Friday, July 27, 2012


Last week I was introduce to a world that I, shockingly for my age, know little about—social media. I was assigned the job of compiling a page that describes the way Vital Voices uses social media to spread information and updates.

In March, Vital Voices partnered with Bank of America to form the Global Ambassador’s Program, which pairs distinguished women with emerging women leaders in developing countries to mentor and guide them in their individual fields. The program is based on the belief that strong leadership is necessary for successful communities and to promote economic development. There have been two major conferences so far—one in Haiti and one in South Africa. The Haiti conference was based on rebuilding efforts from the 2010 earthquake and the South Africa conference focused on strengthening women’s voice and agency across the world.

On Tuesday, Vital Voices hosted the Bank of America for a day-long conference to share the success of the program. I spent a full day prior browsing facebook, twitter, Pinterest, and blog posts for news about the Global Ambassador’s program. To be honest, I had never seen the setup of Pinterest before six days ago! It was a great way to introduce myself to a topic that I knew little about and read updates on a major Vital Voices program.

Looking forward, I am hoping to get involved in the preparation for the Argentina conference in November. As a Spanish major, I want to practice my skills however I can!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

See the Change Competition

For anyone that has a facebook, please look at this link!!

Vote for Vital Voices in the See the Change Competition!! Biore Skincare will donate 5,000 dollars to the organization that gets the most votes, so click on the link and drop the coin in to the Vital Voices jar!

Friday, July 13, 2012


I am now very settled in to Vital Voices—I know that I can set my alarm for 8:05 and arrive right on schedule, and I have an established PC in the intern room. I have finally got the dress code down pat (a very confusing mixture of fashionable, casual, and business appropriate). I also feel refreshed in my air-conditioned room after losing power and living without AC for five days in the 100-degree humidity. Now that the orientation phase is long over and the heat wave has ended, I am delving in to the substance of my internship and discovering the core of the organization.

The work of Vital Voices is based upon it’s “Leadership Model”—a seven step process in which Vital Voices meets an emerging female leader, helps her to expand and gain visibility in her field through leadership training, and therefore deepens the women’s impact on her community and encourages her to mentor other emerging leaders.

Three weeks ago, I wasn’t able to accurately describe my department within Vital Voices. While my understanding is continually growing, I see that the Global Leadership Network (GLN) is the newest department within the organization, created as a kind of umbrella department to oversee all of the action. The primary goal of the GLN is to stay connected with all of the women within the Vital Voices network and assess the direct impact that the Vital Voices leadership training has on the global communities. My work has ranged from typing up surveys by the women that assess this impact, to researching fellowships and grants that the women can apply for in the future, to writing the “featured voice” (biography) of an honored woman for the Vital Voices website.

One of the many benefits to working for an organization that trains emerging women leaders is that they are actively interested in training their young interns! Every week the office hosts “brown bags,” which are created to teach interns vital information about how an organization runs. Last week a member of the communications department taught us the lingo for posting professional updates on sites like twitter. This week we talked with four young staff members about their specific jobs, and how they developed their interests. It was so inspiring to hear these women, not more than four years older than myself, talk about their social impact and goals for the future. A woman from the Middle East/ North Africa department discussed how the Arab Spring opened up windows for female empowerment in the area, and how much work must be done to capitalize on the opportunities. Another woman discussed how donor’s interests dictate where Vital Voices must invest their funding. She talked about how difficult it is to tell a woman in Haiti that Vital Voices does not have a chapter there because there are not the funds to implement one.

This is an abrupt ending, but I have to finish up this post because it is the end of my lunch break and I have grants to research! I will check back in soon.  

Sunday, July 8, 2012


It has been a while since my last post, so I will write two this week to catch up from where I left off! I have already begun to detail my past month at Vital Voices, but, before I forget the details, I would like to share about my appalling research experience at work today.

I spent all day researching a general background of India. Yes, I know that India is an enormous country and therefore it may seem a broad task. When I walked in to my supervisor’s office this morning, she explained that I was to take a stab at the initial “briefing book” for the leadership training conference in Mumbai India this October (I will explain further about these conferences in my next blog post). The attendees of the conference are handed a binder with everything from flight information to general background about the area. I wrote up sections about the geography, population, religion, government, economy, and more.

The most interesting section, and the most relevant to Vital Voices, described the “Conditions for Women” in the country. While researching, I came across a term that I have never before heard—gendercide. It was coined by Mary Anne Warren in 1985 to mean “gender selective mass killing.”

According to UN Women, over the past three generations more than 50 million women have gone missing (to use the light word) due to female feticide, female infanticide, dowry murders and “honor” killings. One type of gendercide is sex-selective abortion—a practice in India where families abort their children if they find out she is to be a girl. While this practice was banned in 1994, it still widely remains. Sex-selective abortion has contributed to the alarmingly low sex ratios in the country. In northern India, more than 120 boys are being born for every 100 girls.

Another contributor to gendercide are dowry related murders. Dowry refers to the money that a bride’s family gives to a groom’s family before a wedding. This act is seen as the last financial burden that the bride’s family will have to pay. Across the country, doctors advertise ultrasound scans with the slogan “Pay 5,000 rupees (110 dollars) today and save 50,000 rupees tomorrow” (the saving represents the cost of a daughter’s future dowry.

My day was filled with interesting, yet horrifying, research, and I left further intrigued to learn more. I have posted some sites below that share more information about the atrocities of gendercide.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

First week!!

After frustrating health setbacks, I am finally ready to start my summer blog! Last week I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards. Presented every year at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, the Awards honor a group of women who are, as described on the Vital Voices website, the “unsung heroines working to strengthen our democracy. This event marked the 15th anniversary of the Awards, which were initiated in Vienna, Austria.
The night was truly inspirational. I found myself backstage at the famous Kennedy Center, and remembered the countless times that I had sat in the audience of the very same room to watch the Nutcracker every December. Yet this show was very different than the annual Nutcracker performances. Instead of watching tutus and Christmas trees, I listened to the inspirational stories of nine women who have made drastic steps to cause social change across the world. I would love to share each and every one of these amazing stories, but that would lead to an excessively long blog post. Instead, I will describe the lives of two of the honorees.

Samar Minallah Khan is a Pakistani Pashtun filmmaker and anthropologist who has devoted the past decade of her life to ending “Swara,” a devastating Pakistani practice in which girls are given away to settle family disputes. Samar collected countless footage throughout Pakistan and, in 2003, presented her documentary on Swara. Samar caused widespread awareness of this horrific tradition and in 2004 Swara was made illegal. 

Manal Alsharif is a Saudi Arabian woman who defied longstanding tradition when she drove on the open streets of Saudi Arabia and posted a video of her act on youtube. In Saudi Arabia, women are prohibited from driving, by custom. While there is no law against female driving, Manal was imprisoned after her video went viral. She was instantly named “the Rosa Parks of Saudi Arabia,” and began a social media movement called Women2Drive.

The ceremonies were an amazing way to jumpstart my experience at Vital Voices. I quickly realized that I have mounds to learn about all of the social abuses across the world and the amazing women who have devoted their lives to helping others. I went home that night and browsed the Vital Voices website until I fell asleep. 

In the office, I am assisting with the follow up from the Awards Ceremony and helping my supervisors to prepare for an upcoming conference in South Africa. On my first day, I attended an all-staff meeting in which the president of Vital Voices herself thanked an intern for her work at the ceremonies. The energy in the office is palpable and my supervisors are constantly checking in on the interns with new assignments.

During my down time, I have wandered the streets of DC, which also happens to be my childhood home. I went to the gay pride festival last week, snuck up to the roof of St. Albans this weekend (which parallels the National Cathedral and offers an amazing view of the DC skyline), and hiked Great Falls today. It has been a great start to the summer, and I will check back in soon!!