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Leadership training empowers women around the world

Mar 07, 2018 05:14PM ● Published by Keyra Kristoffersen

Women from around Utah gather to learn to become Sheroes from the inside out. (Bridget Cook Burch)

Women from around Utah gathered in Sandy at the Courtyard by Marriott to participate in a leadership training put on by Sheroes United, a movement of women who dare to change the world through love, according to their website.

“We really believe that when you empower a woman, you empower a family and you empower a community and eventually you empower a nation,” said Bridget Cook Burch, the executive pillar director over human trafficking and New York Times best-selling author of “The Witness Wore Red.”

The “Becoming a Shero from the Inside Out” training focused on helping women identify their stories and the narrative they tell themselves and the world. It aims to help them understand they are not alone in some of their worst experiences and how to break the chains of dysfunction and become a positive and powerful influence for the families and community. 

Participants engage in an eight-hour class and lunch to hear speakers discuss how they can become a Shero and then build a Bill of Rights detailing their right to be happy, to say no and to build a better life for themselves and their families.

Sheroes United began seven years ago when a group of Utah businesswomen were sitting around a table and realized they had something in common. Each had been through some form of domestic violence or sexual assault, and the founder, Celeste Gleave, had discovered there was a lot of trauma among military women. 

They found that each of them found a way to rise above the things they had experienced, but that so many members of the community had not. They built a nonprofit to help and discuss the problems like domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking that they did not see being discussed at home, but was always seen as happening “over there,” anywhere but their local neighborhoods. 

The training has been modified to be culturally and age sensitive in order to be taken abroad, such as when world leaders and members of the Vatican requested that it be brought to women from the Democratic Republic of Congo in Rome last year. 

“The Congo is the worst place for women,” said Burch. “We knew that if we could affect the women refugees that have family back there that that could be a ripple that we could do until it’s safe for us to actually go in.”

Along with going out to other states like Colorado and New York and other countries such as Canada, India and Kenya, Sheroes training will also be introduced into the Utah State prison system between Feb. 20 and March 20 as a pilot program called Y PREP, which stands for “Your Parole Requires Extensive Preparation.” The program will not only teach empowerment to female prisoners, but will also provide a safe space for them to discuss and redefine their narrative and overcome victimhood going forward. 

“What really needs to happen is that deep inner healing,” said Burch. “In order for any of these things to change, it’s going to require that women have the ability to change the way that they perceive themselves and be open to the greater reality.”

Life skills, handling money and budgeting, writing resumes and getting jobs will also be part of the training.

Sheroes United has been working hand-in-hand with the Utah Refugee Association and the Attorney General’s Office to get training into hotel and motel settings to respond to human trafficking. A “superwoman” campaign was planned to be revealed on Feb. 13 on Capitol Hill in conjunction with the introduction of Annie’s Bill, a project that would put teeth to protective orders, said Burch; it was spearheaded by a woman whose daughter was murdered by a former boyfriend. 

The bill would require that a tracking monitor with three-way radio be worn by a predator that would link them to an app on the victim’s phone so that if they are within 2,000 feet of each other, the victim would be warned and the police and monitoring company notified. It’s designed as an early warning system against those who have proven or demonstrate the possibility of violence.

“There are certain perpetrators that get their hand slapped again and again until they take someone’s life,” said Burch.

Sheroes United believes in the healthy and respectful communication and partnership between men and women and seeks to help others be the best they can be and help others, said Burch. With over 500 volunteers throughout Utah, she hopes to get that message out to end a culture of violence. Another training session will take place at the end of March and donations and volunteers are always welcome.

“Women and men are taking this training and taking it out into the world,” said Burch. “It really has exceeded what we had envisioned.”

For more information about future classes and how to get involved, visit https://www.sheroesunited.org/

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