International Gender Equity Cultural Exchange

The California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls has worked with several partners to facilitate ongoing opportunities for international cultural exchange meetings focused on the needs of women and girls around the globe since 2019. As these events continue to grow and expand, we have narrowed our focus to increasing economic equity, utilizing a gender lens in public policymaking, women, peace and security efforts, and ending violence against women and girls internationally. 

Building Bridges of Support Around the World for Women and Girls

The California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls meets regularly with delegations from across the globe comprised of policymakers, leaders, activists, and community leaders whose work is focused on expanding equity and opportunity for women and girls in their home country. Staff and Commissioners work with partner organizations to arrange direct meetings with delegations as appropriate to discuss common issues and challenges, share solutions, and collaborate on shared goals.


In 2019 the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls established a relationship with the Northern California World Trade Center (NorCalWTC) which helps companies develop their international business through education, resources, and connections.

Global Ties Sacramento, a division of World Trade Center Northern California evolved and established a regular relationship with the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls, connecting Commissioners and staff with delegations visiting Sacramento through the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) to gain insight into cultural, political, and economic differences and similarities around the world. 

As the Commission leaned in to the opportunities for collaboration and cultural exchange, opportunities arose to collaborate through the Open World Program through the Congressional Office for International Leadership in connection with the Sacramento City College Global Studies Program, and through the Office of the Lieutenant Governor and the office’s dedication to International Affairs work that presents opportunities for gender-focused exchange.

The Open World Congressional Office for International Leadership (COIL) administers the first and only international exchange agency in the U.S. Legislative Branch that is completely controlled by Congress. In 1999, Congress authorized the creation of Open World as a Legislative Branch agency that offers bipartisan support to Members of Congress in creating cultural exchanges for Eurasian leaders to witness democracy building in action. The founders of Open World were united in the belief that widespread, direct contact between American leaders and those of other nations would greatly benefit all involved. 

The Commission has taken a similar approach in creating it’s international gender-based cultural exchange program. It is the result of several years of dedicated effort and collaboration spearheaded by Commissioner LTC Erica Courtney, a certified NATO Gender Advisor and Women, Peace, and Security expert, and the Director of External Affairs, Darcy Totten.

When Executive Director Holly Martinez was hired to lead the Commission in 2021, she invested more deeply Commission time and resources than had previously been available, and encouraged the growth of a fledgling effort that is still evolving and expanding. The program, led in tandem by Programs Director Kimberlee Vaye and Director of External Affairs Darcy Totten, exemplifies the power and potential of women-led diplomatic efforts designed to further connection and collaboration across boundaries of distance, culture, resources, language and understanding.

Together, we are building a better world for women and girls.

Exchange History

Director of External Affairs Darcy Totten represented the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls at a breakfast gathering of California leaders who met to welcome an International Delegation from Catalonia that visited Sacramento on June 20-22. In 2015, Catalonia signed a Memorandum of Understanding with California under which a number of SMEs in different sectors are engaged in collaboration. Currently, there are several working groups from working in fields like water management, natural resources, emergency management and more.

In 2022, the government founded the Department of Equality and Feminisms. Among other things, the mission of this new Department is to ensure that government activities include a gender equity approach. The Commission met earlier in the spring with representatives from the Ministry for Foreign Action and the International Delegation for Catalonia. This was a return trip and served to continue the efforts to build relationship between CCSWG and Catalonia.

On March 6, California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls Executive Director, Holly Martinez and Program Director, Kimberlee Vaye, had the pleasure of meeting with the British Deputy Consul-General, Tammy Sandhu MBE and her colleague, Lucy Campbell to discuss the Commission’s California Blueprint for Women’s Pandemic Economic Recovery and the steps the UK has taken toward women’s economic empowerment. We are excited to begin thinking about the ways in which California and the UK can work together, including specifically, supporting women and girls mental health and the role that technology plays in online harms and how to support the women and girls who are disproportionately impacted. 

On March 10th, the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls had the honor of speaking with a delegation from Indonesia, represented by Executive Director Holly Martinez and staff Darcy Totten and Kimberlee Vaye as part of the U.S. Department of State International Leadership Program and Global Ties U.S. collaboration. We spoke with Ms. Hana ALFIKIH, Visual Artist; Ms. Andi Juwita AMAL Secretary, South Sulawesi Chapter, Indonesia Psychology Association; Ms. Maria IMMACULATA, Founder and Lead Educator, School of Life; Ms. Hena Rustiana SAYUTI, Member, Behavior Modification Subdivision, National COVID-19 Task Force; Ms. Istiana TAJUDDIN, Lecturer, Psychology Department, Hasanuddin University; Ms. Alegra WOLTER, Advisory Board Chair, Suara Kita; and Mr. Sumo Hadi Wibowo Maladi, Caregiver for Ms. Hana Alfikihon, on a range of topics impacting women and girls but particularly focused on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health in the United States and Indonesia, and understanding how mental health issues impact society, youth, and economic prosperity.

On February 24, 2023, the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls had the honor of speaking with a delegation from Colombia, represented by Commissioner Erica Courtney and staff Darcy Totten, Kimberlee Vaye, and Michelle Teran-Woolfork as part of the U.S. Department of State International Leadership Program and Global Ties U.S. collaboration. We spoke with Ms. Luz Marina BECERRA PANESSO, General Secretary, AFRODES, Ms. Mercy Dayana CAMPAZ CAICEDO, Freelance Lecturer and Tutor, Freelance Lecturer and Tutor, Ms. Cindy Alexandra MORALES CASTILLO, General Editor, El Espectador, Ms. Viviana Andrea SARMIENTO PENA, Gender Specialist, Electoral Observation Mission and Ms. Daniela VALENCIA ARAGON, Impact and Governance Advisor, Manos Visibles on a range of topics impacting women and girls.

Holly Martinez, Executive Director of the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls, along with Tiffani Bartow, Deputy Director of Grants and Operations, Darcy Totten, Director of External Affairs, and Michelle Teran-Woolfork, Director of Policy and Legislation were honored to host a meeting at our offices with the Government of Catalonia Delegation to the United States of America. The team met with Isidre Sala Queralt, Head of Delegation, and Magali Muria, Institutional Relations, to learn more about Catalonia’s Gender, Equality and Non-discrimination policies and the development of the Ministry of Equality and Feminisms (a name we love). The group discussed ways the Commission can support the delegation in areas of interest aligned with an existing MOU between California and Catalonia including sharing lessons from our respective work on reproductive rights, menstrual equity, pay equity, and more. We look forward to ongoing discussion and future opportunities to collaborate.

On May 24th, 2023 the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls met with Unai Telleria, Delegate, for the Delegation of the Basque Country in the United States. The Commission was represented by Executive Director Holly Martinez, Director of External Affairs Darcy Totten, Policy Director Michelle Teran-Woolfork, and Programs Director Kimberlee Vaye. The meeting focused on the work of the Basque Institute for Women known as Emakunde, and its main projects, such as Generation Equality – Country Pact and Gizonduz and the ways in which the Commission and California as a whole could learn from the Gender Lens approach to practice and policymaking being utilized.

We were so excited to have the opportunity to connect with Sacramento City College professors Riad Bahur and Jeannette Kiel and the Sacramento City College (SCC) Global Studies Program and the Congressional Office for International Leadership. CCSWG Director of External Affairs Darcy Totten was able to speak with a group of young professionals from Azerbaijan who are all involved in some form of gender-related activism (including lgbtq+ issues), ranging from social work to advocacy to arts, culture, and journalism. Director Totten met with Ms. Afaq Huseynova, Social Worker, Women Initiative Group, Mr. Aykhan Osmanli, Project Coordinator, Gender Resource Center, Ms. Aytaj Aghazada, Project Coordinator, AYNA Women’s Support Center for an Equal Society, Ms. Parvana Gurbanova, Multimedia Journalist, Toplum TV, and Ms. Nargiz Absalamova, Journalist, Abzas Media

On November 10, 2022, CCSWG Commission Chair Lauren BabbSecond Vice Chair Erica CourtneyExecutive Director Holly MartinezPrograms Director Kimberlee Vaye, and Communications Director Darcy Totten welcomed four Members of Parliament from Kyrgyzstan in person to Sacramento. The delegates included Mr. Mederbek Aliev, Member of Parliament, Kyrgyzstan, Chairman of Committee focused on Constitutional Law, Judicial Legal Issues, Government and Rules of Parliament, Mr. Suyun Omurzakov, Member of Parliament, Kyrgyzstan, Chairman of Committee focused on Law Enforcement, Combating Crime and Anti-Corruption, Ms. Mirgul Temirbaeva, Member of Parliament, Kyrgyzstan, Member of Committee focused on International Affairs, Defense, Security and Migration, and Mr. Baktybek Choibekov, Member of Parliament, Kyrgyzstan, Member of Committee focused on Transport, Communications, Architecture and Construction.  They were accompanied by a facilitator, Mr. Dolon Maldybaev, Assistant, Environment, Science, Technology, and Health (ESTH) Political and Economic Section, US Embassy in the Kyrgyz Republic and an interpreter.

On May 13th, 2022 Commissioners Erica Courtney and Lisa Greer and staff members Darcy Totten and Tifani Bartow represented the Commission in a unique meeting with a delegation from Kosovo’s Parliament. The meeting covered women’s economic well-being, government support opportunities for gender equality, and the looming issue of abortion access. The delegation invited CCSWG to consider further collaboration in the future in support of women’s rights and global gender equality efforts.

In October of 2021 Commissioner Erica Courtney and Interim Executive Director Holly Martinez as well as Communications Director Darcy Totten and Karen Bocaling Lapis, consultant with the California Women’s Caucus, spoke to a cohort of women from across the globe as part of the Global Ties Sacramento and International Visitor Leadership Program’s “Women and Entrepreneurship.” From mentorship and connection to policy change, women on corporate boards, and the vital need for women’s leadership in a global pandemic this conversation between women from over 17 different countries was inspirational. 

Commissioners Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes, and Erica Courtney along with Darcy Totten, CCSWG Director of Communications met with a delegation from Colombia to discuss Women, Peace and Security organized by the Meridian International Center International Visitor Leadership Program and NorCal World Trade Center. We met with Ms. Maria Ximena FIGUEROA OLAYA, Representative of the Female Indigenous Sector, Women’s Alliance for Peace and the Communal Council, Department of Tolima,  Ms. Luz Angelica MARINO RODRIGUEZ Advisor, Deputy Attorney General, Attorney General’s Office of Colombia,  Ms. Sasha TORRADO PUERTA Regional Advisor to the Vice President, Office of the Vice President of Colombia,  Ms. Nataly TORRES PINZON Co Founder/COO, Delcampoati (‘From Land to You’), Ms. Manuela del Rocio URREGO RODRIGUEZ Deputy Director for Coordination and Institutional Strengthening, Agency for Territorial Renewal (ART),  Ms. Tatiana Valeria WATSON MURCIA, Consultant to the Deputy Minister of Land Use Planning, Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development of Colombia.

In December 2019, the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls met with its first delegation, a group of of female writers from Uganda visiting through the U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program. The Commission led an in-depth discussion regarding the global impacts of gender parity with regards to pay equity.

Women, Peace, & Security

The U.S. Strategy on Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) of 2019 focuses on improving the effectiveness of our foreign policy and assistance efforts across the board by proactively integrating the needs and perspectives of women, and empowering women to meaningfully participate in decision-making processes at all levels on international peace, security, and prosperity.

Through the passage of the Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017, the United States became the first country in the world with a comprehensive law on Women, Peace, and Security (WPS). The U.S. Government also released the 2019 U.S. Strategy on Women, Peace, and Security, and the State Department Implementation Plan in 2020, which has strengthened the U.S. priorities of promoting gender equity and equality in in efforts to prevent conflict, promote peace, and countering violent extremism.

Learn more here: 

Collaboration Partners

If you are a global exchange or government-based diplomatic exchange program interested in organizing a delegate meeting with the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls please contact:

Darcy Totten, Director of External Affairs, at or Kimberlee Vaye, Programs Director, at

International Memorandums of Understanding

Occasionally, countries with existing Memorandum of Understanding’s with the State of California who have a specific interest in gender equity will also request meetings or even separate Memorandum of Understanding’s with the Commission dedicated to collaborative gender equity work. The Commission has a current Memorandum of Understanding’s with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the United Mexican States designed to further our collaborative efforts promoting gender equality in the workplace, at home, and in society at large. This agreement includes a focused effort to raise awareness of the importance of a gender-perspective within policymaking and entrepreneurship in California and to foster women’s participation in the regional economy. The agreement was formalized on May 4, 2021.