The announcement of President Atifete Jahjaga of Kosovo as the newest member of the Council of Women World Leaders (CWWL) by Jane Harman, Director, President and CEO of the Wilson Center set the tone for a lively discussion centered on women’s political leadership and the need to cultivate leadership in young women through mentoring at the Women in the World Summit 2012 held in New York City.
The Council of Women World Leaders was featured in the panel, “A New Dawn for World Leaders.” The panel included President Atifete Jahjaga of Kosovo, Jane Harman, Director, President and CEO of the Wilson Center, The Honorable Margot Wallstrom, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict and Chair of the CWWL’s Ministerial Initiative, Kah Walla, entrepreneur and head of the Cameroon People’s Party, Alyse Nelson, President and CEO of Vital Voices, and moderated by Andrea Mitchell of NBC and MSNBC.
The women on the panel addressed various issues facing women and women’s leadership on a global scale. President Jahjaga indicated that women have been crucial in the rebuilding process of the war-torn country of Kosovo and also pointed out that issues of women and gender are now global issues and are benefitting from global efforts.
These global efforts are also reflected in the work of the Honorable Margot Wallström, Chairwoman of the Ministerial Initiative for the Council, as she seeks to promote the protection of women from sexual violence in conflict. Wallström, in addressing the lack of justice and protection for women in conflict stated “it is more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier.” She emphasized that if progress in raising the status of women is to continue, it is crucial to have women leaders and support them in their roles. These women leaders are the inspiration to so many other women around the globe who aspire to also bring positive change to their own countries.
One of these potential leaders, Kah Walla from Cameroon, pointed out that traditionally there was a place for women in leadership in Africa, but that place was lost during colonization. African women are willing and ready to lead and, as she stated, have “been in the economy and politics for centuries.” The focus, Kah Walla pointed out, needs to move from rhetoric to action. Young women everywhere need to be proactive in becoming a part of the discussion and promoting change.
A key part of that change, according to the panel, is associated with mentorship. Alyse Nelson of Vital Voices, pointed out that the power that women have is not proportional to the number of positions that they hold. This can be changed through mentorship, which is a focus of her organization as well as the Council of Women World Leaders.
Jane Harman emphasized that women understand the need for networking and mentoring in if we are to see more women as heads of governments. Re-quoting former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Ms. Harman stated, “There is a cold place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”
By CWWL Interns Joanna London and Emily Brown