Abilene Reflector-Chronicle (Abilene, TX)
Posted on November 2, 2004
By Staff writer
Four Russian women officials arrive in Abilene today for a week-long exchange focusing on women's leadership.
Their visit, conducted under the auspices of the congressionally sponsored Open World Program, will also expose the Russians to the U.S. electoral process. The delegates will compare notes with their American colleagues on ways to break through the glass ceiling, promote women in politics, and balance work and family life.
Managed by the independent Open World Leadership Center at the Library of Congress, Open World enables emerging political and civic leaders from Russia and other participating countries to observe U.S. democracy and free enterprise in action while building professional ties with their American counterparts.
The Open World delegates traveling to Abilene are regional- and local-level government and political party officials. Their Kansas host organization, the Abilene Rotary Club, has arranged meetings and onsite briefings with a range of women leaders in Abilene and Topeka, as well as other activities.
In Abilene, the delegates will spend Monday exploring women's leadership during individual sessions with library director Deb Duckwall, city commissioner Diane Miller, UMB of Abilene vice president Marilyn Sidener, as well as visit local businesswomen. Women's leadership is again the topic during a half-day roundtable on Nov. 5 with women representatives of the Eisenhower Foundation, the Red Cross, the Abilene Community Foundation, and other organizations.
On Election Day, the delegates will review election procedures with County Clerk Sandy Emig, visit a polling booth, hear Kansas Rep. Joann Freeborn, and watch the election returns with their Rotary hosts. The group will also visit several schools and historical sites, including the Eisenhower Center.
In Topeka, the delegation is scheduled to meet Governor Kathleen Sebelius, State Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, Kansas legislator Annie Keuther, and other women state officials (Nov. 4). They will also be hosted by Assistant Professor of History Rachel Goossen at Washburn University.
The Open World delegates are Tatyana Boronoyeva, the chief specialist in charge of NGO relations for the government of Buryatia, a republic bordering Mongolia; Margarita Platonova, a senior assistant in the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky public prosecutor's office who handles workplace discrimination issues (Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky is a city on the Bering Sea); Yuliya Shakhanova, who is both the executive secretary of the Yabloko political party's branch in Chelyabinsk Region (bordering Kazakhstan) and an aide to a Chelyabinsk City Duma deputy (the equivalent of a city council member); and Svetlana Sugakova, a public relations specialist for a member of the Moscow City Duma and a local official of the Union of Right Forces political party. The facilitator accompanying the delegation is Oksana Anistratenko.
Rotarian Jean Hendricks has coordinated the professional program and arranged homestays with local Rotary members, who will introduce the Russian delegates to American family and community life. Rotary International, the parent organization of the Abilene Rotary Club, has played a major role in hosting Open World exchanges since the program began in 1999.
Open World is a unique, nonpartisan initiative of the U.S. Congress designed to build mutual understanding between the United States and participating countries. The program also exposes visitors to ideas and practices that they can adapt for use in their own organizations. More than 8,000 Russian Open World participants from all of the country's 89 regions have visited all 50 U.S. states since the program's inception. Open World also recently initiated pilot exchanges with Lithuania, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.
Open World delegates range from members of parliament to mayors, from innovative nonprofit directors to experienced journalists, and from political party activists to regional administrators. The program's administering agency, the Open World Leadership Center, is an independent legislative branch entity with offices at the Library of Congress.
[Reprinted with Permission]