Michelle Bekkering, Director, Women's Democracy Network
Michelle Bekkering currently serves as the Director for the Women’s Democracy Network (WDN) where she oversees IRI's global initiative to empower women for greater participation in their country’s public life. To date, WDN is active in 61 countries worldwide with 15 established country chapters. WDN works directly with its global membership to determine the barriers which limit women’s political participation and ascension to public office and implementing programming designed to overcome those challenges.
Bekkering joined IRI in 2005. As Deputy Director for Eurasia, she oversaw programming designed to support the democratic development of the former soviet republics. She also oversaw the Baltic-Eurasia Inter-Parliamentary Training Institute; a parliamentary governance program located in Lithuania which assists leaders of emerging Eurasian democracies. During her time at IRI, Bekkering has participated in election observation missions around the world including the 2009 presidential election in Afghanistan and historical 2011 election in post-revolution Tunisia.
Before joining IRI, Bekkering served in numerous positions within the U.S. government. She worked in the administration of President George W. Bush, serving in the European and Eurasian Affairs Directorate of the National Security Council led by Dr. Condoleezza Rice. Prior to her time in the executive branch, she worked on Capitol Hill as an aide to Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (CA-46), participating in several congressional staff delegations to Asia and the Middle East.
In recognition for her advocacy efforts for global women’s political empowerment, Bekkering was named a 2013 Top Global Woman by the Diplomatic Courier. She was also asked by the George W. Bush Institute to serve as a mentor for its Women’s Initiative fellowship program. Bekkering’s passion for women’s political empowerment also extends to the United States where she serves as a member of the board of the bipartisan WeLEAD program of American University’s Women and Politics Institute; a program dedicated to increasing the number of women in public office in the United States. Bekkering is also a member of the American Council of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL), a bipartisan organization dedicated to fostering relations among young political leaders and policy makers worldwide. A member of its Charter Alumni Council, Bekkering participated in ACYPL’s bilateral delegation to India and Pakistan in 2011.
A native of Iowa, Bekkering graduated from Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa. As part of her education, she studied at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Michelle’s Speeches, Testimony and Writings:
A Full and Robust Democracy Depends on Equal Participation of Women (PDF), Diplomatic Courier
Expectations Before the Conference, Community of Democracies Blog