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:

Summit: Developing Women’s Leadership Around the World

Danielle Prince

This guest post comes to us from Danielle Prince, a fierce gender-justice, women’s rights advocate.  Danielle’s focus has been both local, and global, working in the field of domestic violence and refugee resettlement.  She is thrilled to be participating in the Women’s Leadership project at Antioch as it blends both arenas of her passion.  Stay tuned for more blog posts from her!

Contact Danielle at


Summit: Developing Women’s Leadership Around the World

Barbara Spraker is a soft-spoken powerhouse of a woman who has led the charge for the first-ever Women’s Leadership Summit to take place on September 28 -29, 2013 on the Seattle Antioch campus.  Over a year in the making, this project was born from Barbara’s cumulative experiences working on women’s issues in a global context.  A professor at Antioch University in Seattle, she has surrounded herself with dedicated, successful women who became integral in creating the project that culminates in the September Summit.

Barbara Spraker

The trajectory of this undertaking can be summed up in Barbara’s own words:

“The purpose of the Project is to amplify women’s voices, highlight the specific work that women are doing in six different countries plus Antioch University Seattle, and build community among women leaders around the globe.”  The team at Antioch, called the Kitchen Cabinet, has been working fastidiously on planning for this summit and creating a hands-on workbook that contains stories and guidelines that highlight women’s leadership around the world.  Other key figures are the women in the six countries (Country Conveners) who led their own groups of women to answer four questions pertaining to women’s leadership put to them by the Kitchen Cabinet.

THE KITCHEN CABINET: (from top left, clockwise) Pat Hughes, Leadership Developer, Author; Wendi Walsh (sunglasses), Senior ITS Manager, Parsons Brinkerhoff; Jennifer LaMarte, HR Manager; Roslyn Ericksen, Senior Account Manager, The Hartford; Kathleen Swirski, Senior Project Manager, Microsoft; Barbara Spraker, Faculty, Antioch University Seattle, Director of the Project; Nicole Theberge, Student, Antioch University Seattle, Graduate Assistant to the Project; Laura Veith, Graphic Designer and Digital Artist, founder Creative Nudel


The four questions posed to each group, both internationally and locally at Antioch, were:

  • What do you care about in your community and what projects have you participated in?
  • As you have engaged in this work, what skills have you used?
  • What additional skills and knowledge would you like to gain?
  • How do you imagine you might develop these skills?

The responses from each group were compiled into a Women’s Leadership Capacity Guide that was published in spring 2013.  This guide is available for other women – anywhere around the world – to use to amplify their voices and recognize their roles in leadership.

Women’s leadership is essential for solving the problems of the world.   If you are interested in women’s leadership and the forms it takes both locally and globally, or attending the Summit, or learning more about this innovative project, 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 4: Alison, Istanbul

Greetings from Istanbul!

As we prepare today to leave this fascinating place  – with its grand mosques, historical palace, amazing grand bazaar and  – – – Ah, yes – – the spice market – – a feast of sights and smells  – – an early morning provides me the opportunity to  share some experiences with  you.  As mentioned in the September 15th post, “A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step,” these early blog posts are a chance to share some stories of an actual journey ~ a trip to explore Turkey.    I want to share the essence of some of my conversations with individual women who either are Turkish or who have embraced Turkey and live and work here.

On Friday, I had the pleasure of meeting Alison, a US woman who has lived and taught in Turkey for 30 years.  Jim joined us as well and two friends /colleagues of Alison’s.  These friends, Ken and Betty, have also taught in Turkey for 30 years. They are sponsored here by the United Church of Christ and the Disciples of Christ, protestant churches in the US.  When a visiting Korean missionary once asked them how many persons they had converted to Christianity they were shocked!  That is not why we are here.  We are here to serve.”  And they serve – as teachers, elementary and high school, and as librarian.

All three are looking toward retirement in the next few years and reflective about how their work here has benefitted the world.  For sure they have benefitted the young people they have taught through their care high expectations and consistent presence. Beyond that, they said, the collaboration, building of partnerships with other groups and agencies, has been a significant gift  – – in fact, as well as by example.  Betty described her involvement in the Istanbul Interparish Migrant Program.  This cooperative network of parishes and church groups, founded in 1991, provides guidance, food, medical aid and repatriation services to thousands of migrants and asylum seekers (mainly from African and Asian countries) who are stranded in Istanbul.

As we spoke specifically about women’s experience these folks affirmed the domentic abuse experienced by many women, condoned by the culture and devastating to women and children.  They described an organization that seeks to serve these women.  Volunteers visit homes to describe available services and efforts are made to train police to believe and support the plight of these women, rather than simply returning them to their husbands.  Government policies are in place that guarantee safety and significant rights for women, but enforcement seems negligent.

Knowing that my specific interest is in women’s leadership, Ken asked about the relationship between assertiveness training and leadership development – which led to an interesting conversation.  This was fascinating to me because while it affirmed the need for both, it also revealed the different assumptions underlying the two.  The “pushing” energy to achieve rights, respect, the honor of being heard, seen, acknowledged is necessary. As is the “pulling” energy of leadership, which comes more from the assumption that our affirmation comes from inside and is about taking initiative, moving us forward – with or without the respect and affirmation of others.

A brief note about another fascinating theme of this conversation – the role / future of the “organization” – – any organization.  Recognizing both the necessity of organizational infrastructure – and the fact that organizational hierarchy and bureaucracy has so often become the tail wagging the dog – – – several examples were discussed that are emerging – where groups come together around values and mission that are held in common, and distinct  differences are honored, where a single “organization” (read minimal) can manage the administration of the collective groups.

Alison acknowledsged the need she feels all women experience to assert themselves and their ideas, and indicated that she had rarely felt discounted or disregarded because she was a woman.

Please excuse errors in typing, my friends.  Using the keyboard of a Turkish computer is yet one more example of the challenge of changing deeply embedded habits!   🙂