By Valerie Dowling, ’07
History Major, Politics Minor, Nisbet Honors
As a Converse student, I was first awakened to the plight of women around the world. In my history and politics classes, we examined the current and historical struggles of women globally. This knowledge led to a passion in my career to work to engage women in civil and political life.
My job as the Political Director for the National Federation of Republican Women enables me to work to engage women in civic and political life. I work to connect women with the resources they need to launch successful bids for political office as well as serve as a liaison for Republican women to the national political arena in Washington. One very important component of my job is to build partnerships with our counterparts that share similar missions and goals in Washington.
The National Federation of Republican Women has partnered with the bipartisan International Republican Institute and Women’s Democracy Network to help to share our grassroots experience and expertise with civil and political leaders in emerging democracies around the world.
In March, I learned I had the opportunity to be a part of the International Republican Institute’s (IRI) international delegation to monitor the historic presidential elections in Nigeria as they seek to establish fair and free elections. I was especially interested to see the role of Nigerian women in the election process.
In April, I flew to Abuja, Nigeria, with a team of 40 individuals from all over the world including Bangladesh, Canada, Estonia, Mexico, and Kenya
After we arrived, our delegation spent the first day in briefings to gain a better understanding of the political climate, the partisan structure, and the history of Nigeria’s emerging democracy. The message was clear that the hopes of the Nigerian people rested in this election marking a turning point in their young democracy by being transparent and orderly.
I was part of a team that deployed to Kaduna state where we spent the day before the election meeting with local stakeholders to find out how the National Assembly elections had gone the previous week and their expectations for the upcoming Presidential elections. On Saturday, we began Election Day early and spent the day observing various phases of the election process at over 20 polling stations in urban and rural settings.
It was amazing to see the dedication of the Nigerian people as they arrived early, stood in line for hours to be accredited, and then vote. In many cases, people remained throughout the afternoon to observe the ballot count. In Kaduna, women turned out in numbers to make sure their voice was heard to help determine the direction of their country.
During my tenure as a student, Converse challenged me to engage my community, state, nation, and world. I have used the confidence Converse helped to develop in me as a student to pursue my dreams to make an impact on the world around me. I will always treasure the time of discovery and confidence that my years at Converse fostered.