Sparks Program for University Women
The TWI Sparks Program is an innovative leadership training program for women university students who have demonstrated leadership capabilities and an interest in social change and civic engagement. The program’s intention is to foster life skills and leadership abilities in participants that will enrich their personal development, empower them, and encourage their commitment toward social change. Students are selected primarily from public universities. Many come from modest backgrounds. Sparks Program groups are currently at work in Duzce, Izmir, Ankara and Golcuk.
The Sparks model is interactive and experiential, that is, “learning by doing”. Specific program objectives for young women include:
- strengthen their self-esteem and self-confidence
- develop self-awareness and a personal perspective about what it means to be a woman in contemporary Turkey
- increase their sensitivity toward the well being of others and commit to community engagement through social change
- acquire life skills and leadership abilities such as team building, public speaking, project management and problem solving
The program also provides opportunities for participants to refine their career goals and gain access to higher education.
How it works
Participant team members, working in small groups, identify concerns in their communities and create social change projects to address them. They meet weekly for two or three hours. Emphasis is placed on project innovation, creativity, and shared responsibility. Trained facilitators guide participants in addressing project challenges and applying effective problem-solving strategies.
Participants are introduced to new ways of thinking through multi-media, written materials and site visits. Outreach to community resources is emphasized, including interaction with women professionals who serve as role models and advocates. Participants receive formalized training in a range of topics which include time management, public speaking, project management and image building.
Team members are required to manage meetings. They are asked to maintain journals for personal reflection, and to utilize internet tools such as Facebook to communicate with one another. At the end of the nine-month program, each team writes a written report that details their findings, summarizes the impact of the Sparks Program upon their personal development, and offers critique of the program and suggestions for program innovation.
Project topics for the Sparks Program in 2010-2011 included: mobbing (in Turkish, “mobbing” refers to any form of harassment), environmental pollution, women in prison and pathways for college education for low income youth.
The Sparks Program presented its first conference in Izmir in May, 2011. All participants were invited to attend and each project presented its findings. Please check the News page for information about this two-day get together.
Supporting Women in the Arts
TWI supports the arts as an important form of self-expression and communication. To raise the profile of Turkish women in the arts and promote them, TWI is developing a resource database that includes written interviews, oral histories and videos of women artists in Turkey.
TWI introduced the first screening in the San Francisco Bay area of Turkish-American filmmaker Binnur Karaevli’s documentary, Voices Unveiled: Turkish Women Who Dare, at Santa Clara University. The film has subsequently been shown to acclaim at a number of international film festivals. (www.eastwestdocumentary.com)
Supporting Conferences and Networks for Women
TWI assists in the planning and implementation of conferences in support of Turkish women. We helped, for example, to organize the first International Women’s Entrepreneurship and Leadership Summit, held in Istanbul, Turkey in June 2009.
Summer Internships in Turkey
TWI is in its second year of partnering with universities in the United States to create summer internships in Turkey for American students interested in working with TWI. Interns receive class credit for their work. Our 2010 intern Antonia Novak interviewed Turkish women visual artists in depth and developed a women artists database. The intern for 2011, Amalee Nsour, is implementing a parenting questionnaire, and researching existing Turkish programs working with girls and women
TWI Visiting Fellows
TWI sponsors Turkish professionals committed to the development of girls and women, and organizes site visits with decision makers and community organizations in California which work with girls and women.