THE BLOG

The Junior League of Cairo?

It's not every day that The Junior League ends up in the National Review. So my thanks to Jay Nordlinger, and to former President George W. Bush, for seeing our name in a recent article!

The Junior League came up during an interview with President Bush as he spoke about the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 and the outreach he experienced from young people in Egypt asking for help.

Cut to the reference...

"This caused Laura and me to think about how we can help."

The answer was the Women's Initiative Fellowship, aimed at building woman-to-woman networks in the Middle East and North Africa by empowering and equipping women there to become effective leaders. Each Fellowship class is composed of women from a single country, representing six powerful sectors of society: education, health, business, politics, law, and media. Fellows build leadership skills during the program that they can share with their colleagues and friends, thereby broadening the women's network.

The article goes on...

"I believe that women will lead the democracy movement in the Middle East if given a chance," says Bush. "So part of what we're doing here is to enable women."

About woman-to-woman networks, Bush says, "They're basically non-existent in the Middle East. They're existent here. One quip would be, Not a lot of Junior Leagues in Cairo."

Although a "quip," President Bush was right...and knew from personal experience what he was referencing. Both his wife, First Lady Laura Bush, and his mother, First Lady Barbara Bush, have been Junior League members. For over 115 years, Junior Leagues have been developing women as civic leaders who create community change. In every one of the 291 Leagues, in four countries, women come together to understand what a community needs, to create coalitions, to address the well-being of citizens.

President Bush is not alone in backing the power of women to change communities and the world. Years ago Nicholas Kristof wrote that "Women aren't the problem but the solution. The plight of girls is no more a tragedy than an opportunity." Those engaged in microfinance write over and over about the impact loaning money to women has on families and communities. And the United Nations and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) reinforce the importance and impact of educating girls.

But results to date by the Women's Initiative Fellowship, launched by the George W. Bush President Center, are impressive. So far there have been 59 Fellows, and a network of 17,000 women created in the Middle East. (For brief biographies of the Fellows, go to this link.)

There may not be a Junior League of Cairo (yet), but "women coming together" is a powerful and appealing notion worldwide. Through my involvement with the International Association for Volunteer Effort (IAVE), I have been able to share what Junior League women accomplish with young women from many countries and cultures. After workshops or presentations I have been surrounded by these women who marvel at what we do, who may not ever have thought that such a group was possible, who see the possibilities and would welcome such an opportunity.

Right now, The Junior League operates in four countries: Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States. But groups of women interested in volunteering together in their communities anywhere in the world are welcome to contact us...and we'd be happy to add to the leadership curriculum of the Women's Initiative Fellowship!