Jyoti Ramnath from Craft My Gift talks about Changing Faces Women Leadership Seminar conducted annually by East West Center in Hawaii

20th Sep 2010
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Changing Faces Women Leadership Seminar

“Changing Faces Women Leadership Seminar” is conducted annually by East West Center in Hawaii. Every year the theme and format of the seminar is different. The East West Center calls for a detailed applications and then selects around 10 women for the Seminar.

This year the theme was “Women as Innovator Entrepreneurs: Generating Economic Growth and Job Creation”. The applications were invited in the month of April. I had to submit a detailed application, recommendations and a problem statement that I’ll be working on during the program. They received around 120 applications and out of that they selected 10 women. I got to know about my selected in April end. The complete 12 day seminar is fully funded by East West Center. Travel is also compensated partially upon request.

Even before we arrived at the seminar, we had to submit a draft action plan to address the key problem that we are going to be working on. The pre-event was very well coordinated with every detail sent to us.

I arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii on 8th August. I met all the fellow participants and headed for dinner. It took me a while to memorize each name as every name sounded so different. Each one of us were from different countries. I also got to know that our Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh is an alumni of East West Center.

Jyoti Ramnath
The first day at Changing Faces Program, we had our introduction session but this introduction was done in a manner which I had never seen before. One of our mentor Puanani Burgess, a community development specialist and a regular at Changing Faces asked each one of us to talk about 3 things, the meaning of our name, the community we belong to and one quality that we are gifted with. On face it seemed like a quick round of introductions one when the participants stared talking, each introduction was combined with stories of childhood, difficulties some women faced in their communities, stories of how they grew inspite of challenges. We could see tears rolling down some faces. I had never seen an introduction like this as after we were done, I knew a lot more about each women and there was an immediate emotional connect.

We were 10 different women each one from different country with a different story to tell, culturally different, looked different, spoke different languages but all of us connected so well. We all became good friends in no time and best part was that the whole group stayed together.

Over the next couple of days the program revolved around meeting a lot of local entrepreneurs, undergoing a leadership workshop and a weekend trip to Maui and not to forget a detailed work on our Action Plans for the key issue we are facing in our own businesses.

We met a diverse set of women, local farmers, Mayor of Maui, Governor of Honolulu. Each one had a different perspective to share on development of women.

Over the weekend in between, we all travelled to Maui Island. The first day was a day full of meetings. We met a lady who runs a lavender farm and has turned it to an attractive and innovative business

through creating various lavender products and partnering with local businesses. We also met the owner of Pacific BioDiesel followed by a meeting with the Mayor of Maui.

The second day was free for us to enjoy the place. Maui is spectacular. The blue waters everywhere are a treat to the eyes. The girls enjoyed snorkeling in the blue waters whole day. All of us got our own set of sun burns and tan at the end of it. We were back to Honolulu after a fun weekend.

The leadership Development program was spread across 3 days and was conducted by Dr Susan Madsen. Susan is an associate professor at Utah Valley University and an independent leadership & change consultant.

Jyoti Ramnath
I liked the way the complete leadership Program was setup in practical format. We were divided into groups for games, were often given a sheet of paper and color pens to let our thoughts flow in the form of drawings. Each activity gave an insight about our leadership styles and ideas on improving the leadership aspects.

Towards the end of the program, each one of the participants also got matched with a guest mentor with whom we spent half a day. I loved the way the organizers had handpicked the mentors. The background and work of the mentor was matched so well with what each of the Changing Faces Women were doing that conversations started flowing the moment we met up with our mentor.

The best part of the program were the individual actions plans that each one of us had been working on even before the program started. During the course of the program, we started with a presentation of our key business issue and a draft action plan. I liked the different perspectives we received as feedbacks from the diverse group. Throughout the program, we got a chance to refine our action plans, make it more concrete and doable and also incorporate inputs from everyone. In the end of the program , we represented our refined action plans. I could easily see the changes and clarity in everyone’s plan comparing it to what the participants presented in the starting.

Each day at the program was a day to learn something new. Extremely well executed program which has left each one of us with loads of takeaways and of course lots of new friendships which are definitely going to go a long way……

Changing Faces was a unique opportunity for me which I’ll always cherish. I don’t think many people know about this program in India and hence through this article I would like to spread awareness of this opportunity so that more women can make use of it. More details about this program can be obtained from the link below:

http://www.eastwestcenter.org/seminars-and-journalism-fellowships/leadership-development/changing-faces-womens-leadership-seminar/

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