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Catherine Russell, Ambassador of the Office of Global Women’s Issues at the United States State Department

By: KAITLYN RABACH, iLive2Lead Intern

(Editor’s note: Kaitlyn Rabach, iLive2Lead intern, sat down with Ambassador Catherine Russell of the Office of Global Women’s Issues.)

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Catherine Russell, Ambassador of the Office of Global Women’s Issues at the United States State Department, said it is “clear to me, and to many, that if women aren’t safe in their own homes and communities, it is hard from them to do anything else”.

Now in her second year at the State Department, Russell has made combating gender-based violence a priority of her office. She said her team has invested a lot of effort in trying to make sure women are not violently intimidated against being participants in their communities and societies at-large.

“[If women do not feel safe] it is hard for them to participate in civic life, it is hard for them to participate in political life,” Russell said. “We see a good example today (Saturday, April 4) where Afghans are going to the polls, and we worked hard to try to make sure they have access, particularly women, that they have access to the polls and that they are not intimidated through violence to stay away from the polls.”

There is a lot of data that shows economies suffer when women do not fully participate, Russell said.

“You can imagine if – even in your own family situation – a woman is brutalized in a family, it is hard for her to do anything else. It is hard for her to participate in the economic situation,” Russell said, “ … I think that addressing the problem of gender-based violence is critical, not just to families, not just to women, but to communities and economies as a whole.”

Russell said her office has been working to combat this violence in two ways: first, by trying to address issues of intimate partner violence, and second, by dealing with violence in conflict.

“We all hear the horrendous stories that come up about violence with conflict. They are just sometimes hard to even imagine, the things that happen to women in those situations, and sometimes to men, and certainly to children,” Russell said. “This is really just devastating. And we are trying to really think about ways to address the impunity that people feel that they can act with in those situations.”

Many interests lie under the “rubric of gender-based violence”, Russell said.

“If we can always try to look for opportunities to keep women involved, either as peacekeepers, as peace negotiators, looking for ways to even avoid the conflicts from the outset, those are all things that we are very interested in the office, and this is all under the rubric of gender-based violence,” Russell said.

One challenge area, for Russell, is when individuals are not seen for their own integrity, but are rather tied to the accomplishments of others.

“I think it is always important in every issue to try to look at individuals as individuals and not make any assumptions,” Russell said. ”This comes up in a lot of areas, and certainly, gender-norms is one of them. You know, I have a lot of concerns about issues … where women are somehow attached to men’s honor.

“I have a lot of concerns about things like that. I think women and every human being should be treated as their own person. The integrity of a human being is important and essential enough, that it shouldn’t have anything else attached to it.”

There are moments when negative forces at play upset the Ambassador, but she said she is inspired by the work of people, particularly, young people, who fight to combat such violence.

“I meet young women and young men, and older people too, but I am always really inspired by the young people who are willing to just put everything on the line for what they believe in,” Russell said, “And I think that if we can continue to educate people, and we are doing that,  … I just think over time we will have a real impact in this area.”

Although she said she is not an expert on human nature, Russell said she would guess horrible things, like conflicts where dreadful things happen, will always come up.

“But, if we just continue to increase the number of people who are educated, increase economic opportunities so people can invest in their communities, I think that we will continue to make progress, and that is what keeps me going everyday,” Russell said.

  • GEN Y Report on The Global Womens’ Forum on the Economy and Society, October 15 to 18, 2013, Deauville, France, 2013 Five iLIVE2LEAD delegates from 5 nations have been invited to give the youth report on the findings at the annual Women’s Forum in France. This year’s program’s theme is competition, cooperation, and creativity. Delegates will look at open digital innovation and the role women uniquely play in this arena. The program also examines the digital effect on Europe and what the future holds. The following Gen Y report on the opening evening comes to you from Julia Beliak, who attended iL2L Munich 2012, and iL2L 2013 China Summits: It is a strange while at the same time very fitting mixture to watch the beautiful scenery of Paris glide past you, while listening to a live band play old traditional Russian music, and networking with some of the most influential women of Russia. This mixture was made possible by Sodexo, who invited a selected group of people to attend a river cruise on the Seine, in honor of the Russian delegation, who will play an important part at this years Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society in Deauville, France. Influential women, (and a few brave men), flew in from all corners of the world to hear the Russian delegation speak of crucial topics, such as reform and innovation in Russia. These reforms will be very important for business and politics on a global scale, and present many fascinating opportunities to people around the world. Before the attendees get ready to learn and share during the three day forum, today's evening was dedicated to networking and introducing the Russian delegation to others. It was also a chance to honor the work Sodexo has been doing to empower more women in their company to rise to top management positions. In his speech to open the evening, Mr Landel – the CEO of Sodexo, stressed their 7 year relationship with the Women’s Forum, and Sodexo’s overall “gender diversity at the core of our mission.” He continued: “We believe that to create lasting value, organizations and society must place people at the center of their thinking. We are convinced that the men and women in a company must be the real beneficiaries of its success”. As the music quickened and the champagne flowed freely, it inspired conversations on such diverse topics as the role of women in Russia, global entrepreneurship, Generation Y, and the rich culture and history Russia and France share. Ludmila Ulitskaya, a critically acclaimed modern Russian novelist and short-story writer, shared her excitement about the exhibition she was able to see in Paris, before the serious work at the Women's Forum begins: “I was able to attend an absolutely fantastic exposition at the Museé de Luxembourg today. The main theme of the exposition is dreaming. There were several works of Bosch and Véronèse - Extremely interesting and very rare works.” Over the next days, Mrs Ulitskaya will be inviting attendees of the Women's Forum to discuss the topic of rapid change with her, and to elaborate on how her generation has dealt with this change, during her panel discussion this Friday. Her talk will also focus on the theme of creativity and aging, on which she says “I have thought about it many times and also written on it, because I am one of those people who started their creative activity at a very late stage in life. My writing career began when I published my first book at age 50, so I have many thoughts and a lot to say about this topic and I want to share this with people who are interested in creativity and aging.” The theme of creativity is currently a very important one in Russia, and will be the topic of many other talks during the conference. Anna Belova, who is on the board of Russia's largest fund for innovation with over one billion US Dollars to manage, will be talking about “the balance between business and government in promoting innovation”. She stresses the importance of attending the Women's Forum because “the forum is about women in business and their challenges and this is something that can be useful for the young professional generation of women and help them break the glass ceiling.” She had been invited to the Women's Forum in 2008 to speak on this important topic, but had a meeting with Ex-President Medvedev scheduled the same day, so she rescheduled for this year’s forum. Now, she will be able to share a more up to date version of her expertise on innovation in Russia. What makes this years women's forum so great is its level of diversity. Not only in terms of nationality, age, gender (obviously), religion and more, but also the differences in depth of expertise and background among attendees. The Russian delegation consists of inspiring leaders from business and academia, such as the before-mentioned Anna Belova; people who have added so much culture and creativity to Russia, such as the best selling writer, Ludmila Ulitskaya; and also those in politics - such as Elena Nikolaevna – a representative of the Russian State Duma - who will be talking about the latest reforms in Russia on Wednesday. At the Women’s Forum, Mrs. Nikolaevna’s aim is to “represent the Russian parliament and most importantly the Russian women in parliament. This is an opportunity to analyze global developments and how women are involved in driving these in politics and the private sector in various countries, and to analyze what challenges they are confronted with, and how these challenges are overcome. This is an interesting topic that raised my interest in attending this conference.” Mrs. Nikolaevna aims to spread the message that “Russia has already taken big steps and has achieved a lot, and that in Russia there are possibilities not only for women, not only for young people, but also for male professionals - to push their ideas forward and realize them, both on an entrepreneurial level and on a power/political level. I think believing in yourself, being a true professional in what you are doing, and not being afraid to take risks and responsibilities is crucial.” Overall the evening on the River Seine gave a wonderful insight into what the attendees can except over the coming three days at the Women's Forum, and provided a fantastic opportunity to get to know each other and familiarize oneself with the main topics of the forum, while at the same time enjoying the beautiful scenery of Paris, and it's excellent wine and foods. With such a beautiful beginning, the coming days are greatly anticipated and promise to be a big success for all attendees. Posted by Julia Beliak, iLIVE2LEAD Ambassador
  • Inspired to leadLEANNE WOODS, Deloitte SEPTEMBER 2013 Amanda Bott, Deloitte Consulting, recently won a scholarship representing Australia to attend theiLive2Lead Summit in Washington, D.C. The summit brought together delegates from around the world to participate in an international leadership training program for young women.Amanda who participates in the Lucy Mentoring program within Deloitte was made aware of theiLive2Lead scholarship by her mentor Kate O’Reilly (a former Deloitte employee). Inspired by the event, she submitted the written application which crystallised her own thoughts on leadership and development as a young leader. Hosted by Georgetown University, the summit comprised of seminars, panel events, and for the first time this year, a reception at the US Senate to discuss female leadership with senators, ambassadors and representatives from the State Department and the UN.With a focus on leadership, iLive2Lead recognizes that being a great leader is not a single inherent quality, it is a skillset, that like many others, needs to be developed over time.“The event made it clear that the training ground for leaders is not defined. Leaders are made in all aspects of life, in Parliament, beauty pageants, and business. We are lucky; Deloitte is as good as any training ground for aspiring leaders,” said Amanda. Posted by Joanne Huskey
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=epHeVUkvv60
  • Report from Qingdao iL2L Summit on the EnvironmentPosted by  from BangladeshDay 4August 12, 2013MondayThe pressure of the camp and its gravity has started to show. The delegates had a packed schedule for the day. The routine had 4 different sessions, three of which were conducted separately for each group and one was for all the participants together.Three groups during workshops.The first session for my group was “Workshop on filming of Wildlife” with Yang Ye. Yang works with the BBC Nature and History unit. He spoke about the importance of passion and patience in documenting wildlife. He mentioned eminent documentary filmmakers, several techniques of filming, the economic standpoint and lastly the objectives of the films.The documentaries can use as grandiose techniques as buying airplanes to go up to the Himalayas, or as simple as using the digital camera to take photos of fishes at the supermarket. Yang let us in on secrets of the photographers. More often than not, the directors create artificial habitats for the animals documented, and try to make them as real as possible. They introduce the animals in their pseudo homes and film their behavior from the comfort of their studios. This is done to minimize the production cost and time. A well-documented film can sell for thousands of dollars. In fact, an one second video of pandas mating sells for $3k or more. According to him, the main objective of such films is to increase awareness among the masses. In addition, such videos help the scientists and researchers in their studies.He advises all of us young enthusiasts to be patient and follow our dreams. Before filming the animals, one should get well acquainted with them. This ensures better quality footage as the animals learn to trust the filming crew.From left, Yang Ye, Wilson Ang and William Yip in their respective workshops.Immediately after lunch we moved on to “Climate Change Youth Leadership Workshop” with Wilson Ang. Wilson is a dynamic climate activist working with multiple organizations. His interactive workshop was about articulating the importance of cooperation and compromise while negotiation at governmental levels to reach agreements. He explained what sustainable development is. The diagram below describes the idea best. Sustainable Development Venn DiagramAng mobilized the participants by asking three simple questions.i.                Can individual efforts make a difference in climate change?ii.              Do youth have the solutions to climate change?iii.             Is technology the key factor in the solution to climate change?Though questions had no correct answers, the individual opinions of the students helped everyone. Firstly, we started listening. We heard new perspectives and standpoints. Then we started rationalizing every point of view and have a better idea about the whole scenario.The facts that Ang stated were pretty banal, but the inspiration he gave was extraordinary. He encouraged everyone to make a positive change in whichever way he or she can to achieve sustainable development. Most importantly, he urged everyone to act, and to act immediately.The Ugandan delegate speaking about her perspective on the questions. After a quick break the group moved to “Open door to creativity: Science drama education workshop” by William Yip. Yip is the artistic director of Theatre Noir. This was one of the most interesting classes I have ever had. He made us think out of the box. We were asked to act llike flowers, first individually and then in groups. He explained about the importance of proper utilization of the 3 dimensions to draw attention of the audience to the stage. Finally he gave us homework of coming up with an idea of recreating a given photograph on climate change.Re-creation of a photo given, accuracy level is questionable thoughAfter dinner all the participants were taken to watch a documentary directed by Yang Yen, “Wild China”. With the film the busy day ended.Watching “Wild China”In between the tight schedule I managed to take few Chinese lessons from the enthusiastic Chinese participants I have all around me. I got into conversation with Isabel, a local volunteer, majoring in Journalism about the overall political situation of the world. I spoke to Chen, about stock market in China and to little Cameron, a 12 year old about how they play UNO in school. My roommates are warm and welcoming.Intercultural exchanges: Struggling out of the language barrier I guess 20 years down the line I will have many stories to tell about when I was in Qingdao! Till next time!Wǎn’ān!
  • More than 20 young women, all wearing beautiful national costumes boarded a bus headed to the White House. I took a detour with three of them for a photo opp with Barbara Boxer, my state senator (from California). We arrived at the capitol building and smiled big for our picture with the pink-clad senator. We then moved on to the stunning McDermott Building where we took a quick break to feast on box lunches. Our first speaker of the day was Kim Foley, previous makeup artist for George Bush and other presidents, who taught us professional image strategies. We learned how to make a professional looking youtube video, using only an iPhone and a mini microphone. Following this, was the long-awaited Media Panel with several giants of the industry including Kyle Gibson of Newsweek and the Daily Beast, Jana Pettey creater of the teen magazine Justine, Patricia de Stacey Harrison of CPB and Julia Payne from the Walker Marchant Group. The riveting panel focused on the importance of the media, and the role of women in the field. I was honored to be chosen as one of the five delegates to sit at one of the five roundtable discussions at the senate. The focus of the conversation was what needs to be done to help women take on more leadership roles and succeed in all areas. Ambassadors and women high up at various outstanding organizations for women all came together in the beautiful LBJ room to discuss this vital topic. Melanne Verveer, previous chief of staff to first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton gave the opening speech. After the roundtable, I nervously approached her, but it paid off when she told me I was outstanding and that she liked my social action project. We then moved on to another gorgeous senate room where we were joined by senators, ambassadors and other extremely important and inspiring individuals. We mingled and networked while eating tiny appetizers and sipping sparkling water. I even got a few business cards! On the way back to Georgetown, we stopped at the Lincoln Memorial, and I was overwhelmed with a feeling of patriotism and thankfulness that so many women are willing to take time help other women. The sun was just setting, and the sky was breathtaking. It was an amazing day that I will remember for the rest of my life.
  • Diversity is one of the most impactful and inspiring aspects of the il2l DC Summit. Not only regarding the nationalities and ethnicities of the young women, but also the diversity in teaching styles and speakers. Today, Joanne Huskey, one of the amazing il2l staff had us walk around and think about the way we present ourselves and our image. We played the grade school game, Telephone, where you whisper a message to the girl next to you and try to pass it all the way to the end of the line. This was an important lesson in the importance of listening. We also worked on public speaking and sharing our ideas in an authentic and dynamic way, and each girl gave a 2-3 minute speech. Imagine you had the chance to hear firsthand stories and tips from the Senior Adviser and Chief of Speechwriting at the U.S. State Department and the speechwriter for Senator Clinton's 2008 Presidential campaign. That is exactly the opportunity we had before lunch, when Lissa Muscatine, owner of Politics & Prose joined us to discuss crafting a message. She warned against the use of formulaic speeches and stressed the importance of being authentic and trusting your natural instincts. She shared with us some tips, vital to being successful in crafting and sharing a message: know your audience, reason for the speech, the context, and have a case. After lunch, we shifted gears to focus on networking and making connections. We practiced making introductions and shook lots of hands. Moving back to public speaking, Allison Shapira of Global Public Speaking talked to us about being a captivating speaker who shares stories that people want to hear. She gave us 5 minutes to write a 2-3 minute speech on our iCAN social action projects, and I presented mine to the group. It was a little scary, but the feedback I got and the feeling of exhilaration I experienced after, were definitely worth it. Our third speaker of the day was Ambassador Sally Shelton-Colby, a current professor at American University. The group engaged in a fascinating discussion about the future of global politics and international issues. The Ambassador was a riveting speaker and talking with her after the presentation was a highlight of my day. Our final speaker was Dr. Sridevi Sarma of Johns Hopkins University who talked to us about STEM and brain research. Even though I’m hardly stellar at math and science, what she had to share was fascinating. After another exhausting, yet fulfilling and inspiring day, I fell asleep within seconds after my head hit the pillow.
  • I woke up this morning several minutes before my alarm went off, ready to take on the day. With a full-packed schedule of fantastic speakers and introduction activities in mind, I filled up on bacon and eggs at the dining hall. Myself and the other girls walked over to the McDonough Business School for our classes. We started out the day with introductions and a few quick icebreakers led by young women from Italy and South Africa. These icebreaker games included sharing hello’s in seventeen different languages. Tara Miller joined us from the business school to teach us about the use of twitter in business and as it is related to our iCAN social action projects. After a quick lunch break we returned to the business school for a lesson in dreaming, from one of the fabulous il2l women, Bonita. We wrote out our wildest dreams for ourselves and a few girls shared. Holly, the executive director of the program joined Bonita to teach us how to turn these dreams into reality with project planning. One of the amazing aspects of the summit is our ability to hear from inspirational leaders and this afternoon was just another example of the speakers who join us here at Georgetown. Ladan Manteghi, an executive of AARP came to the business school to share her experience and advice in the area of social enterprise. We stayed at the school for a panel entitled: “Life Lessons From Leaders in Business” which was narrated by the dean of the school. Each panelist was introduced by one of the summit attendees, and I introduced Dean Thomas. The amazing women, Catherine Cook, Ann Sarnoff and Marsha Firestone along with Warren Thompson shared their experiences in business, encountering both extreme failure and even more extreme success. Most of the girls took the opportunity to introduce themselves to these business leaders, and one of the young women who is developing her own iPhone app even got a business card from one of them. After a long and exciting day, we welcomed a relaxing dinner and an early bedtime.
  • Day One: Hugs and Introductions I walked onto the first floor of a noisy dorm hall on the beautiful Georgetown University campus and was immediately greeted with warm welcomes and introductions. These introductions were sometimes paired with handshakes, but mostly with hugs. I had finally arrived at the conference I had been counting down to for weeks: iLive2Lead’s Young Women’s International Leadership Summit in Washington D.C. Equipped with one large polka dot suitcase, a bright pink purse, and of course, my laptop, I was ready for the first day of what I knew would be an amazing summit. After checking in and putting my luggage away in my room, I joined some of the other young women in the common area. I met my roommate, a young woman from Canada who, despite her parents’ reluctance, is determined to devote her life to volunteer service. She shared with me a quote, “service is the rent we pay for living on this planet.” She learned this quote from another inspiring summit attendee who was born and raised in Kenya. She did not have a wealthy upbringing, but her mother insisted she continue her education, and she now attends a university in the United States, working for a variety of nonprofit organizations helping women and girls across the world. A young woman from the Netherlands explained to me that she was going to change the world. She wasn’t quite sure how, but she knew she was going to do it. After a few more introductions, we journeyed down to Leo’s, the dining hall, to eat a long-awaited dinner. Famished, myself and many of the other girls helped ourselves to two or three servings of cafeteria food. Our meal was followed by a tour of the beautiful university campus, that is in fact on a hill (not so exciting news for those of us jetlag-ed and exhausted after a long day of travel). After returning to our dorms and putting on an assortment of pajamas and t-shirts/sweaters (due to the sporadic air conditioning), myself and some of the other attendees, my new friends, settled in to watch Girl Rising, a fantastic film about the power of women and girls in developing countries. Lying on my poorly made bed (sorry, Mom) flipping through my schedule, I can already tell that this summit will be an experience that will greatly impact my life. Although exhausted, I am unbelievably excited for the amazing week to come. -Lande Watson

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