2014 Bush Fellows Engage in Speed Mentoring at Meridian

The Council on Women’s Leadership (CWL) at Meridian hosted a “speed mentoring” session and reception for the 2014 Fellows, in collaboration with the George W. Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative Fellowship, a five-week program designed to enhance the leadership skills of women around the world with an initial focus on women in the Middle East and North Africa. The 2014 fellowship class includes 17 Tunisian women who are active leaders in their communities and represent six different sectors - education, business, law, health, politics and media. The “speed mentoring” event featured a group of high level U.S.-based participants including leaders from the business, non-profit, and U.S. Government communities, who engaged in small group mentoring sessions with the Tunisian Fellows. Following a short film highlighting this year’s Fellows, Michele Manatt, CWL Chair, shared welcome remarks and acknowledged the fruitful partnership with the George W. Bush Institute in hosting the Fellows over the past three years. Ms. Manatt introduced and turned the program over to Ambassador Wendy Chamberlain, President of the Middle East Institute and former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan. Ambassador Chamberlain provided an overview of the current landscape for women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. She observed that it is an exciting time to be a Tunisian woman, particularly in light of the adoption of a new progressive constitution which upholds gender equality and advances many rights for women. In quoting Marwan Muasher, former Deputy Prime Minister of Jordan, she noted that “there is going to be another revolution in the region and this time it is going to be centered on innovation and economy.” Ambassador Chamberlin declared that the combination of significant investment in the region’s economy by multinational corporations and the entrepreneurial, innovative spirit of youth in the region are creating promising conditions and opportunities for real social change. Charity Wallace, Director of the Women’s Initiative at the Bush Institute, offered brief remarks about the mission and goals of the Fellowship and invited Fellow Dalel Krichen to the front to share her perspectives. Ms. Krichen remarked that Tunisia has been the most progressive Arab country in terms of women’s rights, as post-independence leader Habib Bourguiba gave Tunisian women the right to vote, abolished polygamy, forbade marriage under the age of 17, legalized abortion, and allowed women equal rights to divorce. The literacy rate for women in Tunisia is over 70%, with women making up nearly 60% of university students. Although conditions for Tunisian women are unmatched in the Arab world, Ms. Krichen commented, they continue to be underrepresented in the political and public life, accounting for only 27% of the labor force. Following remarks, Fellows were divided into small groups for two 25-minute speed mentoring sessions with table “Chairs” guiding the ensuing discussions. Once the sessions concluded, a reception followed with His Excellency Mohamed Ezzine Chelaifa, newly-arrived Ambassador of Tunisia to the U.S., greeting the Fellows, along with other attendees representing the diplomatic, corporate and non-profit sectors.

Project summary

2014 Bush Fellows Engage in Speed Mentoring at Meridian
Number of Visitors: 17
Regions: Near East and North Africa
Countries: Tunisia
Impact Areas: Empowering Women and Girls, Human and Civil Rights, Governance and Transparency
Program Areas: Exchanges, Forums
Partners: Diplomatic Corps, Private Sector