Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Amazing Women Visiting Pensacola

When I first came to Pensacola, a woman at our church who is very welcoming and kind to newcomers told me she “wanted to find just the right place for me to plug in.” A couple of her suggestions were not exactly what I wanted, but then she introduced me to Jena Melancon, the founder and director of the Gulf Coast Citizens Diplomacy Council, and I found my niche.

Jena is an amazing woman. She has created this organization. She has a data base of resources that allow her to tailor visits for foreign delegates so that they can meet the needs of their missions – Election Transparency, Entrepreneurship, Environmental Protection, Leading an NGO, Military and Civilian Community Cooperation, Domestic Violence, Creating Fair Policies, Programs for Enriching Disadvantaged Children – you name it, Jena can create a program that will enrich their understanding from an American perspective.

At the same time, Pensacolians who come into contact with the delegates sent by the Department of State find that their lives are also enriched. Many times they, too, learn something new and unexpected. Both groups benefit.

Jena also has a group in GCCDC that studies Great Decisions, and creates events throughout the year for membership participation. Members of the Gulf Coast Citizens Diplomacy Council can volunteer in Jena’s office, can host dinners for delegates and have some one-on-one time learning about customs in another part of the world, can sponsor a Pensacola child in an international exchange, can host teenagers here on an international exchange, or attend the famous Mint Julep party in Spring. Many in the GCCDC are also resources; the exchange of ideas bringing inspiration to both sides.

This week, I was honored to be able to work with a group of Women in Leadership, women from Chad, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Sudan. Each and every one of the women was a hero in her own right, making life better in their communities by stepping into leadership roles. Rehab, above, from the Sudan, works to empower women and to make the laws show greater equality in the treatment of men and women.

 

CPT Aseel is a police chief in Iraq.

Maki, from Chad, works to prohibit child marriages and female genital mutilation.

Mariam, from Saudi Arabia, is a high level journalist in the Saudi media industry, accepting honorary citizenship from the City of Pensacola city council chair Sherri Myers.

Wasfiya is a minister of parliament in Iraq.

Ola is the delegate from Jordan.

I was honored to spend three days of my life with these women, and with Jena, and with other inspirational women of Pensacola at the Women in Leadership conference at UWF.

Here is most of the group with Judy Bense, President Emeritus of UWF, at the closing of the Women in Leadership conference, 2020. Life can be amazing when so many women of talent and confidence gather together to inspire one another.

March 3, 2020 Posted by | Adventure, Character, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council, Interconnected, Leadership, Political Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Ansar Din Runs Away From Mali in Disarray After French Air Strikes

Last year, we were honored to have a member of the Algerian Seal team at our table for dinner. Together with the French, they got the job done clearing the rats out of Mali in short time.

From today’s BBC News:

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Three weeks of French targeted air strikes in northern Mali have left Islamist militants “in disarray”, France’s defence minister has said.

Jean-Yves Le Drian said the jihadists had now scattered, marking a “turning-point” in France’s intervention.

His comments come as the French troops continue to secure Kidal, the last town occupied by militants.

France is preparing to hand over towns it has captured to an African force, which has begun to deploy to Mali.

So far about 2,000 African soldiers, mainly from Chad and Niger, are thought to be on the ground.

It will be the job of the African Union-backed force, the International Support Mission to Mali (Afisma), to root out the al-Qaeda-linked insurgents that have fled into the desert and mountains further north.

Meanwhile, at least two Malian soldiers have been killed when their vehicle hit a landmine south-west of Gao.

‘Tactical withdrawal’
Mr Le Drian said that some militants in Mali and been on a “military adventure and have returned home”.

Others had made a “tactical withdrawal to the Adrar des Ifoghas”, the mountainous region east of Kidal covering some 250,000 sq km (96,525 sq miles), he said.

Although this was now a turning-point for France, he said it did not mean that “the military risks and the fighting has ended”.

He also said he backed the idea of sending a UN peacekeeping force to Mali.

The BBC’s Christian Fraser in Paris says the UN Security Council had previously been uncomfortable about deploying a force under a UN mandate, but support is growing.

Envoys believe it would easier to monitor and prevent human rights abuses if the UN could pick and choose which national contingents to use, he says.

A French army spokesman in Bamako, Lieutenant-Colonel Emmanuel Dosseur, told the BBC French Service that France’s special forces were in Kidal, but the majority of troops were still at the airport.

A heavy sandstorm that had hampered operations on Wednesday was starting to clear, and troops may soon be able to continue their deployment, he said.

Haminy Maiga, who heads the regional assembly in Kidal, said he had witnessed no fighting as French forces entered and two helicopters were patrolling overhead.

Correspondents say the bigger problem is how to manage the concerns of the separatist Tuareg fighters in Kidal – the only city in the north to have a majority ethnic Tuareg population.

Chad’s army is full of experienced desert fighters needed to fight the militants
The secular National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) said its fighters would support the French but would not allow the return of the Malian army, which it accused of “crimes against the civilian population”.

Human rights groups have accused the Malian army of targeting ethnic Tuareg and Arab civilians.

The Tuareg rebels launched the insurgency in October 2011 before falling out with the Islamist militants.

The Islamist fighters extended their control of the vast north of Mali in April 2012, in the wake of a military coup.

An MNLA spokesman told the BBC that its fighters had entered Kidal on Saturday and found no Islamist militants there.

Kidal was until recently under the control of the Ansar Dine Islamist group, which has strong ties to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

The Islamic Movement of Azawad (IMA), which recently split from Ansar Dine, had said that it was in control of Kidal.

The IMA, which has Tuareg fighters amongst its members, has also said it rejects “extremism and terrorism” and wants a peaceful solution.

France – the former colonial power in Mali – launched a military operation this month after the Islamist militants appeared to be threatening the south.

January 31, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Bureaucracy, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, France, Living Conditions, Political Issues | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment