#WomenWednesday: Meet Morocco!

Zakia Hmayda is from a small town in Morocco studying Computer Networking. She is currently living with her aunt in a big city o she is facing a new challenge of adjusting to the city life on her own. Zakia enjoys listening to Indian songs and is fascinated by the Indian culture. She watches Bollywood movies and dances in her free time. A fun fact about her is that about 99% of her clothes are different shades of black. In Morocco, there are two dialects that are most commonly spoken in Morocco: Tamazight and Darija. Zakia hopes to gain new friends during her time with KWLI and wants to encourage friends and family around her to get and education because it opens up many opportunities that one would not receive otherwise.

Aicha Adoui is majoring in Literature and Human Sciences. Aicha says that Morocco is geographically diverse and is mostly known for tourism. Aicha identifies as Muslim and feels that she is responsible for being a model that represents her religion to be able to clear false stereotypes that have been created towards Islam, mainly in the media. Aicha’s favorite saying is “some of the best things in life are mistakes” and her favorite song is Wake Me Up by Green Day. Aicha’s weakness is caffeine in all its forms. She is also a huge fan of Korean Culture, and actively listens to Korean pop and watches Korean dramas.

#WomenWednesday: Meet the women of Mongolia!


The women from Mongolia have been such a great part of our institute. We are excited for you to meet them!

Otgonzul is studying renewable energy engineering. She would like people to know that Mongolia is a developing country with an up-and-coming younger generation. She would like to tell her younger self that even when problems arise, she should be persistent and face them with courage. “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity!” She also loves to eat cheesy foods, especially pastas!

Bolor is studying international economic relations in Ulaanbaatar. If she could give her younger self advice, she would say, “You are stronger and smarter than you realize. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You just have to persevere through the hardships and stand tall.” She would like people to know that though Mongolia is associated with a nomadic lifestyle, it is not barbaric. She is from a metropolitan city and the people there are very peaceful. Her favorite food is brownies!

Uyanga (Melody) is studying financial management. She says that many people assume that she is serious and quiet, but when you get to know her she opens up. She loves to eat spicy food and pasta. She says that Mongolia is developing very rapidly. If she could give her younger self advice, she would say, “Try new things, explore yourself, don’t be afraid to fail, meet new people, try to see the world from a different angle. And read a lot of books!”

Javkhlan (Jane) is studying international business management and describes herself as imaginative, driven, and passionate. She says that her beliefs and values drive her life. She wishes she could say this to her younger self: “Learn as many things as possible. Be fearless. You can do anything if you put your energy toward it. You are that strong. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are less than this.” Her favorite food is cake (vegan of course)!

Stay tuned for more updates from these talented and passionate women!


Women Wednesday: Introducing the women from India

We are so excited to introduce you to the women from India!

Mahamedha is a student of English, politics, and social work. If she could give her younger self advice, she would tell herself to make less mistakes. She would like people to know that India has more to explore than religions. They do not call it “Incredible India!” for no reason. Her favorite treat is cheese pizza!

Aradhana is a computer science and engineering student who loves red velvet cake! If she could go back in time, she would tell her younger self to think things through and prioritize before acting. She would like the world to know that 780 languages and dialects are currently spoken in India!

Ani is a student of English literature. She wants to the world to know that even though people consider India to be a country of superstitions, many of their beliefs are based in scientific fact. If she could go back in time, she would tell her younger self to be more serious in all aspects of life. Her favorite food is a rice pudding dish called payasam.

Bala is a psychology and sociology student who would like to one day become a counselor. Her advice to her younger self is something we can all learn from. “Whatever you feel like doing, just do it! Life is too short. Please smile while you still have teeth!”

We are so excited to have these passionate, talented, smart, and funny women with us this summer. Check in on social media tomorrow to hear from them more!


Commemorating a Struggle

This guest blog was written by KWLI 2014 alumna Arpita Mitra

Every day I see people struggling – a struggle to sustain oneself, to cope up with the trying moments; much courageous, a struggle to move on. The omnipresence of a certain sense of competition, of an uncalled-for pitting oneself against the other, or the increasing desirability of a number one position, makes me wonder about what went wrong.

In an inter-connected globalized world, transcending borders have not only increased opportunities, but have differentially, yet paradoxically hindered the same for many communities. While I’m coming to terms with the increasing costs of education for international students at much aspired universities, there are many others who are employed as child labourers because education itself is made to appear as a distant privilege to them. From the last breath of a young girl who was left abandoned by her parents to be chewed by dogs, to young boys unethically labeled ‘terrorists’ or ‘national threats’, heinous enough for crimes they haven’t even committed or the fainting voice of a teenager who committed suicide in response to the fear of being bullied again – these narratives are linked together by a delicate thread – ‘What wrong did they do, to face the consequential experience?’

The situations in conflict-torn region of Darfar (Sudan) are extreme, to such an extent that children in camps of Fata Borno tell UNICEF Officers “we are here, please don’t forget us”. The act of forgetting is closely tied to the act of remembering. History writing is interesting, not only because it glorifies one set of events to the level of nationalist consciousness, but simultaneously deems irrelevant the narratives of thousands of ‘insignificant’ individuals through the political art of silencing. The history of memory, then, is equally a political act of depoliticizing certain specifically chosen voices to represent and validate the history, almost as a natural occurrence, thereby taking away the agency from specific communities to retell their story, their past. It is not that the subaltern subject cannot speak, the question rather becomes, as Prof. Gayatri Spivak accounts, is ‘can the subaltern be heard’.

So when this hitherto unperturbed mainstream consciousness is met with a reality check through a kaleidoscope-like vision, what we unfurl beneath the layers of our oblivion is a struggle. A struggle gets re-conceptualized in extraordinary movements – to reinstate that #BlackLivesMatter, or as Lila Abu-Lughod would refer, to an ‘unbelievable’ variant of Islamic feminism, evident in Muslim women’s reassertion of cultural heterogeneity, and embracing various forms of wearing the head-scarfs and Islamic veils as against the popular conceptualization of them being ‘victims’ in dire need of ‘saving’. My question still remains – why do only some persons, groups, communities have to struggle to make their voice heard? Why does the recognition of a non-mainstream narrative made possible only in its capacity as a movement threatening existing status-quo? Why does it take for the State Attorney (Baltimore, Maryland) to recognize the disproportionate impact of criminal justice system on people ‘of colour’? This struggle – however a spark in history, is nevertheless a painful journey. Amidst the tussle between special recognition and complete integration (into the mainstream), the struggling voices shall forever be viewed as an exception than a norm. The history of non-mainstream lives are tailored to structure the permanence of the mainstream, like the fine contours demarcating ‘us’ from ‘them’. The mechanisms of control pervade not only in normalizing the discourse, but equally in exploiting and refusing to hear the other – the very act of denial often guides our willingness to forget. We struggle, we fight, some of us even give up our lives, but only few are privileged to be regarded as martyrs. How is the life of a factory worker dying due to industrial toxic fumes each day, any less significant than the soldier who dies on-field protecting the honour of our respective nation-states? To me, there isn’t, but that’s easier said than done, since our privilege equally blinds us to the very ‘privilege of ignorance’ – the fact that we can often choose to ignore our caste identities or class positions is precisely because it hasn’t affected our life struggles. But where ascribed identities determine the extent of achievement, we are destined to struggle or lead a life with the fear that our stories will soon be forgotten. Who is to be held accountable?

In the constant Foucauldian struggle between ‘subjection’ (as individuals’ submission to domination) and ‘subjectification’ (an identity created for us not in terms of who we are, but what we come to represent as per the gaze of the dominant group), we are increasingly giving away a crucial component of who we truly are, in the effort to contest what they’ve made of us. It is time to recognize the sincerity of these struggles as the real foundations of our histories and her-stories.

Women Wednesday: Meet the women from Morocco


The women from Morocco will be taking over our social media tomorrow, so we wanted to give you a chance to get to know them.

Sarah studies architecture and urban design and would like to pursue a career in management. If she could give her younger self advice, she would say that it is important to say, “Yes!” to trying new things. She would like for more people to see how caring she is and to appreciate everything she has to offer. To top it all off, she loves mango and lemon ice cream!

Rania is an aerospace engineering student. She would like to tell her younger self, “Don’t give up on yourself, believe in yourself! You’ll grow up to be awesome!” She loves chocolate! She also would like the world to know how diverse Morocco is and how welcoming the people are.

Khaoula is a self-described “very loud person” who loves pizza. She is currently studying English literature. Her advice to her younger self is something we can all listen to. She says, “It doesn’t get better unless you get up and do something about it. Remember to dream big and never stop believing.”

Youmn studies business and management who would like the world to know that Morocco is a country undergoing some dyanmic changes. Particularly, with increased striving for human rights there has been an increase in opportunity. By the way, she loves mini pizzas with tuna! Youmn would tell her younger self, “Have fun and don’t be too shy; you’re worth it!”

These enthusiastic, talented and driven women have already been so so fun to get to know. We hope you enjoy getting to hear from them tomorrow. Be sure to stay tuned for more updates from all of the 2015 cohort!

Learn more about the 2015 Kansas Participants

Cameron headshotCameron McLaughlin

Kansas State University
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
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
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
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
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
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.

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