The U.S. State Department has awarded the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center at The University of Montana a $400,000 grant to implement a new citizen exchange program.
The grant will fund the Women’s Empowerment Project, which will send 20 Montana women to the Southeast Asian countries of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. In exchange, 20 English-speaking women from these countries will be placed in nonprofit organizations and government offices in Montana to learn firsthand how issues in their fields are addressed in the U.S. The exchange will occur in four stages beginning in March 2012.
The women will have expertise in areas such as the environment, economic development, health, safety and security, and education. Participants will network and develop a broader sense of global issues in their areas of expertise.
Montana exchange participants will be drawn largely from host organizations, though additional women who work in the targeted fields may be chosen to participate in the program overseas through homestays or cultural support.
“We’re honored to have been awarded another in a series of grants from the Department of State to support our mission to promote understanding between the peoples of the U.S. and Asia,” said Terry Weidner, Mansfield Center director. “This is a fantastic opportunity to expand global partnerships for our Montana communities.”
The Women’s Empowerment Program offers a hands-on approach to shared issues in women’s leadership and maximizing the potential of technology to address those issues. The goal of the exchange is to teach emerging leaders to engage in collaborative action to address women’s concerns that have global repercussions.
A key aspect of the program is empowering women by providing them the skills to increase local capacity and connectivity. The Mansfield Center will team up with state and foreign partners to demonstrate how women in business, civil society and government can cooperate effectively and adapt approaches to participants’ native environments.
Current Montana partners in the program include the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, the city of Missoula, Women’s Foundation of Montana, the Montana Community Development Corporation, WORD, Women’s Voices for the Earth, YWCA, Missoula Businesswomen’s Network, Missoula Area Chamber of Commerce, Thrive and the Montana Women’s Business Center.
The Mansfield Center’s foreign partners in the program are Village Focus International in Laos; Help Our Homeland in Cambodia, Chiang Mai University’s Women’s Studies Center in Thailand, and the Center for Education Promotion and Empowering Women in Vietnam.
More information is available online at http://www.umt.edu/mansfield/.