This is the first post of a new initiative where we will feature a U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) alumnus who, three months out from their IVLP experience, is putting into practice ideas and concepts gleaned during the IVLP study tour. Here we feature Ms. Khairunnisa Ash’ari, Director of Community Engagement for Green Brunei and a Committee Member of the Brunei Youth Council. She participated in a group project on Volunteerism and Youth. We followed up with Ms. Ash’ari to learn about her experience since IVLP and lessons learned.
June marks lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) pride month. As communities worldwide celebrate with parades, festivals, and workshops, LGBTI people globally acknowledge success in their fight for equality as well as much work that remains to be done. President Obama acknowledged as much in his proclamation declaring June as LGBT Pride Month when he wrote that “…we are also reminded that we are not truly equal until every person is afforded the same rights and opportunities – that when one of us experiences discrimination, it affects all of us – and that our journey is not complete until our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.”
Today, the world celebrates the anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta. We say the world because the English treaty has taken on an international role in the past 800 years. There are events to commemorate the anniversary in D.C., England, and New Zealand. In the United States, the American Bar Association is hosting around 700 lawyers in a conference focusing on the modern influence of the document. In England, the celebrations are throughout the country as people wear crowns for the week, the national library displays exhibitions year long, and artists commemorate the anniversary in various artistic forms. New Zealand is also celebrating the event with a large conference and ceremonies.
The 75th Anniversary of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) is a major milestone in the program’s history. It offers us a chance to reflect on the impact of the program by examining the numbers. More than 335 current or former heads of government are IVLP alumni. Meridian International Center is proud to have coordinated the programs of 168 of these alumni.
I compiled basic data on these world leaders to see what sort of statistics could be gleaned. I focused on their age when they participated in the IVLP, how many years afterward they became a head of government and what was the length of their term. I also marked their gender and if they were currently in office.
The first lens that I would like to use to discuss the data is that of women leadership. While the rise of women leaders has been slow, its increase in recent years has been dramatic. In 1960 Sri Lanka elected the first female head of government in modern history, Sirimavo Bandaranaike. The second female head of government came in 1966 when Indira Gandhi became India’s first female Prime Minister. Gandhi was also the first female IVLP alumna to serve as the head of government. 13 years later in 1979 Margaret Thatcher became the second female IVLP alumna to serve as the head of government. The IVLP programs of both Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher were coordinated by Meridian International Center.
Today marks the 10th Annual Endangered Species Day in the United States. Various events taking place at zoos, aquariums, schools and protected areas across the country will recognize our national conservation efforts to protect America’s endangered species and their habitats. While the awareness events are domestic in nature, they also serve as worthwhile opportunities to bring attention to the heart-wrenching wildlife poaching and trafficking epidemic that is truly a global battle. Last year, over 1,200 rhinos were poached in South Africa alone. The western black rhino was declared extinct in 2013 and there is only one remaining male African white rhino. This estimated $20-billion-a-year market encompasses much more than rhinos and extends well beyond South Africa. According to a recent Washington Post article, there are less than 3,200 tigers in the wild; while over 100 million sharks are killed annually (shark fins are a delicacy used in soup throughout Asia).