JDC Advances Women As Change Leaders at 2nd International Workshop

JDC Advances Women As Change Leaders at 2nd International Workshop


Seventeen prominent female NGO and civil society leaders participated in the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee's (JDC) Second International Women's Leadership Workshop that started on Sunday, March 3. The five-day intensive seminar, based in Israel, focused on women as proactive change makers and provide educational, networking, and professional development opportunities in global development and disaster relief.  Participants come from thirteen countries, including Argentina, Bosnia, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Russia, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Tanzania, and the U.S.

“One of the most powerful trends we see in humanitarian work today is the unparalleled role of women as trailblazers and forces for good in communities worldwide. We’re very proud to have these leaders join us and be enriched by JDC's global expertise. This is an important opportunity to further cultivate a growing network of women who can connect, collaborate, and innovate across borders and during times of crisis,” JDC CEO Alan H. Gill.

The participants – many of whom have previously worked with JDC as partners in its humanitarian and development efforts around the world – have also chosen to hone their skills in resource development, impact measurement, and public speaking through a series of workshops by JDC experts. In addition to sessions on empowering women, partnership building, and best practices training, this year’s program features a forum on Adaptive Leadership with Professor Marty Linsky of Cambridge Leadership Associates. Participants also spent a day exploring JDC-Israel operations, with site visits to programs focused on people with disabilities, education, employment, and community development. As part of their post-Workshop activities, all seminar participants have committed to establishing similar networking and peer support undertakings in their home-countries, after receiving training during their five days.

Dr. Ellen Mkondya-Senkoro, CEO of the Benjamin William Mkapa HIV/AIDS Foundation (BMAF) in Tanzania: "Women can do whatever they desire to do. The secret is not to go against your culture or values, but to balance. Through balancing, one can make a series of small changes which would eventually add-up to a great and healthy social change". Dr. Mkondya-Senkoro tells how she first became a manager at the age of 29: "Head of the Health department in my city got me to an interview of a senior manager. During the interview, while he introduced the job duties, I said I can't take it. I didn't believe in myself. But he did. Thanks to his initial support, I started to believe in myself and became, as a young woman, in charge of tens of crew members, some of them even older than me, most of them men!". It was only the beginning. From there, Dr. Ellen went on to a great career including working at the UN. "I felt I need to work with people more", she explains, "so I decided to place my candidacy for leading a small NGO which provides better health services to the rural parts of Tanzania. After more than six years leading BMAF – I can say that not only I enjoy the new challenges we face with BMAF, but even more so I enjoy finding the right solutions".When asked about family and career, Dr. Ellen laughs. "My family supported me right from the start. It was obvious to them I can lead an organization. However, after a while my husband told me I became too workaholic – which he was right! I worked all-week-long, sometimes without days off at all. So I took his comment seriously and started to build the organization better, found people I can trust who work under me and I can delegate authorities to. Now I can have days off, to spend more time with my family or even quality time for myself. Furthermore, through that process we have actually bettered our organization's work".

Lejla Somun-Krupalija, senior program/research officer at the Human Rights Centre of the University of Sarajevo in Bosnia:  "I first came to know the JDC 16 years ago in a special workshop for business initiating in Bosnia. I was amazed then by the huge impact this program had. Who would have thought 16 years later I will be taking part in a special JDC seminar for leading women in civic society!". Ms. Somun-Krupalija added: "This has been a huge learning experience for me.  It has been an opportunity for me to learn both about myself and about how influential and powerful women are throughout the world.  This is very motivating for me to see.  In coming together, despite our differences in culture and background, we find that we face similar challenges in our work. Also, this workshop has exposed me to the issues in other countries that I had thus far only ever read about in the news.  Now these other women have piqued my personal interest in these countries, which I find myself looking them up on the Internet just wanting to learn more about the challenges they face". When asked about her message to the coming International Women's Day, said Ms. Somun-Krupalija: "It doesn't matter what society let us do, but what we actually do for the society".

Judy Amit, Director of JDC's International Development Program, said during a special reception event to the Workshop's participants: "Over the years as a JDC professional, I was privileged to work with some exceptional individuals and I was struck by the number of women in senior leadership roles in the social change sector. They expressed a lack of peer support and networking opportunities with women at their own level. We investigated and failed to identify existing convening opportunities for such a group and believed that a forum of senior female civil society leaders was both unique and timely.  There was clearly a need to provide some kind of framework for female change makers to share the issues that keep them awake at night; struggles related to the work-life balance, strategic issues related to their organization and specific professional challenges.  JDC saw a need to carve out a space where women can engage and consult with peers in a non-competitive environment and experience both a physical and mental space that allows for creativity and development."

Mirai Chatterjee, director of the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in India, said during the reception event on behalf of the participating women: "I think JDC has taken a big risk with us, as it is a very complicated and unusual event – a leadership seminar that is not only for women, but from all around the world. Israel is known as a nation-building state, with a creative and ever-developing society – therefore it was only natural to host this unique seminar here in Israel". Mirai then added she would like to thank the JDC as well as all participants of the seminar, saying "thank you" in each of the participants' languages.

For nearly 100 years, JDC's humanitarian interventions and development programs have ensured immediate relief and long-term support to victims of natural and manmade disasters around the globe, most recently in Japan, Haiti, South Asia, Turkey, and Kosovo. The organization empowers local leaders, rebuilds infrastructure, and revitalizes community life in disaster-stricken regions and coordinates its relief activities in conjunction with the U.S. Department of State, USAID, Interaction, the Israeli Foreign Ministry, the United Nations, and Israeli relief agencies.

About JDC

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) is the world’s leading Jewish humanitarian assistance organization for the past 100 years. JDC works in more than 70 countries and in Israel to alleviate hunger and hardship, rescue Jews in danger, create lasting connections to Jewish life, and provide immediate relief and long-term development support for victims of natural and man-made disasters. For more information, visit www.JDC.org.