In February, a group of visitors from Africa, South Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe came to San Antonio to participate in a program entitled, “Education & Activism for Young Women”. As part of the US Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), the delegation focused topics including women’s political & civic participation at the local level, classroom & campus-based efforts targeting girls and young women, promoting women’s economic & entrepreneurial success, and volunteer activities.
Visitors met with City Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran whose experience as a lifelong resident of San Antonio and her family’s extensive history here and in South Texas, reaching back over 200 years, gave her the ability to provide insight into the history, demographics, and current concerns facing the city today.
The visitors discussed how to overcome adversity and challenges in their professions and Councilwoman Viagran emphasized the importance of keeping an open mind and listening to everyone because, “you’ll never know when you’ll find common ground to help the community.” She mentioned the type of joy she experiences when she is helping her community, something that resonated with the visitors who are all focused on giving back to their communities as well.
Additionally, visitors had an opportunity to meet with Incarnate Word High School and explore their approach in developing leadership and capacities of its students through service learning requirements. Visitors toured campus and had the opportunity for a question and answer session with students and faculty.
A meeting with Trinity University’s Women & Gender Studies Program gave the visitors an opportunity to engage in a discussion about the cultural construction of gender and sexuality. They discussed Trinity’s many classes which focus on gender and sexuality in the context of race and class, global & domestic politics, with religion, and critical models and goals for women’s studies at the university level. It was a great opportunity to exchange perspectives about the status of women in the U.S. and in each visitor’s hone country.
Visitors met with the Bexar County Small, Minority, and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (SMWBE). This visit provided insight women’s entrepreneurship in the U.S. and Texas and what types of challenges they face. The visit also provided information into the range of services and support specifically for women-owned enterprise.
Along with women’s entrepreneurship, the visitors explored economic development and education. A meeting with Women’s Global Connection demonstrated the importance of promoting the learning and leadership capacity of women locally and globally. Visitors discussed the organization’s Women’s Economic Development and Girls Education Programs in the United States, Latin America, and Africa.
Visitors then met with La Fuerza Unida, where they learned about the organization’s mission to empower women workers and their families to achieve social, economic, and environmental justice through education, organizing, and advocacy.
Haven for Hope provided visitors the opportunity to learn about how the organization uses a comprehensive approach to provide services and care to those experiencing homelessness. Staff also discussed some of the common factors many homeless people face, such as experiencing trauma and how Haven for Hope addresses these problems. Not only did staff provide visitors with an overview of services and a campus tour, but they also arranged a volunteer project and the visitors packed over 200 hygiene kits for those in need.