Each year, Vital Voices and ANN INC. select a group of young women who are rising high school sophomores and juniors across the U.S. to become ANNpower Fellows. These outstanding young women participate in the annual ANNpower Vital Voices Leadership Forum, a three-day leadership training program in Washington, D.C. The Forum’s curriculum is based on the Vital Voices Leadership Model. Fellows are mentored by global women leaders who are part of the Vital Voices Global Leadership Network, as well as executives from ANN INC. After completing the leadership training program, our ANNpower Fellows have the opportunity to go back to their communities and create projects that will affect change, taking all that they learned in the forum to implement their ideas. Fellows are then eligible to win project grants that will help put their ideas into action.
We spoke with Alyse Nelson, President and CEO of Vital Voices Global Partnership, to find out more about the initiative.
Tell us more about the ANNpower Vital Voices Initiative.
I am so proud to have ANN INC. as our partner in this important work. The ANNpower Vital Voices initiative is committed to empowering young women to lead change in their communities and around the world.
It provides a unique opportunity for these talented young women, the Fellows, to develop and hone their skills and to connect them to a powerful national network of peers focused on the same mission.
Why is the partnership with ANN INC. important?
This partnership has allowed us to directly invest in emerging young talents such as Hanna, Clare and Mahsheed. It is these young women of influence, who have already brought great new ideas to affect change in their communities, who will emerge as the next generation of leaders thanks to their ANNpower grants.
Hanna Karimipour of Tallahassee was inspired by her mentorship after the 2012 Leadership Forum, but realized that girls in her community do not typically have access to mentors. She hosted the Girls Leadership Network Summit in January, bringing together 200 women and girls to promote leadership, mentorship and activism.
Clare O’Connor of Seattle was inspired by her mentor, Pamela Castro, to use art to affect social change. She launched Fighting Injustice Through Youth Art (FITYA) with the goal of increasing awareness for social justice issues in the world while simultaneously encouraging teenagers to get involved in their community. The teens get together to brainstorm and create art projects – displayed in prominent public spaces in Seattle – that raise awareness for critical issues like gun violence and environmental stewardship.
Mahsheed Mahjor started the Afghan Youth Reading Association – a library and safe space for girls in Afghanistan. She connected this work internationally with her community in the US by running donation drives and doing outreach to local high schools – resulting in collecting nearly 2,000 books in many languages.
What has been the best part about working with ANN INC.?
The most valuable aspect of working with ANN INC is that as a company it has demonstrated a deep and sustained commitment to creating measurable impact in the communities it serves.
Through its impressive leadership – run by one of the few women in the Fortune 500 – the company has seriously committed its top women leaders to engage with the Fellows and allow them unprecedented access to their expertise and knowledge –providing them with a unique and lifelong learning experience.
What do you see for the future of the ANNpower Vital Voices Initiative?
We challenged young women across the country to take their first step as rising leaders and recognize their power, voice and responsibility to stand up and make change. The ANNpower Fellows have already begun to blaze their own trails as the women leaders of a new generation, and we are looking forward to all they will achieve on their leadership path.