International Exchange Programs Open New Opportunities for Women

Posted by Ann Stock
March 30, 2013
Women Participate in International Visitor Leadership Program

This month, we brought 85 amazing women -- and men -- from around the world to the United States on the Women in Action exchange. The participants were community activists, elected officials, academics, and representatives of organizations who are devoted to preparing women across the world for leadership roles. They joined their U.S. counterparts to look at issues such as gender equality and empowering women and girls.

In Washington, I met with the participants and moderated a panel discussion with ABC News senior correspondent Claire Shipman and BBC reporter Katty Kay, who collaborated on the book Womenomics. Both Claire and Katty shared practical advice for balancing work and personal life, as well as statistics that demonstrate the dramatic impact women have on the global economy. We know that the participants have the leadership skills they need. What the exchange provided was the confidence to take the next step.

At the end of the exchange, the International Visitor Leadership Program staff sat down with the women to ask them for their thoughts. Many of the participants mentioned going home with a new perspective on mentoring the next generation of women leaders. Several said they were inspired to run for political office. And almost all of them said they were inspired to return home and think bigger.

As one of the women leaders from Africa said, "Women around the world share the same realities, just in a different context." Revelations like this are making a real difference in the world. When women come together, they realize that they are not alone and that their challenges can become opportunities. They return home energized, ready to lead in their respective fields and make their countries better places. A European participant observed that feminism is "strong and universal," even with the diverse cultural and religious backgrounds within the group.

Earlier this year, President Obama stressed the need to promote gender equality and empower women and girls so that we can "unleash the power of everyone, not just some." The question, however, is how to overcome the barriers that prevent women from reaching their full potential. Exchanges like Women in Action provide the means. As one non-governmental organization leader from Colombia remarked: "I'm leaving totally changed. Although I had an identity before this program that I had been building, I was a bit limited and restricted, and I needed this little push."



April 1, 2013

Maged writes:

Greetings from the bottom of my heart to you, I beg you to humanity to help the Iraqi people to get out of this ordeal because he is unaware of his fate because politicians losers and clergy quacks greetings to you Do you accept that camouflages the Iraqi people a day.

Wangeci C.
April 2, 2013

Wangeci C. in Kenya writes:

Greetings from Nairobi, Kenya.

My name is Wangeci C. I participated in the 2008 International Visitor Leadership Program. The selected theme then was 'International Security'. As a professional, I can say I greatly benefited from the said program, having received great insights from the US departments, UN, media houses among other related stakeholders - we visited. Sincerely, my life took a 360 degree turn about for the better. Todate, my professional focus is to impact of policy and academic research in the African region.

I take this opportunity to congratulate IVLP - on the 'Women in Action' developments. I am of the view that women have not been equitably represented in matters concerning - International Security. I see a void that could/can be filled by academics and researchers.

Allow me also to inquire whether IVLP has existing alumni follow-up program? this would be ideal, in as far as having a global collaboration is concerned.

Kudos on the gender perspective initiative.

Keep up the great work, of transforming lives.

Kind regards

New York, USA
April 3, 2013

Rima R. in New York writes:


Ann S.
District Of Columbia, USA
April 5, 2013

Assistant Secretary Ann Stock replies:

Dear Wangeci,

I am delighted to hear that you benefited from your participation in the International Visitor Leadership Program in 2008. Let me encourage you to become member on the International Exchange Alumni website. By joining, you can network and collaborate with other alumni and have access to numerous resources.

The State Department has many programs for returning alumni. You can find a list on the U.S Embassy Nairobi website or contact Alumni Coordinator Ken Waiki via email at for more information. And this February we hosted an International Visitor Leadership Program Gold Stars’ Tour which brought alumni from six countries to the United States. These community leaders were able to share their insights and to discuss new strategies with each other and with Americans who shared their interests. You can read more about these individuals here.

You may also be interested in the Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF). This competition provides small grants to teams of past and current participants of our exchange programs. To participate, you must be a member of the International Exchange Alumni website and form a team of at least ten other people. You may be particularly interested in one of the categories, citizen security. Teams submit project proposals through the International Exchange Alumni website and compete to win awards of up to $25,000. You can find more information about how to apply here.

I encourage you to apply for another exchange program. And best of luck to you should you enter the AEIF competition.

Hannan F.
April 16, 2013

Hannan F in Egypt writes:

I have a hearing impairment and i'm divorce and I have two sons and i live in the house of my father and worked as a specialist in laboratory school and my problem I harassed because I serve my father and the cleanest house and raising two sons and I want to travel to America to Live gone home and worked and Over pain and and spend the sons; how i can line my home and freedom?


Latest Stories

December 7, 2016

In Stormy Seas, Stay the Course

Foreign Ministers of the 57 participating States of the Organization for Security and Cooperation gather this week in Hamburg, Germany,… more