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Last month, the second ANNpower Vital Voices Leadership Forum brought together a group of 50 young women from 23 states and Puerto Rico. Our goal, in partnership with ANN INC., the parent company of Ann Taylor and LOFT, is to empower young women from across the US with the leadership skills they need to affect global progress, invest in their communities, and begin their journeys as the next generation of leaders. The four days were jam-packed with leadership training, mentoring, fashion, and a few surprises – here’s a peek behind the scenes of the Leadership Forum:

The 2013 ANNpower Fellows are an extraordinary group of young leaders who are committed to creating sustainable change. Fellows worked throughout the week to identify relevant issues in their communities and develop an action plan for how to address these problems. After undergoing leadership training, these ANNpower Fellows emerged with creative solutions to tough challenges such as closing the education gap for minorities; increasing the number of women pursuing careers in the sciences, technology, engineering, and math fields; and protecting the environment. We’re thrilled to see what this ambitious group achieves, and proud to support them with ANNpower Grants to help transform their ideas into action and pay it forward at the local level. Learn more about how Fellows have used their ANNpower Grants.


A few surprises, and a touch of glam

The Leadership Forum kicked off with a very special treat – a private event at the LOFT store in Georgetown, complete with fashion tips from pro stylists, taking headshots, and a shopping spree! Check out photos from the event.

The next day, a very special guest joined the Fellows for a lunchtime chat: Kate Hudson! An award-winning actress and a member of the ANNpower Advisory Council, Kate shared her advice with the Fellows, and encouraged them to “unabashedly defend the best version of yourself,” when it comes to making tough decisions and following their dreams.

Fellows dressed up that evening and headed to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for the 12th Annual Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards. Before the show began, they were in for another surprise-a visit from former Secretary of State and Vital Voices co-founder Hillary Clinton. Meeting with the Fellows backstage, Secretary Clinton reinforced her commitment to providing women and girls with equal opportunities across the world, and reminded the ANNpower Fellows that, “it’s never too early to start working on these issues,” a sentiment that the Fellows took to heart.


Developing a global perspective

The goal of the Leadership Forum is to equip the next generation with the leadership training and mentoring that they need to grow as leaders, enabling them to invest in their communities today, and inspiring them to advance global progress in the future. ANNpower Fellows underwent training on Vital Voices’ signature leadership model, and then saw these leadership principles brought to life by working closely with their ANNpower Mentors, members of the Vital Voices Global Leadership Network and ANN INC. executives.

This year’s mentors included graffiti artist and activist Panmela Castro from Brazil; entrepreneur Maria Pacheco of Guatemala; National Representative of Argentina, Laura Alonso; businesswoman and former presidential candidate Kah Walla of Cameroon; educator and school administrator Dr. Kakenya Ntaiya of Kenya; and documentary filmmaker Samar Minallah Khan from Pakistan. Sharing their stories and paths to leadership, these ANNpower Mentors worked closely with the Fellows to help them develop a platform and their own voices as rising leaders.

“One of my favorite activities was learning to identify qualities of good and bad leaders,” ANNpower Fellow Anjana reflected. “We learned that good leaders have a driving force, strong roots in the community, and bold ideas; are able to cross lines that divide; and are willing to pay it forward. The lesson that resonated with me the most is that people who don’t do anything are able to avoid criticism; however, effective leaders don’t worry about that and instead are willing to put themselves out there and take action.”


The ANNpower Network

The Leadership Forum was only the start. This year’s Fellows join a network of young women from across the country who are committed to creating sustainable change. 2011 and 2012 Fellows are already paying it forward – by raising awareness for gun violence, creating mentoring opportunities for girls, safeguarding the environment, and connecting communities in the US and abroad through a love of reading. The ANNpower team looks forward to seeing how the 2013 Fellows continue to connect and collaborate to lead change in their communities across the country.

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