Women Who Survive

Telling Our Stories Heals Us

Author, Speaker, Media Producer, Social EntrepeneurTess Cacciatore is a storyteller who has won awards for her productions that tell the stories of people around the world. But her most powerful story is her own, and she tells it in her new Amazon bestselling book, Homeless to the White House. In this conversation, Tess talked about the discoveries she made on her journey from escaping a bullet in the Congo to singing “We Are One” on the White House lawn, and how all of it confirmed her resolve to dedicate her life to telling powerful stories to liberate and empower people throughout the world.
“Writing is a wonderful tool,” Tess told Dr. Nancy. It will help you heal, whether you write your daily thoughts in a journal or a short story, book or film. Her book took eight years to write and the telling was possibly more emotional than the experiences themselves. She didn’t fully realize how close she had come to death, while making a documentary in the Congo. Telling that story, and many others, created a laser focus on how she lived her life. It led her to examine the choices she had made that were not just mistakes, but created unhealthy relationships, lead to domestic violence and actually almost got her killed. Ultimately, she began to see all of the adversity that she experienced as a blessing, and that allowed her to progress to the next—and infinitely better—chapter.

#Reveal2Heal Cultural Movement

Tess’s mission as a filmmaker, speaker, author and social entrepreneur is to drive change by inspiring women and men from around the world to join forces and have their voices heard. Her story taught her three important lessons:

  1. Every story has value. Besides the healing you experience in the telling and relieving regrets, guilt, self-recrimination, or hateful grudges against other people, it can help others who are going through similar experiences.
  2. Forgiveness of yourself is first and foremost. She related that the blueprints we all carry from our youth, whether we’re told that we’re fat, ugly, stupid, lazy or whatever, have to be erased. The only way to do that is to forgive yourself. You have to do that before you can forgive anyone else. Complete forgiveness must take place before you can progress to the third most important lesson.
  3. Self-love is the most transformative. Tess said that she always felt that she loved herself, but she didn’t understand what that truly meant until she forgave herself and everything she perceived as being bad. That was when she began to see the world through different eyes, developed empathy for others and opened to all of the generosity and abundance that is available when your heart is truly open.

The Birth of GWEN

Tess said that the end of her book is really only the beginning of her story. Although she has always been passionate about human rights, the value of every human being, and felt outrage at judgments against others for being different, she rose to new determination to help the world transform itself. She founded The Global Women’s Empowerment Network (GWEN), a 501c3 that works with and connects to other charities to benefit women and children around the world. She also founded the GWEN Studios, a production company that utilizes the power of media and technology to enable people to share their stories and transform their lives.  Launching this summer, GWEN Studios is working with others to create a network to reach 250 million households. Tess wants to encourage anyone wanting to find their voice to reach out to her and GWEN. She plans to broadcast all kinds of content from documentaries, features, short films and TV series to a whole music division.
Buy Homeless to the White House on Amazon. And listen to this conversation for more about Tess’s story. Then check out Tess’s website and the Global Women’s Empowerment Network to learn how you can connect in these exciting initiatives to share, heal and transform our stories.

Uniting Humanity through Music

Marina


Marina Arsenijevic praises the United States for allowing her — a foreigner — to perform with two iconic West Point musical groups, spreading her universal message of unity and building bridges for the common good of humanity. Marina says that no other country in the world would have allowed her to do that. She performed her Emmy-nominated PBS program “Marina at West Point–Unity through Diversity,” with the West Point Cadet Band and Glee Club.
She has since become a US citizen and continues to give voice to stories that drive her passion through her music. An internationally famous classical pianist and composer, Marina speaks from her heart through the universal language of music to remind us that no matter our differences, “we are all one under the sun.” Born in Belgrade, Serbia, in the former Yugoslavia, Marina became passionate about piano as a child and had earned her master’s degree in music by the time the bitter civil war split her country apart. At the peak of the conflict, she sought to unify the separate peoples of Yugoslavia by combining Muslim and Christian rhythms and melodies that honored both cultures and all people. In the end, she had to flee Yugoslavia and was permitted by a special congressional bipartisan arrangement to enter the United States where she continues to unify people through her many concerts and compositions.

Mileva Einstein—A Modern Tragic Madame Butterfly

Marina’s current passion is creating a musical play based on the book, Mileva Marić Einstein: Life with Albert Einstein by Radmila Milentijević. She first read the book in her native Serbian and helped get it published in English. Now, she is working on composing and producing a modern musical story, similar to the tragic story of Madame Butterfly using the connection to music the Einsteins shared. Albert, a good amateur violinist and Mileva, who played piano and tambourine, enjoyed performing together for guests in their home.
The most notable thing about Mileva, however, was her contribution to Einstein’s work, for which she received no public recognition. A mathematical genius, she converted Einstein’s physics into mathematical equations. Their partnership is demonstrated in Einstein’s letters to Mileva, in which he refers to all the major papers of the time as “our work” or “our paper.” However, the only credit she received was a share of the Nobel Peace Prize money.  Although Einstein resisted, the divorce decree awarded future Nobel Prize money to Mileva as her property. Marina tells Dr. Nancy how her countrywoman sacrificed her own career, a classic female choice, to avoid diminishing the history-making work in the eyes of the world. Marina also notes that Einstein produced nothing significant after the divorce from Mileva, his unrecognized scientific partner.
Listen to this interview for more of Marina’s personal journey from rising star as a classical pianist to escape from war-torn Yugoslavia, and intriguing details about Mileva’s contribution to Einstein’s work including the theory of relativity. Check out more of Marina’s current work at MarinainAmerica.com and on Instagram. Stay tuned for Marina’s musical and possible screen play, and tune into further broadcasts of Marina’s PBS program, “Unity through Diversity.”

Making Work Safer for All Women

Every day the headlines reveal another scandal, as yet another brave woman shares her story and detailing male behaviors – including sexual abuse, predatory behavior or inappropriate sexual contact – that have typically gone unpunished. As women stand up in numbers, and people pay attention, it becomes impossible for their alleged harassers to brush them off as hysterical females or to hide themselves under the cover of blame-the-victim strategies.
There seems to be safety in numbers and women are feeling emboldened by the actions of others to step up and say, “me too” and to share their stories. Many high-profile men facing sexual misconduct allegations right now aren’t denying them. The allegations aren’t limited to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, or the hallowed halls of Congress, the problem is far more wide-reaching than one man, or even one industry. This has impacted women in every industry and every walk of life, and is finally experiencing the spotlight of public attention and, more importantly, action, it deserves.
During an interview to promote her return to television, Ann Curry, former co-host of the “Today Show” told PEOPLE Magazine that she admires the women who have been willing to speak up both anonymously and on the record. She feels they need to keep their jobs, and be able to work, to be able to thrive, without fear. “’The women’s movement got us into the workplace, but it didn’t make us safe once we got there.”
“And the battle lines are now clear. We need to move this revolution forward and make our workplaces safe,” she added. “Corporate America is quite clearly failing to do so, and unless it does something to change that, we need to keep doing more ourselves.”
Certainly safety is key. In a 2017 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) study, the agency found three-fourths of sexual harassment victims never report it. The EEOC also reports that up to 85 percent of women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace and many men as well (as evidenced by recent accusations of opera conductor James Levine and actor Kevin Spacey). The EEOC defines harassment as. “Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, when conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. ”
Fox News Anchor Gretchen Carlson, not only spoke out about sexual harassment on the job, she sued the network’s chairman Roger Ailes, and 21st Century Fox reportedly settled with her for $20 million. More women followed her lead and came forward at Fox News with allegations of their own. Clyde Haberman wrote in the New York Times that Carlson is, “Aware that sexual hostility on the job falls most heavily on women who are far less privileged than she or than many of the women in movies, television, high tech and other glamourous industries who also report being hounded by predatory bosses. Victims are more likely to be lower paid workers whose plight rarely makes headlines: waitresses and female bartenders who have to fend off employers and customers with hyperactive hands, or women just trying to get through the day unscathed in the male-dominated construction industry.”
So, the question is, “How can the everyday worker, or the single mother holding down one or two minimum wage jobs, fight back against abuse and harassment?” Tammy Cho and Grace Choi are tackling that issue head on with BetterBrave.com. After reading Susan Fowler’s blog post about Uber, the two women shared their frustration, and as Choi writes at Medium.com, “Tammy and I discussed this at length the next day. How frustrated we were. How it’s 2017 and we’re still talking about harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Then we slowly opened up about our own experiences facing sexual harassment, discrimination, racism, and everything in between. It was a conversation that made us ask, ‘Why don’t good solutions to sexual harassment already exist?’”
The two women went on to talk to hundreds of people (including, but not limited to targets of harassment, Human Resource departments, founders, investors, and employment lawyers) to understand the full landscape of harassment. They then took their findings to a friend and an employment lawyer to translate their findings into a simple, but comprehensive guide on what to do if you experience sexual harassment at work. As a result, BetterBrave provides resources, tools, and employment lawyers to targets of harassment.
Eliminating sexual harassment in the workplace is, not only the right thing to do for a multitude of reasons, it also makes good business sense. According to the EEOC, when employers consider the costs of workplace harassment, they often focus on legal costs, and with good reason. Last year, EEOC alone recovered $164.5 million for workers alleging harassment – and these direct costs are just the tip of the iceberg. Workplace harassment first and foremost comes at a steep cost to those who suffer it, as they experience mental, physical, and economic harm. Beyond that, workplace harassment affects all workers, and its true cost includes decreased productivity, increased turnover, and reputational harm. All of this is a drag on performance – and the bottom-line.
“This kind of behavior exists across industries, and it is so long overdue for it to stop,” Curry says. “This is a moment when we all need to be a beacon of light for those women, for all women, and for ourselves.”
We couldn’t agree with her more. Sexual harassment is unacceptable at every level, and thankfully, as Melinda Gates writes in TIME, “2017 is proving to be a watershed moment for women in the workplace and beyond. Instead of being bullied into retreat or pressured into weary resignation, we are raising our voices—and raising them louder than ever before. What’s more, the world is finally listening.”
That’s one thing each of us can, and must, do every day. Listen to women and support them in their life journeys.
 

Is Your Story Holding You Back

Six Ways to Rewrite It and Supercharge Your Power

Often women allow circumstances, routines, and stereotypes to keep them from living their dreams. Here, a licensed psychologist offers insight into how you can rewrite your story, reconnect with your power, and create a fulfilling and purposeful life.

By Nancy D. O’Reilly, PsyD

The stories we tell ourselves determine how we think we must behave. Change your story and you can transform your life in dramatic ways. Bridget Cook-Burch, one of my coauthors of Leading Women, says we may not even be conscious of the obstacles we create with our stories or of the limitless possibilities that exist when we rewrite them. When Bridget was a single mom, she worked from home and thought it was the only way she could support her children and be available to care for them when they needed her. Soon she found herself in an abusive relationship with a client. His advances became so intrusive she had to hide images and messages he sent from her children.
Like many women, Bridget feared that if she quit she would lose both income and the ability to provide a safe, emotionally secure place for her children. Still, she summoned her courage and fired her client. Without knowing how she would pay the rent or even feed her kids, she rejected the “victim story” she had believed to be true and embraced the realization that she had thousands of possibilities. In fact, in a few weeks she joined a friend in ownership of a large trucking company, where she began to train and manage many men and women.
What stories are you telling yourself? I hope you aren’t having to fend off an abusive client, but you may be limiting yourself in other ways. Are you accepting the stereotypes of our culture? Are you pursuing the path someone else wants you to take? Are you living by default? Or are you pursuing your passion with a firm belief that it is your time to do whatever you choose?
It’s time to take responsibility for your own “story,” your own life. You can stop seeing obstacles and start envisioning opportunities to claim and use your power to achieve your passion and purpose.
Of course, if you’re like most of us, you probably devote most of your time and energy to everyone around you. If that’s true, you may not even know what you care about most deeply. The only way to figure out what your passion is––and to learn how to direct it––is to purposefully rewrite your story and turn your power up a notch. Here are a few ways to get started:
Step out of your comfort zone. Get uncomfortable and make a difference. Every time someone says, “You can’t,” show them you can. Although it may feel painful for a moment, following your passion is a path filled with joy. Why wait? Choose to step out and do something you’re passionate about and you will discover your most gratifying and powerful life.
Start working out. When you feel physically fit and healthy, you naturally arm yourself to take on that next ambitious challenge. Exercise relieves stress, helps you relax, and produces the “happy hormones” that keep you strong and resilient. If you choose to do only one thing for yourself each day, give yourself a loving workout. The less you do, the less you can do. And you want your mind, body, and spirit to be more engaged and energized to claim your power.
Move to Connecting 2.0. Real connecting is not just about attending surface-level meet-and-greets and collecting hundreds of Facebook friends. It requires you to stop wondering, What can I get from you? and start thinking, What can we accomplish together? My most satisfying accomplishments were done with the help of my sisters. Women are hardwired to support and collaborate, and we are much more creative and successful together than any one of us is alone.
Ask your friends where to channel your power. Many women have been doing what others wanted for so long, they simply don’t know what their strengths and skills are. Ask your women friends for advice. In many ways, they know you better than you know yourself. They notice what makes you smile and what you inherently do well. Ask them for guidance in finding a path that fits your talents and inclination.
Stay present for instant power. When you worry about the future and fret about the past, you waste your energy. It’s ironic that so many of us struggle to stay present because it really is the simplest, most natural thing in the world. It happens through the senses—all we need to do is tune in to what we’re seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting right now. Allow yourself to feel grateful for it. Gratitude awakens us, and when we’re awake, we can see our opportunities and rise to our challenges instead of obsessing about our barriers and failures.
This year, do one thing to change the world. When you are able to observe a positive difference in the world because of something you did, you’ll tap into a powerful well of motivation. You don’t have to solve world hunger or found an orphanage. Start small. Volunteer for something you care about or chip in with others to fix something in your community.
A few years ago, I had the privilege of meeting the Dalai Lama. He impressed me when he said that the future of the world rests in the hands of Western women, if only we would wake up. I believe this and know that changing your corner of the world for the better requires paying attention to the reality around you. It’s an amazing way to access your power.
Once you stop living on automatic pilot and take those first few halting steps forward, it gets steadily easier to connect to your purpose. You’ll begin to notice other women and men around you who are moving in a similar direction. You’ll feel the joy and satisfaction of doing something deeply meaningful. And you’ll want to do more. Together, we can change the world.

Gifts to Heal and Transform Your Life

Kim Coles


Actress and Comedian Kim Coles has reached beyond the TV screen and the stage to share how she turned  her life around when she discovered that life doesn’t happen to you, but for you. When her five-year successful TV show, “Living Single,” came to an end, she not only lost her TV family, she lost her way. Now, she says that of course her life was more than a TV show, but the loss was so great, it was difficult to see that at the time. In the process of emerging from a deep depression, she found her gifts and reached out to help others through speaking, writing and sharing empowering stories.
 

Stories Inform, Engage, Educate and Can Heal the World

Her book, Open Your GIFTS: 22 Lessons on Finding and Embracing Your Personal Power, became an Amazon best seller and charts the way to empowerment with stories to show how others have turned their lives around by welcoming their gifts.

GIFTS is an acronym:
G = Gratitude – Kim says she wrote a gratitude journal before GIFTS . The  most difficult thing is to be grateful for the “yucky stuff” life dishes out. But those can be the most rewarding gifts because they offer the best opportunity for learning.
I = Intention – Kim advises being intentional with your spiritual to-do list and whatever you want to be in the world.
F = Forgiveness – Forgiveness opens up your heart for so much more. When you can forgive and release past hurts from events, other people or yourself, you can use those lessons to transform your life.
T = Triumph – Kim says it’s very important to celebrate your success. Take time to be triumphant about the gains you’ve made. It builds self-confidence and helps you face future obstacles with the courage of past victories.
S = Self Love – This final letter is the essence of the book. You must love yourself and take care of yourself no matter what. Kim shares this book to help women arrive at that final step so they can live their passion and purpose.

More of Kim’s Story and Free Gift

Listen to this interview for more of Kim’s personal story  and more about her free gift—a seven-day workbook for your gratitude list, intentions, triumphs and expressions of self love. She’s offering an audio book too, absolutely free. The code is near the end of the interview.   Also check out her website and realkimcoles on Facebook to keep up to date on her events and appearances.

Human Slavery Makes Me Angry

By Dr. Nancy O’Reilly

It’s time for all of us to wake up and come together to end the worst of our society’s crimes against human beings. I’m talking about sex trafficking. In my conversation with Linda Rendleman, founder of Women Like Us foundation and one of my amazing Leading Women Co-authors, I was shocked to find out the sheer numbers of children here in the United States and world-wide who become victims of this horrendous crime every single year.
1.2 million girls and boys are trafficked every year. Sex trafficking is the second most profitable business in the world, taking in over a billion dollars in business every year.
This problem is at the core of our society and needs ALL of us to step up to end it. This is not a woman’s issue; it’s a human issue. It’s estimated that 30% of the children who are trafficked are boys, but that figure is probably low. Approximately 99% of the users (those who pay to have sex with these children) are men. We must all be outraged and use that anger to really make a difference.
All of us can do something. Click here to access Women Like Us crowd funding page. This campaign is working to raise money to help the women’s organizations rescue children from the streets, house them in safe places and help them become valued members of society. Any small amount will help, especially if we all help. The organizations cannot be sustainable and continue their important work without help. The need us; they need YOU in whatever small way you can contribute.

Want to report sex traffficking? Need to call for help? National Hotline is 1-888-373-7888

Each generation of children who are stolen and sold in the streets creates a new generation of prostitutes. Our children believe what they are told. If they lack self-esteem because they are not empowered with positive language and told they are amazing and can do amazing things, they look for it in potentially harmful places—online in relationships that are false and manipulative, in older boys who profess romantic love to trap immature girls into doing what they want, and with others who only want to entrap and abuse them. We must reach out to protect them with positive environments and a belief in their own precious value as free, self-reliant young women and men.

Waiting For You To Notice from Shared Hope on Vimeo.

Our judicial system makes these vulnerable victims criminals and punishes them rather than the men who pay to use them and the pimps who stole them away in the first place. We must work from both ends of the problem. Linda Smith founded Shared Hope International after being introduced to sex trafficking in India, then finding out that it was so prevalent in the United States. Most shocking is that the primary victims in our country are middle-class middle school kids. And the younger the children, the more the men will pay.  Linda’s organization is working on the judicial system in every state and recruiting men to come forward in the fight and recruit others to get everyone involved in, not only legislating for and rescuing victims, but eradicating the unhealthy demand for sex with children.
I am convinced that every person we help, helps three more people. Imagine if each of us helps just one of these victims, how that will spread to make a difference in the world. Every person only wants to be loved. Reach out with your love to help end this cycle of modern-day slavery today. It is at the heart of social justice in our world and will do more for raising us all up than any other single action you can take. Help Women Like Us exceed their funding goal and support these organizations working every day to free a new generation of children.

Sex Trafficking Horrific, but Successes Transform Lives


Victims of sex trafficking endure horrible abuse and trauma, but their stories can actually end happily. Dedicated people in organizations around the world are saving victims every day, and they need our support. I’d like to share with you some success stories from Washington State, California, India and Nepal.

Dream Center Helps West Coast Victims

“Hope” is in her early 20’s, and has a one-year-old daughter.  A few years ago, she took the greyhound bus to Los Angeles, but when she got off, her boyfriend wasn’t there to meet her.  Walking to get some food, she was kidnapped and forced to work on the streets for about seven months.   She had to serve 8-10 men per day and bring in a quota of $1500.  There was no room for trying to escape from her pimp because she was constantly watched.
One night, a Vice Cop said he could help her get out. They staged an arrest and safely removed her from the situation. Although she had escaped, she had been brainwashed that he was her only source of protection, and she went back several times before she was finally able to get out and stay out. Life was still hard, she served time on an old warrant and lost custody of her daughter. She heard about the Dream Center, and now is working to complete the program, get her daughter back, and pursue a degree in social work.

“Lover Boys” Groom Girls On Internet

Michelle met her “lover boy” on the Internet while struggling to rebuilt her chaotic life and take care of her two sons. He was “sweet and kind” to her, but introduced her to meth to ease her stress. When she needed surgery, he moved in to help take care of the boys. Despite the drugs, she thought she had found her happy family until he began pressuring her to earn more. She started working the streets and he directed her by phone while home watching the kids. “The more I made, the more he did for me – got my hair done, nails, clothes, stuff for my boys they never had before and more drugs. I felt like a princess.” But he started abusing and cheating on her and she lost custody of her sons. The situation worsened until her mother told her about the Dream Center and she escaped to Los Angeles. She intends to start school in the fall and is working to regain custody of her children.

Nepalese Girls Turn to Shared Hope

Reshma was little more than a child herself when she was lured from her remote village in Nepal to Kathmandu— then enslaved by a bar owner who sold girls for sex along with the drinks.  Soon she found she was pregnant and, friendless and terrified, Reshma surrendered her baby “Angel” at birth. Soon she found her way to Asha Nepal, a partner organization that Shared Hope helped establish and supports. Seeing other children there, she realized she had not needed to give up her child and Asha Nepal’s founder helped get her back. They spent over three years there, and in 2016, gainfully employed, Reshma and Angel moved into their own small apartment in Kathmandu.

Children of Sex Slaves Can Rise Above Circumstances

Manisha is 20 years old and has made her home at Asha Nepal since she was 7.  Her mother fell in love at 16 with a man who betrayed her and sold her into India. She soon got pregnant, but rejected her child, who appeared to have no future other than sex slavery. Aunty Renu, also trafficked to the same brothel, began caring for Manisha until she was rescued by Shared Hope International’s local partner organization. Now a second-year college student pursuing a degree in Social Work, Manisha dreams of restoring trafficking victims back into society and seeing sorrowful lives transformed to joyful ones.

Former Sex Slaves Become Leading Business Women

In a typical tea shop with a small front kitchen and several tables, Shamita and Kala have found strength, success and freedom from Nepals’ brutal sex trafficking industry. They have escaped sex slavery and become two female business leaders in a Nepalese culture that often devalues women as property of men. Shamita and Kala once thought their lives were no more valuable than providing their bodies to man after man in the brothels of Mumbai. When they escaped they encountered a familiar story: their village shunned them and their own father forced them to leave. This lack of options forces many back into the violent arms of the brothel. But they went instead to Asha Nepal, a home that allows women who were trafficked to India to return to their home country.
Shamita’s and Kala’s lives are testament that life beyond the brothel is possible. Success is possible. Freedom is possible. Anything can be possible.

Want to report sex traffficking? Need to call for help? National Hotline is 1-888-373-7888

Resources and Partners

Women Like Us Documentary

In the documentary, Women Like Us.  Three Journeys.  One Mission.  To Change the World, Women Like Us tells the stories of women who are sex trafficked and those women who are leading initiatives to eradicate it.

Women Like Us Books

In the most recent Women Like Us Book, Women Like Us.  Together…Changing the World by Founder and President, Linda Rendleman, we share personal stories of women fighting to end sex trafficking and homelessness and advocating for education both locally and globally.
2017 campaign funding women’s leadership
to eradicate sex trafficking

Women Like Us Foundation has a long history of creating awareness of sex trafficking both locally and globally.  Our support of women’s leadership against sex trafficking is making a difference for lives of women and girls.
Shared Hope International  is a global community dedicated to protecting children on a local level. It trains parents, youth workers, community leaders, and teens how traffickers operate and how they can protect themselves and their friends.
Dream Center is a volunteer-driven organization that finds and fills the needs of over 40,000 individuals and families through approximately 70,000 encounters each month, including victims of human trafficking.
Somaly Mam Foundation We are a nonprofit organization dedicated to the eradication of slavery and the empowerment of its survivors, based on the vision and life’s work of Cambodian survivor Somaly Mam.
Purchased The mission of Purchased is to educate, equip, & empower the community to end modern day slavery.

Amplify Women’s Voices Around the World

Lauren Anderson


International Geopolitical Consultant Lauren Anderson is excited about the huge world-wide momentum that’s building of women reaching out to help one another across the boundaries of professions and countries  in the many organizations where she serves. Driven by the need to be of service to others and the benefits of justice and equality in our world, Lauren has journeyed through a 29-year distinguished career as an FBI executive, both in high-risk domestic and foreign service, overseeing anti-terrorism and FBI relations with 24 different countries to present-day global efforts on many fronts to empower and help women and girls become leaders in their chosen professions. Lauren serves on  numerous boards and in many capacities, including service as a public speaker and expert with the Women’s Media Center , as Global Ambassador with Vital Voices, Leadership Ambassador with Take the Lead, and  more.
While in the FBI, she saw an enormous amount of talent not being used. In fact, cultures in many countries actually held women back from contributing their skills and talents. While she saw the limitations, she couldn’t dream of all the possibilities. When she became a fellow with the International Women’s Forum, she says it exploded her world open. For the first time, she was in an environment with women from all sectors and many nations from around the world. She saw expertise, knowledge and sharing that could go beyond what she had considered with her background in law enforcement, intelligence and diplomacy.

Vital Voices Partners with Leading Women to Make Their Vision A Reality.

Founded in 1991 by Hillary Clinton and others, Vital Voices is made up of powerful bi-partisan women. Lauren says that Vital Voices identifies and works with women leaders around the world. They started where women had no capacity, in the Middle East, Africa and south Asia, regardless of their sector. Their programs range from something as basic as how to write a business plan to the global ambassador program that Lauren is part of. They select women who are at a tipping point in their profession and pair them with another successful woman. She says that the beauty of Vital Voices is they cross sectors and match people with their skill sets. For example, she currently is coaching a Somali obstetrician-gynecologist, a Filipino businesswoman and a woman in Beirut who makes cookies, though her own sector is much different.

Red Dot Foundation-Safe City Identifies Hot Spots to Protect Women.

Lauren was just asked to be the board chair for Safe City in India. The program was started by Elsa DeSilva after the horrific rape, torture and ultimate death of the young Indian doctor in 2012. Compelled to do something about the violence and sexual harassment in the streets that women go through, she and a couple of friends created the The Red Dot Foundation–Safe City. Lauren says that when it was formed, it was the only crowd-sourced and crowd-funded platform where women could share their stories. Now, Safe City has collected 50,000 separate stories of women who have experienced everything from sexual harassment to rape. The analytics this collection is providing has helped the police identify hot spots within 4 cities in India where they can increase coverage to protect women.
The Safe City model is so successful that it has expanded into Kenya, Nepal, Trinidad,  Nigeria, Cameroon, and others are set up to come on board in the future.  The United States is also looking at ways this model can be used in work environments and on college campuses.

Taking Take the Lead to Global Ambassadorship

Now Lauren and Gloria Feldt are looking into taking Take the Lead’s Leadership Ambassador program world-wide. The Leadership Ambassador  program  applies Gloria’s “9 Power Tools” to help women transform their relationship with power so they can use it to accomplish their intentional goals. They partnered with the Leadership Foundation Fellows of the International Women’s Forum and delivered a partial version of “The 9 Power Tools” to a group of women from around the world. The Leadership Ambassador program expands  beyond Take the Lead, as each Ambassador teaches entire new groups of women, so the message and the method grow exponentially.
Listen to this interview to learn about more collaborative programs where women are reaching out to help other women around the world. Check out the links of the programs that offer these opportunities for more details about how you can become involved in the movement of women reaching out to help other women around the world, and visit Lauren on Linked-In, Twitter and Facebook.

Women Gain Power Through Our Stories

by Dr. Nancy O’Reilly

When I tell my story, I find a connection with other women that is so close I feel like something magical occurs. We connect through our shared truth, and the hardships and traumatic events of life that made us grow and push past the barriers that held us back. Once we dissolve these barriers we stop being victims of our circumstances and become empowered through knowing and engaging our own truths. I’ve always felt that it’s very important for women to reach out and support one another in this process of sharing stories without worrying about how they will be perceived. The more we do this, the bigger our community will become to help us make the greatest positive impact on the world.

2017 is a year of new beginnings. The interviews I’ve conducted for my podcast so far this year seem to be focused on women who have had such beginnings. One of these, Michele Weldon, wrote three books about her journey from shedding an abusive marriage and raising her children as a single mom. Michele admits that while she experienced some very challenging times,  it was important to share the story. Especially  now she has moved on to something greater. Releasing the hidden truth of being a battered woman liberated her to live the life she deserved.

My Leading Women co-author Bridget Cook-Burch shares her story in her essay, “Transforming the Stories We Tell Ourselves as Women.” Strong women like Bridget are often surprised to find themselves in situations they thought impossible. In a decisive moment, Bridget looked her truth in the eye, took a stand, and shut down the circumstance that made her a victim. Having transformed her own story, she embarked on a successful career in business and as a best-selling author telling other people’s transformational and inspiring stories.

Another amazing woman I interviewed, Nancy Michaels, told of how her life was perfect on the outside while it crumbled on the inside. She suddenly became critically ill in the midst of a failing marriage. She survived it all to become a spokesperson for patient advocacy and tell her story about the mistakes women make trying to make our lives on the outside seem perfect while dismissing the very foundation needed to live a fulfilling life.

Nancy’s story is more common than you might think among women. When I went through my own divorce, people shied away from me for not staying in the marriage. I was shocked at the number of people who didn’t support me through that very difficult time. If they did support me, they would have to admit their own truth and the imperfections in their own lives. When I shared that fact with Michele, she laughed and said, “Yes, it’s like they think they can catch it if they get too close.” But once I found my own truth, and how I needed to transform my own story, I began to soar. When I was ready to share my truth, my very best friends were there to support and help me find my way to truly pursue my passion and purpose.

Women end up being victims because they don’t reach out for help. The purpose of WomenConnect4Good is to provide a venue for women to reach out, tell their stories, read and hear the stories of others, and support other women on all levels. And we are not alone. Stiletto networks are forming all over the country. Through these networks, women leaders hear the good and the bad and that helps us to problem solve and learn how others overcame difficulties we are facing. The issues we deal with in our lives are not unique. These communities of women where we can share our truths are so empowering that the possibilities are endless.

If that sounds too optimistic, look around you at what women are doing. When others try to put them down and make them feel less than they are, women are standing up and following their passion. They are starting their own companies , creating their own futures, and reaching out to other women to help them do the same. Although our numbers lag behind in the executive suites of corporations or seats of government, women are stepping up to change that. Feminine leadership is a natural fit for today’s successful social profit initiatives. When women find their truth and build a solid foundation, they can and do become leaders. If you’re already a leader, reach out to another woman, create a network for sharing stories and support. And if you’re still hiding your truth and unsure of how to find your path, reach out to other women, listen and share your story. It will liberate you in unimaginable ways.

Finding New Purpose after Nearly Dying

Speaker, Health care Advocate

Nancy Michaels


As an  award winning public relations professional and successful small business development consultant, Nancy Michaels’ life was perfect on the outside and crumbling on the inside. With a marriage on the rocks and an ongoing illness that had progressed for eight months, Nancy was  hit by a health tsunami. A virus caught during surgery entered her bloodstream and caused her liver to fail. Suddenly on a donor list and put into an induced coma, she received the liver, but died  twice during the surgery. The doctor told her the second time she was dead for more than two minutes, which meant she would never be the same. There was also brain surgery to relieve pressure on her brain, an extended period of being unable to speak because of a tracheotomy, organ rejection issues, long therapy episodes—putting her in and out of the hospital for a year. After relearning to walk and talk, she has transformed her experience into a purpose to inspire others to face their own health issues and health care professionals and others to stay in the moment with their patients and their families to deliver what they need to get well.
Nancy’s story is full of moments spent with health care providers where they unthinkingly talked about things in their own lives that were so unattainable for her they made her very sad. Yet there were other moments of kindness and care that made her so grateful, they had a healing effect. The message she shares for health care professionals is to be careful not to become desensitized. Be mindful of who you are and that your patient is your client, an individual human being with thoughts and feelings.

Message of Compassionate Care

Having spent so much time in the hospital, Nancy  admits that now she is not a good patient. She reminds the nurses that her pain medication is two hours late and nudges them toward other duties they have yet to act on.  Like every profession, healthcare professionals enter their chosen field to help other people. With time and the fatigue of being over-worked and dealing with very sick people on a daily basis, they become fatigued and battle their own burnout. Her purpose to help healthcare providers  understand how their actions actually affect patients moves her to be the squeaky wheel, whether she is a patient or delivering a keynote address. Steering them toward best practices, which can be applied in any profession, creates a better environment for successful outcomes both for the provider and for the patient.  If she can help one nurse or doctor improve their delivery of care, she has made a difference in thousands of patients’ lives.

Message of Hope

Although Nancy admits that she didn’t hear many of the helpful messages people tried to deliver during her illness, she thinks she would have  been more hopeful if she would have heard stories of survival.  By being a living miracle, her story of thriving after death should be enough to inspire hope in others. However, she goes beyond that to describe her life before her illness and other ways she has changed the way she deals with life’s challenges to maintain a healthy perspective going forward.
To get more messages, check out Nancy’s website and sign up for her “Motivational Monthly.” She has also written three books, including the one that details her story of survival, Stripped: Seven Lessons Learned from Dying. Listen to this conversation to hear Nancy tell her story and learn how she came back to reclaim  her life with a special focus on  creating new memories and not losing sight of  what matters.

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