself, teach me how be an even better leader, and give me the ability to inspire other women and girls to seek out leadership positions even when men hold most of those positions today. I am incredibly excited to meet my fellow KWLI participants and hopefully create many new friendships with women from all over the world!

Crystal headshotCrystal Bradshaw

University of Kansas
Sophomore
English: Creative Writing
Jetmore, Kansas

My name is Crystal Bradshaw. I am a sophomore studying English: Creative Writing at the University of Kansas. I was raised in Jetmore, Kansas. Growing up in rural Kansas has made me a farm girl by heart. My future goals include establishing my own publishing company which will specialize in promoting young writers’ works. Through this, I hope to one day travel the world, spreading the importance of reading and writing one’s story. My experience as a leader has been very diverse and allowed me to assist others efficiently. In high school, I co-established the first and only tutoring program for students in my local high/middle school. Also, I led my teammates in basketball and Track & Field. At KU, I became a University Daily Kansan Opinion Columnist, Freshman Leadership Council member, Spanish/Biology tutor, Multicultural Scholar, Honors Peer Mentor, Honors Seminar Assistant, and Honors Resident Assistant. In January 2015, I had the wonderful opportunity of traveling to Costa Rica with Professor Mary Klayder and taught English phrases to Costa Rican locals. Education has always been of great value in my family. But to me, one’s education is worth nothing if it is not passed on to the next generation.

Erin headshotErin Taylor

University of Kansas
Freshman
Political Science; minor in Leadership Studies
Silver Lake, Kansas

I grew up in Silver Lake, Kansas, where small town spirit and rich tradition ran deep. I made Lawrence my chosen home during the summer of 2014 and began attending the University of Kansas in the fall. Next semester I will be a sophomore at KU majoring in Political Science with hopes of focusing on women’s rights and activism in the Middle East. I am passionate about people and their stories, and I love to listen. The best part of my job as a hostess at the Oread Hotel is when I get to have conversations with guests; I’ve quickly learned that everyone has at least a few things in common if you get to know someone well enough, which is partially why I stand so strongly for equality. I have a burning desire to promote equality for all, and I believe that starts with women and members of the LGBTQ community in the work force. During my experience in the KWLI, I truly hope to take away a greater understanding of women who live their lives in cultures so vastly different than that in which I grew up in. I hope to inspire my peers to be confident in their identity as a woman, and I hope to create a sisterhood with amazing women from all parts of the world. 

Maggie headshotMaggie Dunning

Southwestern College
Junior
Communication Studies
Winfield, Kansas

I am a navy brat so I don’t have a hometown. However I was born on a naval base in San Diego California. I am a junior majoring in communication at Southwestern College in Winfield Kansas. I am passionate about women’s rights and underdogs. I would love to be able to give people all over the world access to information so that they can understand others and get along in harmony and respect one another. I hope to gain the skills to maximize my leadership potential and attain life long friends during my time in the KWLI program. 

Margarita headshotMargarita Nuñez Arroyo

University of Kansas
Sophomore
Journalism; minor in dance
Emporia, Kansas

My name is Margarita Alely Nunez Arroyo and I am a Mexican American woman. I am a sophomore student at the University of Kansas, my family and I currently live in Emporia, Kansas however my hometown will always be Compton, California. My major is Journalism with a minor in dance. I am a member of HALO Hispanic American Leadership Organization, a writer for Her Campus KU, a member of FNSA First Nations Student Association, and a member of the Scholarship Hall Community- living in Watkins. I am excited for Kansas Women’s Leadership Institute because I am engrossed into social justice and I am amazed by words. Thus all these women I will meet, who may or may not look like me, will be filled with words to describe their experience as a woman. I am sure this program will be very beneficial for me no only as a student but as a woman in the United States.

Kansas Applications Go Live

We are very excited to begin the application process for our second year of Kansas participants in the KWLI. Our vision has always been to create a world in which women’s leadership is realized to be essential in every thriving community. For the first few years of our grant with the Department of State we had the privilege of working toward that world by elevating the power of women’s voices in communities in other countries. But, we always knew that making that same difference right here at home was ultimately critical to truly fulfilling our vision. What we know from experience is that women from small and rural communities in Kansas face many similar issues as do those in Casablanca, Morocco, New Delhi, India, and even Kabul, Afghanistan. Sure, the context and cultures might differ, but the desire for women to have educational opportunities, access to quality health care (particularly women’s health care), to be free from domestic violence, and free from gender-based discrimination is, in fact, the same. Through the KWLI we provide the opportunity for women in Kansas to unite with women from around the world on the topics that are most important to them. In our program they engage in a curriculum designed to help them tackle those challenges, elevate their voices as women, expand their leadership capacity, develop a powerful and lasting network of support, and change their communities for the better. The application and selection process for Kansas women is designed to mirror the selection of our international participants. Thus, contacts at various Kansas higher education institutions serve as the first round of the process. You can see a listing of our College & University Partners here. You can also find more details, and a copy of the application, at our apply page. Both University Partners and interested applications, can get in touch with our Academic Program Coordinator, Addison Keegan-Harris at (785) 864-8207 or addisonkh@ku.edu. She is the primary contact for the selection process and will be happy to assist you in any way.

The Summer That Changed My Life: Testimonies From Our Kansas Women

no place like home Alyssa: Overall, my time here has been absolutely wonderful and better than I could have ever expected or imagined! I have gotten to meet amazing women from all over the world who all have amazing dreams and passions. We all have come together to create a better life for the people, and women in particular, in our communities and countries. The discussions, ideas, and projects that we do together are so great! My favorite times so far have all been in Washington D.C. on the day when I finally got to meet the amazing 20 international women. Over those next few days,  I got to meet even more amazing international women at the SUSI conferences, explore D.C., and try new foods with all of my new sisters! So far, Lawrence has been great, and I am sure it will continue to be! All 25 of us get to attend classes every day that assist us with making sure we are well-equipped to go back to our communities and work on the adaptive challenge we have selected. My adaptive challenge includes working with the international students in my community to make their time in the U.S. is as satisfying as possible, so getting the opportunity to work with so many outstanding international women here is just perfect!  Throughout the past couple of weeks we have gotten many opportunities to meet various inspirational and empowering women from all walks of life who provide motivation for us to continue to fulfill our dreams, just as they have done.  I am so thankful and honored to have been selected for this program. I look forward to future opportunities to share my life-changing experiences with you all! Ally: A Thank You to This Program and the Lawrence Community My experiences at the Kansas Women’s Leadership Institute have been incredible and life-changing. I am so blessed by the women in the program, our facilitators and the Kansas community. To share a part of myself and find that I have things in common with women from all walks of faith, from every part of the world makes my identity as a global citizen even more clear. I have sisters in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pieces of my heart will forever live in India and Mongolia. My family reaches as far as Morocco and Zambia. But as my dedication to the world as a whole has become stronger, I feel an even deeper connection to my Kansas roots. I have been able to share some of my favorite things about my home to these women. Sunrises over campus, thunderstorms, hospitality and a help-your-neighbor attitudeare just a few of the things that make Kansas so special to me. They are a part of my identity. I am so thankful to all those in the community who have taken time out of their lives to recognize the importance of extending a welcome to these incredible women. Believe me when I say that THEY ARE the future of our world. By taking time to hear new perspectives we not only forge a bond, but we enrich our own lives, and the community as a whole. Thank you, from the depths of my heart, to Lawrence and the KU community. You have treated my sisters and me with such generosity and warmth. Because of you, I have built relationships that span the globe and have found a renewed dedication to give back to this community. Thank you for everything. BreShawna: Being a part of this program has been incredible and has had a huge impact on my life. I am grateful and honored to be a part of the Kansas Women’s Leadership Institute, especially as one of the first participants from Kansas to be allowed this opportunity. To start, everything I knew about leadership had to be rewritten. My classical view of a leader and all the experience I gained striving to be a “servant leader”, missed the true point of leadership. Primarily that leadership is not about an individual, but the action of intervening to tackle the difficult challenges to help the entire organization. It changes the perception of leadership away from the glamorous connotation to show that leadership is a process that is uncomfortable, risky, and offers no precedent on the steps that need to be taken. However, it is the only path for impactful change. Then there is the role that the international women play. I have always enjoyed engaging in discussions that highlight the culture differences between people, but that bring forth the similarities that bond them in the process. What surprised me though was how quickly we began to discuss real issues in a way where people were honest, interested, and open to hearing different perspectives. The program focuses on empowering women, yet I did not believe that the problems faced in Kansas would be in anyway similar to those faced in Afghanistan, Pakistan or any of the other 5 countries represented in our program. I have learned otherwise. Each country has unique circumstances and is in a different stage of progress to be sure, yet the core problems we face are identical. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to work with the amazing women in this program. They are women who will change the world and continue to inspire me every day Miranda: The KWLI experience has been so surreal for me! Every minute of every hour of every day is full of priceless memories and friends that will last for a lifetime.  Friends (or sisters as we often refer to one another) that have defined not only who I am but most importantly who I want to be. I’m forever grateful for this opportunity; it’s not every day that you can capture the smile of 7 countries in one photo. We have no borders or boundaries, just love for one another. These women have quickly become a large part of my life and their family has become mine.  Until this journey, I honestly never thought that I’d shared any interests with women from Pakistan or Zambia (just to name a few) but we share more than interests; we share clothes, make up, shoes, jewelry, stories, passions, goals, tears, trust, integrity, and a bond that could never be broken because we’re all the same. Each and every one of them has played a significant role in the way I will live my life for the future. They’ve taught me culture, diversity, and religion but more than any one of these words could explain, they’ve taught me about myself.  They’ve helped me discover a part of me and my heart that I didn’t know existed. They’ve awakened my soul and created a yearning for knowledge within me. I cried when my adventure began. I cried because I was afraid to leave all that I had ever known; my family, my dogs, and my friends, even if only for 6 weeks. Now as our journey comes to a close, I cry because 6 weeks wasn’t nearly long enough to define the best days of my life. These women are my family. Brittany: When Passion and Purpose Come Together, There is No Stopping the Momentum Prior to KWLI it’s easy to say I was lost. Whole-heartedly? No, but I lacked purpose. I knew I was creative. I knew I had engaged in the process of leadership several times and I knew I loved to travel and explore the diversity of this world. None of this, however, had built up my confidence, mission, or purpose. Through the KWLI experience I am whole-heartedly found. Having to troubleshoot daily teaches one a lot about themselves. Having the opportunity to meet women with completely different experiences and needing to build a reputation for yourself gives you a major sense of freedom. My KWLI sisters have helped me identify my strengths and weaknesses and they have never judged. They have fostered the perfect environment in which I can stumble, succeed, fail, and thrive. All of this has built a confidence and purpose within me that I never knew could exist. Lost but now found. With this new confidence and purpose I have developed my dream. Believing in yourself is half the battle and I know the other half has already been tacked with the support and energy of my international family. I can promise my actions in the future will involve global collaborations as the bonds and dreams I share with my sisters is unexplainable. Thank you to the donors, instructors, supporters, and dreamers of KWLI. Thank you for helping me find the greatest me. I am determined to make a difference in the world and I can promise you I will. I would love to share my plan with you on our presentation days. June 29th and 30th. All are welcome! None of this, however, would be possible without you! To constantly learning, thriving, inspiring, and changing the world! Best wishes!

Intangible Thoughts: From India to the U.S.

14612712623_09272edd75_o“I call them at 11am. It is 7:30 pm when they answer it, and it strikes me that I am far away from my family and my home back in India.” – says Arpita Mitra (New Delhi), one of the participants representing the South Asian country, along with Zainab Samad (Hyderabad) and Nivetha Chockalingam (Chennai) at the Study of the US Institute program on Women’s Leadership with the University of Kansas. India holds a unique cultural perspective in world relations. It is all the more significant to represent the land of diversity at an international platform for deliberating over Women’s leadership. The Indian ambassadors hold immense excitement and a responsibility to showcase this hub of diversity. Says Zainab – “As a candidate selected from my country, and probably the only one from my town – I’m absolutely privileged and honoured to be a part of this intensive program centred around the belief that as women we’re all passionate about Women’s Leadership. My takeaways from the program are not only the theoretical studies done on the topic but the practicality of it and the range of approaches that 24 women have adopted to implement these tools in a specific way suitable to our respective societies.” To this, Arpita adds – “Since a very young age, I had prepared myself to believe that I was special. I found my passion in not just excelling in academics and the creative arts, but wanting to excel as a person, oriented towards something I could relate to as ‘extraordinary’! Being extraordinary was tough nonetheless; I was a simple girl from a humble background, who only could dream exceptionally high. However never did I anticipate that the opportunity to live those dreams would occur so soon. I almost felt unprepared. Representing India at one of the finest Women’s Leadership Institute in the United States of America ironically made me hesitant about trusting the strengths and qualifications for which I got acknowledged. ‘Was I good enough for this?’ The process of engaging in acts of leadership probably began from that moment onwards – a trigger that compelled me to look deeper into understanding the person I was then and the person ‘I believed myself to be”. For Nivetha, the Program is much more than a six-week engagement. “This program has helped me in developing and honing my skills. Right from the first stage of preparing my Statement of Purpose, up to this very moment, I still find it hard to believe on a certain level, that I am actually a part of this program. Being in a group full of international women from seven different countries and various cultural and social backgrounds, and being able to mutually share and receive is simple phenomenal”, says Nivetha. We’re almost in the middle of the Program timeline and the Indian participants have come to absorb, reflect, and get intrigued by the very same things they previously would have taken for granted. Zainab thinks that the past three weeks have been enriching amidst the guidance of amazing teachers, staff and students at the University of Kansas. It has given her a new lens to look beyond her immediate thoughts. Collaborating with women from seven different countries has brought her to realize that in one way or the other women inclined towards public service are all dealing with some of the same issues of discrimination and gender inequality that women have always experienced.. Arpita provides yet another perspective – “The experience so far has been an eye opener, for it makes me believe that simplicity may be the finest manifestation of being extraordinary. The Faculty and the peer group develop confidence – they help me become a better person each day, and instill the belief that I can continue to become better, and that my contribution to the world can increase” For Nivetha, the past few weeks were an opportunity to be able to meet many powerful women from various fields who helped motivate herself even more. “Be it the way the classes are handled, or the way that we all get along with each other, every aspect of this program is enriching. I now have better clarity on things which were foggy, am more open to new and different ideas, and am also able to see the overall progress I have made so far during the course of this program. I am energized by the passion every person in our group has, and each of their stories,” she says. But what does it mean to leave back one’s family to experience an opportunity like this? What does it mean to live ‘an American life’? Zainab states – “It is a very popular idiom we use all over the world. I’ve watched “the American Life” on the television, on shows in movies, heard of it from friend, but little did I ever think or imagine that I’d be experiencing it myself one day, that I’d finally be here in the United States of America all by myself!” Arpita talks about exploring new family members. “Travelling for almost 24 hours to a country I had only learned about through textbooks and the media, I realize I have discovered my second home. It is unbelievable for an introverted person like me to interact and form relationships easily. The KWLI participants have not become my close friends—I have received 24 powerful sources of inspiration. Despite coming from seven different countries, they often share my idealistic aspirations and it is amazing to see how our thoughts harmonize and our presence create a mesmerizing synthesis,” she comments. Nivetha shares a similar thought – “It is not very often that you get to connect with people who understand your stories and/or passions as well as you do. But it was made possible during this program by getting to choose our mentors. I am now more confident about myself, and that is mainly because I have been able to learn so much in this process.” The participants are looking forward to the remaining weeks of excitement and adventure here at the United States – to many more opportunities for intellectual stimulation, articulation and self reflection.

How I Met Myself

Enjoy this blog written by 2013 alumni Zoya from Pakistan. 1044937_10151518990977966_2062454896_n “Hurrah! I am selected for SUSI,” I shouted aloud just after receiving the selection call from the US Embassy of Pakistan. And from that very moment, I started to believe whole heartily that yes, there is nothing impossible. As I was doubtful about myself but still tried my luck and applied for it then also got selected. This was a great achievement for me, therefore, I was extremely happy and also excited to travel all alone for the first time in my life. After reaching there, I felt little bit scared and nervous in all new environment and people. It was so different from mine. But with each passing day, I realized, instead of so many differences, we all were same somehow including the staff and fellows, which were from the six different countries. We shared same emotions and feelings in the end. Sometimes, we did have different opinions and ideas, but that’s the beauty of diversity. Because after having a bundle of ideas in the classroom, it was easy to see one thing in different colours. Through it, one can learn that each person can have their own view, which could be right for her/ him, it all depends on perspectives. If the new batch of this year’s participants hold on to this simple theory then their journey will be more smooth and productive, just as mine has been. Gradually, the magic of this journey started to work on me, I was changing. It made me feel good about myself and urged me to place emphasis on my strengths, not weaknesses. It was a big change for a girl like me, who had always doubted her qualities and focused on flaws. But I loved this change in me. That’s why I surrendered and made myself flexible for upcoming changes. This proved good for me as I felt many other changes in myself. No doubt, one does have to make compromises to achieve the desirable result. So I too did make some tiny compromises, like learning to tackle the very busy routine and the food! 😉 But, it was something worth compromising for. 970263_10151518957792966_894051710_n Then, at the end of journey, my biggest realization: I realized that in fact I had never changed at all. Because of the efforts of our dear professors, I got to succeed, to discover my own self, and met with an all new Zoya, who was already there but hidden deep inside me, perhaps due to fears of opposition or society. But this time, she was more strong, confident and could raise her voice for herself and others. Therefore, this journey was memorable for me because in this, I found myself. And this is something valuable because to practice effective leadership, one should have the ability to understand her/his own self first to deal with issues in a specific way. Hence, I would say to the new women to expect a journey where their differences will be appreciated, their strengths will be polished and where there will be some ups n downs to shape and stable their personalities. So fasten your seat belt and let the magic of SUSI to work on you. Good luck! 🙂

Mongolian Women Make Progress

Updates on the 2013 Mongolian Women’s Project for Change:

We have finished the first phase of our project which was running trainings, organizing movie- talks and creating documentary film “Women’s portrayal in Mongolian media”. The first phase overall was successful and challenging, we think we identified our stakeholders and allies correctly. The next thing we are going to do is involve young women who are passionate about this in the coming project “A Beautiful Body” where we shoot photos with different body shapes and ages. It aims to open the blind eyes of people that people are unique and beautiful the way they are, give confidence and understanding beauty is not measured only by being young, thin, sexy etc and we are going to run exhibition for 7-10 days and organize different events, for example one day is screening of the movie Miss Representation, next day is perform one or two monologues of Eve Ensler “A Beautiful Body” and “Vagina Monologues”, invite journalists, press conference and media creators, film studios, marketing agencies, etc.  The most rewarding part of the project is the feedback from young women, they do agree that they never saw, perceived from the angle that we tried them to see. Most of them do agree that some actions need to be done to create awareness of both women and men, girls and boys to perceive critically the information, media that surround them. Also, we have over 8,600 views of our short documentary film on YouTube!

Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19V-RrTa2LY

Busy April

Updates from Summer 2013 alumni, Houria: I had one month training at high school teaching baccalaureate students English. That was fun. Whenever I meet my students in the streets, they love to come and say Hi. Spring Leadership Camp, I have to say it is not an easy thing but rewarding. I was one of the organizers and speaker as well. It was a 6 days camp. I talked about leadership, a little bit about social entrepreneurship and movie selection and discussion. hotel Young Social Entrepreneurs Program with the US Embassy. I said that I was selected to be part of the program; I am mentoring women cooperatives and association in the region of Ouarzazate. On April 17-20 we had a training at the US Embassy about business plan, marketing opportunities for cooperatives and we visited the ministry of handcrafts where we learn about the different opportunities such as exhibitions, loans and mentoring for cooperatives. On April 17, it was my birthday; the woman from the Embassy organized a little party for me. It was on a boat restaurant, we had dinner and after that, they brought the cake and candles that was awesome. On April 26-27 I was one of the organizers of the US Embassy TechCamp Caravan in Ouarzazate. It was one of the most successful caravans; the deputy of public affairs said that. My friends and I applied for the 2014 Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund. The main goal of our project is to promote democratic citizenship and civic engagement among youth and support their political participation to push forward their voices in the society and to take leading roles and responsibilities as citizens and agents for equity, justice and social change. I was able to publish my article on Morocco World News which is a big deal for me. Here is the link of my article if you would love to take a look on it: http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2014/05/129936/the-u-s-embassy-rabat-techcamp-caravan-takes-place-in-ouarzazate/ Today I will go to the dressmaker for my graduation dress measurements. I am very excited about graduation.

It’s your time to shine

Words from Summer 2013 Alumni, Rimsha. Topeka First of all, congratulations for making it to the Women’s Leadership Program at the Women’s Leadership Institute at Kansas University. The six weeks that follow will change your life for the best and I am not exaggerating when I say this. It’s nothing short of a movie where you are the star and the experiences you will have in the beautiful heartland. These six weeks will help you appreciate the beauty of diversity and different opinions. You will learn the importance of time and relationships. You will learn to cope with difficult situations without breaking under pressure. You will learn about the beauty of opportunity.  You will learn the practice of adaptive leadership. But most importantly, you will discover yourself. It’s going to be nothing short of a rollercoaster ride, but you must hang in there and be strong. You are getting an opportunity to break free and overcome your fears, embrace the opportunity. You will get a chance to recolor your world with new realities, take it. One thing you should be prepared for at the Women’s Leadership Institute is an atypical environment. What’s exciting about the class room environment is that it’s nothing like an ordinary class room. It’s more of a boardroom meeting where each of you is a stakeholder, and this boardroom meeting will be one of the most crucial learning curves for you. You’ll learn how to work together in a team and resolve conflicts while keeping yourself oriented to the purpose. You will travel across the state of Kansas to learn about the culture and heritage of the countryside. You’ll get to experience the world’s best fireworks on Fourth of July. You’ll get to meet successful women of their respective fields who will mentor you and empower you. You’ll get to spend a culturally rich weekend with an American host family. I, surely had the most amazing discussions on women rights and the best home-cooked grilled salmon ever with my host family, and I’m sure so will you. It would be impossible for me to pick one favorite moment from those six weeks for me. From Zip lining, self-defense, jazzercise, to shopping at Oak Park Mall, eating at the Cheesecake Factory, to cooking and cleaning to the tune of ‘Just give me a reason’, the trip to the NCC, the liberty bell, the state capitol, the visit to the union station and The State Capitol and I can totally go on and on about it, because that’s just how memorable it gets. Remember, there are no wrong answers at the Women’s Leadership Institute. Leave behind your fears and gear up to have six weeks that will help you discover who you are and give you the liberty to realize your dreams and the courage to make them come true. You’ll make lasting friendships and no matter what the distance, you will always be connected by that special bond of love and warmth. Before you know it, you would be bidding farewell to your amazing sisters at WLI. So cherish each moment. You’re the star of this movie so don’t be afraid to shine bright!

Alumni (wi’12) Climbs Kilimanjaro

KWLI women climbing to new heights, tackling tough challenges! Amal (KWLI alumni wi’12) just completed a 9-day hike to Kilimanjaro. Amazing!! We are so proud of you Amal! Read more here. DSC02383
“This trip has taught me two basic things, one is patience and the other is consistency in action. The trip was tough trip and very physically demanding. I had to be persistent and patient to reach the top.”   DSC02494  “That KU experience and the time I spent in the States among different types of women had a great influence on myself and the way I look at life at some aspects, especially teamwork challenges and adaptation to a whole new environment.”   DSC02488 “We were hiking for seven hours a day, everyday as we got closer to the summit. It got harder because of the change in altitude. In our final hike before reaching the summit, we hiked for 15 hours at a stretch. It was physically and mentally challenging,”  

DSC02471Amal is the first Bahraini woman to step foot in Antartica.