The Power of Arts and Exchange – A Virtual Reunion

On June 29, 2021, Global Ties Sacramento hosted Women Writing Together for Social Justice: The Power of Art and Exchange, a reunion between Sacramento-based Women’s Wisdom Art and the Ugandan Women Writers Association: FEMRITE. Members of Women’s Wisdom Art and FEMRITE reconnected with us virtually to share their international exchange experience and discuss their latest joint project: a cross-cultural anthology of women’s stories. Written and illustrated by 60 women writers (30 from the United States and 30 from Uganda), the writers hope that the book will inspire and encourage women around the world to use writing and art to influence social change. Each woman is writing about the experiences of her Ugandan or American counterpart, and using the narratives to tackle important issues, such as female genital mutilation and gang violence. The amazing work done by Women’s Wisdom Art and FEMRITE has given these writers— and eventually their readers— the opportunity to heal from trauma, create lasting bonds, and illuminate women’s voices. If you missed the event, click here to watch the recording.

Thanks to everyone who attended, and to the writers for sharing their time to give us a sneak peek into some of the stories. We look forward to the finished product! Special thanks go to our featured speakers:

  • Hilda Twongyeirwe, Executive Director, FEMRITE
  • Ms. Fortunate Tusasirwe, Programs Officer, FEMRITE
  • Ali Lichtenstein, Board Chair, Women’s Wisdom Art
  • Vicky Boyd, Vice-Chair, Women’s Wisdom Art
  • Yvonne Evans, Advisory Council Member, Women’s Wisdom Art

If you are interested in becoming more involved with international exchange programs in Sacramento, please contact Kim Todd or subscribe to our mailing list.

Writing for Social Change

The International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) project, Writing for Social Change, brought women from the Ugandan Women Writers Association: FEMRITE, to the U.S. to meet with American c to examine the use of the written word to raise awareness of gender issues, empower women, and promote inclusion. While in Sacramento, the visitors met with representatives from Women’s Wisdom Art, a non-profit organization that improves women’s lives and advocates for equity and justice through art, writing, and wellness.

During this exchange, the women discussed the importance of using the creative arts to raise awareness of gender issues, influence social justice action, build confidence, and empower women. Both organizations provide a creative space for women to find their strength, gain confidence, and heal from trauma in their local communities, and were excited to share experiences. It was obvious from the first hello that a solid connection had been made and this IVLP meeting in Sacramento would not be the only time these women would interact. True friendships and a lasting partnership were formed.

Since 2019, Ali Lichtenstein, Board Chair of Women’s Wisdom Art, and Hilda Twongyeirwe, Executive Director of FEMRITE, have remained in almost constant contact. They are currently collaborating on a project with 60 women, 30 each from Uganda and the U.S., to inspire and encourage women around the world to use writing and art to influence social change.

2019 IVLP Meeting with Ugandan Visitors at Women’s Wisdom Art in Sacramento

Supporting Next Generation of Leaders

Congratulations to former World Trade Center Northern California intern Evan Pearson on being selected to the 2021 Cohort of the Global Ties Emerging Leaders Program. Evan joins 19 other young leaders from around the country in this one-of-a-kind professional development program. Global Ties U.S. recognizes that today’s young leaders will be tomorrow’s changemakers, which is why they emphasize providing those interested in public diplomacy and international exchange with professional development and networking opportunities.

Evan is currently a student at UC Davis and began work as an intern with World Trade Center Northern California (WTCNC) in May 2020. He quickly became a valuable member of the team, supporting the organization’s international exchanges and diplomacy efforts, and helped WTCNC navigate the transition to virtual programs.

In addition, Evan participated in the first WTCNC Global Connections Program in July and August of 2020, engaging with international leaders about various topics of global importance, such as climate change, women’s empowerment, and bridging the tech divide. Evan’s leadership qualities shined during this program, as he was always well-prepared for the sessions, asked thoughtful and insightful questions, and took on a mentorship role with other students in the program.

WTCNC is thrilled for Evan to have this leadership development opportunity and looks forward to following his continued success!

Diplomacy Matters: California Leading the Way

As the world’s 5th largest economy, California has long been a trailblazer in global policy and international business. During a recent webinar, “Diplomacy Matters: California Leading the Way,” World Trade Center Northern California and Global Ties San Francisco brought together esteemed California leaders to discuss diplomacy’s role in the state’s prominent position. Moderated by Dr. Katherine Brown, President and CEO of Global Ties U.S., attendees listened to four of California’s leading experts in diplomacy and international relations: California’s Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis; Consul General of Mexico in Sacramento, Liliana Ferrer, and California Chamber of Commerce’s Vice President of International Affairs, Susanne Stirling.

The discussion examined different ways California has fostered diplomatic relations with lasting effects nationally and globally. Each of the three panelists highlighted their respective institutions’ ongoing work towards California’s three primary international goals: immigration, trade, and climate change.

Since outlined in 2018 by Governor Gavin Newsom and Lieutenant Governor Kounalakis, these goals have served as the guiding principles of the state’s business and sociopolitical spheres that have shaped relations with California’s global partners.

Discussion Highlights:

  • A diverse population and strong sense of community are some of the main drivers of California’s economic success.
  • Mexican-Californian relations are heavily rooted in geopolitical strategy and trade partnerships.
  • California plays a crucial role in addressing the root causes of immigration and assisting with developing neighboring regions.
  • Collaborating on over 60 bi-lateral trade agreements, California is a prominent global leader in sustainable economic practices to combat climate change.
  • Domestic diplomacy within California’s business sphere will always have global effects.
  • Systemic and legislative change under the Biden-Harris administration is closely linked to Californian leadership and its strong relationship with Mexico.

California’s leaders understand the importance of building and cultivating relationships, both domestically and internationally, in achieving policy goals and building a vibrant economy. As a global leader, California will continue to invest in people and innovation and work collaboratively to find creative solutions to global challenges, such as climate change. It was an honor to have the opportunity to engage with our esteemed panelists, and we thank them for sharing their expertise and insight.

The webinar recording is available via the WTCNC YouTube channel. Past events and webinars hosted by the World Trade Center of Northern California and Global Ties San Francisco are also available.

Diplomacy in Action

The disheartening and tragic events of January 6, 2021, illuminated the fact that democracy is fragile, even here in the United States. Our country has long been a model that so many countries around the world aspire to emulate: the strength of our constitution, separate but equal branches of government, our free and fair elections are a few examples of the valued institutions that have withstood the test of time.

We, and many throughout the world, are grateful that our democratic institutions were strong enough to withstand a sustained onslaught of misinformation campaigns and a violent uprising. Our government remains intact and a peaceful transition of power is underway. Yet, this event did highlight an important point: democracy is a system that requires work, attention, the engagement of an informed citizenry, as well as transparency and accountability. “We the people” rings hollow without representation by and accountability to a nation’s citizens.

Through the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program, the World Trade Center Northern California has hosted countless international delegations for open discussions about our democratic institutions, governance, and the importance of civic engagement. Located in Sacramento, the seat of state government, our organization is uniquely qualified to arrange professional meetings between visitors and federal, state, and local officials, educators, students, and activists. Our aim is to strengthen diplomatic ties and provide insight into policies and practices that can be replicated on a global scale.

The Gold Rush region is aptly home to a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and hospitality for our international visitors. Representatives from state agencies graciously meet to discuss their roles in preventing campaign fraud and government waste. Local election boards conduct tours of their facilities to showcase transparency in the elections process, from sorting and counting ballots to confirming voter registration. Community organizers share information about the various programs that engage young people in the civic process, creating life-long voters and empowering the leaders and bridge-builders of tomorrow.

Reflecting on these types of exchanges illustrates the strength of our systems and the extensive number of checks and balances we have in the U.S. They solidify to our international partners, and to our own citizens, that democracy is at work every day. While the politicians at a state or federal house may receive the most attention, it is the people who are the most important part of the process – the coordinators and volunteers at a polling location, the community organizers registering new voters, the auditors examining campaign expense reports, young people learning how to amplify their voices to impact policy change – this is democracy in action.

Democracy requires transparency and accountability to the people and engagement by the people, and achieving true democracy is a work-in-progress. We are honored to be part of that important work and to share our experiences with the world.

Learn more about our international exchange programs.

Expanding Global Connections for Young Leaders

On July 13, we launched Global Connections, an international leadership and diplomacy program for high school and college students. The goal of the 4-week virtual program is to provide students with leadership and communication skills by connecting them with international experts for engaging and informative discussions on important global topics. The program also offers insight into various international career options and expands the students’ personal and professional networks around the world.

The past two weeks were a time for relationship building, learning, and exploration. During meetings with international emerging leaders, the students engaged in conversation around important global issues and expanded their knowledge of current affairs. Many of the guest speakers included former participants in the International Visitor Leadership Program, the U.S. State Department’s premier citizen diplomacy and exchange program. Conversations were open and informal, allowing students the opportunity to learn about and discuss different approaches to addressing worldwide challenges such as climate change, global health, women’s issues, and COVID-19.

Participating students came from across the United States (and one from Kenya!) and are an inspiring and accomplished cohort. Involved in numerous extracurricular clubs and volunteer activities, the students were also busy this summer with new hobbies such as coding, cake decorating, and painting. Many speak more than one language, including Thai, Japanese, Arabic, Chinese, and French.

The cohort included:
  • Annika Bjork, Rio Americano High School, 12th grade, Sacramento, CA
  • Savannah Bornheim, Pittsford Sutherland High School, 11th grade, Pittsford, NY
  • Samantha Butler, Oak Ridge High School, 11th grade, El Dorado Hills, CA
  • Jayesh Damaraju, Pittsford Sutherland High School, 11th grade, Barrington, IL
  • Lily Ergodan, Pennsbury High School, 10th grade, Fairless Hills, PA
  • Angelina Escobar, Modesto High School, 10th grade, Modesto, CA
  • Cooper Guggenhime, Crystal Springs Uplands School, 11th grade, Hillsborough, CA
  • Virginia Hernandez, The Westminster Schools, 10th grade, Atlanta, GA
  • Benjamin Liu, Memorial Senior High School, recent graduate, Houston, TX
  • Beth Solomon, Rio Americano High School, 12th grade, Sacramento, CA
  • Tomas Maravilla, Johansen High School, 12th grade, Modesto, CA
  • Haley Mattoch, Oak Ridge High School, 11th grade, El Dorado Hills, CA
  • Patrick Mooney, Georgetown University, Sophomore, Washington, DC
  • Kaleemah Muttaqi, UC Davis, recent graduate, Sacramento, CA
  • Charles Onyango, Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, 4th year, Kakamega, Kenya
  • Evan Pearson, UC Davis, junior, Davis, CA
  • Abigail Portnoy, East Brunswick High School, 12th grade, East Brunswick, NJ
  • Kory Rosen, Grinnell College, first year, New Jersey
  • Ashely Salas, UC Irvine, recent graduate, Los Angeles, CA
  • Sergio Maravilla, UC Davis, 4th year, Davis, CA

So far my experience in the Global Communications program has been filled with engaging discussions, in-depth learning, and camaraderie. Through this program, I have learned so much about many paramount global issues and how countries work together to find solutions. We’ve had webinars on journalism, environmentalism, and healthcare (so far). Within the program, I’ve also been able to connect with other students–high school and college level– and share our perspectives on current issues today such as human rights and climate change. It’s engaging and inspiring to be able to discuss such relevant and mature topics among other youth. Our supervisor, Kim Todd, has also made the program very enjoyable and encourages everyone to engage in discussions, thus leading to not only stronger connections between the participants but deeper understandings as well. I can’t wait to see what the next few weeks will teach me!”

Samantha Butler, Oak Ridge High School, El Dorado Hills, CA

Emergency Planners from Italy Learn about Wildfire Response

The California Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) hosted a delegation of Italian government and emergency management professionals at the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) headquarters in Sacramento in November 2019, turning a chance conversation at a bus stop into a very successful international event. Read more