The Women’s Center staff was honored to be part of welcoming Fellows from the White House’s Young African Leaders Initiative this summer. Twenty-five of the Washington Fellows, among the 500 total in YALI, partnered with U.Va.

At their request, Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center Director Sharon Davie, along with Claire Kaplan, director of the Gender, Violence and Social Change program, met with a number of women YALI Fellows at the Center on June 17.

“We talked about what their concerns were in their home countries and what kind of work they were doing […]” Kaplan said. “They all had major concerns about the status of women in their countries, gender violence and human rights. They were particularly interested in ‘safe houses’ (shelters) for abused women and girls, and programs that empowered girls. YWLP really resonated for them.”

Kaplan arranged a meeting for several of the fellows with the Shelter for Help and Emergency (SHE) staff.

YWLP Assistant Director Melissa Levy also answered questions from male and female Fellows regarding the program and gave an overview of its mission and how it is run.

In addition, the YALI women spoke about trauma and its impact on them directly or indirectly because of the work they do. On June 24, 14 YALI members gathered at Morven farm for a discussion on secondary trauma led by Women’s Center Director of Counseling Services Charlotte Chapman.

They talked about the reactions they were having to the work they are doing in their countries involving gender violence. Chapman presented information on Trauma Stewardship, a new concept to them, and then listened as they talked about their experiences. The Trauma Stewardship approach is a daily practice through which individuals and organizations attend specifically to their own hardships and recovery process from traumatic events.

“[…] I was so impressed with their courage and the difficult work environments where they persevere,” Chapman said. “It was an honor to meet with them.”

By Agnes Filipowski