Days 1 and 2 | December 1-2, 2009
The final component of the Women’s Leadership Training Program has officially launched in Washington, DC. Fourteen Egyptian, Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian Seeds reunited after seven months apart while they launched women’s empowerment projects in their home countries.
Two day-long trainings helped Seeds share best practices, challenges and project achievements. After reviewing the main components of the initiative’s April Amman Summit, such as experimental learning cycles and program management, the group focused on taking its projects to the next level.
Day 3 | December 3, 2009
In the morning, participants presented their projects in front of the group as well as staff from CEDPA and Seeds of Peace. The presenters detailed the process of turning their ideas into actions, narrating the challenges and triumphs of their journeys. They told the audience of their process in the form of a story, which made their ventures into facilitating economic independence in women more than just statistics; their stories turned the issue of economic empowerment into something personal, putting names and faces to those they are helping. Each woman also emphasized that their endeavors had a huge effect on them. Rather than being at the endpoint of their initiatives, the majority of women are planning on continuing on their path of serving others.
Upon learning about the ventures each participant undertook, the group offered support and encouragement; they inspired each other to continue their work. In discussing each program, the group also made recommendations to help the program’s founder or founders further their goals and endeavors. Many participants received contacts and connections, while others received content advice and materials.
In the afternoon, the groups were able to engage in deeper reflection on their programs. The participants divided into their project groups and elaborated on their accomplishments while listing their goals for the future. Each received suggestions in order to accomplish their plans and to reach more people.
Day 4 | December 3, 2009
As the training began to wind down, the participants learned the value of monitoring and evaluating their projects. The facilitators emphasized the importance of having both quantitative and qualitative benchmarks that measure the progress and the results of each initiative. The data they collect will help them improve their programs and demonstrate to donors their effectiveness and validity, creating an opportunity to obtain more support for their continuation.
The participants then learned to identify obstacles and opportunities for empowering women in active and post conflict settings. Each woman expressed great interest on the topic of including their projects in the peacebuilding process.
The group also gained the skills to construct elevator speeches in order to prepare for their meetings with members of Congress and the State Department. Condensing their programs into 60 seconds seemed difficult to some at first, but each person was able to create an articulate summary of her project with ease. Everyone finished the day feeling prepared for next week’s presentations.
Day 5 | December 5, 2009
Participants had the day off today to explore the US Capitol. Groups toured the National Mall and monuments and took in some of DC’s shopping scene. Many chose to rest and prepare for their meetings at the White House and on Capitol Hill.
Day 6 | December 6, 2009
Today, participants had the chance to reconnect with the Seeds of Peace staff and community in Washington, DC. This began with a meeting between the participants and Ashleigh Zimmerman, Seeds of Peace Coordinator for Graduate Affairs, on the relevancy of the Seeds of Peace experience in their adult lives. The participants agreed that trainings such as the Women’s Economic Empowerment, which provide concrete skills for graduates are highly beneficially to older Seeds. The discussion also included how Seeds of Peace can continue to support these women as they begin to scale and take their projects through their next steps. Finally, they discussed how the Seeds plan to reinvest their new skills back into the Seeds of Peace Community by holding similar trainings for younger Seeds in their community and serving as volunteers, advisors and mentors for Seeds in their home countries.
Later in the evening, the Women’s Empowerment participants joined Seeds from all Camp years, Seeds of Peace Camp counselors and former staff at the Busboys and Poets restaurant. This evening gave the DC community a chance to meet the participants (and members of the New York staff).
Day 7 | December 7, 2009
What a busy day for the Seeds! The participants spent the morning utilizing their skills in delivering elevator speeches while in a roundtable discussion with State Department officials. The group spoke about the necessity of programs directed at women’s economic participation in the formal sector and how it will aid the development of their respective nations. In turn, the officials gave the ladies resources they can employ in order to further their projects.
Being away from their projects and regular lives, the women were able to reflect on the lessons they learned from the Women’s Economic Empowerment Program. Most expressed that self and community awareness is one of the greatest lessons that the ladies acquired and that they were able to apply it to all aspects of their lives. The women spoke on how the skills and knowledge they obtained helped them with their jobs or school as well as the manner with which they communicate with others. The majority of women also spoke on their delight at being able to make a difference and fulfill one of the needs of their countries.
The Seeds concluded the day with a reception at CEDPA to showcase their programs in a more relaxed setting. The women were able to utilize the lessons they learned throughout the training process to ensure that they expressed their thoughts and ideas in a clear and precise manner.
Day 8 | December 8, 2009
In the interest of continuing with their projects, the Seeds asked for a training that specifically dealt with fundraising. The women were able to learn about an assortment of places where they can obtain capital for their initiatives. The ladies also learned about various methods and tips in their approach to possible donors.
Later, the participants had a busy day meeting with political leaders. The first stop on the itinerary was the White House where they met with White House staff members Tina Tchen, Jenny Kaplan, and Jane Thomasine. Throughout the afternoon, the Seeds patiently explained their projects with each of the four—five for some—meetings scheduled.
It may have been a long and tiring day, but it was not apparent when the ladies were presenting. They spoke with so much passion, almost as if they were discussing it for the first time. It was apparent that all their practice, dedication, and trainings paid off as they eloquently discussed a variety of issues with political leaders and their staff.
Day 9 | December 9, 2009
Seeds started the morning with CEDPA’s surprise announcement of a grant competition to support the women’s empowerment teams with up to $1,000 of additional funding to continue their projects. Teams will need to submit a proposal to CEDPA explaining how their projects would benefit from additional funding and detail the amount needed to implement their next phase.
Following this exciting announcement, the group met to evaluate the program and brainstorm ideas for future efforts. They shared their opinions on the best aspects of the program and those which could be improved upon in the future. The group also discussed possibilities for additional training to continue their development as leaders. It was decided that the women would try to meet again in Egypt six months from now. Finally, they spoke about ways they can be further integrated into both Seeds of Peace and CEDPA future programming.
The group was then joined by additional Seeds of Peace and CEDPA staff members, in addition to Lori Jackon, Director of ExxonMobil’s Educating Women and Girls Initiative. During the graduation ceremony, Ms. Jackson congratulated the group and shared how their work exceeded all of her and ExxonMobil’s expectations for the program. She also shared her excitement in bringing Seeds of Peace and CEPDA together for this venture and hopes for continued partnership between the two organizations.
Representatives from CEPDA and Seeds of Peace then made their own remarks about the success of the partnership and participants’ projects. Seeds Rasha Mukbil and Keren Greenblatt thanked the three organizations for providing this opportunity before receiving their certificates of completion with the 12 other graduates of the program.
The day concluded with a lunch for all the staff and participants with Lori Jackson. From there the group said their goodbyes and headed back home with new ideas, and a renewed belief both in the power of women to change the world and their ability to create that change as Seeds of Peace.