The New Face of Leadership
Empowering women to succeed in the halls of power at the 2013 Women in Public Service Project Institute
By Priya Ratneshwar
Photography by Jim Roese
At 13, Agnes Igoye lived on the frontlines of the 1985 coup to overthrow Ugandan president Apollo Milton Obote. “I remember putting cotton in my ears to block out the sounds of the fighting and crawling to our small cassava garden when we ran out of food because we were afraid of getting shot,” Igoye recalls. Her family fled Kampala to her father’s ancestral village but soon found themselves in the midst of violence again when the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) began its decades-long guerilla war. “We had to flee,” says Igoye, whose memories of seeing extended family members dragged away by LRA soldiers are still too painful for her to recount. Losing all their property, she and her family were internally displaced, along with more than two million other Ugandans.
Although driven out of Uganda in 2006, the LRA still operates in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, and South Sudan. Last year, when the Kony 2012 video went viral, LRA leader Joseph Kony gained notoriety in the West for trafficking children as soldiers and sex slaves. But Igoye has been fighting against these atrocities since she was a master’s student in Kampala in the 1990s. Her thesis explored the role of family in the rehabilitation of these children, and her research brought her, unbeknownst to her parents, into the hotbed of LRA activity.
“When you’ve gone through terrifying things, you want to understand them,” Igoye says. “No one was doing research in the area, and I wanted to speak to these children.”
The wages of conflict form the backdrop to daily life for Igoye and the 42 other emerging women leaders who were delegates at the 2013 Women in Public Service Project Institute at Bryn Mawr College. Representing 35 countries, they belong to the growing ranks of women pursuing leadership roles in public service, and in particular, devoting themselves to rebuilding peace and security in their homelands. The Institute’s program planning committee, composed of Bryn Mawr faculty, administrators, and alumnae, selected the delegates from a pool of nearly 500 applicants to take part in an intensive interactive program of leadership training around the theme of “Peacebuilding and Development.” Grounded in the College’s commitment to global women’s advancement, the program drew on the expertise of the Bryn Mawr community, including faculty, staff, students, and alumnae.
Secretary of the College and planning committee member Ruth Lindeborg ’80 spearheaded planning for the Institute and Institute Director Jessica Berns coordinated and implemented the programming. In addition, faculty members on the planning committee all developed sections of the program curriculum that were informed by their scholarship. Interim Provost and Professor of Sociology Mary Osirim focused on the justice system in post-conflict resolution; Professor of Political Science Michael Allen concentrated on development; and Marissa Golden ’83, an associate professor of political science on the Joan Coward Chair of Political Economy, targeted the topics of elections and governing.
For their part, 16 alumnae helped to shape the curriculum, led workshops, gave talks, and participated in panels. Angela Kane ’70, high representative for disarmament affairs at the United Nations, and Alice Rivlin ’52, founding director of the Congressional Budget Office, discussed their experiences as high-ranking officials who started their careers when women in high office were a rarity. Inyang Ebong-Harstrup ’82, deputy director of the special unit for South/South cooperation in the United Nations Development Programme, inspired delegates with her lively talk on collaborations among developing nations. Eleanor Tabi Haller-Jorden ’79, president and CEO of The Paradigm Forum (a think tank and consultancy on workplace innovation), discussed cutting-edge research and global perspectives on effective leadership. And Tselane Mokuena, M.S.S., M.L.S.P. ’95, South African consul general to Canada, discussed the successes and challenges of post-apartheid reconstruction and development.
“It was inspiring to be able to give back to Bryn Mawr and also to participate in something that I think will be life-changing for many of these delegates,” Haller-Jorden says.
50 by 50
In her July 9 keynote address for the Institute, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton cited a study in India that demonstrated that on average villages led by women made greater investments in drinking water and infrastructure, immunized more children, educated more girls, and experienced lower levels of corruption than those led by men.
Throughout the Institute’s two-week span, speakers cited similar research attesting to the dearth of women in positions of power as well as the social and economic benefits of women’s participation in government and policymaking. Only 4.2 percent of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are women. Women hold fewer than 21 percent of seats in all parliaments and legislatures, and in the U.S., only 24 percent of elected seats in state legislatures belong to women. In recent peace negotiations, women have made up fewer than 8 percent of participants and fewer than 3 percent of signatories. Yet women who hold jobs reinvest an average of 90 percent of their incomes in their families, compared to a 30 to 40 percent reinvestment rate for men.
Calling for more research, Clinton said, “We are up against, in many places around the world, deeply ingrained prejudices and cultural taboos. So we need to be able to stand on evidence so that no one can dismiss or doubt the proposals and policies that you will be advocating.”
Clinton launched the Women in Public Service Project (WPSP) in 2011 in partnership with the U.S. Department of State and Sister colleges Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Smith, and Wellesley to continue gathering this evidence and to advance women to leadership positions worldwide. Housed at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars since 2012, the program has grown to include Scripps, Mills, and Mount St. Mary’s colleges; CUNY; UMass; and other partner institutions around the world.
The initiative’s mission, dubbed “50 by 50,” calls for women to hold 50 percent of public-sector jobs worldwide by the year 2050. To that end, each summer a participating college hosts an institute for early- and mid-career women leaders. The Bryn Mawr planning committee chose “Peacebuilding and Development” as this year’s theme because it aligned with the College’s Quaker origins and expertise of its faculty leaders and because modern-day conflict has been proven to affect women and children disproportionately.
“Women are like canaries in the coal mine,” said Melanne Verveer, the former U.S. ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues, in her talk at the Institute’s closing ceremony. “The best indicator of destabilization is the situation of women and girls.”
In 2000, the United Nations Security Council passed resolution 1325, a landmark international legal framework that addresses the inordinate impact of war on women and the pivotal role women must play in resolving conflicts and sustaining peace. But when faced with the delegates’ many questions about the effectiveness of the resolution, several Institute speakers acknowledged the canyon between policy and practice. “1325’s promise has not been recognized,” responded Verveer to one such question. “We can’t celebrate yet.” During her remarks at the opening ceremony Angela Kane noted, “What really counts is having women sit in the corner office and out in the field directing programs.”
The delegates’ achievements testify to Kane’s statement. Many have leveraged experiences forged by war and oppression into peacebuilding and development work grounded in the conviction—famously articulated by Clinton—that “women’s rights are human rights.” Carmen da Cruz saw hunger and death during her three years in the mountains of Timor-Leste as a resistance fighter against Indonesian occupation. Currently working for the country’s Ministry of Social Security, she is developing a poverty-reduction strategy that includes a system to protect victims of domestic violence and abuse. Child marriage was practiced in Meena Sharma’s Nepalese community; her mother was married at age 7 and her family began discussing Sharma’s marriage when she was 13. Despite her young age, she found the courage to refuse and insisted on continuing her studies, an act of defiance that paved the path for her younger sisters to get an education, too. Now senior program coordinator at the nonprofit Search for Common Ground Nepal, she manages programs that foster the leadership and peacebuilding potential of urban and rural women.
As for Agnes Igoye, she went on to a career that has included being named a Hubert Humphrey Public Policy Fellow at the University of Minnesota; serving as a member of the Clinton Global Initiative-University; studying forced migration at the University of Oxford; and, with her sisters, founding Chain of Hope, a rehabilitation center for orphaned children. As the training manager at Uganda’s Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration, she trains law enforcement officers and others on issues surrounding human trafficking and migration. This February, Igoye launched her Huts for Peace program, a community-based self-help initiative for women, and the children in their care, who were displaced by the LRA conflict and who have suffered torture and gender-based violence. Using mostly found, locally available materials, participants have so far constructed 15 huts and have decided among themselves how to allot shelters according to greatest need.
Despite their accomplishments, the delegates arrived at Bryn Mawr with even more lofty goals. Da Cruz wants to build the capacity of her ministry staff and develop strategies to disseminate information about her programs to the Timorese. Igoye wants to help women in Huts for Peace build leadership and entrepreneurial skills and is thinking of running for office in the future.
Their thirst for the knowledge to attain these goals was evident in their utter investment in Institute programming. “I thought we might not hear much from folks at the opening ceremony,” Mary Osirim recalls. “Susan Sutton ’69 [senior advisor for internationalization at Bryn Mawr and Institute planning committee member] and I prepared some questions just in case. Well, forget it; we didn’t need to have anything. They had so many questions and so much to contribute.”
Ruth Lindeborg says the Institute was structured to respect these contributions—“positioning the delegates as experts as well as learners”—by drawing on the qualities that distinguish a Bryn Mawr education: a strong emphasis on critical thinking and a rejection of top-down models of thinking. The Institute emphasized dialogue over lecture, and delegates were not shy in their participation. They took sessions well past their end times and sometimes stumped speakers. Inyang Ebong-Harstrup, a U.N. official who is nonetheless an unabashed critic of the imperialism that has often marred the organization’s aid efforts, was still at a loss when Ecuadorian delegate Dagmara Mejia asked, “People who work for the U.N. have connections in the North; how do you make the U.N. democratic if you don’t even give access to people from the South?”
Marissa Golden says the delegates “were not just drinking the Kool-Aid. They were very respectful, but they challenged us and pushed back. It’s exactly the kind of critical thinking that’s the mantra at Bryn Mawr.”
Storytelling and Sisterhood
Delegate Wanja Michuki ’96 is well acquainted with the challenges women face in male-dominated professions thanks to stints in multinational banks, in Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and in her current position as deputy permanent representative of Kenya to the U.N. office in Nairobi. In Kenya, she explains, cronyism rather than qualifications is often used to fill highly coveted civil service positions. “Because women don’t have the network of the old boys,” she says, “when opportunities come up, very few women are considered, and very few women move upwards in government.”
Working with colleagues Grace Wandera and Jacquie Muhati, Michuki has started a WPSP-style program to provide women in Kenyan civil service with mentoring and networking opportunities. She attended the Institute in part to gain insights and knowledge to grow this program.
“It’s important to get women to realize that your success is my success, and my success is your success, and that we actually need to support each other,” Michuki says.
Recognizing the importance of collaboration and networks, the Institute engaged the Public Conversations Project, a nonprofit founded by Laura Chasin ’58 and others that fosters cooperation between opposing factions, to lead dialogue training and community-building activities for the delegates. Another network-building strategy involved the initial choice to invite delegates from around the world rather than a specific region. Guided in part by the increasingly comparative nature of fields such as political science and economics, this decision was also driven by the importance of women finding common ground with counterparts in other countries. For instance, when Tselane Mokuena described some of the hard-won strides South Africans have made in the 23 years after apartheid—building a robust legislative and justice system, establishing gender-sensitive budgeting in government, and ensuring that mineral wealth benefits the people—many of the delegates recognized an example for issues facing their own countries.
Also crucial to establishing a support system was the integration of storytelling throughout Institute programming. When speakers shared personal experiences along with professional advice, seemingly unattainable accomplishments gained the context of common struggles. Delegates applauded Alice Rivlin’s career, one that began before many of their nations had achieved sovereignty and that involved key roles in the Clinton and Obama administrations and on the Federal Reserve Board. But it was her humor-tinged tales of the difficulties of balancing work and family, and the indignities of being passed over for jobs in favor of less-qualified men, that elicited the most nods and questions.
In her work, Tabi Haller-Jorden has long preached that the capacity for narrative drives change and fosters community building, and she repeatedly saw the delegates find strength and solace in the exchange of stories. Haller-Jorden was moderating a panel on July 9, the same day that South Sudan celebrated its second year of independence, and delegate Mary Nyaulang Ret, a member of parliament in the fledgling republic, volunteered a brief history of the country’s war of liberation.
“As Mary moved to sit down,” Haller-Jorden recalls, “another delegate stood up and said, ‘No, no, her story isn’t over. Did you know that Mary was a colonel in the army? She fought.’ When you get more granular around people’s lives, you get the story behind the story, which in some cases are ones of life and death.”
Evidence of a newly formed sisterhood was abundant at the Institute’s closing ceremony in Thomas Great Hall. Delegates cheered as each woman received her certificate for completing the program and rushed to capture final group photos and give farewell hugs. With her parting words, Melanne Verveer encouraged the delegates to maintain their relationships even after they returned home: “Everywhere I’ve been, women have said we don’t want to work alone. That’s the gift we have for you; you don’t work alone.”
Alumnae participants in the 2013 Women in Public Service Project Institute at Bryn Mawr College included:
Kaniya Wignaraja ’88
A Big Hill to Climb: Keynote Address by Hillary Clinton
Just two weeks into her new role as interim president of Bryn Mawr, Kim Cassidy found herself introducing former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to an audience that included Institute delegates, press, and nearly 300 Bryn Mawr alumnae, students, faculty and staff. Clinton gave the Institute’s keynote address in Thomas Great Hall on July 9. Excerpted below is a portion of her speech. Click here to watch video of her full address.
This Friday will be the 16th birthday of a young woman from Pakistan. Her name is now known throughout the world—Malala. I’m sure many of you know her story. She will mark this Friday by addressing the United Nations, just seven months after being shot in the head by the Taliban for insisting on her right to go to school.
Three million people have signed the “I am Malala” petition, urging that girls everywhere be given the chance to be educated. This young, young woman has given so much, but she is determined to continue her struggle. She, in fact, has given a global face to dignity, to drive, to determination. In her first public comment after the shooting, she said: “God has given me this new life. I want to serve the people. I want every girl, every child, to be educated.”
Thankfully, she is still able to tell her story and inspire countless others to understand that we need every person to be given an education, every person to be given a chance to make the most out of that God-given potential we are all born with.
So I’m very encouraged. I know we have a long way to go. In fact, Bryn Mawr is a Welsh term for “big hill.” So we know we have a big hill to climb. If this were easy, it would have already been done. You would not be here; this beautiful space would not be filled with people who want to support you and this institute.
So let’s keep our eyes on the goal. Let’s continue to not only compile the evidence that supports what you are doing, makes the case for how important it is, but also helps to encourage more women and girls to put themselves on the line for leadership. Let’s do everything we can to get to 50 by 50. In 2050, I will be 103 years old. And I intend to see that we have succeeded.
Student Perspectives on the 2013 Women in Public Service Project Institute
“In many ways this was the perfect capstone of my studies,” says international studies major Maddy Bajoria ’13 of her involvement with the Institute. Bajoria is one of 10 Bryn Mawr students and recent graduates who played a crucial role in the event by helping with planning and logistics, contributing to social media coverage, and assisting delegates and speakers. Via daily blog posts on the Institute website, they shared their experiences, some of which are excerpted below. Click here to read all of their posts.
“Nothing in my imagination prepared me for what is going on right now at Bryn Mawr College. Passion, ambition, motivation, inspiring, extraordinary … all key words that have been pulled out of speeches and conversations describing today’s program and participants. All of our speakers and panelists told of their journey into public service and making a difference in their respective communities. Participants connected these singular experiences to the struggle of women globally and engaged in conversation which pushed to analyze hard realities, like the broken relationship of the state with its citizens post-conflict, the need to recognize and include grassroots movements in peacebuilding and reconstruction, the essential fight to push for equality even when it seems that more important things are priority, and the importance for women to ‘sit at the table.'”
—Karina Siu ’14
“Modernization was the focus of Professor Michael Allen in his riveting presentation titled ‘From Conflict to Creating the Future We Want.’ Economic development was the broad theme of the day, but Professor Allen’s presentation dug deeper: all the way down to the root causes of inequality and the challenges to development in post-conflict settings. His analysis was simple but compelling—the post-conflict development agenda is not development at all; it is in fact modernization. Modernity is the improvement of tools, technologies, infrastructures, and institutional forms according to rational criteria of efficiency. Modernity does not lead humankind toward fulfillment of the ‘Future We Want’ or development. Rather, substantive development is the sustainable reproduction of production that meets human needs for safety, nurture, belonging, and creative fulfillment.”
—Maddy Bajoria ’13
“I learned yesterday—our day on ‘Leveraging Technology as a Tool for Social Change: Policy and Practice’—most women around the world face a serious digital divide. Yet despite the barriers that technology might pose to the development of women, it may also serve as a means for empowerment. Hearing these inspirational—and somewhat sensational—success stories around the world made me believe in the power of change via technology. Even so, I couldn’t help but keep thinking of something that Senior Advisor for Women and Technology Ann Mei Chang said earlier that day: ‘Technology is not a panacea; technology is a tool.’ Humans are the hands. With new advances constantly emerging in the field of information and communications technology (ICT), it would be easy to get lost or left behind. We must remind ourselves that people—after all—are at the reins. We are the storytellers and the changemakers, the activists and the actors. Though technology connects us, it is ultimately what we make of these connections that drives progress.”
—Jacinda Tran ’13
Go to wpsp.blogs.brynmawr.edu for comprehensive coverage of the 2013 Women in Public Service Project Institute at Bryn Mawr College. You’ll find video of speakers such as Hillary Rodham Clinton, Angela Kane ’70, and Alice Rivlin ’52; photos; blog posts; and much more!