The Power of One
Ethiopian AWARD Fellow Meaza Melkamu Abawari describes Linda Stout this way: "She is professional, beautiful, intelligent, talented, well-organized, passionate, and has an eye that sees what God sees."
I hope you're asking, "Who is this Linda Stout?" - because I want to tell you about her.
A long-time social justice advocate, author, and New Mexico State University (NMSU) alumna, Linda shows what one visionary person can accomplish. She made possible the newly established Service Learning for Women (SLW) program at NMSU's College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. Inspired by Kenya's late Nobel laureate, Wangari Maathai, Linda decided to do something for African women in agriculture. Specifically, she wanted to create broader learning opportunities that would empower African women to achieve their highest potential. I think Linda puts it best, "The real heart of SLW is empowering women to be agents of positive change."
We are thrilled that our project was chosen as the first SLW beneficiary, giving four AWARD Fellows the opportunity to spend four weeks in New Mexico to study adaptive extension and leadership. They also met agricultural leaders throughout the state and visited agriculture and extension programs. Through it all, they were mentored by the College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences faculty.
Now back home, the women are already sharing about the impact of their experience.
"I am changed for good. I can never be the same person again. I am empowered and a change agent." 2010 AWARD Fellow Meaza Melkamu Abawari, Program Officer, Food for the Hungry in Ethiopia, MSc in Agriculture (Horticulture), Haromaya University
"Africa has powerful women, but they are not empowered. Being an empowered woman means taking responsibility to see others become empowered as well, so we are now left with a huge responsibility to change other peoples' lives." 2010 AWARD Fellow Chikondi Precious Chabvuta, Gender Coordinator, Farmers Union of Malawi, BSc in Environmental Science from the University of Malawi's Bunda College of Agriculture
The origins of SLW grew out of conversations in very different parts of the world. On the back porch of a mutual friend in Nairobi, I happened to meet Mick O'Neill, a professor and Jose Fernandez Memorial Chair in Crop Production at the NMSU Agricultural Science Center. He asked me to tell him more about AWARD. A few months later, Mark Gladden, Director of Development at the college, introduced Mick to Linda, who talked about her idea of creating a scholarship program at NMSU. The rest is history and a wonderful new relationship for AWARD.
Though many people developed and implemented this new program, Linda is its heart and soul. She helped design the program specifics, selected the participants, provided them a "home away from home" and introduced them to NMSU"s educational benefits, as well as the local culture.
I am inspired by this woman who decided that she could do something in which she believes. Her commitment shows the impact that one woman can have, and how one individual donor can complement the support of large foundations and agencies. Such innovation enables AWARD to leverage the talent of African women agricultural scientists to better address Africa"s food security issues. We welcome more opportunities like this.
We would like to express our deep gratitude to Linda, Mick, Mark, Dr. Brenda Seevers, Program Coordinator and Professor at the College of ACES, and Connie Padilla, Assistant Program Coordinator, as well as program mentors Kari Bachman, Thomas J. Dormody, Sue Forester-Cox, April Ulery, and Stephanie Walker. Our sincere thanks also go to all the others at NMSU and the community who made such a difference in these young women's lives.
Note: Primary funding for the NMSU SLW was provided by Linda Stout. Additional support was provided by the Jose Fernandez Memorial Chair in Crop Production and the College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.