Community Spotlight Series: Young Women Empowered
April 1st, 2022
Young Women Empowered staff meet with “Education and Activism for Young Women” IVLP leaders in February 2017
Young Women Empowered (Y-WE) cultivates the power of diverse young women (those who identify as women or girls or who were assigned female at birth) to be creative leaders and courageous changemakers through transformative programs within a collaborative community of belonging.
The World Affairs Council Global Leadership Exchange is honored to partner and collaborate with Y-WE on such international exchanges as the Hands Along the Nile Development Services (HANDS) Professional Fellows Program NGO Development and Women's Empowerment, International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) projects such as Women Leaders: Drivers of Economic and Social Change and Education and Activism for Young Women, and youth programs including Jóvenes en Acción, Brazilian Youth Ambassadors Program (BYAP), and Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP).
Y-WE is dedicated to building strong relationships and communities, locally and globally! We caught up with Y-WE leadership to better understand the role that international exchanges play in their work. Reagan Jackson, Co-Executive Director, and Victoria Santos, Senior Advisor, both shared the importance of global exchange.
“Connecting with global leaders continues to be relevant, as there will never be a time in life to not form global alliances and partnerships. It is more and more relevant to connect more and more!” explains Reagan Jackson (pictured left).
Reagan has dedicated her life to international education. We are honored to have connected with Reagan as far back as April 2007, when she led a leadership training for the Serbian Youth Leadership Program: Grassroots Activism. “I have worked with so many international exchange groups over the years. However, I specifically remember that during a leadership training for Serbian youth, the participants shared their reflections on Seattle as well as how they conceptualized leadership. This perspective was extremely valuable to understand our own community,” remembers Reagan. “Our work at Y-WE in gender justice and empowering women is a global movement. Sometimes it can be easy to get siloed in our work, which is why it’s important to connect with people from around the world. Through exchanges, it is grounding to hear about leaders’ work and the impact they’re having in their countries, as well as listen to youth perspectives.”
Welcome Lunch for the Hands Along the Nile Development Services (HANDS) Professional Fellows Program “NGO Development and Women's Empowerment” in 2017
“We love hosting international groups,” says Victoria Santos, Senior Advisor to Y-WE (pictured right). “Hosting opens up our organization to see that the work we’re doing is reflected in the work being done globally by leaders in the youth development field all over the world. Y-WE is an organization that believes diversity is our strength. Our youth participants are representative of the global population so for us to welcome international leaders that represent those countries is magical. We believe that we need to act locally with a global perspective extension of hosting global leaders as part of that work.”
In 2015, 2016, and 2017, Y-WE hosted Fellows from Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt for the Hands Along the Nile Development Services (HANDS) Professional Fellows Program, a month-long Professional Fellowship on NGO Development and Women’s Empowerment. HANDS aims to forge lasting partnerships between the American people and Middle Eastern countries in order to increase intercultural understanding. “We formed really deep connections with all of the Fellows,” Victoria recalls. “Their openness and desire for exchange and connection helped us to discuss what works and what doesn’t in youth development.”
Host organizations and their Fellows gather during the Hands Along the Nile Development Services (HANDS) Professional Fellows Program “NGO Development and Women's Empowerment” in 2015
Even throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Y-WE has continued its international work. ”In the past few years, we’ve all come to recognize that global connection is not dependent on physical travel and things like visas and flying,” says Reagan. “Y-WE World Study Abroad exchange shifted our thinking of what it means to connect. For example, we partnered with an Australian organization to virtually include their students in a culinary program with a culinary historian – this was a curated series so youth could learn the basics of cooking. This encouraged us to think more intentionally about accessibility and how to be more inclusive in our overall programming.”
Y-WE Virtual workshop for Belarusian youth in November 2021
Our most recent program with Y-WE in November 2021 featured a virtual workshop for 24 young leaders participating in the Young Leaders of Belarus Program. During the “Emotional Intelligence and Stress Management” workshop, Victoria encouraged the young leaders to illustrate or draw different emotions and share with the group. They shared their moving and expressive art, leading to deeper connections and conversations around the importance of understanding themselves. All of the attendees were surprised at how well they could create such a close connection virtually, across multiple countries, continents, and time zones.
“We want to arrange meetings internationally that are focused on programming aligned with our local values of serving the community. Our biggest belief is to create a community of belonging, and in order to do this we need to invite as many voices as possible,” says Reagan.
We are grateful to have partnered with Y-WE over the years and look forward to many more years of bringing the world closer together. Y-WE’s leadership and compassionate community-building have engaged global leaders of all ages. Thank you Y-WE, for welcoming exchange leaders and creating lasting connections that affect change across the world!
For more information on how Y-WE is serving the community and how you might be able to get involved, please check out the links below:
- Learn more about Y-WE
- Participate in Y-WE Programs
- Check out the Y-WE Bloom Series of Short Stories
- Volunteer with Y-WE
New to the Community Spotlight Series? Check out our previous Community Spotlights recognizing our amazing community partners and the lasting impact of exchanges!