Profiling the Makers behind Project: Developing Women’s Leadership Around the Globe

It takes a village, so the African saying goes, to raise children.  It also takes a village, it can be argued, to create a project with a trajectory to create positive change.  There is a village behind this project, creating it, building the momentum, and steering it on a course of action that is already making positive shifts in women’s lives.  This blog is dedicated to the 8 makers and creators, recognizing their on-going efforts and seeing what makes them tick in regards to this project by inquiring of them “What does this project mean to you?”

Barbara Spraker is the visionary and mother of this project.  In her words, “It means engaging with amazing women around the globe as we are co-creating a future where all can thrive.  I am so completely awed by women’s leadership – and know so deeply how much our natural gifts are needed. It makes my heart sing to be able to engage with women leaders, to jointly create an energy field that invites us all to embrace and use our skills, that enable us to support and celebrate one another, and connects us in ways that enlarges our positive influence in our families, our towns, our organizations and our countries! We have so much power to create a better future – AND – have fun doing it!”

Roslyn Ericksen – I am intrigued with the power of feminine energy and leaders who are using and engaging with this type of power.  The feminine is about caring for, fostering and preserving what feeds and nurtures us; like the environment, our families and communities as well as our values, traditions and culture.  I believe that the world is calling and maybe even demanding for us (both men and women) to step more fully into our feminine power and engage the tools of the feminine like; cooperation, collaboration, relationships, and intuition.  This project is a way for us to expand our understanding of feminine power and leadership.

Pat Hughes – I recently read Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, and it had a big impact on me to get more involved in issues supporting women and girls.  I was drawn to this project because of the focus on women, leadership and a global reach.  I have a long background in leadership development and an educational background in international relations with an emphasis on women’s development, and I am finding this project blends these interests and is a practical way to get involved. I look forward to learning about women’s stories, about women’s global leadership and to developing friendships with women who share a passion for positive change.

Jennifer LeMarte – I’m fascinated and curious about the spaces we create when each voice has an opportunity to be heard.  To take it a step beyond being heard, what might the world be like if our gifts of leadership are nurtured, shared, developed, and supported within a network of women?  I also wonder how the world might shift, when we as women share those gifts and create new ways of knowing, leading, and experiencing the world we are a part of.  This project creates a space for those wonderful, beautiful surprises to emerge and a showcase for the gifts we bring into being.

Kathleen Swirski – What draws me to this project is my avid fascination with what is different and the same among people around the world. I feel this project is an important avenue through which we can share our stories, learn from one another and build a strong women’s leadership network to connect and support each other globally in our efforts to enable change. I look forward to meeting with all of the women and expanding our leadership web as we join our hearts and hands together across our distances, to form bonds based on our collective strengths and compassion.

Nicole Theberge – I am so honored and excited to have been one of two graduate assistants for this project. I believe women are in an important and unique position to create a better world. I have come to believe in the power of sharing stories and creating connection to solve important issues and to enrich lives. This project presents an amazing opportunity for discovering each other’s wisdom and ideas. I am looking forward to creating those connections and learning from and with everyone involved in this project.

Laura Veith – I was drawn to Developing Women’s Leadership – Around the Globe because of its people and mission. I saw my personal interest of play as an approach to life, work and creation reflected in this adventure. It’s a great opportunity to explore ideas, to create new understandings and to play with different approaches to leadership. In short, I saw this as an opportunity to create a blueprint for playgrounds that women around the globe will be able to build based on their needs, desires and personal preferences – while having fun, creating community and designing the world we want to live in.

Wendi Walsh – I have spent my working life in the American corporate culture and have learned and used masculine energy leadership. However, I always felt that I wasn’t bringing my authentic self (feminine energy) to my leadership. This fantastic group of women as Country Conveners, Learning Partner Organizations, Kitchen Cabinet and Antioch University has opened my eyes to the masculine and feminine aspects of leadership and I’m looking forward to sharing and learning with all of you.

The summit takes place on September 28-29, 2013 at Antioch University.  The village behind the project, as well as the Country Conveners and women from our local community will be in attendance.

If you are interested in participating in this wonderful and gracious space, please contact Barbara Spraker: or Samantha Novak:

On-going information about the Project as it emerges may be found at:

This link on the Antioch University Seattle web site also provides additional information:

Who Has the Power to Stop Family Violence? We Do!

Leyla Welkin, Ph.D. in Cross-Cultural Psychology specializing in trauma treatment, in a recent blog describes training regarding family violence which she and two others presented in Canakkale, Turkey.  The training was for representatives from the police, lawyers, family court judges, social workers and a few NGO and local organizations. The focus was preventing family violence through coordination of services, and the things that get in the way of communication and collaboration between agencies.  On the third day a panel discussion was planned that would be open to the public.  Over a hundred people showed up – and despite the vast expertise present in the room — – the most powerful comment of the day came from one of the women who came to the “open to the public” event.  Here is an excerpt from Leyla’s blog that tells the story:

The discussion however, kept getting caught again and again on the reefs of our law professor’s love of the sound of his own voice.  At one point when the drag of that tide had me exchanging glances of frustration with some of the women in the front row of the audience, a woman halfway back jumped up.  She was probably in her fifties or sixties, though age is hard to judge through a full scarf and overcoat.  She called out, not waiting for the microphone to find it’s way to her.

“Excuse me for interrupting you sir but I have something I have to say!”  She was emphatic, the apology was completely pro forma.  “This family violence is happening in our neighborhoods!  These victims are our neighbors.  Who is being beat?  It is your next door neighbor.  And what do we say?  We say ‘She had it coming to her.  Look what she did; she deserved it!’  We make excuses for the beatings and we don’t stand with these neighbors of ours.  Am I right?  Is this the way it goes?  You know it is.  Until we stop making excuses for these men.  Until we have some solidarity with other women and expect an end to this violence, it will continue!  This is the problem.  Excuse me mister law professor.  But the problem is not the law, it is us.  We have to change.”

The room burst into applause.  I could have hugged her.  She put her finger right on the pulse of the issue and everyone knew it.

To read the blog post in its entirety click on this link:

This is the power of a single voice!  And this is leadership!  The applause indicates how many others in that room knew the truth she spoke.  Her courage to speak it allowed them to express their opinions as well.

October 10: Selen, Ankara

Selen is a journalist and has chosen to use her skills at Flying Broom, a media oriented NGO that works for women’s rights.

Flying Broom will celebrate its 15th anniversary in May, 2012.  This is an unusually long life for a women’s organization in Turkey where four and a half years is the average life span for such an organization.

Selen described four of the key programs of Flying Broom.  The most widely recognized is a Film Festival they sponsor each year.  They choose a theme – this year it was “power” – power in the family, in schools, in workplaces, and in the social and political arenas. Commercial quality films are selected that deal with the theme and that are directed by women. They give awards, sponsor events around the film viewings, use public service announcements, TV and radio interviews – – and use every opportunity to raise awareness about women’ issues, problems and possibilities for change.

Their focus in their programs and their print publications include violence against women, women’s political participation, stories about women, and information of interest to women.

Their print publications – a newsletter, a Journal, booklets, brochures, posters – form a second key program.  They produce accurate, pointed, and extremely high quality materials.  There is an English page on their web site that you can check out.  And, I’ve invited Selen to submit news articles for our site.

One of the really significant things they have done is to invite women from all over Turkey who have some skills and lots of interest – to become “reporters” for them.  Flying Broom provides them some training.  This, of course, greatly broadens the scope of women’s perspectives, engages whole additional groups of women, and, in general creates a larger network of women connected to one another.

“We use many tools in our work,” Selen assures us, as she goes on to describe a way they have been working on third key program – eliminating the child bride practice.  “We made a trip through 54 cities in Turkey,” she says.  “It was exciting to wake up every morning in a different city.  In each place we sponsored public conversation on the Child Bride issue.”  This practice is illegal in Turkey, and yet is a deeply embedded tradition.  Local officials usually assured us that the problem did not exist in their city, but we said, “Well, we need to talk to the women.”  And we asked those who gathered – What are the reasons this practice still exists?  What are the results?   Many were not clear that arranging for child bride was against the law.  And we explained that it was, what could happen to their families, and what they can do.

Yes it is hard, Selen told us – to hear the story of a 10 year old girl wed to a 70 year old man – for money – – – – and then to get up the next morning with a sense of hope and enthusiasm to meet with a new group of people.  And there are not small groups  – 700 to 800 people may gather.  “We help them understand that ‘NO’ this is not destiny.  There are things you can do.”

“Selen exercises enormous leadership,” Leyla (who introduced us) tells us – ‘in media relations, gender issues, significant knowledge and influence regarding the Child Bride issue, teaching and training on organizational dynamics issues at the University.”

You can check their web site around October 27 to learn about a meeting they have organized at Parliament.  I believe it will feature some writing by Selen and also the Minister of the new government agency, Family and Social Programs will speak.  This agency replaces the recently dissolved Ministry for Women’s Affairs.

These amazing women we are meeting are a great inspiration!

And – I’ve just learned that it is raining today so time to think

about how best to savor this particular day ! ! ! !

Warm regards,


October 10: Leyla, Ankara

Leyla is a pathfinder, a pioneer, a strong woman with a powerful vision.  And someone with whom I was clearly led to connect.  Some of you know the story – a friend in Seattle introduced me to Leyla – “You must connect with Leyla, she said, she is a psychologist in Turkey who works with women.”  When I mentioned her in one of my classes, Diane, a member of the class, said, “I think I work with her son.”  Sure enough, they work together in a non-profit in Olympia, WA in the U.S.

Leyla has been the epitome of graciousness hosting us here in Ankara, the capital city of Turkey- – – she suggested a perfect hotel, shared generously of her time, introduced us to the Castle area  (fantastic views of the city, delightful shops, life as it has been for decades and decades.  She helped us buy our bus ticket to Cappadocia, our next destination, and shared a marvelous dinner with us at an Ottoman home near the old castle area.  The food was delicious, the views spectacular, the 3 piece musical ensemble was perfect – AND, the house itself is worth a trip to Turkey.  The restaurant was on the third floor – and to get there one goes through a number of little niches that beg for stopping for tea, old tools are displayed here and there, pictures of famous folks who have visited, and Turkish textiles everywhere – rugs large and small, cushions, decorative striips with tassels hanging from the rafters . . . .  Oh, and a woman makes their bread there and bakes in on a griddle over an open fire.  Yep, I loved it!  🙂

But much more than any of the sights, including an award-winning archeological museum, we enjoyed talking with Leyla – who graciously answered our dozens of questions, shared stories of her work, introduced us to the history of this country and shared her assessment of the current political and economic situation.

Leyla was born in Turkey, lived here until she was three, was back again when she was in the sixth grade and attended sixth grade here in Turkey – in Turkish.  Over the years she has been back and forth between Turkey and the U.S.  She received her Master’s Degree in Psychology from Antioch Seattle and now is a Ph.D. Psychologist.  The focus of her work is violence against women and domestic violence, her perspective is cross-cultural, and she is motivated by a deep commitment to social justice.

And, yes she is a pathfinder – on many levels.  Living in Turkey as a single woman can be problematic in itself.  She explained to us that the landlord of her apartment seemed quite relieved when her sons came to visit – he could now place her in a family context.  In a country where it is reported that 80% of all women are supported economically by a man (husband, father), single women are clearly outside the norm.

And in her professional work – she holds a pretty unique perspective.  Working with women who have experienced violence and domestic abuse, she is profoundly committed to helping them develop their own autonomy.  This means not making decisions for them and not telling them what to do – instead helping them to develop the discernment and courage to make their own decisions that are in their best interest.  This is counter-cultural.  In many ways she represents the ideal pathfinder: She is compassionate and she is a systems thinker – and in her work the issues are clearly, as we say, both profoundly personal and completely systemic.  When women do find the courage to seek help – there is no structure to support them in creating a different life.  If they seek help from the police, they are likely to be returned to their husband.  Their birth family may be ambivilant about allowing them back home -or will face strong censure, and perhaps, isolation from the community.  There are few shelters – and even fewer that understand what Leyla is so clear about – that the women must learn to think and make decisions for themselves.

Nevertheless, Leyla continues her work with women themselves, and networks with others who do similar work.  She has developed a training manual for staff that work with violence and domestic abuse – and this guide is based on culturally appropriate approaches.  It is nearing publication and will be a significant contribution to this work.  She also finds deep satisfaction in the young women who are persistent in their own determination to become effective staff to serve this population.

May Leyla’s self-direction, wisdom and persistence be an inspiration to all of us!

In appreciation to each of you for the work you are doing in this world,

Good wishes,  Barbara