The VVLead Fellowship Program: Innovating a New Type of Global Network
The VVLead Fellowship Program is a distinctive partnership between the UK government’s Department for International Development and Vital Voices Global Partnership. The program supports a global network of emerging and established women leaders who provide creative and sustainable solutions to pressing problems that have impeded women and girls’ full participation in their societies and economies.
The first Peer-to-Peer Exchange Program of the fellowship is August 18-22 in New Delhi, India. This in-person program will bring together 13 VVLead Fellows from five countries for a training designed around their specific needs and objectives. The program will include Vital Voices staff-led technical trainings; peer mentorship; Fellow-led workshops and trainings; and a site visit to the Naz Foundation (I) Trust Goal Programme, where VVLead Fellow Kalyani Subramnyam works as the National Coordinator of the Goal Programme. The goal of this small-scale, intensive program is for participating Fellows to become equipped with new knowledge, tools, connections and ideas to tackle their personal leadership and organization or business goals.
INAUGURAL CLASS OF FELLOWS SELECTED
In February, 103 women leaders were selected to join the 2013 class of VVLead Fellows. The diverse class of Fellows represents 47 countries across the globe, from Liberia to Peru to Vietnam. These women are driving change from positions in business, government, media, non-profit and advocacy fields to find creative and sustainable solutions to address economic disparities, violence against women and harmful cultural practices. All of the Fellows recognize that in order to advance the causes of women and girls worldwide, women leaders need to connect on a global scale.
As 2013 VVLead Fellow Sohini Chakraborty explains, connecting to global networks opens up opportunities for women – to share experiences, receive knowledge and skills and explore their inner strengths.
BUILDING AN ONLINE GLOBAL COMMUNITY
Shortly after their acceptance into the program, Fellows joined the VVLead online learning and mentoring platform, the cornerstone of the fellowship. Through the platform, Fellows can connect to one another, participate in tailored technical trainings and access program resources and tools. The platform serves as the foundation for the fellowship’s diverse global network of women leaders.
Alyse Nelson, president and CEO of Vital Voices Global Partnership, officially welcomed Fellows to the program during a webinar streamed live through the online platform where she walked the Fellows through the Vital Voices signature Leadership Model. Using computers, tablets and mobile devices across the globe, Fellows connected to each other by sharing their driving force and sense of mission:
“Making equals, unequal is unacceptable.”
–Caroline Ajie, principal attorney, C.N, Ajie and Company, Nigeria
“To struggle for a life without gender violence.”
– Monique Altshcul, co-founder and executive director, Fundacion Mujeres en Igualdad (MEI), Argentina
FELLOWS MEET IN NIGERIA
On May 23, VVLead Fellows in Nigeria attended the day-long forum, “Women’s Leadership: Why Africa is Rising,” part of the Vital Voices SPARC Program held in Lagos. For Fellows, the forum was an eye-opening and powerful experience, providing both an opportunity to participate in the discussion on African women’s leadership and to meet each other and Vital Voices staff face-to-face. After the forum, Fellows participated in a networking and leadership session hosted by Vital Voices’ Vice President of Strategic Communications, Margaux Bergen, and Creative Director Aaron Kisner. The session catalyzed connections among VVLead Fellows regionally. The group, led by Hafsat Abiola, plans to continue finding opportunities for in-person connections so that they can provide mutual support for each other in their work advancing the causes of women and girls in their communities.
Fellow Victoria Emah Emah is executive director of Neighborhood Care-Well Foundation (NCF)
MOVING FORWARD IN THE FELLOWSHIP
Over the next three years Fellows will continue to receive training, resources and in-person leadership and networking opportunities. Currently, Fellows are participating in a weekly Strategic Communications course, covering topics such as building a communications plan, using social media tools and writing for the web. The program will deliver two more full courses before the end of the year. Fellows will also have the opportunity to apply for challenge grants to supplement their ongoing work or to kick-start new and innovative initiatives for which they may not have previously had the resources, as well as participate in peer-to-peer small group information exchanges and South-South Exchange Conferences.
Photo at top: VVLead Fellows at the “Women’s Leadership: Why Africa is Rising” Forum. From left to right: Amy Oyekunle, Victoria Emah-Emah, Hafsat Abiola-Costello, Titi Akosa, Blessed Uwat, Asmau Benzies-Leo, Joy Eze (Not pictured: Maureen Chidi Ezeigbo, Iwalala Akin-Jimoh, Chukwunonso Ume-Ezeoke, and Esther Ijewere Kalejaeyie).