Although late, I thought I’d share my experience as a Bryn Mawr College student at one day (Day 2) of the two week long Women in Public Service Summer Institute.
I arrived at Bryn Mawr’s campus in the morning, just in time to catch a panel on “Alternative Approaches to Women’s Leadership in Transitional Settings.”
The panelists included Moushira Khattab, former Ambassador of Egypt to Italy and South Africa & Egyptian Council on Foreign Affairs, Lilia Labidi, Visiting Research Professor, Middle East Institute, National University Singapore, and Fatima Sbaity-Kassem, former Director, UN-ESCWA Centre for Women from the Middle East/North Africa. The panel was moderated by Haleh Esfandiari, Director of the Middle East Program at the Wilson Center.
Much of what the panelists said centered on changing consciousness as a way to garner change in transitional communities. They also offered that the best was to do this is through local leaders, specifically the religious leaders in these setting. The effectiveness of this method is exemplified by female genital mutilation, which is far less prevalent today than a mere decade ago. (There’s a great article in The New York Times today about fgm and the power of insiders, which can be found here.)
About halfway through the panel, Jane Harman, a former U.S. Representative, president and CEO of the Wilson Center, and a graduate of sister college, Smith, entered the room and offered encouragement to the delegates in attendance.
The delegates had a limited amount of time at the end for questions and comments, but one that really resonated with me was one delegate’s commenting on the west’s implementation of gender quotas, like the 25% quota in Iraq, without having these numbers of women in their own governments.
For more about this panel you can look to my or the UI’s twitter feed.
In the afternoon, I ventured to Thomas Great Hall to see Hillary Clinton’s Keynote Address. She was introduced by Ms. Harman, who spoke about the importance of the convergence of government (The State Department) with academia. She also noted how fitting it was that the Wilson Center and the Women and Public Service Project’s Summer Institute was held that summer on Bryn Mawr’s campus, where President Woodrow Wilson began his academic career.
When Hillary took to the stage there were feelings of hysteria from my friends and I. She spoke about the importance of women’s rights and political parity, something she has continued to champion in her time as FLOTUS, a United States Senator, Secretary of State, and something I know she will continue to champion in her time as the first female President. (Only partially kidding.)
For more on Hillary Clinton’s speech, look to my recent Huffington Post article.
As the day drew to a close, those in attendance at Secretary Clinton’s address enjoyed cocktails and horderves in Bryn Mawr’s historic cloisters. I was surrounded by incredible women such as Farah Pandith, the inspiring Women in Public Service delegates, friends who share my passion for public service, as well as some professors who continually support and encourage me to follow my dreams, the one where I’m holding public office in particular.
I wish I could have been able to make more of the institute, but so cherish the one day I was able to spend at Bryn Mawr’s Women in Public Service Project.