Without a doubt, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are key partners in strengthening communities worldwide on a host of levels, including global women's issues. As part of the U.S. Department of State's effort to focus on "Empowering Women and Girls Through International Exchanges," 21 leaders from civil society around the world traveled to the United States to meet with and collaborate with their American counterparts on a path forward that not only empowers women in their communities but also strengthens society as a whole.
During the three-week international exchange with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs' International Visitor Leadership Program, participants focused on "The Role of NGOs in Promoting Global Women's Issues." Whether it's through addressing the plight of trafficking victims, supporting women in agriculture, helping business women succeed, empowering women to overcome urban poverty, teaching women's studies, defending women against discrimination, or promoting women in politics, NGOs are essential partners toward making progress.
All of the international participants came to the United States with different expectations, and each took something different away from the collaborative experience. For example, a meeting in Louisville, Kentucky with an NGO that works to change attitudes toward the role of women and prevent domestic violence, inspired several group members to pursue further collaboration with the organization. One participant plans to continue working with a Washington, DC-based NGO to incorporate aspects of their approach to supporting women in their pursuit of elected office. The whole delegation took away new skills from a workshop on civic leadership and coalition building at the New Hampshire Women's Leadership Institute in Manchester.
While each international participant came away with different lessons learned, all came away with a renewed vigor to use civil society as a means to empower women and girls in communities worldwide.