By Meredith McNeil—THE UNION LEAGUE CLUB OF CHICAGO played host for the 13th Annual Chicago Women’s Day, Friday, March 7th. The Fulbright Association-Chicago Chapter not only was a partner organization for the event (organized by WorldChicago,) but five former Fulbrighters from the Chapter and five current visiting Fulbright students attended the International Fair and luncheon keynote speakers. The five visiting Fulbrighters attended free of charge through the generous contributions* from members of the Board, and co-sponsored through IIE.
Attendees from the Chicago Chapter Board included Ronald Harvey (President), Patricia Powell, Meredith McNeil, Marilyn Susman, and Chicago Chapter member Jenni Schneiderman. Visiting Fulbrighters were R. Schwarting (Germany, University of Chicago, Sociology), Ander Indart (Spain, UIC, Civil Engineering), Flor Fernández (Nicaragua, UIC, Masters in Business Administration), Isaac Mejía (Guatemala, UIC, Mechanical Engineering), and Preema John (India, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Arts Administration and Cultural Policy).
All three of the influential and spirited speakers highlighted the main themes of partnership and the need for males, as well as females, to be active in women’s causes that work towards change. The two cultural speakers, Dr. Rasha Mahmoud Hussein Mohammed of Cairo, and architect Carmen Vidal-Hallett of Chicago and Brazil, detailed how females are “revolutionary” in their countries.
In Brazil, Vidal-Hallett made encouraging remarks about women’s involvement in environmental improvement, mainly through water quality.
Dr. Mohammed’s focus was on women’s engagement in the Egyptian Revolution and how this activity has led to more men becoming active in anti-sexual harassment causes.
The keynote speaker, Michèle Ledgerwood of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), highlighted the seven Revolutions affecting our world today (i.e., information, technology, security, governance) and how women are both affected by each, and how women can affect each in a transformative way. Although the topics and speakers were varied, the message remained that women, globally, need to work together, across economic, cultural, and religious lines, in order to continue to better situations for themselves and their families, and that male participation and inclusion is necessary for future improvements.
One of our visiting Fulbrighters, Isaac Mejía, had this to say about Ms. Ledgerwood: “The key speaker showed what I expect in a female leader. She had a great background experience. The way she started her speech with current references grabbed the public’s attention immediately.” Regarding Dr. Mohammed, Mejía said the “presentation was a great show of diversity and leadership in the African countries. I enjoyed the pictures showing the empowerment of women through the last decades. It is extremely nice to hear of current examples that somehow will influence the women in countries like mine that are male dominated.”
“Attending the luncheon was a great opportunity to hear from successful and multifaceted women who are catalysts for change and leaders in their fields,” added Flor Fernández. “It was truly an inspiring experience.”
The afternoon closed with remarks from the vice president of the Union League, highlighting the well-known Chinese proverb: when sleeping women wake, mountains move. It was an excellent call to action at the end of an event encouraging positive female engagement in today’s world and positive change for all! The Fulbright Chapter attendees left with a great sense of optimism for the future.
* Thanks to Christina Macholan, Don Garner, Elio Leturia, Regina Mamou and Marilyn Susman
Photos by Ron Harvey