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The League of Women Voters and its partners Espaço Mulher and Fundación Mujeres por Colombia just concluded the Legislative Fellows Program (LFP) that over the course of two years involved 22 fellows from Colombia and Brazil; 15 fellows and 21 mentors from the United States, 20 hosting families and 24 hosting coordinators in 12 cities. In addition, the program involved dozens of local leaders (political candidates, elected officials, members of civil society, political activists, and family members) in the United States, Colombia and Brazil and teams of League members in the hosting communities that mobilized local resources to welcome and host the Legislative Fellows.
The League launched the Legislative Fellows Program titled "Connecting Future Legislators with Civil Society – Colombia and Brazil" in November 2009. The two-year program aimed to promote dialogue at the local political level, while strengthening the bonds between citizens in the Americas. LFP was funded by a grant from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the U.S. Department of State. The Legislative Fellows Program (LFP) was initiated in 2005 by ECA'S Office of Citizen Exchanges and the Fellowship experience is designed to cultivate an increased understanding of the U.S. legislative process and an enhanced appreciation of the interplay of government and civil society.
Two fellowship in the United States and four exchange visits to Colombia and Brazil took place between April 2010 and April 2011. The first nine fellows (six Colombians and three Brazilians) arrived April 2010 and the second group of thirteen fellows (eleven Colombians and two Brazilians) arrived October 2010. The Fellows spent 3 weeks in the hosting communities and one week attending orientation and the closing program at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC. The Fellows were hosted by eight local Leagues: Duluth, MN, Houston, TX, Johnson County, KS, McLean County, IL, Miami, FL, Montgomery County, MD, San Diego, CA; and Wichita, KS. In addition, between September 2010 and April 2011, eleven U.S. Fellows were selected to travel to Colombia and Brazil at different times two-weeks program to learn about the systems of government in Colombia and Brazil.
The impact of this program in the short and long term is impossible to measure. Each one of the 36 Fellows are connected via FACEBOOK and each has between 200 and 4,000 friends. The live presentations made by the Fellows in the United States reached over 3,000 persons. The radio interviews potentially reached thousands of listeners and the media coverage potentially reached hundreds of readers.
Pictures are available in Flickr.