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Young Women Leaders Represent Russia at Girls 20 Summits

Young Women Leaders Represent Russia at Girls 20 Summits

What started as an undergraduate course on gender and communication in the U.S. propelled one young Russian woman to a leadership position on women’s issues and equality.

Ekaterina Mordvinova studied at the University of Idaho from 2010-2011 as a Global UGRAD fellow and returned home to Russia to become its only delegate to the Girls 20 Summit in 2011. The Girls 20 Summit, patterned after the G20 Summit, brings together young women leaders to build coalitions in support of women’s rights and issues.

Ekaterina’s experience in that class fundamentally altered the way she viewed gender in society. “I realized one very important thing during this class: if we don’t name a problem, then the problem doesn’t exist,” she said. “When I came back home, I was determined to do my best to raise awareness of women’s issues in my home city and draw attention to the problems that are still considered ‘silent’ in my society.”

In March, she spearheaded an initiative in Samara, Russia, to bring together women leaders and girls to strategize around raising awareness of pressing issues like domestic violence and harmful media messages.

In 2010, Global UGRAD alumna Anna Malinovskaya also represented Russia at the Girls 20 Summit. “Through the implementation of grants I gained organizational, team-building and other leadership skills. The Girls20 Summit was a chance for me to apply these skills I have accumulated in a real setting,” Anna said. After returning home as a Global UGRAD alumna, Anna was awarded an alumni small grant to implement a three-part training on gender issues in the city of Khabarovsk. Anna brought together university students to discussion gender stereotypes, Russia in relation to the Millennium Development Goals, and sexual discrimination.

Anna used the tools she then gained at the summit to launch a career in writing about human rights broadly, including women’s rights. As an intern for Voice of America and a volunteer for Voices for Human Rights, Anna is shedding light on some of the previously untold stories of marginalized groups.

Ekaterina is now working at the Human Rights Office in Samara, as she finishes her undergraduate degree. She intends to make a career out of advocating for women’s rights. “Communication and sharing ideas is probably the most powerful tool to fight injustice.”

The Global Undergraduate Exchange Program in Eurasia and Central Asia is a program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State and is implemented by IREX.