Reaching out.


Over the years, the League has been active in international outreach activities. Here are follow-ups on recent projects from LWVEF Director of the Global Democracy Program Zaida Arguedas and LWVUS Board Member Sarah Diefendorf.

From 1998-2002, as president of the San Francisco League, Sarah Diefendorf participated in the "Woman Power Politics: Building Grassroots Democracy in Africa" program. Diefendorf reports:

"I provided training on a variety of subjects from Effective Presentation and Facilitation to Fundraising and NGO Capacity Building in Ethiopia and Zimbabwe. In fall 2004, I returned to Africa and was both moved and enlightened. During my brief stay in Ethiopia, I had dinner with a former program participant, Hiwot Gebeyehu, who informed me that she, and others in the program, had moved on to bigger and better jobs and were now training younger and less experienced women in the skills the League had brought to their country. To top it off, they established a League of Women Voters of Ethiopia to promote education for young girls!


In Zimbabwe, I met with past program participants, including women from the National Constitutional Assembly, Zimbabwe Election Support Network, Women of Zimbabwe Arise and Women in Politics Support Unit. Unfortunately, unlike the Ethiopians, Zimbabweans are subsisting under a harsh government and a restrictive new law--the NGO Bill--that may well force the closure of all nonprofit organizations. The new law, being fast-tracked through parliament, will bar NGOs from receiving foreign funding, and working for voter education, human rights and other governance issues. The bottom line: all the women the League worked with and trained may soon be out of a job.

In November 2004, the US Embassy, Zimbabwe, invited the League to lead a conference call on the need and strategies for coalition building among women in leadership. About 30 women, including members of both political parties and three members of parliament, participated. Questions followed my presentation, including whether they should form a separate women's political party, how women at the grassroots can mobilize, and how to convince more women to assume leadership roles. With the NGO Bill in mind, the discussion even turned to whether there was any point to our conversation. Eventually we all...

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