Leading to Change: Women in Jordan and Turkey Take on New Leadership Roles

March 3, 2006

Workshop in JordanRecent workshops conducted by WLP partners Sisterhood Is Global Institute/Jordan (SIGI/J) and the Foundation for the Support of Women's Work (Turkey) provided a dynamic learning environment for women to develop effective leadership skills, explore advocacy strategies, and discuss ways to overcome the challenges they face in taking on leadership roles in their families and communities.

FSWW conducted several training workshops on leadership and effective communication with women from three different municipalities in Istanbul. One of the workshops, at the Gazi Mahallesi Society Center, involved participants from local civic-action organizations and programs who were interested in forming a local network. After reaching a shared consensus, participants began working to establish a women’s cooperative in order to negotiate with municipal authorities about issues such as gender discrimination, violence towards women, and access to clean water. Participants agreed that the cooperative will be open to all women regardless of religion, ethnicity, or social class. They also developed an information board to disseminate news and strengthen communication within their network. One of the functions of the board will be to provide updates about recent developments and initiatives to women unable to participate in organizational meetings. Weekly work plans and meetings will help members share responsibilities in ways reflective of each woman’s skills and time commitment. Participants also agreed that just as in the workshop sessions at each meeting of the women’s cooperative, members will take turns facilitating the discussion and preparing meeting reports.

Workshop in Turkey












During the workshop, several participants expressed the difficulties they faced in working with male-dominated municipal committees. “Women’s input and leadership is vital in solving community problems,” one participant stated. “I participate in a local organization consisting mostly of men where I struggle to include women’s issues in the discussions about community problems. I am working to improve my leadership and negotiation skills so that I am better able to advocate for women’s issues and rights within the community.”  Zerrin*, another participant, mentioned that the committees she has worked with either disregard women’s issues or use women as pawns in political maneuvers. Zerrin stated that she participated in the leadership training workshop to develop skills that would enable her and others to effectively communicate their issues and concerns to district authorities in a more persuasive and convincing manner. Following the workshop, Zerrin was selected to be a spokeswoman for the women’s cooperative at meetings with the municipality and the district governor.

SIGI/J conducted five leadership training workshops across Jordan with more than 155 women. Guided by the Leading to Choices curriculum, workshop participants used their own experiences to analyze the numerous challenges Jordanian women face in making personal decisions in their families and achieving leadership positions in their communities. The workshops helped participants identify the leadership roles they occupy in their daily lives. Jordanian participants also used Leading to Choices to analyze how patriarchal social customs in the region prevent women from making personal decisions. One participant addressed the practice of female circumcision in her village. She described how her husband demanded she take their nine year-old daughter to be circumcised according to the local tradition. The woman, who had undergone the surgery herself, did not want to subject her daughter to the brutality of the procedure. Her fellow workshop participants advised her to share her views and knowledge of the practice with her husband, so that he fully understood the repercussions on his daughter’s health and well being. After returning home, the woman reported to SIGI/J that she had won her husband’s support to prevent the circumcision.

*Names have been changed to respect privacy.

S:SSO to Sakai