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Vital Voices successfully concluded its fifth cohort of the signature VVEngage Fellowship today, February 8. VVEngage supports expectational women political leaders making and influencing policy worldwide. This fellowship aims to increase women leaders’ capacity, decision-making power, and effectiveness of women leaders in politics and government. Together, we are shifting culture around women’s public leadership and moving towards equality in public representation globally.

Investing in women’s political leadership is crucial to addressing the underrepresentation of women in elected and appointed offices. According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s 2023 data, women hold 26.5% of seats in parliament and 22.8% of cabinet positions while serving as heads of state or government in 31 countries. Women politicians face significant levels of psychological violence — including threats, harassment, and sexist remarks. Additionally, women political candidates are more prone to be targeted by fake news and disinformation compared to male candidates, and the effects are heightened for women in marginalized communities.

The VVEngage fellowship annually brings together a group of individuals for in-person and online training. The fellowship also connects participants to a global network of peers and mentors. The VVEngage program has helped each cohort of fellows to build strong connections, develop increased confidence, hone their political leadership skills, and progress toward achieving their personal goals.

The 2023 cohort brought together 26 fellows from 23 countries around the world. Fellows included Members of Parliament, mayors, local government leaders, appointed government officials, political party leaders, activists, and political journalists. Throughout the fellowship, participants attended online training sessions on the imposter complex, social media strategy, the Sustainable Development Goals, digital security, building coalitions, and more.

Fellows were given the opportunity to spend a week together in Nairobi, Kenya, where they participated in additional sessions, network building, and mentorship. During their stay, they were joined by two mentors from the Council of Women World Leaders and a network of current and former women prime ministers and presidents. Former President Dalia Grybauskaitė of Lithuania and former Prime Minister Beatriz Merino of Peru spent the week with the fellows, sharing their experience on topics ranging from negotiations to being the only woman in the room.

Many VVEngage fellows have reported that one of the most significant benefits of participating in the fellowship was connecting with a cohort of like-minded women who share similar goals and challenges. Fellows shared that they felt “empowered,” “inspired,” and “confident” and are eager to “pay it forward” with their communities.

After graduating from the fellowship, they join a VVEngage alumni network of 140 women from around the world and are part of the Vital Voices global network of over 20,000 women. We are excited to witness their continued growth and leadership journeys in the future!