Celebrating 100 Interviews with Inspirational Women

My interview with Women LEAD Co-Founder and Former Executive Director Claire Charamnac, published on March 7, 2017, marks my hundredth Inspirational Woman interview. The realization that my hundredth interview coincided almost exactly with International Women’s Day 2017 surprised me and made me think deeply about how far Inspirational Women Series has come.

Back in September 2013, I started interviewing women leaders weekly for Women LEAD, and since then, I’ve had the unbelievable opportunity to launch Inspirational Women Series, which is dedicated to showcasing the experiences of women leaders in social impact, international development, and historically underrepresented fields for women.

The theme for International Women’s Day 2017 was “Be Bold for Change”. This intrigued me, because all of the women I’ve interviewed boldly use their actions and words to effect change in their everyday work. And nowhere does their boldness shine more clearly than in challenging situations. In my recent interviews, I started asking questions about the biggest obstacles my interviewees have faced –  whether professional, sector-related, or personal. For some women, their biggest challenge was scaling a multinational organization in a region where abject poverty limited business development; for others, it was working with unreliable or incomplete data. Some women shared the risks they faced when they quit their private sector job to launch a social enterprise, while others discussed the difficulties of designing programs for populations ravaged by violence and trauma.

Through this vast range of experiences, it is self-evident that the women I have interviewed for Inspirational Women Series embody an intrepid, relentless spirit in the pursuit of impactful causes that often jeopardize their physical, psychological, or intellectual safety. For many of the women I’ve interviewed, a conscientious boldness provided the original impetus for their unabiding responsibility to the causes they work towards, the communities they serve, and the lives they influence.

Naturally, this boldness was not devoid of worry or fear, but it equipped many of my interviewees with both the stamina to pursue hitherto untraveled paths, and the inability to give up when reaching a dead end. In many ways, boldness is crucial to the most unpleasant parts associated with making a positive dent in the world – making unpopular decisions, immersing oneself in the unfamiliar, making trade-offs between time, costs, and quality, and revisiting failures over and over.

Narratives of my interviewees’ challenges have made me realize how profiles of inspirational people should not focus solely on their successes, but also on the difficulties they have faced and overcome. The success stories contemporary culture exalts are often needlessly optimistic, framing an unrealistic depiction of achievement bereft of all-nighters, painful deliberations, crippling anxiety, and fractured relationships.

Boldness is essential to navigating difficult situations, but another noteworthy point is that the difficult situations themselves can strengthen one’s boldnessI am in awe of the experiences and accomplishments of all the women I’ve interviewed as part of the Inspirational Women Series. I am equally in awe of the challenges they have faced, and how these challenges have molded the inspiration they have imparted to me. I can only hope that by foregrounding their personal and professional boldness, I can inspire others to Be Bold for Change too!

Cover photo credit: Arkady Lishifts 

Our Voices Matter – More Than Ever

As I woke up this morning to a layer of the first snow on the rooftops across my bedroom window, with my daughter cuddling close to see the white watery powder in delight, I had forgotten that the election across the Atlantic had come to an end. We walked into the kitchen and my husband greets our daughter with a smile and then looks at me with shock in his face – and tells me that Trump is probably going to be the next President of the United States.

As the final news unfolded during the morning hours here in Sweden, the layer of snow slowly started to melt, and I was hit by shock that felt like a punch in my abdomen. A womanizing, racist, fear-feeding man, who has acted on his self-interests has been elected President of the United States, after a campaign smeared in scare tactics and hate speech.

This feels like a heavy bomb hitting one of the world’s largest countries, following a range of ever-louder assassinations on our human race – the continuous attacks on civilians in Syria, the genocide of Yazidis by ISIS, and turmoil in South Sudan. The list continues closer to home with Brexit, the EUs horrific paralyzation to act on the human rights of refugees as people continue to die in the Mediterranean, and Sweden’s vote earlier this year, which led us to trade openness with fear – closing our borders and overstepping the human rights of refugee families.

I feel like I’d like to move with my family to the moon, just leave this planet – it’s doomed anyways. But, that just isn’t right – or feasible.

There are many things happening in our world, which require us to stay stronger than ever and now we must show solidarity. We cannot let fear lead us to care only for ourselves and our nearest – it is that exact fear that has been fueled for far too long and got us to where we are today. It is time to fight fear and hatred – ensure that we uphold human rights in every situation, for everyone – and you need to be a part of it.

Now, my main thought is this: Girls’ Globe’s mission is more important than ever. We cannot stay quiet, we need to continue to raise our voices, hold decision-makers accountable and protest. We are the people, and we can demand our rights to be upheld, and the rights of those who can’t demand theirs.

Let’s connect, mobilize and act together – stronger than ever – a global voice demanding peace for everyone, now!

Do you want to blog for Girls’ Globe and be a part of our global network? Apply here.

Photo: NASA (CC). 

Meet Wynter Oshiberu – Girls’ Globe Blogger from USA

Wynter Oshiberu has had a deep curiosity for languages and cultures from a very young age, and as she grew older her curiosity has blossomed into an appreciation for the mutual interests that individuals from various backgrounds share. Her recommendations for global leaders is to make quality education available for everyone and to put women and girls at the forefront of their decisions.

These interests developed into her passions, thus she has earned a degree in International Affairs from George Washington University; and, she has worked with researchers, academics and thought leaders on various topics pertaining to the well-being and advancement of marginalized communities. She is most passionate about promoting and ensuring quality education for women and girls, especially in lower socio-economic settings and post conflict regions. As an avid language and education enthusiast, she has continued to augment her language skills by studying Arabic, teaching ESOL and completing her TESOL certificate at Georgetown University. She believes that educational and technological advancements will contribute to innovative solutions for a broad range of societal and global issues.

She is currently serving on the Washington D.C. Regional Board for Indego Africa, an organization that partners with local women artisans in Rwanda and Ghana to provide leadership and educational training.

Follow Wynter on Twitter: @wyntawanderland

Featured image photo credit: Zayira Ray / Girls’ Globe

Video credit: Creative Director // Kimberly Graf, Film Director // Tiffany Jackman, Director of Photography / Editing // Skyler Whitehead, Whirlwind Productions LLC

A Seat at the Table with Indego Africa

We have all heard the battle cry for education from the first lady, Michelle Obama and the call for inclusion from GIWPS Executive Director Melenne Verveer. Both women have been in the spotlight for their views and work with women and girls, specifically individuals living in impoverished areas or post conflict zones. Both women are sending the same message: Women and girls need to be seen as active drivers of progress and development, and we need to be better at including them in these processes.

We know the facts and we have the data, and it proves that women don’t just deserve to be part of the magical operation called decision making but it also makes monetary sense as well as humanitarian sense. We are here, we are humans and we are capable of playing an active role in our legislative, judicial, parliamentary and governmental bodies so give us a seat at the freaking table.

Since we have all these facts and data that prove the importance of educating girls and including women in the legislative process, why are there so few countries and organizations with women in leadership roles and why is the amount of funding for secondary education in marginalized communities so low?

Unfortunately I don’t have the answer to these questions, but I can share information about organizations that are making tremendous strides towards change. Recently I chatted with Elizabeth Coates, regional board member for Indego Africa. We shared stories about our initial interest in women and girls education as well as some of the intersecting issues within this area. Education and financial security often goes hand and hand. As women and adults, we need to feel a sense of independence a sense of self and often this is achieved by being able to say,

“Yes I did that with MY hands, MY brain, MY skills, MY money. I contributed to this family, house, community, society…I am an integral part!”

It is not hard to figure out that educating a woman really has a positive impact on countless people – but sometimes it helps to see the numbers that support that claim. Indego Africa partners with artisans in Rwanda and Ghana, and provides vocational courses as well as courses to enhance entrepreneurial skills. 52% of women graduating from their Leadership Academy in Rwanda started new businesses; in addition, 92% of IA artisans had banks in comparison to 35% of women in Rwanda.

I’m sure that IA is not the only organization partnering with local community members to empower women. So if you know of an organization that deserves the spotlight let us know, shout it out and leave a comment.