By: Marie E. Berry, Assistant Professor, Sié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security and Diplomacy
The Inclusive Global Leadership Initiative (IGLI) Summer Institute is an intensive training program for frontline, women-identified activists to network and learn strategies for waging effective nonviolent movements to advance peace and security around the world. The IGLI Summer Institute is part of a broader initiative at the University of Denver (DU) dedicated to research, education, and training aimed at elevating and amplifying the work that women-identified individuals, and especially those from marginalized groups, are doing in their communities to advance peace, justice, and human rights around the world.
The 2019 Summer Institute was held August 24-30 in partnership with the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP). 14 outstanding activists from 12 countries came together for a week of training and solidarity building around feminist strategies for organizing for social change. The participants were selected from more than 570 nominations of remarkable women who are fighting tirelessly in their communities to resist authoritarianism, violence, and oppression in all of its forms. The admitted cohort included outstanding activists such as Ana Babovic, founder of Serbia on the Move and director of the Leading Change Network in 30 countries; Koketso Moeti, the founder of Amandla.mobi, a mobile-based social activism platform in South Africa; and Khuzaimah Maranda, a community activist from the violence-affected province of Mindanao in the Philippines. IGLI alums Christine Ahn, founder and Executive Director of Women Cross the DMZ, and Farida Nabourema, the spokesperson of #FaureMustGo movement, also returned as co-hosts and instructors.
The group spent four days in the Colorado mountains, where participants shared feminist organizing strategies and received advanced training on synergizing nonviolent action and peacebuilding. We then traveled to USIP headquarters in Washington, D.C. for two additional days of learning, networking, and strategizing. The group ended the week at the National Museum of African American History and Culture with a private tour from curators and conversation with museum director Dr. Spencer Crew, who reminded participants of the integral role women played during struggles against slavery and segregation and for civil rights. Although women activists and organizers have often been written out of history books, this visit reminded all of us that our own work is strengthened if we remember the bold, creative ways that women have long fought to transform societies and build more equitable and just futures.
The 2019 Summer Institute marked the beginning of what will be an important year of IGLI programming. We have planned a series of community events that reflect our goal of establishing IGLI as a leading convener for conversations on women’s leadership in grassroots movements across the world. Our first public event was September 23rd at the University of Denver with IGLI’s inaugural practitioner-in-residence, Honey Al Sayed. Honey is an award-winning independent media expert and entrepreneur who broke new ground in Syria’s media scene with the #1 rated morning show “Good Morning Syria,” which she hosted for 6 years with an average of 7 million daily listeners. After leaving Syria as the war intensified, Honey has regularly been invited as a keynote speaker and commentator on women’s empowerment and the role of media in social change. Honey spoke to the DU community about her experience as being a refugee twice in her lifetime, and about her work and life in the media, arts, peace, and conflict. We then held a second event with Honey on October 15th at the RedLine Contemporary Arts Center in conjunction with an exhibit on South Korea’s Candlelight Revolution. That event highlighted the creative power of media and art in nonviolent movements for social change. In the spring, IGLI will host a film as part of the Denver Women+Film Festival. We are also in the process of planning a keynote event featuring Christine Ahn, the founder of Women Cross DMZ, who will be leading a march of women across the demilitarized zone between the Koreas in May 2020 in recognition of the 70th anniversary of the armistice agreement that brought the Korean War to a close.