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Future Women Leaders Reflect on Shared Experience

For four days this week, women from 50 schools in 17 countries around the globe converged on the Smith and Mount Holyoke college campuses to exchange ideas about how to facilitate and promote women’s leadership and positive involvement in world events, as well as how to advance women’s education.

The Women’s Education Worldwide (WEW) Student Leadership Conference, June 10-13, invited women from the United States, Australia, Africa, the middle and far east, western and eastern Europe to participate in a packed schedule of leadership sessions, workshops and socializing.

Conference participants will extend their conference experience in the fall by implementing a project in their respective communities.

The Gate caught up with a few of the conference attendees on Thursday after a tour of the Smith campus and before dinner with President Christ, to talk about their experiences.

Gihad Elsadig Abunafeesa, fourth-year student at Ahfad University School of Medicine, Omdurman, Sudan

Abunafeesa is embarking on a multi-year student-led project that will train between 100 and 200 Sudanese women to become involved in maintaining peace and good health in their communities throughout Sudan.

When she finishes her six-year program in medicine at Ahfad University, Abunafeesa will pursue a career in public health, particularly women’s and refugees’ health. Attending the WEW conference was essential for Abunafeesa, she said.

“This conference fuels the woman leader within me. It has helped refine my goals and has shown me the importance of patience and persistence in bringing about change.

“I’ve gained a lot of intangible tools for leadership at this conference,” she added. “Just the opportunity to meet and share with so many people from so many places has been very important to me. It shows that women are life-time learners.”

Rukhsana Saddul, professor of psychology, University of Punjab, Pakistan

“In Pakistan, we’ve started to realize women’s education is very important,” said Saddul, who attended the WEW conference with two of her students at the University of Punjab, Maria Mujeeb, a computer science major, and Sehar Butt, who studies business and information technology.

Saddul said the three women have gained invaluable experience at the conference in leadership methods and ideas for helping other women become leaders around the world. “We will be better able to introduce important global ideas to other women” as a result of what they learned this week, she said.

Afra Aatiq Nasib, 2008 graduate in applied communication, Dubai Women’s College, United Arab Emirates

Nasib, whose uncle, a firefighter, died three months ago while battling a blaze in Dubai, plans to apply her experience and leadership to improving safety standards in the U.A.E., a country in which safety codes lag behind a flurry of construction in recent years, she said.

For Nasib, the WEW conference and a similar women’s leadership conference she attended in Dubai last year, have been about personal progress.

“I grew a lot as a person these past three days,” she said. “I found my own leadership style.”

Nasib, who will pursue a career in journalism, appreciated the opportunities for networking with other women scholars. “It’s about conversations in the hallways, and having lunch with other women here, learning how to ask questions and listen well. This conference really helped me with that.”


6/12/08   Eric Sean Weld
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