WLP Partners with Local NGOs on Workshops in Sub-Saharan Africa

Facilitator at a Zimbabwe Workshop In May and July this year, nearly 200 women from six countries in sub-Saharan Africa participated in human rights and leadership development workshops organized by WLP and its partners. The workshops took place in Zimbabwe and Tanzania as part of the regularly scheduled programming for the Women's Self-Promotion Movement (WSPM) and Umoja wa Akina Mama Fizi (UWAFI). The response from participants and facilitators to WLP's empowering, cooperative leadership strategies was very positive. The workshops' success was largely due to the excellent planning and organization of the NGOs, whose commitment to new models of leadership and consensus-building provided the workshops with real-life context and problem-focused content.

WSPM, a Harare-based grassroots NGO dedicated to improving the lives of disadvantaged women in Zimbabwe through education, economic development, and women's leadership, organized the first workshop. From July 11-13, 2002, a diverse group of 23 women and men from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe met at the University of Harare to identify common needs in their communities and to form strategies for addressing these needs. Using WLP's handbook Leading to Choices: A Leadership Training Handbook for Women as a guide for their discussions, workshop participants learned to hone their individual leadership skills and to develop creative ways to continue sharing information and ideas once they returned home.

The handbook [is a] very powerful tool for discussing and analyzing regional conflict, gender inequality issues, and cultural diversity. Our communities will benefit from further implementation of the leadership ideas and concepts found in Leading to Choices.

Despite their diverse geographic and political backgrounds, participants had similar concerns about racial and ethnic tensions in the region. They agreed on the need to organize reconciliation and tolerance forums to bring together black women and white women in Zimbabwe, and to establish conflict resolution and peace training courses to ease tensions between Hutu and Tutsi groups in Rwanda. One female refugee from Rwanda summed up the feeling of several participants when she said, "My vision is to be involved in peace-building in my family and community, as well as to be involved in social reconstruction and mediation among women's groups and individuals affected by the wars in Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo." At the conclusion of the workshop, participants developed a group statement in French and English that expressed the camaraderie they felt during the workshop and articulated the hopes they had for the future. "Nothing in the world is impossible if we work together," they concluded.

Group DiscussionTwo additional workshops were organized in Tanzania by UWAFI, a women's human rights and development NGO. Over 100 participants took part in the first workshop, held in Baraka between May 22-24, 2002. They included local church members as well as representatives from international NGOs working in the region on the AIDS pandemic. UWAFI used the sessions from WLP's Leading to Choices as part of their leadership training to help participants become more effective community activists. The workshop gave participants the opportunity to explore ways of formulating a personal vision, accommodating diversity, communicating effectively, negotiating, power-sharing, and building consensus. A number of participants found the handbook sessions that addressed the characteristics of an effective leader, as well as sessions and exercises that dealt with conflict resolution and negotiation, particularly relevant and meaningful within the context of their own struggle to mobilize against the AIDS tragedy.

The second workshop, part of a three-day program on children's human rights, was held in Kazimia from July 5-8, 2002. Over 50 participants used the handbook sessions to strengthen their organizing and leadership skills. The sessions that dealt with promoting collective decision-making, coalition-building, conflict resolution, and human rights violations allowed participants to explore alternative leadership styles and deal with the issues and challenges they face. Echoing the feelings of other participants, one woman praised the workshop sessions, saying, "The handbook [is a] very powerful tool for discussing and analyzing regional conflict, gender inequality, and cultural diversity. Our communities will benefit from further implementation of the leadership ideas and concepts found in Leading to Choices."

WLP and its partners are currently implementing further leadership training workshops in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Cameroon, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Nigeria, Palestine, Turkey, and Uzbekistan.

S:SSO to Sakai