American Diary: How To Step Outside Your Comfort Zone?

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MY STORY. My name is Rugile, I am a lawyer and a gender equality activist. I work as a project manager and trainer at the Women’s Issues Information Centre and Missing Person’s Families Support Centre. Since early childhood, I was always upset about all the discrimination people were facing each day. I felt that I somehow could or should have a role in changing it. Therefore I had spent the past 10 years of my life working with amazing activists in NGO sector aiming at eradicating gender based violence in my community.

Somewhere deep down I felt that it’s a crucial time to step out of my comfort zone and learn new approaches to tackle issue of gender inequality as well as strengthen my leadership skills. In recent years I had been working together with amazing trainers from U.S International Centre For Missing And Exploited Children (ICMEC) and Facebook in a project funded by the U.S embassy in Lithuania to bring Amber Alert Facebook system to Lithuania. The collaboration was a true success and I felt that U.S could offer a lot of expertise on how to tackle gender based violence.

SETTING GOALS. Doors always open for those in search. In my case these doors was IREX Community Solution Program (CSP) supported by U.S Department of state.

CSP is a professional leadership development program for the best and brightest community leaders worldwide. The program is a year-long program that includes:

  • a four-month fellowship at a U.S. organization, government office or legislative body
  • a graduate-level leadership course
  • a 6-month community project back in the respective home country

In 2018, IREX received 5300 applications from community leaders worldwide. To be completely honest I really did not think I would make it since the competition was fierce (lesson learned: never doubt yourself!).

Just before Christmas I received the best gift ever – a notification that I was selected for the interview among other 400 semi – finalists.

Later, I became a finalist – one of the 92 leaders out of 67 countries, first Lithuanian to be accepted to the program! So my journey for finding inner leader began in Washington DC as of August 2018.

MEETING THE WORLD. After careful preparation and admission of important documentation I was finally flying to Washington DC for a 3 day orientation workshop, during which I literally have met the world. Never in my life have I seen 92 very different activists sharing the same language of leadership, showing that public diplomacy can blossom even when governments disagree.

Three days together with these amazing people made us all understand that the world is actually not that big, when you are sitting next people living far from your country, yet fighting the same issues and sharing the same values. #makingtheworldsmaller #exchangeourworld

WOMEN AND GENDER STUDIES. I came to the U.S to work on a subject that I believe in dearly, which is gender equality. I am lucky to be matched with Women and Gender Studies Center at George Mason University for a 4 month practicum. The program have internationally acclaimed faculty, that has expertise in human rights, transnational migration, sexuality studies, disability studies, gender based violence, incarceration, minority and interracial families, health policy, environmental and ecofeminist issues, women writers, and masculinity studies.

Networking is not collecting contacts! Networking is about planting relations! Together with my supervisor Nancy Xiong at my new office

Special equipment to get me started 

S.M.A.R.T. PLAN. During the 4 months of my practicum I will:

  • Support my new working place with event organizing and providing support for students
  • Build and strengthen sustainable professional networks with international colleagues and institutions, with least 5 new organizations a month
  • Learn about services for victims of sexual violence (methodologies, referral systems, promotion of services)
  • Create one training program on early prevention of intimate partners violence and promotion of healthy relationship
  • Write a weekly blog about my experience in the U.S

LEADERSHIP DOES NOT HAPPEN IN OUR COMFORT ZONE. And this applies to all activists that work in their communities across Lithuania – dream big, take the best the world can offer, apply to become a part of Community Solutions Program in 2019. More information on applications:

THANK YOU for this opportunity to U.S Department of State, IREX, U.S embassy in Lithuania, my supervisor Nancy Xiong and my beloved employers back at home: Women’s Issues Information Centre and Missing Person’s Families Support Centre.

If you are interested to know more, follow me on social media or write me:

Email: [email protected]

Facebook: Rugile Butkeviciute

Follow me on Instagram: rugileib



Author: Rugile Butkeviciute





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