To many of us, education means power. But in some parts of the world it's not easily attainable for men or women.
Sadly, in many of those places, the thought of educating women, empowering them or encouraging them to fulfill their own dreams is simply unheard of. I've seen this first-hand in my own life, which is why I came to the United States more than 25 years ago from Iran with a vision of creating safe, educational and energetic forums for connecting women and inspiring them.
I am so fortunate to live in Orange County where there is such a vibrant and successful community of educated and inspiring individuals of all cultures and backgrounds. The Iranian-American women I'm connected with today have profoundly impacted my life's path on a professional and personal level. They've served as mentors and friends to me, and that network of women leaders is what I hope to preserve, build and share for future generations here in O.C.
So how do you grow leaders? How do you inspire someone to be inspirational? Those are two questions I ponder each day in my work with the Coastline Community College Foundation and the city of Irvine. For the city of Irvine (where I served as community services commissioner), we inspired thousands at the city's Global Village Festival, O.C.'s largest multicultural event. When I saw people from different cultures coming together year after year to share their history, food and traditions, I realized how much we need this multicultural, multigenerational support network.
Building on that idea of integrating culture, professional/personal development and networking, we at Coastline agreed to host the Kaleidoscope Leadership Institute (for women of color working in higher education) and also launched the Iranian-American Women's Leadership Conference back in 2010. Presently, we are launching a new event: the O.C. Global Women's Conference. It will be an event where women leaders from all backgrounds can hear each other's stories of struggle and success; where attendees looking for inspiration, looking for courage, or looking for a mentor can link up with others who are willing to serve in that way. It will be a place where young and old, students and historians, professionals and homemakers can build friendships, provide guidance and prepare the next generation.
We are expecting close to 500 people at this conference (March 1 at the Hilton Anaheim), and I'm excited that so many others share in my original dream and creating these types of forums for inspiring women of diverse cultural backgrounds.
As my staff at the Coastline Foundation work with me on the final preparations for the O.C. Global Women's Conference, I can't help but remember one of my favorite quotes: "Education is kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel" (Socrates). For the past 25 years, I've committed my life to lighting that flame for others, and it's through these events and the work of hundreds of staff, volunteers, speakers, presenters and attendees that is possible.
Mariam Khosravani is the executive director for Coastline Foundation.
OC Register.Published: Feb. 13, 2013 Updated: Feb. 14, 2013 9:02 a.m.