Peace and Security for Women Leaders at the Forefront

On September 9, 2014, Meridian convened a roundtable discussion with participants of the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), for which the focus was on “Women Leaders: Promoting Peace and Security.” Meridian’s President and CEO, Ambassador Stuart Holliday, moderated this off-the-record discussion, and was joined by Dr. Michele Dunne, Senior Associate for the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Ambassador Laurie Fulton, Meridian Trustee and former U.S. Ambassador to Denmark. The group included 14 women from Egypt, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen, who are visiting the U.S. with goals of engaging political experts, academics, government officials, journalists and activists in thoughtful discussions regarding current peace and security situations and challenges throughout the world.

Ambassador Fulton and Dr. Dunne each gave brief opening remarks, followed by Ambassador Holliday opening the floor to conversation with the question, “What are the challenges and obstacles faced by this group? What practical tools might be helpful in your respective countries?” The group discussed the goal of creating a secure environment to allow women the opportunity to lead, both politically and professionally. The discussion also focused on how this period of unprecedented transition in the MENA region has brought many new opportunities for women to play key roles. Many thought it helpful to have an exchange of experts along with further education and leadership training, a role in which NGOs may have considerable impact. One visitor cited such an exchange with a group from Northern Ireland and felt that the subsequent consultation sessions, planning and sharing of expertise was a productive experience. While the discussion highlighted several challenges and possible tools to overcome these, the group recognized that even beyond the Middle East region, the world at large still has a long way to go in helping women reach equal parity.

During their Washington, DC stay, the visitors met with key policymakers from think tanks, NGOs, and U.S. Government agencies, including Women in International Security, National Democratic Institute, The Wilson Center, and U.S. Institute for Peace. Once they depart DC, the group will travel to Syracuse to visit Cornell Law School’s Avon Global Center for Women and Justice and to discuss human trafficking issues and child welfare services with various state and local agencies. From Syracuse, the visitors head to Dallas to meet with staff of the George W. Bush Institute’s Women Initiative Fellowship program, discuss women’s participation in and impact on the U.S. political system and examine issues of minority/female inclusion in the justice system. The program will end in Chicago, where the participants will examine the role of journalism in promoting ethical and transparent governance, and efforts to expose corruption in city politics

Project summary

Peace and Security for Women Leaders at the Forefront
Number of Visitors: 14
Number of Attendees: 17
Regions: Near East and North Africa
Countries: Egypt, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen
Impact Areas: Empowering Women and Girls
Program Areas: Forums, Exchanges
Partners: NGOs, Diplomatic Corps