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Women Taking the Lead in 2009

Alyse Nelson

Throughout the year, I have felt and seen a powerful momentum materializing. Women in diverse corners of the world are inspiring change, they are speaking out and being heard. Women are leading -leading neighborhoods, villages, parliaments, and nations. Women are acting with purpose, practicing a kind of power that unifies and inspires us with renewed faith in collaborative leadership.


In a time of economic crisis, leaders, academics and thought leaders are rightfully turning their attention to the world's greatest reserve of innovation, intelligence, and will -women. The world is looking to women and recognizing that they are a tremendous resource and must be equal partners in the recovery and further development of economic, social and political life.

As I think back on all we have achieved in this last year, I think of historic firsts, future promise, and the extraordinary character of the women we are privileged to work with each day. I think of Rola Dashti's perseverance and successful election as one of the first female parliamentarians in Kuwait; I think of Chouchou Namegabe's courage as she offered compelling testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the terror of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo; I think of Laura Alonso's integrity as she legislates for transparency as a newly-elected member of congress in Argentina; I think of Urun Guner's determination as she works to expand women's rights in Turkey; I think of young Sadiqa Basiri Saleem's compassion as she brings education to girls in Afghanistan and serves as a rising voice of our time.

As an organization, Vital Voices has experienced growth in a challenging time, and, with increased capacity, we have better positioned our team to serve thousands of women around the world through our programs. In March of this year, we honored heroic leaders with our Global Leadership Awards, in May we went on to launch the Africa Business Women's Network, and in November our international network expanded its reach with locally organized events on the day of the Global Women's Mentoring Walk. At the annual Clinton Global Initiative, we renewed our commitment to our mission, pledging to engage new constituencies and find innovative solutions to address emerging and enduring challenges.

Our Global Women Artisan Export Development Program continues to thrive, as jewelry from artisans like Rebecca Lolosoli of Kenya will be featured in Diane von Furstenberg's 2010 Spring Collection. SEVEN continues to reach audiences around the world, premiering this year in London and Sweden. Our Eurasia Program has hosted delegations of women leaders from Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Russia, connecting women and enhancing their capacity to enact change through leadership training. Our Latin America and the Caribbean Program continues to expand, marking the launch of local chapters in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Argentina while celebrating the 10th anniversary of our chapter in Haiti. Our Human Rights Program shines a light on courageous advocates and commemorated the 61st anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights while convening a global summit for women leaders in Geneva. In hosting a working group in Italy in November, we brought together human rights activists, policy-makers, and NGO colleagues from around the world to consider new approaches to the challenges facing women as we prepare to mark the 15th anniversary of the historic UN Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995.

In this next year, we at Vital Voices will concentrate our energy as an organization and global network on the power and possibility of innovation. As a collective of activists and advocates, we have affected considerable change, seen and unseen, in near and far communities of the world. And yet, barriers to equality and peace rob women of their universal, fundamental freedoms. While we are familiar with obstacles such as prejudice and disenfranchisement, others such as sexual violence in war and human trafficking are constantly evolving. We must be tireless in our efforts, and we must approach each challenge with the conviction that we can overcome it. To this end, we will invest in the sustainability of effective programs and pursue creative partnerships as we seek to address enduring challenges with new resolve. I look forward to 2010 with hope and confidence in anticipation of all we will achieve as we fulfill our mission and propel a building momentum.

Best wishes for a happy and successful New Year!

Alyse Nelson is President and Chief Executive Officer of Vital Voices Global Partnership. She has worked with women leaders to develop training programs and international forums in over 120 countries and has interviewed more than 200 international leaders.